Scanners as an Organizational Tool

The all-in-one printer seems to be very common these days.  I got one for free with the purchase of my last computer.  After 6 months I felt like I was misled: I had yet to use my scanner even once. Over time and through a lot of thought I have come up with a few ideas that have helped me to reduce the stacks of paper I had stacked up for “safe keeping” or because they could potentially be useful… someday.

The first one may seem obvious to most, but it hadn’t occurred to me until I tried to think of things to use it for.  I had old papers I had typed, articles from journals, or paper copies of readings from classes that I didn’t want to lose in several places around my house.  Then it hit me! I could scan them and make sure that the quality would never degrade.  TIP ONE: scan important old documents.  This is useful for many things: if you are teaching you can have digital copies for your students, which reduces the amount of copies you need to make.  It also preserves those treasured articles that might otherwise be difficult to find. Helpful Hint: When scanning journals or other types of text make sure you use the highest quality available scan!

The option to have electronic billing seems to be gaining in popularity these days. I, however, still receive a few of my bills in paper copy. This is another great place your scanner can step in to reduce paper. TIP TWO: scan bills, pay stubs, tax documents and other important papers.  This tip is helpful in two ways: 1) you reduce the amount of paper you have lying around by scanning, shredding and recycling and 2) you have those documents easily accessible on your computer.  No more digging around to find that last statement or searching the website to try and find a copy–or worse, forgetting to pay a bill because it got lost in the shuffle.

So now you have several documents scanned and you’re feeling good about cleaning off your desk.  Then you realize that your computer is now in disarray. Remain calm; I will not leave you twisting in the wind.  Helpful Hint:  Make sure to read my first article as I will expand on those ideas with this last tip. TIP THREE: Decide what you need now and what needs to be archived.

Step 1: File Names: Follow the file naming convention you created for yourself, such as description_date, when naming your documents.  If you are scanning old papers or articles, I opt for author_title_date when naming the file. Step 2: Organize: Then decide, “does this need to be ready at a moment’s notice, or can I archive this for safekeeping?” For bills, make a folder that contains folders for each month.  If you are keeping tax documents, try to incorporate this into your current file system and add a file for taxes. Having it organized by year will make it a quick task when you need to reference them.

I understand that all these scans take time and computer space. But if you make yourself a little time every day, it won’t take long to catch up.  Once you have everything on your computer, then it can become a weekly task or something you do when you sit down to open the mail or do research. If you realize that a lot of the scans you make are just for items you want to archive, but do not need on a daily or monthly basis, consider uploading them to an external hard drive or USB flash drive.  A flash drive can hold as much as 32 or even 64 gigabytes of information nowadays.  They are also very convenient in size so you can keep it in a desk drawer, on your keychain, or even throw it in your fireproof lock box for safekeeping!

As always, I hope you find these tips helpful.  If you have any questions or suggestions please feel free to let me know: kristen (at)

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