How to Go Paperless

In a world that has been completely transformed by technology, it’s interesting to see so many people still reliant upon traditional pen and paper. When asked why they still use paper for simple tasks, most people say they really want to go “digital” but simply don’t know how. Others say they’ve tried but it’s either too hard to break the habit of traditional pen and paper, or there doesn’t seem to be a reasonable digital replacement for their paper workflow. While every person and business has unique needs in this regard, there are some simple steps every person and business can take to begin their digital transformation journey. 

Why go digital in the first place? 

Before we dive into the how, let’s begin with the why. “If it aint broke, why fix it?” so they say. There are ultimately three primary benefits to transitioning from paper to digital: Mobility, Collaboration, and Redundancy. 


Note-taking, for example, can be done on any type of device these days. If you’re in an important meeting taking notes on your laptop, and then step out of the meeting and have a follow-up conversation with someone in the hall that you need to notate, you can simply pull out your smartphone and pick up right where you left off, quickly and easily. Ever forget your notepad at the office and needed those notes when you’re somewhere else? That doesn’t happen when you go digital. 


The only type of collaboration you’ll find in a traditional paper workflow is a whiteboard on the wall. Imagine if you could have a notepad, but everyone in your meeting contributes to it simultaneously. This type of collaboration helps minimize miscommunication and ensures the entire team is on the same page (pun intended). 


Have you ever misplaced a notepad, or had a sticky note disappear off your desk? When all that information is stored digitally, it’s automatically backed up and available anywhere, anytime. Even if you accidentally delete something, there is usually a way to recover it. 

Step 1: Eliminate Notepads and Sticky Notes 

The very first application everyone should learn to use is Microsoft OneNote. While there are countless note-taking applications on the market, OneNote is available to nearly everyone and is already integrated into the Microsoft platform that everyone uses to conduct business today. What makes OneNote such an effective starting point for most people is that its design mimics that of a traditional notebook. You begin with a “Notebook,” organize it with “Tabs,” and then create “Pages” where you take your notes. There are also all sorts of organizational tools you can use from color-coding tabs to special text formatting. 

Setting up OneNote isn’t the difficult part, though. Forcing yourself to use it is the challenge. We’ve found the most effective way to go digital with your notes is the “cold turkey” method. Rid your workspace of all notepads, sticky notes, and writing utensils. The objective is to make it harder on yourself to use pen and paper than it is to use OneNote. If you commit to this method, it will only take you a few days to get comfortable with replacing pen and paper with your new digital alternative. 

Step 2: Eliminate Unnecessary Printing 

Another hurdle people must overcome in their digital transformation is unnecessary printing. Oftentimes, we find users print documents simply because it’s easier to reference paper on a desk and compare it to information on their computer screen. They also find it easier to mark up printed documents with highlighters and pens. To surmount these challenges, you must incorporate two key changes. 

Firstly, you must invest in multiple computer monitors. Nearly every computer today supports at least two monitors, and it is an inexpensive upgrade that pays for itself multiple times over in increased productivity. With two monitors, you can have the document you would have otherwise printed on one display, and the other application you’re reviewing on another display. Not only is this method a perfect replacement for the printed document, but most people find it works even better since the content is displayed side-by-side and they no longer have to look up and down so often. 

Secondly, learn to use the markup features in your document processing applications. Microsoft Word, for example, has a “Review” tab where you can access commenting tools, change tracking tools, and more. Adobe Acrobat Reader also has very similar markup capabilities. These tools can easily replace the highlighter and printed document on your desk. They also make it incredibly easy to share your markups and comments with others. 

Step 3: Help others go digital 

One of the most powerful and effective ways to change your own behavior is to help others do the same. Not only does this create accountability, but it also forces you to gain a deeper understanding of the digital tools. Additionally, it’s easier to transform your own workflows when everyone else around you is doing the same. Businesses that push for this digital transformation in their company culture are often shocked to see how much better their staff communicate and share knowledge after the changes. 

Step 4: Consult a professional 

Steps 1-3 are actions nearly every person and business can take to digitize simple day-to-day business tasks. Digital transformation doesn’t have to end there, though. There are countless technologies available today that allow businesses to conduct 100% of their operations digitally with zero need for paper. From productivity platforms such as Microsoft 365, to cloud-based CRMs and ERPs, a mature service provider that specializes in digital transformation, such as Digital Boardwalk, can help your business implement and integrate these cutting-edge technologies and truly transform your operations for the better.