In late 2012, I thought to myself, “What if I could access every bit of business and personal information I saw and could ever need again, instantly, wherever I was in the world, from whatever digital device I happened to be using?” The more I looked at data and information around myself, the more I wondered how I could make it all work.

Internal Audit:

Let’s look at where I started, and then we’ll get to how it nets out:

  • There were notes I took from my Livescribe Pen.
    • These were automatically transferred to my computer, but I had to daily dock the pen, and even then I could only review the notes from my computer- not my iDevices.
  • There were all my Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents.
    • These could only be pulled up on my computer and it required me to have them downloaded. I couldn’t edit them because of version control, so I always had to print or plan on downloading something to make sure I could have it.
  • Lastly, all paper contracts, marketing materials from clients, business cards, and other collateral I got from clients
    • These would get filed at my office, but if I was on the road, there was no way of accessing them. It took me about 3 months to get everything in place and now I can finally say I’ve achieved information freedom!

Here’s how I did it.

I stopped using Livescribe, and started taking all my notes on my iPad. I started with the native notes app on my iPad, and after some fiddling I finally figured out that if I set up my Gmail account as a Gmail account (instead of exchange so I could sync my contacts), it allowed me to sync notes across all my devices: iPhone, Mac Air, and iPad. The organization, however, was a mess. So I switched to Google docs and Quickoffice, giving me the ability to create documents, spreadsheets, and notes inside client folders and have those notes accessible in Google Docs or Egnyte for future viewing when needed. For meetings with clients, I now transfer all notes to Mavenlink so that there is a thread of what was discussed and action items assigned.

Task management is a pain. I had to-do lists scattered all over my desk. I used to use a legal pad, but then I wouldn’t have it when I was out and about. I added Things—which has an app for each device I use—and was then able to sync all my to do lists across my devices. This helped a ton and organized all my to-dos. For client-related tasks, I added action items to corresponding projects in Mavenlink. Now, each Monday I review tasks, reordering or ticking off as appropriate.

File management in a collaborative environment can be kind of hectic. Google Docs is great because it allows for multiple people to edit documents at the same time; but the organization is horrendous because you can’t have universal organization—it is on a per-user basis. To solve this, we rolled to a virtual server—egnyte. Quickoffice is able to connect and edit documents right on egnyte, and with the app you are able to upload documents, pictures, etc. right to the fileserver from any device. For contracts and other paper documents I use Genuis Scan. I can convert them to PDF’s and then upload right to egnyte. It’s great. I also use Dropbox for documents that are personal and that I’ll need again,such as insurance documents and other personal crap.

Contracts and Paper stuff:
After scanning with Genius Scan, docs are converted to PDF, and uploaded to Google Drive, Egnyte, or Evernote. Evernote is my go-to for personal things such as membership cards, receipts, and information that I might need to pull up quickly while on the go. For business cards, Scan Biz cards has been a lifesaver. I simply take a picture of the card and add the people right to my contact list in Gmail. (Note: I disabled the native contact list on my phone and only use my company Google Apps account; this way everything syncs). With Evernote, things are easily searched and and retrieved at a moments notice.

All presentations are now done on Prezi. This allows me to build them online and not need to worry about downloading them to my device as long as I have an internet connection. I am able to display the presentation from my iPad or computer and can even invite people to the presentation remotely and control the presentation while I am talking them through it on the phone. Prezi stores all my presentations (I have the paid version so that my presentations aren’t publicly accessible).

It has been great and saved my butt a lot of times as I am able to pull the presentation up on client’s computers from their office, and there is no fumbling for a flash drive or anything. To be honest, the flash drive I keep on my keychain hasn’t been used in over a year because everything is now instantly accessible whenever I need it! I hope these tools and tips help out.

You don’t have to change the way you do things, and I’m sure these methods won’t work for everyone. They have made a tremendous change in my life, though, and allowed me to not have to worry if I have the right document or have to remember to look for something when I get back to the office. I am literally able to share any piece of information I have had before with anyone, wherever I am in the world, instantly.

How have you taken on the Paperless Challenge? Please share your tips and tools!

Links and errata: