Archives For December 2012

2012 Year In Review

JasonC —  December 31, 2012 — Leave a comment

Here we are at the end of 2012. It’s been a good year for the most part, so I thought I’d take a little time to review:

State of The Blog:

This was by far my most successful year blogging. In the past, it’s been rather spotty, but for the past 5-6 months I’ve been able to maintain a couple of posts a week with some consistency. 

When I started blogging regularly in June after “rebooting” my site in May, I averaged something around 30 visits monthly to the site. As of this month (December), my monthly page loads totaled over 1300 with about 1100 unique visits and 978 first time visitors. That’s 35 unique visits per day (more than my monthly total previously!). Hopefully that trend will continue as my aim is to provide useful information to as many people as possible. I’ve been both pleased and proud of my Direct Sales Husband’s Handbook series.

For those of you who think blogging = profit, let me assure you otherwise. As of this time, there hasn’t been a single cent in revenue from sharing this information with people. Maybe it could become self-sustaining eventually. Right now the only potential revenue stream is Amazon links. If you purchase an item after clicking on my link, you will still get the best Amazon deal possible, but I would potentially get 3% (I believe) credited to my burdensome Amazon habit. 

Jason’s Blog Top 10 Posts of the Year:

A User’s Review of YNAB 4

$10-20 Gifts You Should Consider Getting Your Guy For Christmas

How to Help Her Direct Sales Business Day-to-Day

Incentive Trips ROCK!

Gift Guide for your Guy – $5-10

Direct Sales Husband’s Handbook – Part 6 – Debunking The Pyramid Scheme Thing

$20-40 Gifts Your Guy Will Love for Christmas

The 7 Keys to Direct Sales Business Accountability

About Me – Jason Cox

Live It Up! Thirty-One Gifts National Conference 2012 Photo Gallery

Business Tax Basics (technically #11, but About Me isn’t a post!)

State of Social Media (for me):

One of my first blog posts was to commemorate my starting point: 33 twitter followers. Heheh. I still can’t get the Social Influence widget to update to any degree, but I’m now at 275 followers on twitter. 

I believe most of the followers there are from people I’ve followed, but I follow something like 660, so it’s not something to do in order to get people to follow back. For me, I just decided to follow twitter feeds that appeared to offer something of direct interest to me. Generally this means it’s someone in the realms of leadership/personal development, photoshop/photography, computing/technology, Christian living, blogging, conservative/libertarian thought leaders, or sports.

I have no idea how many of the 275 who follow me are “real people.” I’m not worried about it. It’s not something I pay for (nor would I ever).

My primary goal with Twitter is to continue to share things I find interesting (generally from the same categories mentioned above). Probably all the people on Facebook who are my “friends” will get tired of this and unfriend me. Hey, it’s a Win-Win!

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Personal Goals:

I spent more time with family this year and made it to more of the kids’ sporting events.

Sadly, I hardly spent any time with my tennis buddies playing tennis.

Our small group grew and we have such an awesome crew in our group! Such a blessing there!

Reading: 

According to Shelfari, I “read” 20 books this year (goal was 20). I’m not sure that’s accurate, but it’s as close as I’ve got, and I think I did a better job of recording it this year than in years past. While 20 books isn’t horrible, I think I’ll shoot for 24 next year.

I reviewed several of the books I read this past year. In the future that will continue to be a purpose of this blog – reviewing worthy books

In Closing:

I hope that you’ve all had an excellent year and have an even better 2013. If you get a chance, leave me some feedback on which of my posts were your favorites and why.

Happy New Year!

2012 was a great year in a lot of ways, but it’s the end of the year and it’s time to put it to bed. It’s now time to start thinking about the year ahead. Make plans to make 2013 your best year ever, whether it be for your home, family, small business, or whatever (why not all of those?).

If you and your family are like me and mine, you may have found yourself getting “off track” in several key goal areas during the year. Especially during the holidays.

One area where most of us can be more successful is the family budget. 

Check out Part 1, Part 2, & Part 3 of my Creating a Budget series to see my process in more detail.

