Dreaming of a paperless office
So it's the New Year, that means clearing away the office Christmas decorations and with it comes the inevitable studio spruce up.
This is a job that actually gets easier each year as, one sheet at a time, I am gradually moving towards a paperless office. I am not going to claim any kind of grand strategy or systematic change behind this, it has happened organically. I thought I would share a few ideas that sit at the heart of this transformation.
1 - Evernote
A client recommended Evernote to me many years ago, claiming it would "change my working life". I thought that was a bold statement at the time, but I duly installed it on my PC (this was before I turned to the dark side and switched to Macs).
I recall being instantly underwhelmed, "it's just a simple note storage app". Although this initial assumption was essentially correct, what I didn't realise was that Evernote was such an efficient alternative to a pen and paper. With it being so quick and versatile, I started creating notes on the fly, all day, every day. With Evernote, I can also save photos of diagrams, sitemaps and wireframes I have drawn on a flip chart or whiteboard. There is also a plugin called Evernote web clipper that I use on my chrome browser to save articles for future reading.
Evernote is cloud based, meaning that if you start a note on your phone or tablet, you can switch to your desktop and instantly pick up where you left off. I am even writing this blog post on my phone's Evernote right this minute. Enough said!
Come to think of it, I owe that client a beer.
2 - iPad with Apple pencil
Although my typing is now at a comparable speed to my handwriting (actually i’m almost certainly faster typing), the designer in me prefers good old fashioned pen and paper. The problem is that my time is split between my studio, home office and event client premises throughout Wales and the UK. This means I was constantly carting around half a tonne of paper or regularly leaving wireframe sketches at home.
Enter my iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. I can now wireframe on the fly (projecting a live feed of my sketches to the screen in the studio via Apple TV ), add shorthand notes from when attending meetings or conferences and even annotate a PDF document, all without needing to print a single sheet of paper. The iPad also automatically syncs to my Evernote account meaning that I do not need to manually stay on top of file management.
3 - Bookkeeping and finance on the move with Xero
I take photos of fuel receipts and instantly upload them to Xero and I am able to quickly generate invoices on the fly and email them directly to my clients. This may not sound overly impressive. However, I can do all of this via my smartphone using a dedicated app, once again allowing me to run my small business on the move. Xero also integrates with my bank account, automatically importing my statements to save hours of my time and almost certainly saving reams of paper.
4 - File sharing and collaboration - Google Drive & Google Apps
Once again I use the cloud to improve efficiency and reduce the requirement of printed content or paperwork. This time I use Google Drive (my email is also with Google Apps, making it easy to setup and maintain on all devices). The Google eco system is ideal for my business at just £5 per month and allows me to securely sync all of my client files and notes across all of my devices, which is essential when on the go. I have also backed up my PixelHaze drive to both my laptop and desktop using a live-sync tool so that I can access any file instantly. On my mobile or tablet, I can access the entire drive and download files as and when I need them. Google Drive also comes with a range of apps, a direct alternative to Office 365 at no extra cost. All apps are cloud based and work within the browser meaning I do not need to install additional applications on my computers. I can then share access to these documents, allowing clients or associates to work in the same eco-system remotely, at the same time. God I love technology, well, when it works like this!
The above solutions all work for me, however they are not the only options. For every Xero there’s a Quickbooks and for every Google there’s a Microsoft. Even if you are unsure about which route to take, I would certainly recommend that you set a little time aside to look into whether any of the above solutions will help to clear your desks and make your small business more efficient. I am always happy to talk tech so any questions please feel free to get in touch.