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How much time do you waste wrangling your information?

By April 15, 2010Uncategorized

Screen shot 2010-04-15 at 9.11.16 AM  Did you know that, according to the Wall St. Journal, 1 hour a day is wasted in most offices looking for missing information?  This factoid is something I frequently mention whenever I'm giving a talk about 'going paperless.'  Everyone nods there head when I say this, and the expressions of the head-nodders are always ones of exasperation.  Paper is inherently hard to wrangle and so we lose a lot of information just because we can't find the paper that contains it.

But that's only part of the story, and it's probably the smaller part.  

What about information that isn't 'missing'? It's not lost, but it is in paper form as opposed to being digitized.  How much longer does it take in an average day to find that information and then act on it? 

I'll bet in the average office it takes more than two hours a day.  Let me give you an example to explain why I believe that.

Yesterday someone emailed me to ask for some information that I had prepared a few months ago.  It was important information and so obviously I had kept it.  If that information had been in paper form I would have had to go to the physical location of the paper, and then pull it, and then copy it (or scan it) and then email it (or fax it).  That could have taken 10 minutes, or more if the paper was not in the same building as me.

How long did it take me to find the digital file and then email it off to the requesting person? About 30 seconds. 

All I had to do was set my search focus on the large folder that contains all my 2010 documents and then type in one word to filter for documents like the one I needed.  The results displayed a few choices, and I picked the one I wanted and clicked the 'Email' button and then started typing the name of the recipient and after three letters the 'auto-complete feature' of my email program guessed the right name and I then hit send.  If there were a contest to see how fast I could do it, I probably could have completed the task in 15 seconds. But I think 30 seconds is still pretty impressive.

The advantages of being paperless are many, but it's hard to appreciate them until you stop storing information in paper and learn to be comfortable with digital information.  Once you do, you'd never go back to dealing with paper.  It's way too inefficient if you want to process information quickly and reliably.

You do want to process information more efficiently, don't you?


P.S. If you appreciate these kinds of observations, you might want to read this as well.

2 Comments

  • Richard says:

    Agree. But for a solo practice it means hiring someone to scan in everything or do it yourself which can be quite tedious. Do you have an employee who is in charge of scanning everything or do you outsource to service [that either comes in and scans or you send them the docs to scan].

  • Amen.

    Scansnap + OCR + Mac + Spotlight search of contents = awesome.

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