5 Steps to Sticking to Your Budget

1. Start Now!

It’s not the end of the year yet, but it’s close enough that you can go through your financial statements and average the money you spent in major categories for the year. It really is the best time of the year to make a budget happen. And the only way you can stick to it is to get it started, so start now for 2013.

2. Make It Habitual

Like anything else in life, once something is a habit, it’s much easier to stick to it. The earlier you start your “habit” the earlier it becomes “automatic” (so see step 1 above). Things that will help you make budgeting a habit are doing your budget at the same time every month, carrying your budget, looking at it regularly. Another tool that can help is the envelope system. Be intentional about this and you’ll have success.

3. Partner Up

This is especially critical in the realm of budgets because there’s a good chance you’re married. If you are, then you really should have a budget meeting with your spouse in order to make sure that nobody is being trampled in the process. That’s just healthy for your relationship. But you also get the benefits of “buy-in” that make it much more likely that your household budget will actually hold. If you’re single, partnering up may mean getting an accountability partner to hold you to creating a new budget on paper (or in the computer) each month and then assessing how good you are at sticking to it.

4. Do It Before The Month Starts

This may seem like common sense. And it is. But how likely are you to stick to a budget when you’re already a week into the month? Take the time to create your budget the last weekend of the month. Once you get it going, it really shouldn’t take a terribly long time. It becomes more of a review process, which means feedback. Feedback is the best way to alter your behavior.

5. Use a Consistent Tool

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I use YNAB 4 for making budgets and I love it (Here’s my review of it). Honestly, it’s beautiful and easy to use. There are tons of tools out there from home-made spreadsheets to plain white paper. Many financial sites include budgeting software. Mint.com has a pretty functional budget component and it’s free. Mint is also an awesome way to quickly gather information about where your money has gone over the past year.

Question:

What has been the key to your success (or lack thereof) in keeping with your budget in the last year?

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Setting Up The Review:

Here we are in the holiday season and many people may be considering going to the movies and plunking down $10-20 (each) for some entertainment with the family. It’s a pretty good excuse to get out of the house despite the cold, after all. Plus, by now, it may be worth any amount of money just to get out of the house and let yourself be entertained.

In preparation for the movie, I’ve been re-reading J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit yet again. I’ve probably read it 3-4 times previously through the years (The Hobbit was actually the first or second book I ever purchased and read). It is definitely one of my favorite books. In this case, however, it has been over 10 years since I read it. This stuff needs to be mentioned because a LOT of people have previously read The Hobbit, and as you know, that raises the criticism level on any movie by a tremendous factor.

Hobbit

Overview:

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first part of an overall larger story that comprises not only Tolkein’s book, The Hobbit, but also takes from other Tolkein books and manuscripts which take place prior to the events of The Lord of The Rings (both the books and the movies). 

The story centers around a hobbit, Bilbo, who starts off being ambushed in his hobbit hole by an unexpected party of 13 dwarves and the wizard Gandalf (his first appearance in these stories, Chronologically). The group lays out a rough plan of action for the overall goal: to return to their home kingdom and take it back from the clutches of the dragon Smaug. Bilbo, being the soft and comfort-oriented hobbit that he is, wants no part of it. 

In the end, though, he can’t resist the lure of adventure and thus it begins. Traveling through the shire, the downs and Ettenmoors. They, of course, encounter struggles along the way. They make it to Rivendell, then set off again to the Misty Mountains. More struggles ensue and Bilbo is split off from the rest of the party. Without giving too much detail, they get reunited just outside the mountain, only to be cornered yet again… then the movie ends.

Of Note:

One of the things about the movie that I love in comparison to the book is how Peter Jackson has taken information from Unfinished Tales and The History of Middle Earth books to fill in some other events that are occurring at roughly the same time as The Hobbit. These aren’t really fleshed out in any of the main books (Hobbit + LOTR) but there are references. Specifically, you get to meet Radagast and see some side story about the Necromancer. Hopefully this will get even more attention in the upcoming release(s). 

I loved the way they show interactions between Gandalf, Saruman, and Galadriel while in Rivendell. It’s extremely well done.

Also, the way the movie is set up at the very beginning makes it clear that the intention is to tie these new installments into the overall story of the Lord of the Rings movies.

