Tips for Scanning Personal Documents and Organizing Your Digital Life

Drowning in paper? Learn how to efficiently scan your personal documents and organize your digital life.

Experts estimate that around 80 percent of the paper that comes into your home is useless clutter. It builds up in stacks, eating away at your time, energy, and peace of mind.

In accordance with the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, the other 20 percent of paper that finds its way to you isn't just important — it's very important. These are the essential documents you too often can't seem to lay your hands on when you need them.

Scanning your documents can help, but not all digital organization systems are created equal. Here's what you need to know about how to scan documents and keep them organized to tackle your paper clutter problems once and for all.

Getting a Handle on Your Documents

The first step to getting a handle on your documents is stemming the tide of unwanted paper in the first place. Achieving perfection in this isn't possible, but even cutting down the flow a little will help. Easy ways to reduce the deluge of paper coming your way include:

  • Choosing paperless billing whenever possible
  • Signing up for email or text reminders from your doctor's office and other service providers whenever you can
  • Canceling subscriptions to hard copy newspapers and magazines that you no longer enjoy
  • Switching to digital subscriptions of publications you still love

The second step is to reduce the paper clutter you generate yourself. Are you a compulsive list-maker? Try using an app instead of scraps of paper.

Do you use notes to communicate with family members on different schedules? Make a family Slack channel or install a whiteboard, chalkboard, or another reusable message spot instead.

The third step is to make getting rid of paper clutter easy. Position a recycling bin in the garage or wherever else you carry mail into the house. Make a habit of discarding circulars and other obvious junk mail in the bin before they can even make it into your home.

Finally, set up a designated spot for that 20 percent of papers that you actually need. This will keep them safe until you have time to address them.

Related: Paper Waste Reduction Tips for Your Office

Going Digital

Once you've narrowed your paper down to the things that have real value, you're ready to go digital. But digitizing without a plan is a recipe for disaster. To avoid turning paper clutter into digital clutter, follow these key rules.

1: Name Your Files the Same Way
Set up a simple method for naming your files and use it every time. There is no single right way to do this. What matters is that it works for you.

Consider including the year and keywords such as "receipt" or the name of the family member the document relates to. This will make it easy to retrieve your documents later.

2: Set up a Digital Filing System
As with file names, the important thing is that your system makes sense to you and that you follow it without exception. Create folders by year, for each family member, or by document category for ease of use.

3. Touch It Once
Let the popular "touch it once" rule save you time and energy. Scan and save your documents immediately upon opening them. If that isn't possible, schedule a time each week to batch-scan all the important paperwork you received that week.

This prevents documents from getting lost or damaged. It also ensures they are digitally accessible when you need them.

4. Save Safely
Save your documents to the cloud. If you must use non-cloud options, make sure that you have a backup system in place. Use appropriate password protection when necessary to keep your private documents safe.

How to Scan Documents Like a Pro

Does going digital sound overwhelming? Do you have doubts about your ability to keep up with scanning and filing your documents once your system is set up? If so, you aren't alone.

Many people never undertake the process of going digital because they are too intimidated. Others start but never finish. Too often, this failure to succeed stems from:

  • Using the wrong tools
  • Using the wrong process
  • Problems created by low-quality scans

The key to making your new low-paper or paperless life work like a well-oiled machine is learning to scan like the pros.

Related: Guide to Home Office Efficiency

Pro Tip 1: How You Scan Matters

In a paperless or paper-light system, your desktop document scanner (or whatever you're trying to use in place of it) becomes a single point of failure. In short, if it doesn't work the way you need it to, your entire system does not work.

To be successful, you can't rely on your smartphone or a low-quality scanner. These and similar devices:

  • Are slow and cumbersome to use
  • Don't allow you to scan multiple pages quickly and easily
  • Don't produce collated scans of multi-page documents
  • Produce low-quality scans that are hard to read and reprint
  • May create scanned files in odd and hard-to-use file formats

In every case, you end up frustrated by the process and the results. Sticking to your system, no matter how well it is otherwise set up, will be impossible.

Only a good-quality home scanner will do. With a high-quality scanner, you can:

  • Scan documents with speed and ease
  • Get the quality of scan you need
  • Work your system successfully

It's important to note, however, that just having access to a good scanner isn't enough.

You Need Your Own

Trying to use someone else's scanner is also a prescription for failure. When you rely on someone else's scanner:

  • Your system breaks down if that scanner becomes unavailable
  • You cannot control the quality of your scans
  • Working your system becomes more difficult and time-consuming

Investing in a quality desktop scanner of your own puts the power and control in your hands.

Related: Best Document Scanner for a Small Office

Pro Tip 2: The Right Software Makes All the Difference

Once you've got your scanner in place, it's time to pair it with the software that will take your digitizing to the next level. After bulk scanning, one of the biggest issues in managing a digital system is getting files where they need to be.

Smartphones and low-quality scanners save your files under default names in default drop sites. Once you've scanned an item, you have to manually go in and rename it. Then you have to move it to its destination.

Depending on your scanner and its system, this can involve airdropping, emailing, or other intermediary steps. You may even have to go into the destination point later to move the document to the correct subfile.

You must repeat this process for every single file. It's time-consuming and tedious.

What’s more, many scanners fail to provide a searchable digital copy of your text document, instead turning it into an image that you must review manually.

Streamlining with Software

With the right software, however, you can condense that entire process to a few quick clicks. Smart Touch scanning software allows you to:

  • Scan documents to PDF
  • Scan documents to Word
  • Scan documents to other formats of your choice
  • Optimize your scans for readability and searchability
  • Get clean scans even of less-than-clean documents
  • Route documents where they need to go (including cloud destinations) in one step

What does this mean for you?

  • You get top-quality scans every time
  • You spend less time scanning and filing your documents
  • You face less risk of losing documents
  • You experience less stress around how to scan a document well
  • Your documents are searchable
  • You can handle text, image, and other types of documents with equal ease

Combining the right software with the right scanner can make your digital system a breeze.

Pro-Tip 3: Back Up Your System with the Right Support

Even the best systems are subject to the imperfections of real life. Don't let wear, tear, and mistakes that you know are bound to happen derail your system.

Plan ahead. Choose great maintenance and support services from the moment you get your scanner and software in place. Doing so ensures that when life inevitably happens, it isn't a catastrophe.

Proper support services and warranties can turn what might have been an emergency into a slight hiccup, which is why Kodak Alaris offers software assurance and technical assistance for all of our products along with various service plans from Advanced Unit Replacement (AUR) to onsite repair.

These features protect your documents, your system, and your peace of mind. Invest in them upfront and you will never regret it.

Related: How to Disaster-Proof Your Finances

The Number One Secret to Good Digital Organization

The number one secret to good digital organization is having the tools and system you need for long-term success. Once you know how to scan documents well and have the tools in place to do it, you're primed for success.

Kodak Alaris can help. Find a retail partner in your area and explore how our desktop document scanners and software solutions can help organize your documents today.


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