Online Tools Help Paperless Plunge

Pay bills, catch up on reading and keep track of schedules and dates with these terrific online tools

Full disclosure: I have not gone paperless with all of my bills — yet. If you’re like me, you see the value in paying bills electronically but just can’t step away from the comfort of having a hard copy. The good news for those of us in the noncommittal camp: There are plenty of baby steps we can take to reduce paper in the home office.
Set up paperless billing. Some things to consider before making the plunge:You can set up paperless billing through your bank or individual vendors. Decide which feels more comfortable for you. Just know that if you go the bank route and decide to switch banks at a later date, you’ll have to start the process all over.
• Gather your bills and home vendors (such as water delivery) and list everything you want to switch to paperless statements.
Keep track of user names and passwords in one place for easy access.
Don’t forget to jot down bill due dates in your calendar or set up your bills for automatic payment.
I love setting Google reminders to prompt me with a text or email when a bill is nearing its due date. (It also backs up my billing schedule to my calendar.)

Use web-based bookmarks. Organize web-based bookmarks as you would your paper files: Create a main category with like files grouped within in. Even if you switch browsers, you can easily transfer bookmarks you’ve created and organized. If you must read print copies of magazines, use the rip-and-read method and recycle the bulk of the magazine. But it’s better to find magazine articles and other home design photos and ideas online. You can bookmark them for later reading.

Set up e-faxing. As long as you have access to a scanner, you can officially say goodbye to cumbersome fax machines. Faxing seems so archaic anyway, and no fax machine to store means more open space in your home office. Thank goodness for eFax, which sends faxes as email attachments. Plans range from $15 to $17 per
Create a virtual calendar. It took me a few tries before I finally committed to an online calendar. Once I trusted the system (and didn’t go back and forth between my paper and digital calendar), my life has run so much more smoothly. Some tips:Test out a free online calendar and stick to using it for at least two weeks.
Set up reminders and alarms (especially in the beginning) so that you’ll get in the habit of putting your digital schedule to use.
Pick a web-based calendar that syncs remotely with your cell phone. For example, I use Google Sync, and with the press of a button, my desktop calendar is updated with any new info that I have put into my Blackberry.

Put your to-do list in the cloud. I absolutely love not having to rewrite my to-do list on a daily basis. And since it’s housed in the cloud, meaning it’s stored virtually and accessible from many devices, I have access to it from anywhere. Also, relying on digital tools to capture important data means fewer sticky notes and random bits of paper that often end up getting lost.It’s easy to become overwhelmed with all of the to-do list apps available. Don’t stress that you haven’t picked the right one; the trick is to stick with the system. And don’t worry if you don’t always use it on the spot. When I need to quickly jot info down, I email myself the note so that I can transfer the info once I’m back at my computer.

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