Using Technology to Organize Your Life Without Paper

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Paper is everywhere in your life: in your car, in your mailbox, in your bookshelves, and even stuck all over your monitor. You may not know it, but reducing your paper use by becoming more comfortable with current technology can lead to a more organized way of life. The majority of successful people in this world live uncluttered, organized lives.

Wouldn’t it be great to have everything you need electronically so it’s easy to find? No more tearing the house apart or digging through the garbage to find a piece of paper that may or may not have been thrown out. No more relying on paper that can’t be replaced if lost.

  • Books
    Transitioning from regular paperback/hardcover books to electronic books may at first seem like the most expensive paper saving technique. However, electronic books not only save paper, but they save you loads of space and the cost of purchasing bookcases, bookends, etc. That leaves you with less furniture to keep tidy and more living space in your home.

An e-Reader is a small handheld device that allows you to download and view millions of different books. The current average e-reader is about the size of a standard hard cover novel and holds up to 1,500 e-books. If you are used to owning and storing a huge collection of books, then being able to pack them all into one e-reader will save you a heck of a lot of space in your house.

Let’s say you go to a bookstore and the book you are looking for is out of stock. You’ve wasted your time and gas for nothing. What if you’re sitting in an airport and your flight is delayed. You just finished your book, and are left with nothing to read. In both situations all you would have to do is download the book onto your e-reader wherever you have a wireless connection.

 

  • Magazines
    Do you really need to read magazines? Hasn’t pretty much all of the information you are reading been posted on the internet already? The broad availability of information on the internet has drastically reduced the need for magazines over the past few years.

 

If you must read them, most popular magazines have electronic versions available on their website for a nominal amount of money.

 

  • Newspapers
    I almost forgot about these things. I hate to be advocating for a cause as newspaper companies are going under, but the internet has taken over the need to purchase the daily newspaper. Google homepages, MSN.com, or your news website of choice is the go to resources for daily news. If you are paying for the internet, why would you need to pay for newspapers?

 

 

  • Sticky Notes
    Every day you write down notes to yourself. Whether it’s jotting down someone’s phone number or a note to “Pick up milk”, a smart phone can be the solution. Smart phones are wireless devices with email and internet capabilities, and most often have a full keyboard.

 

Smart phones are pretty much the standard when buying a new cell phone. Many times people don’t think they need a smart phone because they aren’t aware how its features can simplify their lives. With a full keyboard, you can easily take notes and type in someone’s contact info. If you use Outlook or Entourage, you can sync (have current information in two places) your notes and contacts so they are available on your computer as well. Remember, even the most basic cell phones have a note taking feature on them. So instead of writing notes on paper, type them into your phone. Your phone is one of those things you won’t accidentally throw away.

 

  • Notepads
    Every student takes notes in their courses. Well, all the ones that want to pass do. What happens if that notebook suddenly goes missing? I’ve got a three-step process to taking, organizing, and backing up your notes.

 

    1. For those of you in class, bring your laptop and take notes. There were a few times in college where I wrote notes and couldn’t understand what I wrote. With typing, you avoid this issue.

 

  • Organize your notes in folders on your computer’s desktop. The top level should be for the semester, and then within that folder should be a folder for each course. Inside each folder should be a file for each day. I would keep the naming format simple, for example, “date – quick summary of what was talked about”.

 

 

  • Backup your files every night to be sure they are available in case of a problem. There are free services that offer online backup of your files, which make everything easily accessible should your computer turn against you.

 

If it is available to you, you also have an option of using Microsoft OneNote 2007. You can create a new notebook, and add pages for each day.

After the college years comes the real world of work. Depending on your business, it may or may not be the best practice to bring a laptop into every meeting. If you can bring your computer into the meeting, by all means do so and take notes. However if you cannot bring your computer into a meeting, transfer those notes to your computer as soon as possible.

Time is usually something you don’t have a lot of in the business world, so don’t bother typing. Use a scanner to scan notes, and then use your organizational skills to appropriately file them in your computer for easy access.

 

  • Bills
    Chances are a lot of you are doing this already, but if you are not, start paying any bills you can online. If there is the option to go paperless, do it. Most people elect not to do this, leaving them with a pile of unopened bills each month. If there is ever a need for a hard copy of the bill, you can usually print out a past statement which should be available to download from your account.

 

 

  • Checks
    If it weren’t for paying rent, birthdays, holidays, and other gift giving situations, checks would be of no use to us. Most banks offer great electronic methods of paying all of your monthly bills. If you need to pay money to a person, Paypal has become the standard for sending and receiving money online. Anytime you are thinking of sending someone a check, send them money through PayPal. Setup is easy, and you can even configure your cell phone to send money to others.

 

Getting comfortable with current technology is the key to reducing your paper use. Practice using one tip weekly to get accustomed to doing things differently and more efficiently. Added bonus: Not having to take the garbage out as often. That’s something we can all benefit from.

Written on 11/24/2009 by Jay Scarrozzo. Jay is the author of Go Ask J and owns his own computer service company. He has a BS in Computer Information Systems and believes that new technology can be used by all if taught correctly. His blog focuses on providing new technology news that everyone can understand and appreciate.Photo Credit: burgermac

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