File what? How to eliminate paper with “FileThis”

September 17th, 2014

I am often asked “how can I easily get rid of papers that enter the house?”  My first question is “what types of papers come in to the house?”  The typical answer is mail, bills, statements, etc.  The logical response is stop them from coming in to the house.  I mean, stop the physical papers.

File This Paperless Made EffortlessYears ago, I heard of a service called “File This Fetch”.  It is now called “FileThis“.  Not sure why they dropped the fetch but the service is the same… actually it continues to get better.  The gist of FileThis is you sign up for the service, connect your accounts (utilities, financial statements, pay stubs, etc) and File This fetches your statements and bills.  It then files them in a location you designate.  I will let you read about the security of sharing your log-ins.   I am not concerned about the security.  I have been sharing my logins with reputable sites like Quickbooks and Mint for years.  FileThis enables you to stop receiving the paper statements and bills and still keep them organized.

I was recently asked a bunch of questions about FileThis.  I figured many others may have these same questions.  Check it out.  See if FileThis could help you reduce the amount of papers that enter your home and helps you keep the documents more organized.

Where do your FileThis documents go?
I have my FileThis documents filed in Dropbox once they have been fetched.  They have the option to have them sent to Evernote, Google Drive, Box and a few other online document storage sites as well as your computer.  They also have a limited amount of online storage available at FileThis.

What constitutes a “connection”?
A connection is an institution say Bank of America, Comcast, Verizon,  Amazon, Capital One, ADP, American Express.  You could have multiple accounts at the institution but it still counts as one connection.

FileThis add a connectionIt looks like the free plan only fetches once a week.  Can you make FileThis “fetch on demand”?  
You can force fetch on demand by logging in on any version.  Click on the “retry” icon next to each institution to manually fetch.

You mentioned that you FileThis into Dropbox.   So, if in the future, say you severed ties with FileThis, you would still be able to access what you Dropboxed in via FileThis without FileThis controlling the access visibility into the data stored in your Dropbox account?
FileThis imports the documents as PDFs.  Once they are stored on a new server (Dropbox, Google Drive, Box) they are yours on those sites.  You can do with them as you want.  You can move, rename, delete or anything else you choose. 

Have you found one of your providers that is not “Fetchable” via FileThis?   Or have you pretty much found that everyone you do business with is “fetchable”?
Yup, pretty much the same experience you all having been having here.  My local water & sewer co does not sync with File This.  Luckily the bill only comes quarterly so I go to their site (I keep my passwords in Roboform and have a folder within Roboform labeled Utilities so I can easily find my logins) and manually fetch it myself to my Dropbox.  FileThis asks users to suggest additional providers so they can establish a connection.

Can you manage and control PDFs on your local computer from within FileThis?   or will FileThis only digest what it “fetches”?
I don’t typically go to FileThis directly unless I want a manual pull (sync).  I access my PDFs within Dropbox.  FileThis does have a filing cabinet style storage on their site.  You can upload documents from your computer to store on their site.  I prefer to hold on to my documents versus storing them on their servers so should there be a time I choose to cut ties with FileThis, I don’t have to start transferring them all over to my computer or Dropbox.

Which subscription level do you utilize?  
So far, I have only been using the free version.  I don’t have a lot of statements that I pull in.  I have only been playing with it within the past year but can definitely see paying for a paid version when I find my needs (or wants) change.

FileThis plans

How do you know when a bill has been paid especially if you still pay manually?  How do you identify it in your files?  
Most of my bills are on auto-pay.  I do check my FileThis folder weekly.  When a bill has been paid, I move it from the FileThis folder to a new folder on Dropbox.  This is particularly important when the bill is a tax deduction for my business. I file it in a folder that indicates it is a tax deduction. 

What happens if they go away as so many have come and gone over the years. What is the advantage to going through FileThis before putting things in Evernote or Dropbox? Why not just put documents in there directly?
When your documents are stored in any of the selected services other than FileThis Cloud, they are yours regardless of what happens to the service provider.   The advantage of using FileThis is it automates the process of pulling the documents and it stores it for you so you don’t have to log-in to each provider and download a PDF statement.  Companies do go caput… most online storage companies allow users 60 – 90 days to download their content before making it go goodbye for good. 

