Paperwork Nostalgia

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Today’s post is going out directly to my fellow bookkeepers and accountants. The topic...paper. 

I have been noticing a difference in my attitude toward finished work. As of late, I haven’t had that same sense of accomplishment when a project was complete. There’s usually a very distinct sense of closure or relief when I’ve closed off the books. I couldn’t figure out what had changed. 

I had an epiphany this weekend. It’s all about the paper. 

I know, laugh it up. Only a bookkeeper would write about something as boring as paper. But I’m sure what I’m going to say probably rings true to many of you. 

My client base has slowly become predominantly remote. Although I have a handful of clients who send me actual paperwork to complete, most of the work I receive is in digital form. It’s this lack of paper that has changed the way I view a project, and feel about its completion. 

In the past, I would sit down at my desk and stare at a large stack of paperwork. Invoices, receipts, bank statements...you name it. It was all piled up, waiting for me to go through each piece. At the end, when I was all done, there was a large stack of paperwork. Depending on the job, it was then either filed away in my file cabinet, or boxed up and sent back to the client. Either way, there was a physical representation of the work I had completed for the day. I could sit back and see hundreds of sheets of paper that I had personally entered and filed. And, with that, there was a real tangible sense of accomplishment. 

It’s not quite the same for digital files. At best, I suppose I can see a large folder empty out as I move the files into their new locations. Or, I could look down the list of a large spreadsheet...each row representing an entry I made into Freshbooks or QuickBooks. But at the end of the day, a 1KB file takes up as much physical space in my life as a 2TB folder. Plus, there’s no physical process where I life a heavy box of paper and drive it back to a clients office. 

The other real world example that might be similar would be the telephone. Most of the youth nowadays has no idea how satisfying it was to hang up on someone you were mad at 20 years ago. Do you remember that? You’d be really angry, so you would slam down the receiver onto the base. The person on the other end would hear the crashing sound...followed by the dial tone. I remember the first time I hung up on someone using a cordless phone. Angrily pressing the End button and having it quietly beep sure didn’t have that same feeling. 

It probably won’t be long until the stack of paperwork on my desk is completely gone. In many ways the idea of a paperless workflow is very appealing. As long as I have a good backup system in place, I can’t spill coffee on a PDF. The wind can’t blow it out of my hands while I’m trying to open the car door. I’m just going to have to design a graphical representation of those stacks on my screen. Maybe I’ll leave a couple dishes sitting next to the My Documents folder to complete the scene.