Just to be complete, this movie makes it approximately 1/3 of the way through The Hobbit. I’m not sure if that means there are 2 more movies coming. In a way, I hope so, because it is really well done and I 100$ expect those that follow to be equally so.

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Technically Speaking:

The special effects and cinematography in this film are absolutely stunning. Awesome. Seamless. The role of these things is to provide a good visual realization of the people, places, and things in the book in order to allow you to become immersed in the story (and suspend your disbelief). To that end, they get a 95% out of 100. It just doesn’t get much better than this, folks.

In regards to 3D – I can’t honestly say the 3D did much to enhance the experience for me. It was well done and certainly not distracting. It was pretty subtle most of the time, though, and honestly I didn’t think there was much about it to overcome the annoyance of having to wear 3D spectacles. There are probably those out there who will think it’s the best thing ever (feel free to flame me in the comments section ;). 

This movie is right at 3 hours long. That’s a lot of time to watch a movie. But while you’re watching the movie, it feels more like 2 hours.

Verdict:

9/10

(I’m only taking off because it’s a really long movie that is just part one).

Post Script:

I think that the negative reviews you’ll probably read are from people for whom NO movie will EVER meet the high expectation created. That’s one problem with fantastic books. Especially ones that are childhood or life-long favorites. People develop very discrete visualizations and expectations that are just not reasonable. Others may not like the “extra material.” They may not even be aware that it is entirely canonical to the Tolkein story. I admit that it seems funny to do three 3-hour movies to cover a 245-page book. Especially when three 3+ hour movies covered a much much larger story in The Lord of the Rings

If you, like me, love these stories and the Peter Jackson visualization, then maybe you will also, like me, find that you don’t want it to end. That the immersion in that incredibly beautiful world is so compelling and satisfying that it easily is worth the time.

More Time Management Resources

JasonC —  December 17, 2012 — Leave a comment

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Check out my previous post on time management for the start of this conversation.

I’m writing this in mid-December, and that timing is pretty fortuitous. Starting off the new year is a GREAT time to get organized. Make a change that is going to help your business thrive this next year!

You’ll find a TON of resources on “Time Management” on the internet, in books, and other locations. I highly recommend starting with GTD (Getting Things Done) as it is both a great starting point and explains most of the concepts involved with making the most effective and efficient use of your time. It also points out common pitfalls that prevent us from being efficient and why they exist.

How you go about the process of collecting your thoughts, to-do’s, and projects, deciding on your next action step, and maintaining a goal-oriented focus is going to be as different as the number of people out there.

To Do Lists & Day Planners

One of the best places to start is to get a daily planner. If you’re tech-averse then this may be all you end up with. Honestly, it should work just fine. The key thing is to keep it with you so when a moment of inspiration hits, you can capture it in writing. If you keep to a single planner, you can take it to your events and do all your bookings on it, which is super-convenient.

Holley loves the daily planners she gets from www.erincondren.com. She gets them for herself and her personal assistant, Kathy. They are personalizable to a pretty high degree. Something like this may work for you too, but you’ll probably want to work out your “system” with something you can lay your hands on from Office Max or Staples.

If you want to do it on the cheap, consider simply getting a cheap spiral-bound notebook, or maybe a Moleskine notebook. Just make it your go-to item and keep it handy.

Computer Applications

There are dozens of apps out there for this. If you’re on a PC, then you can set up & use Outlook to manage your Projects and To-Do Lists. There are also many web-based options that you can access from desktop or portable device. The guys at The David Allen Company have several set-up guides for different applications available. You can create your workflow yourself, but it’s nice to know there are options out there to help if you need it.

On the Mac, I love OmniFocus. I’ve been using it for several years and find it to work great. There is an app for the Mac, one for iPhone, and one for iPad as well. They should offer a bundle for people who use the system, come to think of it. You can drop all of your to-do items and projects in OmniFocus and it syncs to all of your devices with the app. There are other apps out there. Many have come and gone, but OmniFocus just keeps getting better. The big negative for OF is that it’s relatively expensive ($80 for the Mac App, plus paid versions for iPhone AND iPad).

Honestly, if I weren’t using OF already, I would consider trying to set something up in EverNote to manage projects and To-Do lists. Its system should work pretty effectively for it.

