This week, I exchanged my office desk with an adjustable, ergonomic computer table. My old desk was vintage 1970s: steel, drawers on each side, a pencil drawer, and a filing drawer. It weighed at least two hundred pounds and looked like salvage from the Titantic. A tech looked at the new table and said, “Where are you going to put the paper?”
Good question. If there isn’t a place to put the paper, do we still need it?
This year, I’ve tried something new in my office. I’ve been scanning everything possible and storing it on our server as “My Scans.” I’ve been doing this at home for ten years -- bills, tax records, kid school papers, etc. -- and I’ve found I can put two years on a CDROM. I have a table in my home office, too. No drawers or files.
This solution isn’t for everyone. It’s a little more work up front: the paper has to be sorted and physically fed through the copier and the files have to be renamed and moved to the appropriate folder. That certainly isn’t as easy as sticking paper in a manila folder, which I’m still doing for things “in process.”
The savings will come, hopefully, on the back end. Looking paper up will be much easier, especially as time goes on. Storing paper is ridiculously limited as it accumulates, and virtual storage is, well, virtually limitless.
I ran into this at home last year when my washing machine transmission failed. Our repair person said, “If only you had the original receipt, we would know if it’s still on warranty.” I loaded the CD-ROM, and within five minutes found the receipt, called GE, and had the part shipped without a penny spent before the repair technician had left.
While all this sounds like the style of the future, another tech was more direct when she saw the new desk: “That thing is UGLY.” Paper may not be pretty either, but it has the aesthetic of the familiar.