OLWH: Taming Digital Chaos


Why They Called: Last week a client called me looking for help using his scanner. Once I arrived, the true need became clear. Scanning paper is only half the battle. In reality, the client needed help figuring out not only how to use his scanner, but how to organize and where to store his digitized files - in the cloud? A hard drive? USB storage? There are many options.

This client was familiar with Evernote and had already started saving some notes and information. He had also purchased an external hard drive - so he had plenty of options when it comes to saving digital files.

What he didn’t have was any consistent naming conventions, or digital organizational structure or protocols to follow. He didn't want to trade a physical mess for a digital mess. Enter Heather.

Solution: The goal of the project became more about organizing the digital files, not using the scanner. Here are a few tips from our session:

  1. Naming Conventions are Key. We created consistent naming conventions for the client’s notebooks. This is the biggest thin you can do to find documents later. We choose a way to name the digital notebooks and notes - and stuck with it. For example, notebook names became: 2015: Business Receipts; 2015: Tax Back up; 2015: Financial Statements, etc. This is a critical step for digital sanity.

  2. Title Documents So They Can Be Found. We’ve come to rely on OCR-text recognition to help us sort through our digital piles. But for effective document management, there is no bigger mistake than relying on OCR technology as your only reference point to documents. OCR is fantastic; but it’s not 100% accurate. For this client, we worked on titling each document so he could find them in the future. Here is an example for saving a Bank of America statement: 2015-10-BoA

  3. Set up the Notebook Structure. In this case, we set up notebooks related to what he was scanning, which was mostly about tax prep. (e.g. He had business receipts, IRS forms, 1099s, meals, non-reimbursable expenses, travel, and more to scan.) If there were personal items related to golf, cooking or his kids, we made notebooks for those separately. If you are familiar with Evernote, then just so you know: we created "Stacks" of business, personal and family notebooks. [Just a note, however, because of how powerful search can be in the digital world, folder structure is less important than in used to be. IN theory, you want to shave a few layers off a traditional structure- go for a shallow notebook/folder structure.

In March 2016, we'll go into detail on how to best scan and organize your digital files.

Stay tuned!

Outcome: In reality, we didn't get through scanning all the paperwork in one session. But we did set up the digital structure and create

a working plan for the client to finish the project - and make tax season a breeze.

#OLWH #DigitalOrganizing

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