Also for free, it may be worth checking out Wunderlist which had an excellent review on LifeHacker and is cross-platform.

Direct-Sales Specific Resources

Belinda Ellsworth – The Power Hour 

Through her company, Step Into Success, Belinda Ellsworth markets coaching and instructional products including The Power Hour and The Power Hour for Leaders. Holley has both of these and recommends them to her leaders. I’ve listened through the CDs myself and think it’s great stuff. It has very specific plans on how to work your direct sales business one hour at a time. Some people may be able to work it in one hour a week (excluding the time actually spent in parties). The Leaders is tailored towards using the same principles for leading a team in direct sales. Also recommended.

Calendar Girls by Gale Bates

This looks pretty interesting and is something Holley is checking out on a free call December 18 (which means it’s TONIGHT!). It looks as though they offer free calls monthly or close to it, though, so if you miss this one, catch the next one. Check out the Calendar Girls Website and Facebook page.

 

Question:

What Time Management resources & tips do you have? I’d love to hear from you all as this is one area I’ve always found particularly interesting.

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Once you get past the college-years, one of the biggest things that “changes” is that for some reason time actually becomes a finite resource. Every year after that, it gets more and more scarce, and consequently more valuable. Once you get in your 40′s, it actually starts to get scary how fast time flies by.

Somewhere along the way (the earlier the better), it’s a good idea to learn some time management skills, techniques, and habits. The earlier you start with it, the earlier you’ll reap the benefits. And you’ll get better at it the longer you practice your time management skills and you’ll be able to use it in so many areas of your life. 

Remember, as a business owner, you want to be spending your time wisely and productively. Spending a little bit of time each day organizing your thoughts and prioritizing where you spend the rest of your time is an extremely keen investment. So how does one learn to use their time efficiently?

Getting Things Done

That’s what it’s all about, right? Getting things done. It’s also the appropriately titled book by David Allen which is, in my opinion, the absolute best place to start when it comes to time management. There are tons of other books out there on the subject, and I’ve read several. But I can honestly say that for almost anybody getting started with time management, this is the only book you need. And for those who have different degrees of exposure to time management principles, this will be a concise refresher and you’ll probably pick up something new along the way. 

As a side note, I confess to having 3 physical copies of the book as well as the audiobook of this. (A hard copy for me & one for my wife, plus one that we got because she had misplaced her original copy at one point). I also noticed there are half a dozen summaries of the book available on Amazon, which is crazy since the book is a quick-reading 259 pages (with lots of diagrams and wide spacing to make it flow quickly). I find that I’ll refresh my memory by re-reading GTD ever 2 years or so. I always find something new in it that didn’t stick out previously

The book is broken into 3 key parts:

The Art of Getting Things Done (which covers mastering workflow and project planning)

Practicing Stress-Free Productivity (which covers putting the stuff from part one into functional practice)

The Power of the Key Principles (which cover 3 key principles: The Collection Habit, The Next-Action, and Outcome Focusing)

There’s no way I’m going to summarize the book here as that would provide quite a disservice to my readers. Every small business owner is going to take away different things from GTD that will help them become more productive.

For me, much of it is distilled into the key principles that Allen discusses in the 3rd part of the book.

The Collection Habit

Essentially this means you want to create a system that you can unload your thoughts, ideas, inspirations, to-do items, and projects. Usually this is going to take the form of several lists that you use to get it all written down before you either forget about it (consciously) or forget to do it. It also multiplies your brain power because the lists can be quite detailed and large. That’s how life and business are. But the brain has a tendency to get bogged down or overwhelmed by all those little things floating around in there. Putting it down on paper allows you to tackle lists one item at a time.

What’s The Next Action?

Once you get all those to-do’s and ideas out of the randomness of your brain, you can make a decision on what’s the very next action you should take. This may be a baby step in light of the whole project. But these are the things that move you towards the completion of a project or goal. My wife often gets bogged down with the colossal size of projects we come up with. When she looks at the whole thing, she ends up DOING nothing. It just seems to big to accomplish. But when you refocus on “What’s the Next Action?” usually, it’s just a single thing. You don’t have to finish the project in one sitting. Or even a day. But it will never finish without completing the next action.

