We’ve gone paperless a year or two ago and it was the best decision we ever made. We were able to throw away literally thousands of pieces of paper and about 20 binders, thus creating a lot of space in our study. But not only does our home office look a lot better and less stuffed, I can also find our documents way easier now that we’ve gone paperless. I don’t lose important documents, I always have them at my disposal (even when I’m not at home) and I’m always prepared for whatever meeting I have.
Needless to say, going paperless has huge benefits. Aside from the ones mentioned above, there’s another big one specifically for youth ministry: I’m using a lot more of the ideas and resources that I have collected from several magazines because I’ve made them searchable in Evernote. I used to have this bog box stuffed with clippings, but I hardly ever used anything because I forgot what I had in there.
So here are 7 tools you need to help you go paperless:
You need an app to store your digital info in and I strongly recommend Evernote. It’s easy to use, free if you use the basic version, it’s fully searchable and you can use it on your computer, phone, iPad, etc. You can even share certain notebooks with your team, for instance the ones with all your youth ministry resources. I’ve written a few posts about Evernote before if you want to know more:
- Training and informing your leaders using Evernote
- Connecting Evernote and Twitter
- How Evernote can change the way you work in youth ministry
- 3 great ways to use Evernote in youth ministry
If you want to go paperless, you’ll need a scanner of some sort to scan all your papers. We have been using the Fujitsu Scansnap and it is awesome. It’s lightweight, it scans superfast and it can handle all kinds of paper formats from legal to business cards. It can do color and double sided paper and the best part is that you can scan directly into Evernote if you want. To be honest, it’s not a good option for scanning photos as it leaves marks on the photos. Please mind that there’s a different version of the ScanSnap for Mac and for Windows computer.
Droid Scan turns your Android phone into a pocket document scanner. It will convert any snapshot into a JPEG or PDF, thereby making it the perfect mobile scanner for smaller documents, like business cards.
4. Adobe Acrobat Pro
Evernote has text recognition, but when you have documents in a language that Evernote doesn’t support yet (like we did: Dutch) or if you have a lot of big documents with pictures (like we did, including tons of magazine clippings), running your documents though Acrobat after scanning has advantages. There’s an option in Acrobat for Batch processing of documents where you can do text recognition and set up for resizing documents to make them smaller in size. You do the set up once and then use it again and again with a batch of scanned documents. Afterwards, just import them into Evernote.
Dropbox is another way to easily store your back up or o share certain folders and files with others. The basic version is free, but of you need more storage room you may want to get extra space and pay for it.
6. Extra harddisk for back up
One of the best features on the Mac is the Time Machine. I have it set up to connect with an external harddisk so it makes an automatic back up twice a day. The great thing is that it doesn’t only provide the necessary backup in case something happens to you original files (which is absolutely necessary when you no longer have a paper copy as a back up), but you even have access to old version of the same file. Just today I accidently overwrote a file but was able to retrieve the original version via Time Machine. No matter if you use Time Machine or something else, you need a back up of all your data on an external harddisk to make sure you don’t lose any important documents.
7. Paper shredder
Last but not least, if you’re going paperless I’d invest in a paper shredder. Especially if you start scanning whole binders of personal info, you need to destroy the originals and not throw them away like that. Identity theft is a real issue so protect yourself here!
It’s a time investment in the beginning to go paperless, but afterwards it will only save you time, energy in searching and clutter. I’m loving it!