I know you are all about cross-platform.  Can I use FileThis on a Mac or PC?  How about on my phone or tablet?
You know me well.  Yes, FileThis can be accessed on a Mac or PC.  It is a secure website, not an application that you download.  There is a iOS app.  They are claiming an Android app will be available any day.  Honestly, the beauty of FileThis is you set it and forget it.  It automates the fetch and file process so you shouldn’t have to access their site often.  

I hope this provides you incentive to check it out.  For me FileThis is a time and space saver.  It adds time to my day while reducing paper in my home and office.  Let me know if you have other questions.  I will gladly provide my best answers.

What will you do with your new found free time?

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5 Ways Professionals Can Transition Back to School

August 13th, 2014

We are at that time of year when we go from summer mode to back to school mode.  For children, this means new routines, new surroundings, new clothing and supplies.  It is the perfect time for adults to change things up, become more efficient, and change how we deal with the papers that come home with our children.

      1. Change your surroundings.

        Hopefully we have designated a drop area for the children’s backpacks and homework area that is free of distractions.  This is a perfect time for adults to re-evaluate their office space/work area.  Is your current set-up allowing you to be most efficient?  Is your space set-up in a way that allows you work and access necessary supplies without having to get out of your chair or leave your office?  If not, move things around.  It could be as simple as switching the location of your computer on your desk to rearranging all of the furniture or a new coat of paint.  Tip: measure your space and furniture before moving it to make sure it will fit in a different location.

      2. Create a family calendar.Back to School

        This could be either a paper calendar that hangs in a central location where everyone can see it or a digital calendar that family members can sync to on their phones, mobile devices (iPods) or computers.   As events that concern the entire family or specific family members arise, add it to the calendar.  This could include doctors and dentist appointments, practices, meetings, family dinners, etc.  Get family members in the habit of checking the family calendar before asking to make plans. I prefer a digital calendar because it can be updated and viewed from any web enabled device or computer.

      3. Scan papers.

        Neat MobileHow many times have you been looking for a paper that was sent home with your child and you are searching and searching and searching? If you work outside of the home, there is often time you need information that is either on the countertop or in a file at home.  Scan all of those papers that come home with your children.   Any handouts you receive at back to school night, team rosters or schedules, scan those too.  You can either scan them using a desktop or travel scanner or use the Neat Mobile App.  Automatic upload to Neat Cloud makes the documents easily accessible from anywhere on web-enabled devices or computers.    You can create an online folder based on the child’s name or the name of the school or team.  Searching for documents on Neat Cloud is much quicker and more efficient than searching for paper files.

      4. Upgrade your supplies or equipment.

        Before school starts, most schools or teachers provide a list of suggested supplies.  Often times, this is the time of year we start off with new backpacks, notebooks, pens, etc.  As adults, we can also use this time to evaluate our equipment.  Is our current equipment serving our needs?  Is it broken or outdated?  Could upgrades to our equipment help us be more efficient with our time?  I hear the average length of time of computer ownership before replacement is about 3 – 4 years.  Why so quick?  The advances in technology are happening so quickly that the information we are accessing on our computers takes more energy to run.  We are also asking our computers to do more multitasking.  The most common definition of multitasking relates to a computers ability to handle more than one task at a time.  How many windows do you have open right now?  How many apps do you have open?  We are asking our equipment to do more than we have in the past.  Sometimes an upgrade to our equipment helps us handle the tasks we are asking of it more efficiently.  When computers first became popular, it was thought that it was the start of the end of paper.  We now know that is far from the truth.  However, we now have the ability to scan documents wirelessly and store the information in the cloud.  Perhaps our thinking was ahead of its time when computers first became popular 20+ years ago.  We can now run a paperless office by scanning information and using cloud based storage.  Evaluate your equipment.  Is it time for an upgrade?  Tip: Check online for back to school sales.  Many electronics and computer manufacturers run back to school specials on their equipment.

      5. Get back to routines.

        Summer is a time where things tend to me a little more laid back.  Less routine.  Been slacking off from exercise?  Either get up before the kids and workout or go on a walk straight from the bus stop.  Make a time to menu plan.  By having menus designed for the whole week, you avoid make unnecessary trips to the grocery store.  Create a consistent bed time.  This helps both adults and children.

Take advantage of the back to school time to set yourself off on a plan of less stress and greater efficiency.  Small changes can help you find more time in your day for family and for yourself.  I hope your 2014 -2015 school year kicks off to a great start.


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3 Reasons to Keep Your Small Business Clean and Organized

July 29th, 2014

Keeping your office neat and tidy just looks nice.  What do you have to lose by keeping a disorganized office?  A lot!  Here are three reasons to keep your office clean and organized that go beyond just being neat and tidy.