Think of it like this: My project is to create a coffee table. The steps are to: design the coffee table, making plans for it. Figure out how much wood it will take to build it. Figure out what other items may be necessary. Buy the wood. Buy the tools or hardware. Then I’ll make one piece of the table at a time. Then assembly. Then staining. Then finishing and air-dry. The same thing goes for putting together a record month in direct sales. Design flyers. Print flyers. Book parties one-at-a-time. Book fund-raisers. You get the idea.

The Power of Outcome Focusing

If you have a goal in mind, it goes without saying that spending more of your time and effort directed towards achieving that goal will get you there quicker. That’s much easier said than done in real life. Are you actually choosing the best Next Action to get you where you want to be? Facebook may be a great tool for the direct sales industry, but is what you’re spending your time on actually moving you towards your desired outcome? (Or are you just delaying your real next action step?)

Finally, almost everything about this book is also applicable to the going paperless topic I covered in my last few posts. That’s what started me thinking about the topic. You can combine going paperless and becoming more efficient and effective with your time at the same time and multiply your efficiency.

Question:

How do you currently manage your time and decide what you will do next? 

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Check out my previous posts on going paperless (Part 1 and Part 2)

Once you have a framework for your workflow, you’ll need to start scanning stuff. Some items you’ll want to scan and then throw away the original. Other items you’ll want to keep the original, but it still useful to have the scanned copy as well. Other things you should just avoid scanning if you can. Here’s a short breakdown of the major items for each category. When reading these lists, think in terms of general ideas. Your business and personal life may include other items that aren’t listed here, but clearly fall into one category or another. You’ll see the similarities.

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Business Items to Scan:

(Keep these items at least 3 years. Purge after 7 years)

  • Orders from your shows (purge these after the show is finalized if there is any payment information on them)
  • Monthly Expense Sheets
  • Individual Business Receipts
  • Monthly Data Graphs
  • Tax Papers
  • Business Documentation (corporate meeting minutes, articles of incorporation, etc.)
  • One copy of your business catalog
  • Digital copies of your business flyers, specials, end-of-life list, customization guides, etc.
  • Utility bills
  • Any receipt or bill that you think you’ll be able to deduct from your taxes.

Personal Items to Scan:

  • Birth Certificates
  • Social Security Cards
  • Driver’s License
  • Insurance cards (auto, home, medical, dental)
  • Insurance Policies
  • Magazine articles you’d like to read later.

Yes, you should use your scanner to save personal items like marriage certificates and birth certificates. Keep copies of those items in an “Important Documents” folder in Evernote. Note that you should take care to protect your computer, hard drives, and any portable device which you give access to these documents. Identity thieves would love this stuff. 

After you’ve been doing it a while, you may find it beneficial to scan in recipes, instruction manuals (often you can find these online in PDF format and just save them in Evernote), old pictures, magazine articles you want to read later, magazine inspirational items (places you’d like to visit, houses or rooms you like in Southern Living, etc.), pictures of personal artwork, idea books, etc.

Items you should always keep in paper (at least the original):

Consider getting a fire-proof safe for these items (at least ones you don’t always keep on your person). You can usually get copies from official sources, but it can be expensive. Plus, if you have a special place for them, you’ll always know exactly where to look when you need them. Having the digital copies will suffice for most needs you’ll have. 

  • Birth & Marriage Certificates
  • Business Licenses
  • Driver’s License
  • Tax Returns
  • Mortgage and/or Title papers
  • Other Loan documents
  • Lease paperwork
  • Divorce Papers and Parenting Plans
  • Documentation of bank or credit card account closures (especially if there was legal involvement)
  • Essentially any legal documents (if you were involved in a legal case) 

Do Not Keep Copies of These Things:

  • Credit card information from anyone.
  • Actual checks from customers
  • Basically anything that could get you in trouble (generally this is going to be some other person’s personal or financial information. Even if you need it for a short period of time, purge this after month-end)

Don’t Waste Your Time Scanning:

  • Non-deductible receipts or bills.
  • Junk mail
  • Business items older than 7 years old
  • Books/Magazines – there are people that scan in whole books and magazines for later use. This involves destroying the original to get it through the scanner. While there may be specific instances this may be necessary, you’re probably better off buying a digital version in the first place (and there is merit to going paperless in that way too).

