The Guide to Simplifying Your Life
1. GO PAPERLESS
a. Receiving Less Paperb. Using Less Paperc. Digitizing Your Paper
a. RECEIVING LESS PAPER
- Signing up for Online Banking and Billing
- Removing yourself from mailing lists (Junk Mail)
- Canceling Catalogs
Sign up for Online Banking/Billing
- Contact every company (bank, utility) you receive a regular statement from & ask about online billing options
Removing yourself from mailing lists (Junk Mail)
- OptOutPreScreen.Com [Permanent or Temporary Removal from Credit & Insurance Mailing Lists]
- DMAchoice [Register to opt out of direct marketing mail]
- Not signing up for free offers, contests or giving out your real address for trivial things
- Immediately contact the company & remove yourself each time a catalog comes in
- Catalog Choice [$20/year, you give them the company name, they do the work & you stop getting mail]
- Tonic [$20 one-time fee, they stop all pre-circulated mail and plant 5 trees]
b. USING LESS PAPER
- Don’t print it if you don’t need it more than once
- Print on both sides of the paper
- When you are finished, use it as foolscap to jot down notes and ideas instead of a new sheet
- Email yourself notes (I use Gmail)
- Use your phone to keep track of To Do lists (grocery shopping for example)
- Use document management software like EverNote
- Fax back documents with a digital signature instead of printing, signing, and then faxing/scanning
- Print to PDF (CutePDF)
Note on CutePDF:
It’s a software on your PC so that if you need to “keep” anything in a file that you don’t want edited, simply paste it into Microsoft Word or Notepad, and hit Print > Print to “CutePDF”, and you will have a nice PDF version of it.
Note on Creating a Digital Signature:
- Sign your name on a piece of paper in black ink.
- Scan it onto a transparent background in an image editing software
- Adjust the size so it looks like the size of a signature
- Save it as a PNG file
- Attach it at the end of all of your faxes and documents
- Print the final copy to PDF
- Email it back to your client/vendor
c. DIGITIZING YOUR PAPER
Buy a scanner and start scanning things.
I’d suggest a printer that has Scan-to-PDF capabilities because a JPEG is not quite as nice as a PDF document.
I also heartily suggest having two, if not three backups of your electronic documents because you do NOT want to lose your only digital copies of your documents, as you don’t own the hard copies any longer.
A secure password protected USB key is sufficient, because you don’t want to allow just anyone to be able to access your documents without any trouble.
I really like Verbatim’s Privacy & Public Zone software, and Sandisk with their U3 software is also another alternative.
QUICK GUIDE TO DOCUMENTS YOU SHOULD KEEP IN HARD COPY FORMAT OR DIGITIZE
Keep Physical Versions Of Forever:
- Marriage/Divorce paperwork
- Birth/Death certificates
- Receipts/Transaction records for major purchases such as houses, cars, etc.
- Keep Physical Versions For At Least 7 Years
Any and all paperwork related to tax returns & receipts
Keep in digital format:
- Income statements
- Bank statements
- Investment statements
- Credit card statements
For receipts for things you’ve purchased, keep them until the end of the return/exchange period.
You can pick and choose from the items above; some of you might like to keep your income or investment statements in hard copy format, but for me, unless it’s required by law, I don’t keep anything in paper that I don’t have to.
ORGANIZE YOUR DIGITAL FILES
Create a logical system of folders so you can find what you need
I never go deeper than 3 levels of clicks. The first time you open your USB key for example, that’s the first level.
Then if you select one folder and enter it, it should have another set of folders to organize, and within each of those folders, are either more folders or actual documents
It should never look more than:
C:/Taxes/2010/Medical/Actual Medical Receipts for 2010 named appropriately
No more than 3 levels. Preferably 2.
My folders are roughly as follows:
- Backups – I backup my blogs on here, my accounting software files, and so on
- Banking/Bills/Government — Anything “official” goes here
- Education — Anything useful from college
- Career – Anything relating to my resume, or career notes
- Personal Documents – Stuff that doesn’t fit anywhere else
Note: This is an ever-changing process. I add folders, delete folders, and re-arrange as my life changes.
Within each, I have separate folders for each category.
