For as long as I can remember, even back in Junior High, I've used a planner.....like the paper kind you write in. And we were inseparable.

There was nothing more exciting than a new planner, for a fresh new year, with endless possibilities. All my fellow "planner" nerds will understand exactly what I'm talking about.

I used a planner well into the first 5 years or so of my professional life. At some point, likely around when I hopped aboard the iPhone train, I ditched my planner for date-keeping purposes and started using various calendar applications. However, I still relied HEAVILY on a paper notebook to keep up with to-dos. And I still amassed SO MUCH PAPER.

Over the past year, I've been on a quest to simplify. I've become interested in Minimalism and the idea that we buy too much, hold onto too much and all this "stuff" holds us back in a way. But before I attack my attic full of nostalgic tidbits I'm holding onto (not looking forward to that project...), I thought I'd start with all the paper I seem to accumulate throughout the day, at work or home.

Below, I have outlined my current paperless process. Not all of these things will work for you, but maybe some will. And I promise you will feel so free once you don't have to cart around a notebook or planner....even if you can't imagine life without it now. Plus, you'll be doing the environment a little favor by consuming less paper. :)

TOOLS YOU WILL NEED:

The Essentials
- iPad & iPencil
- Wunderlist (or another to-do list application - click here for a great list of options)
- Evernote
- Calendar (Outlook, Apple Mail, Google, etc.)

You May Also Need
- Dropbox (or Google Drive, iCloud, etc.)
- Cozi Calendar (or another "family" calendar application)





iPad & iPencil
For me, these two have been essential to my paperless quest. When I go to a meeting, I have my iPad and iPencil in lieu of a pen and paper. I handwrite meeting notes directly in Evernote. I take a photo of or scan any materials I'm given at that meeting and pop them in Evernote as well, recycling the paper afterward. Sometimes I will even create any relevant to-dos directly in Wunderlist as I sit in the meeting.

One of the biggest reasons I held onto the planner/notebook so long is because I enjoy the physical act of writing. Using the iPencil has really solved that need.


Wunderlist
The to-do list application took FOREVER to research and determine the best for my purposes. There are some really great options out there! My first non-negotiable was that the to-do list application needed to have a solid "free" version. Post that requirement, it really boiled down to me preferring the structure and user experience of Wunderlist.

Here's what it looks like:



PROs
  • It's simple and easy to use.
  • You can have a "today" or "week" view of upcoming to-dos, which is nice.
  • Reminders, notes and files can be added to a to-do.
  • You can add sub to-dos for project-based lists (like example above under the "Call Plumber" to-do).
  • The application can be downloaded onto your desktop, iPhone, etc. to stay organized on all devices. I keep it open on my desktop throughout the work day.
  • I don't use this feature, but there is an option to assign to-dos if you need to collaborate on a project.
  • There is a calendar feed option so you can populate to-dos directly on a calendar application, like Outlook.

CONs
Honestly, I'm pretty happy with Wunderlist! No cons to report as of now.



Evernote
I love love love Evernote. See further proof here. Evernote really helps me cut back on clutter! If it's a piece of paper I need to reference later, I take a photo of it and it goes in Evernote.

I use it to keep up with personal things like these:

  • Most recent immunization records for the kids.
  • If we have a repair person that comes to the house for some reason, I'll often snap a photo of their business card or invoice if I don't have time to add their information to my address book. We are always misplacing business cards and we can't figure out "that great company that came to fix the _____."
  • School newsletters, lunch schedules, and other learning resources.
  • I find it super helpful to keep gift ideas in Evernote instead of on a piece of paper somewhere! I can easily open Evernote on my phone, no matter where I am, and "jot down" an idea that strikes me.
  • I also keep the kids' current clothing sizes in Evernote for when grandparents ask what size shoe they wear, for example.
  • RECIPES! I've just started this. I have a recipe notebook, where I organize recipes by ENTREE, BREAKFAST, DRINKS, SAUCES, etc. I use the tagging feature to call out special notes about the recipe (like Mexican, chicken, Paleo, etc.) for easy searching later. This has been so much easier than keeping up with written recipe cards or even Pinterest! I still use Pinterest to collect recipes, but I now use Evernote to house them for easy reference.
  • MEAL PLANNING! This is another new thing I've started doing. I set up a note for a meal plan, tag it with any special notes (time of year, Paleo, etc.) and list each day of the week and corresponding meal. I use the linking feature to link from my meal plan to the actual recipe! It's so convenient.

Here are a few other things I plan to tackle soon:
  • Household bills, statements, etc.
  • Kid's artwork
  • Photos! (Although, I will probably will keep these on iCloud and not Evernote)


Calendar
Like many employees, I'm at the mercy of whatever email platform my company uses. In my case, it's Outlook. I don't put personal things on my work calendar, unless it's going to cause me to miss work (like a doctor's appointment or vacation). For personal dates, I use the Mail application on my Mac, iPhone, and iPad. Whatever you use, embrace it! Once you get used to relying on a digital calendar, you will not miss those bulky paper planners.

Family Calendar
I put this under the "You May Also Need" list above, but I've found it to be more and more critical as our kids start more activities like soccer and dance. I like Cozi a lot, but there are many family calendar options out there.

In Cozi, you can set up events for multiple family members or a single family member. I use the calendar for sports schedules, parent/teacher conference dates, school parties, well-child check-ups, field trips, etc. The application can be downloaded on a mobile device and also used online. You can set multiple reminders and you can also send an alert to other family members when something has been added.

Cozi has other features, like shopping and to-do lists, but I don't use them.

Note: Some families make a regular Mail application (like Outlook) work as well. Cozi is cool for families with older children as all family members can access and view the various schedules...it keeps everyone "in the know."


Dropbox
I know many who use Evernote for file storage, but I prefer "nested folders" for things like photos, videos, and certain documents. Dropbox is awesome! For personal items, we have an iCloud account. Google Drive is another option, but I don't use a gmail account actively, so I've never really used Google.
Regardless, having a place to keep files is critical to the paperless quest!


I hope this is helpful! :)

Happy paperless-ing.