Thursday, October 6, 2011

New Day... New Goal...

Today I have a new goal...  A Paperless Office.  And since most of my office is swimming in various genealogy papers, I thought I would start this blog dedicated to my quest and hopefully I can help some other slob like me get out from under the mountain of genealogy notes, birth certificates, marriage certificates, etc.

Well, in all honesty, it's not really new.  And in reality, it's not even my idea.  My wife has been trying to get me to clean up my office since we've been together.  Every once in a while I get real ambitious and start sorting papers into various piles in my office and bedroom (I have a lot of piles....)  Then I break for lunch.
Then I HAVE to check my email accounts, facebook messages, Google+ updates, etc.  Oh yeah, usually I end up doing this on the weekend, so by this time there is usually a baseball or football game on television, or a good movie, or something else that is WAY better than sorting through papers....  And by early evening, after a wonderful dinner lovingly cooked by my wife I'm just too wiped out to do any more. So, later...  just before bed, I gather up my indivividual piles of paperwork and carefully put them all back into a few larger piles in my office.  There must be a better way, but how am I going to do it?

Well, first, I need to start with a few ground rules for both myself, and my wife:

#1 -  I'm sure if she was reading this right now, my wife would be rolling her eyes and saying, "I wonder how long is this going to last..."  So, we need to establish a timeline.  This is NOT going to happen in a weekend. We're talking about a complete change in attitude. It's going to be a while...  But do I have the stamina to continue down the path.  Yes.  I am committed to this, for sure. (My office is too small to bring any more paper in, and if anything else spills out into my bedroom, I'll be forced to bring it all with me to the doghouse I'll be sleeping in, so for sure I'm dedicated.

#2 - Let's be realistic about the goal here, folks.  I'm not proposing there will be no paper in my office.  Sure that would be nice, but there is always going to be something, particularly around records that are ordered and shipped to me. So what I am talking about?  Maybe what I really am talking about is a "less-paper office" but I don't want to give the wrong impression here.  SIGNIFICANTLY less paper is the goal.

#3 - Whats the plan?  I'm not going to lie. There is going to be some investment in this effort, and maybe a few of my electronic "toys" but eye on the prize, people. It's going to be sooooooo worth it when all is said and done.   I don't have a detailed plan yet, but in general, I am imagining the process will look something like this:
  1. Establish policies around how this will all look.  I need to think about things like being able to retrive documents quickly, the ability to modify and mark up documents (I need a replacement for my sticky notes too...) document sharing with other family members & researchers, backup and recovery...  Establishing the guidelines and policies for this stuff will be key!
  2. Inventory.  What to I already have that is digitized and how is it stored, organized, etc..  What do I have for paper laying around that needs to be digitized?  Can I follow the patterns I already have with my other files, or do I need to rething the strategy given the change in volume & types of records I may be dealing with?  I will definitely need to figure out what I have and decide what stays, what goes, and what gets reorganized in the process.
  3. Develop a plan what will remain on paper. I already admitted some things will just always be around on paper. What's the plan for that stuff?  How does that fit into my paperless office?
  4. Start Scanning.  This isn't going to just happen.  Eventually, I'm going to have to get scanning and put this plan into action.
  5. Back Up.  If I'm not going to keep paper copies around, there are going to be a lot of back ups in my future.  Could be on CD, DVD, or online, but it needs to be somewhere easily accessible in the event of an epic failure of my computer. As a side note, I need to remember to actually use the recovery process for my documents once in a while to make sure it will work when I need it. What good is backing everything up only to find you can restore it when the time comes.  Yep.. HAVE to do both backup and recovery on a semi-regular basis!
  6. Destroy originals.  This is the whole point right?  Why go through all this work only to decide to keep the originals, "just in case?"  This could be the hardest part in the whole process, but its obviously crucial if I am to succeed.
So there it all is.  This is where I am headed...

I've done a lot of reading lately about paperless offices in general, and some more specific paperless genealogy stuff.  Has anyone successfully made this leap?  Can it be done?  I am just searching for some sort of panacea that doesn't exist?  Does anyone want to take the challenge on with me?

Your comments are welcome. I'm interested in hearing other people's tales of going paperless and/or thoughts on the matter.


  1. Definitely food for thought. I am only 5 years in the genealogy addiction and at the start I asked some genealogists about "less paper" - they all rolled their eyes and laughed. In 5 short years we now have the "cloud," much larger external hard drives, better scanners, etc. But we are still not there yet. It will be interesting to follow along with this project. Please share your planning - this might just be a Motivation Monday project! Thanks

  2. Thanks for the comment, Tessa -

    There is certainly no reason in my mind this can't be done. It just takes some planning and expectation setting. When I say paperless, I don't imagine to think there will be absolutely no paper, but I know I can minimize it to the point that it's not noticeable.

    You're right, though. I am constantly asked about technology and how it can apply to genealogy and the cloud and various online services can certainly help.

    I'll admit I'm a bit of a geek and like new technology, so I'm excited just to try some new things in this adventure and see how they pan out. That's what I am hoping to share here as the journey continues.

  3. #6 would be hardest for me. I just bought a little Flip Pal scanner and am trying to head down the same path as you. Looking forward to your posts!