For example, under Banking/Bills/Government I have:
- Letters/Notices from the Government
- Cellphone Company
- Regular Bank Name (where I do my chequing)
- Savings Bank Name (where I save my emergency funds)
- Investing Bank Name (where I invest)
- Tax information and files
- Receipts for taxes sorted by Year [####] (and within each year, a category of type)
You get the idea.
That way, you can just easily slot what your digitized statement is, into each company name.
I am also a stickler for naming conventions, so I always name them something like:
[Company Name]_Statement_[Short Description if needed]_Year-Month-Day
I do it backwards by Year & Month, so that it sorts by the year, then the month, then the day if you want to add it.
2. TELECOMMUTE (IF YOU CAN)
3. ONE-TOUCH SYSTEM FILING INTO THREE STEPS
- Scan/File - Put it in your Scan/File pile
- Take Action - Put it in your calendar, write an email, put it on your To Do list
- Dispose - Shred & toss
If you follow this one-touch, three-step system, you will eliminate a good chunk of your tasks.
There’s no point in procrastination — you will get to it sooner or later.
Note on Shredding:
Cross-cut paper shredders work better than strip shredders.
Strip shredders allow you to put the pieces back together again if you are so inclined.
Cross-cut paper shredders cut them into pieces of confetti which makes it even more difficult (near impossible) to piece together the information.
4. CLEAN UP YOUR COMPUTER DESKTOP & BOOKMARKS
I have a thing with clean computer desktops.
This is what my desktop tends to look like:
Wallpaper is called “The Emperor” and can be found on DeviantArt here, by D-NA.
My work desktop (another laptop) looks just about the same, except I have a folders for all the projects I’m working on, on the desktop.
You can either store the folders locally (Right-click on the Desktop > Create New Folder).
Or you can create a shortcut to another folder on your hard drive (Right-click on the Desktop > Create a Shortcut > Find the folder you want).
I keep the trash bin available for me to select, drag and drop files into it easily.
I keep only two folders stored locally on my desktop:
- Documents –> interim folder to transfer files off onto my external hard drives
- POSTS –> posts for any one of my two blogs that I know I have to schedule posts for
I make my windows taskbar double the size so I can fit icons on the left side for easy access, and I can see all of the windows I have open at one shot.
I only save files to my desktop so I can find my downloads easily but I always clean out my desktop as soon as possible, or figure out what I want to do with the files. I only leave what I absolutely need immediately on my desktop.
This also goes for my virtual bookmarks. I have my regular bookmarks set up in my menu bar in Firefox, but any sort of document or bookmark I save, gets an action taken upon it.
If I really like the article, I’ll either copy and paste it into a Word document and turn it into a PDF, or I might simply pop it into EverNote and keep it as a reference.
5. USE COMPUTER SHORTCUTS
These are the my top shortcuts I use on a daily basis on my PC:
- Windows Key + E = My Computer
- Windows Key + D = Desktop
- Alt + F4 = Close any window/program
- Ctrl + A = Select all
- Ctrl + C = Copy
- Ctrl + X = Cut
- Ctrl + V = Paste
I don’t memorize or use shortcuts unless they’re actually useful, and quicker than using a conventional menu.
On my MAC:
- Apple Symbol + Q = Close any window/program
- Show All Windows Button = One stop button to show me what I have open
- Using the trackpad (GENIUS!) to swipe and scroll
This is how I’ve managed to get rid of placing icons on my desktop or having to Right-Click + Select things.
6. WATCH OUT FOR TIME SUCKS
Facebook, Reading Blogs (*guilty as charged!*), Twitter and constantly checking your email.
For emails, it can be difficult NOT to constantly check them, but set intervals, like once every hour, or only after you’ve finished a task you’ve started on.
What I do, is I start on something, I finish the task an hour or sometimes two hours later, and then I check my email.
That helps me feel like I’ve accomplished something on my Must Do To Do List, and it keeps me efficient with my time instead of getting side tracked.
7. SET A 3-A-DAY RULE
Set three of the most important you want to get done each day.
That’s it. 3 simple items. Finish them. Wash, rinse and repeat.
If you get MORE than 3 items finished in a day, you feel even more accomplished, but if all you do is clear your 3-item To Do list, you will feel just as satisfied.