Questions:

What is your greatest fear about going paperless?
Do you have a success story you can share?
 

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The key to the paperless office, I believe, is forming a habit of going paperless. That usually takes 21 days to form, and once its there, it becomes essentially second nature.

In the case of going paperless it really breaks down to these 4 steps:

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1. Scan Your Papers

I have a set of “inboxes” on my desk that help me keep this straight. The top one is Bills To Scan. The second one is Important Documents to scan (and then file paper copies). And the bottom one is stuff to Consider Scanning (this includes receipts that aren’t business related but may be important, paper manuals for stuff, and other miscellaneous items).

This works well because Holley can (and does) use the same boxes for stuff.

When you scan the documents into Evernote they will initially be placed in your default notebook. Consider this your electronic in-box. Anything in here should be filed elsewhere during this process.

As you get more used to Evernote and use it more over time, you’ll find other ways of “scanning” stuff, such as emailing stuff directly into your Evernote account, using pictures, taking voice dictation into the system. It’s almost unlimited.

2. Organize Your Filing Environment

This is where Evernote comes in. Here’s what I recommend:

Create Notebooks for:

Important Documents

Receipts/Expenses (by year, quarter, or month, depending on how frequently you track this stuff)

Shows (by month) – this should include order forms, mileage, incentives you gave the hostess, etc.

Business Material – I find it’s useful to keep a copy of the career path, specials flyers

3. Mark-Up Your Documents

Create tags for your items. These are little one or two-word tags that are applied to each of the documents you create. You can then later quickly pull up every document that has the tag “Expense” or “Office Equipment” or “Utilities”

Keep your tags short and simple. Try to make sure you use the same ones, though. Don’t use “expense” and “deduction” and “taxes” interchangeably. These can be 3 separate tags that apply to different things, though.

In other cases (more for documents in general) you may want to pull out keywords from the document itself like “Recipe” or “Bread Pudding”

Remember, documents can have MULTIPLE tags! This is important. If something is an expense and a utility bill, then use both tags. Use several as necessary for each document.

4. File Your Documents

After you’ve marked up your documents with tags, you’ll want to move them into the proper notebook(s). I think the easiest way to do this is to right-click on the document and choose “Move to Notebook…” Then you can just choose the right notebook and you’re on your way. If a particular document fits multiple notebooks, that’s fine. Right-click and choose “Copy to Notebook…” and pick the appropriate notebook to copy it into. (For instance, your 2012 taxes should probably be in a “Taxes” notebook and “Important Documents” notebook.

Here’s an older but still useful YouTube video that gives a rundown on Evernote.

Also check out The 11 Amazing Features That Make Using Evernote So Freaking Awesome for a general rundown of how to use the software.

Bonus Tip:

Evernote has an awesome add-on for your web-browser called “Evernote Web Clipper.” You can find it (for free) in the Evernote Trunk (where they keep all sorts of awesome Evernote Add-ons). Get the Web Clipper and create a notebook called “Read Later” or if you want to get more specific you can create one for specific types of research or reading. I recently made one for “Productivity Reading.” You get the idea. Any time you’re on a web page in your browser and you like an article but don’t have time to read it, you just click the elephant icon and it will let you put it in one of your notebooks. It’s like magic!

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Consider the Paperless Office

JasonC —  December 2, 2012 — 5 Comments

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This article should appeal to most any small business person, but I think it is particularly well suited towards the direct sales industry. As a Direct Sales Husband, this is something you might be asked to set up or help in setting up. Hopefully I can help.

Any time you run a business, you definitely want to keep good records, and some things you should keep for several years. I’ve been working essentially paperless for several years and I’ll never look back. I still have some paper items, some things need you should just always keep at least one hard copy, and some things I haven’t yet had the chance to scan in from my pre-paperless life.

I HIGHLY recommend you consider going paperless.

