How to become more efficient dealing with your personal paperwork? Digitize!

Digital Document Management, File Sharing and Cloud Backup

Dealing with paperwork is annoying: It takes up precious space in your apartment and organizing it is a pain. Now Digital Document Management has become quite a thing, but especially in the age of growing awareness of data protection, stronger governmental regulations, this is a complex topic. To me effectiveness and efficiency are utterly important both in my private and professional life. Because of that I recently “professionalized” part of my personal life.

Everything that I do regularly must happen most efficiently.

Things that only happen every now and then (or in extreme cases only once) should be done most effectively.

Services I intend to use for decades better be cheap (security is implied).

Even though both companies and governmental institutions / civil services have gone great lengths to digitize service offerings, the road ahead towards full digitization is gonna be long. Listen to Angela Merkel explain agile (German only, rough transcript in the responses):

Right now in Germany there’s still quite some paperwork to deal with, especially since I’m freelancing. I have to keep most documents for quite some time (Aufbewahrungspflicht). In the past, this was using up ~8 big folders full of paper. I’ve had a good system – still finding things was hard. It was relatively effective, but not efficient at all. The solution? Digitizing all paperwork!

1. How to best digitize all your documents?

To scan all my documents I bought the Fujitsu “IX500ScanSnap Ix500” Farbe and I’m super satisfied! It took me some days to scan all my 8 folders of documents, but it was really easy doing so: Take one multi-page dual-sided document, put it in the scanner, press the button, done. Your result is 1 searchable (!) PDF document with your text properly recognized and everything! Whilst scanning one document I was shredding the previously scanned document to eventually clear almost two full shelves in one book-rack.

The next step was a bit more effort: Documents had to be given a proper name. If you can recommend a tool that does this for me based on the content of the document – please let me know!

Once that was done, all documents were stored in my Digital Document Management:

2. How to organize our Digital Document Management?

How to organize file storage for family and business? Folder structure, sharing settings and more…

Let’s start with “why” again: Why am I writing about this? What is it, I’m trying to achieve? First of all: Several friends have asked me how I was doing this. Second: I want to show that I follow my exemplary professional style in my personal life.

In our family it’s me who’s doing ~70% ~60% of administrative tasks. (No worries: In terms of “who gets the better end with life chores” I think it’s me and my girlfriend thinks it’s her. No right and wrong here — just the feeling of fairness on both ends.) To do those tasks effectively and again efficiently, here’s the structure I’m using:

├ 2014-old-address
└ 2017-current-address
├ child support
└ medical stuff
└ various categories in here
├ account statements
├ cc
└ savings
├ car
├ healthcare
├ liability+accident+household
└ pension
└ testimonies
├ 2016
├ 2017
└ 2018

Who likes to spend much time on the administrative side of life? I don’t. So I use above structure in Google Drive. This way I can easily access everything from email and across devices, allowing me to work very efficiently.

Of course the _gf, _baby-stuff and _apartment folders are shared with my girlfriend so she can enjoy the same ease of use, accessing her files both on her computer and in her online Google Drive.

How can I safely store that much of my data?

Once my quota on  Google Drive fills, which for most types of documents takes years, I’ll move those documents to a very similar structure in  OwnCloud.

OwnCloud also backs up / archives my hundreds of GigaBytes of RAW images and videos, to which my photography hobby amounted during the last years of travel.

Please follow up with Efficiency, effectiveness and good value for money in the Digital Age for selecting a provider for Cloud Storage and Backup.


I’m working like this for several months now and it’s amazing!!! No storing paperwork anymore, more space in the bookshelves, letters I get are being scanned and thrown away immediately after. The feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction in not piling this stuff up anymore is just great. Let me know what you think — comment below. Any feedback is welcome!


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