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The Paperless Office

Addicted to paper? Stephanie Reel's 12 easy steps can help you gain control of your office and get on with your life.

As the University’s chief information officer and vice provost for information technology, Stephanie Reel has no fewer than three offices to accommodate meetings with her constituents and far-flung staff. One, in East Baltimore, is in the 1830 Building; another is in Garland Hall on the Homewood campus, and a third is located in Mt. Washington.

Reel never quite knows where she will have to be on any given day or what information she will need to have at her fingertips, so she used to keep much of it in her car. Documents were scattered all over the back seat and stuffed in the trunk. Her car became a rolling repository of her ever-burgeoning work product—a veritable four-wheel filing cabinet.

“My car got to be a disaster. Oh my God, it was a mess,” Reel recalls. “And I’m not good with clutter.” So she got rid of it. Almost all of it.

It happened about three years ago when Reel was transferring her main office to JHU at Eastern. She decided to throw out lots of paper files rather than move them. “We said, gosh, if we haven’t looked at this for a long time, we probably don’t need it. If we do need it, we’ll scan it.” By deep-sixing and scanning, organizing her computer files, and keeping almost all her documents online, she swiftly converted her work domain to a largely paperless office.

“It’s definitely more efficient,” Reel says. “If I need to find something, I can do a computer search on a title or search for a folder on my shared drive or even on my local drive. You don’t even have to get up. It’s right there at your fingertips.”

Reel defines “paperless” as having no filing cabinets or physical space devoted to storing documents. She keeps everything online. She asks colleagues to send communications electronically, if possible, to avoid starting a paper trail.

Neil A. Grauer

Stephanie Reel’s 12-Step Program

Could you go paperless? According to Stephanie Reel, vice provost for information technology, it’s possible to stop using without even checking into Hazelden. Here are 12 easy steps that can help you come clean.

1. Admit that you are powerless over paper
Face it: in your office, things have become unmanageable.

2. Clear the Clutter
That 15-year-old paperweight? That photo of your 8-year-old son—the one who got married last month? Toss ’em!

3. Trash the Trivial
Dig out those paper files that have not merited so much as a glance in recent years. They, too, must go.

4. Embrace the Electronic
Address book? Rolodex? Get over it. Invest in a Palm, Pocket PC or Blackberry. Electronics are here to stay.

5. Scan the Significant
Gather together your important documents. Then scan and store them electronically.

6. Design with Discipline
Carefully structure your online files so you can find them in a flash.

7. Secure Your Stash
Your computer files now are precious; keep them password-protected.

8. Leverage the Loot
Take advantage of Johns Hopkins’ investments in technology. Learn more about the wonders of GroupWise, like its calendar and checklist features. Use JShare, a way to temporarily store and share electronic files via the Internet.

9. Save the Space
Move out the filing cabinets; enjoy that newfound elbow room.

10. Treasure the Trees
Print out as little as possible. When discarding papers, place them in a recycling container.

11. Ban the Backslide
Stop thinking you might regret not having a hard copy. (And don’t clip and file this list!)

12. Spread the Word
Carry this message to other paper addicts you know.



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