Top Tools for Going Paperless

Fujitsu ScanSnap Scanner ($200-450) – there are essentially 3 models (1500, 1300, 1100). The 1500 & 1300 scan both sides of the page at once (this is highly desirable). The 1100 is tiny and will fit in your laptop bag nicely. All of these scanners have excellent scan quality and speed. They also do multiple sheets at a time. Be aware that the S1500M is a Mac-specific version. These are considered to be the best in the industry. I personally have 2 (a 1500M and 1300 for Holley’s desk) and absolutely love them.

The key features to these devices in addition to the high-quality FAST scans are that they scan both sides at once and natively produce PDF files, which are highly useful for most documents.

 

Doxie Go Rechargeable Mobile Paper Scanner ($200)- This is a cool little ultra-portable device that you can use to scan even if you don’t have your computer with you. It’s not necessary to have one of these if you have one of the other scanners mentioned above, but these also have an excellent reputation for use and do have the added function of not needing a computer to function. There are also wired versions that work similarly to the ones above and come in at a cheaper price point.

There are, of course somewhat similar scanners (generally called duplex scanners) from Canon and Epson and probably other vendors. They will probably work fine once set up, but in my research, I found that there were ubiquitous driver issues. I’ve also found that almost every piece of software that is intended to function for the paperless office ship with the ScanSnap in mind.

Evernote (free-$45/year for Premium)

Evernote is the absolute best application for going paperless for most people. I’ve used several different apps, and have even liked one (Paperless for Mac), but it all ends up coming back to Evernote. It’s available on all the major platforms (Mac, PC, iOS, Android, Blackberry, etc.). It’s fast. Customizable to your workflow. It automatically turns your scanned files into searchable PDF’s so you can find anything you put into it later on. Oh, and it’s gorgeous.

With Evernote you create notebooks and place your files in the notebooks. You can create notebooks for business, personal & home uses. Make one for important documents. Make one for pretty much anything.

The Premium Evernote includes more upload capacity and more sharing options (for your assistant(s)). But you can make notebooks which are off-line for things like receipts. Everything else you can retrieve anywhere you happen to be. At the ballpark and need a copy of your child’s birth certificate to prove he’s 14 even though he’s 6’2? Pull it up in Evernote!

DropBox (free- $9.99/month for Pro)

DropBox is a great utility that utilizes the “Cloud” to give you accessible, sharable storage space on the internet. When you install it, it will create a folder on your desktop called “DropBox.” Everything in that folder (including other folders) is uploaded to the Cloud as fast as your internet connection will allow. You can share folders and subfolders with other users (your personal assistant, your graphic designer, your husband/wife) and it shows up in their DropBox, too. Holley and I have been using this for years and find it indispensable. It’s great for collaborative workflows and combines well with Evernote.

TurboScan App ($1.99)

This is a great little app that essentially turns your iPhone into a multipage scanner so you can get documents into your paperless workflow quickly and easily, no matter what your circumstance. I use this to take pictures of sketches and my Moleskine notebook pages that I want to add to Evernote. Works like a charm.

Optional: External Hard Drive ($60 and up)

Keep a backup of your important data. If you have a computer, you may already have something that works for this. These scanned documents can be fairly large, depending on your settings, whether you are scanning higher resolution or lower (for most documents, I recommend 150dpi) and whether you are scanning in color or not. You don’t absolutely need this to start, but eventually you’ll want some beefy storage. And even consider a spare so you can ensure you don’t lose anything older than the frequency with which you change drives.

As you can see, you can go paperless in your office for less than $200. And you can do it well at that price point. $500 gets you a fully professional scanner and the top paperless software. And probably an external hard drive, for storing all that extra data.

Other Resources:

ScanSnap + Evernote vs NeatDesk & Neatworks – this is a great, balanced video review of these two products. I found the exact same things to be true in my experience and went with ScanSnap + Evernote for the same reasons.

DocumentSnap Blog – this is a good resource for seeing what other people are doing with their paperless setups. You’ll find answers to questions and good inspiration in here.

Unclutterer – while not specific to the paperless theme, there is a ton of info and inspiration in here about going paperless (because, let’s face it paper=clutter). 

Questions:

Everyone: What are your thoughts about going paperless? Any particular fears, doubts or questions about it?

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