We weren't AR members yet in February 2011, so we missed the original challenge to develop a plan to go paperless. But somehow, we must have been tuned in to the cosmic vibes on this issue, since we have made some significant efforts over the past 18 months in reducing our paper usage.
Without a doubt, DocuSign has been the biggest contributor to the cause. We had begun using it several years ago, and it seems like every month, we find additional ways to put it to work. At first, we applied it mostly to clients that were hard to meet with - out-of-towners or those with busy schedules. Now, almost every client reviews and signs all their paperwork in DocuSign. And we've done more than cut back on wasting trees - we're finding that we need less face-to-face meetings, so we're saving energy and gas as well, by doing a lot more telephone conferencing.
Another great paper-saver we've recently begun using is Dropbox. It's one of those tools that we just keep finding more ways to use. Besides the obvious - making important documents available on all of our computers - we're able to share files easily with clients and others we work with, even if they don't have Dropbox.
One of the changes that has had a huge impact on paper use over the last couple of years has been the way title work is handled. Our title company implemented a digital option, which we were quick to adopt, both for ourselves and almost all clients. Those huge 5 lb. bundles of paperwork - title commitments, conditions and exceptions, complete with original documents, and HOA covenants, articles and by-laws - are now delivered as .pdfs, as are the constant updates to the title package. We're probably saving a couple of trees per deal on this alone.
We do have one unimplemented item yet to do, and we know it's going to be a major one. We have not yet bought a scanner and started turning all our files into digital records. We have been using the office scanner more every month, but until we have one of our own in a handy and accessible location, we won't really be using this tool to its fullest extent. So it's on the list for a purchase sometime before the end of the year.
We are seeing the writing on the digital wall and we have made peace with it. Emotionally, we're there. We have lost our love of paper, along with that unnecessary feeling of security that comes from having huge piles of boxes stuffed with various documents and records. And we have proof of our paperless commitment: we got rid of our storage space this last summer - what we really needed was scanned, what we didn't need got shredded. We now get that same feeling of security from getting everything into digital files.
Of course, that raises at least two additional issues - the first is the need for bulletproof back-up. We're doing an external hard drive back-up, as well as redundancy on several computers, but I also need to overcome my uneasiness with the concept of using cloud back-up as well, and do the research to get something going there. We're not totally bulletproof yet. The second issue is the need for a digital filing system that makes logical and practical sense. Needless to say, Mary & I have totally different ideas of the definition of logical and practical in this regard, but as long as we can each find what we're looking for, we'll be okay. And so will the trees.