  1. Your Professional Image

    Disorganized Office
    How would you perceive the quality of work from the person who works at this desk?

Have you ever walked into an office that was dirty or cluttered? Did it change your expectation of the type of service you would be receiving?

According to a survey of over 1000 workers by staffing firm Adecco, “a majority of Americans (57%) admit they judge coworkers by how clean or dirty they keep their workspaces. Meanwhile, nearly half say they have been “appalled” by how messy a colleagues’ office is and most chalk it up to pure laziness.”

If co-workers are judging officemates by the look of their office, imagine how a stranger will perceive you. Do you want prospective clients to perceive you as lazy? Or perhaps not secure a client because they perceive that you will not be detail oriented because of your dirty or cluttered workspace.

  1. Productivity

Do you ever find that you can get more work done at a hotel or a coffee shop than your own desk or workspace?  A clean and less cluttered space can help us improve our productivity.  Scientists found clutter negatively affects your ability to focus and process information.  Results of a study conducted at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute relates directly to uncluttered and organized living.  The study found that a cluttered environment (workspace) restricts our ability to focus and process information. Clutter (disorganization) can be a distraction interfering with our ability to process information and be productive.

According to the National Association of Professional Organizers, disorganization can waste approximately 4.3 hours per week searching for papers, adding stress and frustration while reducing concentration and creative thinking.

Who doesn’t want to be more productive?  Gain more time in your day?  Make more money?  Reduce stress?  Change your routines, remove unnecessary clutter and distractions and you will be on a path to greater productivity.

  1. Less stress

Would you agree stress kicks in when you can’t locate something?  According to David Lewis’ survey published in the Boston Globe, three out of four workers surveyed worldwide agreed with this statement “I find myself becoming more stressed when everything is a mess and I can’t find important documents when needed.”   Stress is often a reason for visits to the doctor.  Stress often rears its ugly head as pain or exhaustion.  An organized workspace not only can help you stay healthier, it is also easier wipe down surfaces to keep clean.

The solution is simple.  Want to reduce your stress level?  Get organized by removing distractions such as clutter.

Tips to a clean and organized workspace

  • Assign a home for the tools and supplies needed at your workspace. Do you need all of the items at your desk out all of the time? Can they be stored in a drawer or on a shelf or in a communal area?
  • Reduce the amount of paper at your workspace.  Before printing every email that arrives in your INBOX or website you visit, ask yourself “Do I really need to print this?”  ‘Will this information be more accessible if I store its contents online?”  Consider scanning some of your existing paperwork and storing it online so it can easily be accessed when you need it rather than sifting through piles of paper.
  • Create a habit of straightening up at the end of each day and prioritize for the next day.


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Document Shredding Event – June 21, 2014

June 14th, 2014

NBC Washington is at it again. In partnership with Allstate, NBC Washington is offering free document shredding up to 5 boxes Saturday, June 21 at Montgomery College in Rockville.  Cars must be in line no later than 11am.

Quick – grab those boxes and bags of papers to be shredded and set the alarm.  Get them out of the house and securely shredded once and for all.


NBC Washington Shred


 Just think what you will be able to do with the newly found free space!  Happy Shredding!

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10 Useful Google Calendar Settings, Labs & Extensions

March 26th, 2014

Welcome Make Your Business Bigger, Brighter, Bolder, and Better! web presentation attendees~
Thank you for attending!

Your PDF download of 10 Useful Google Calendar Settings, Labs & Extensions is available below.

10 Useful Google Calendar Settings, Labs & Extensions


Thank you for attending!


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Creating a Stress-free Tax Organizational System

March 3rd, 2014

Stress-free tax organizing

It is that dreaded time of the year.  Some of you may already be ahead of the deadline but for many this is a time of anxiety, panic, worry, stress and more.  The key to making the tax season less stressful is to set-up a system that you use year round.  By creating a physical paper filing system or electronic system to control your tax information, you eliminate the rummaging through documents and files come January, February, March or {{GASP}} April!  I use a system created by Freedom Filer.    I set-up their filing system to follow the IRS 1040 forms including the Schedule A and Schedule C.  I itemize my deductions since I operate a small business.  Depending on the number and type of deductions you have, you may also be required to complete the Schedule C.  I mirror my paper filling system electronically (the IRS does accept electronic copies of documentation) for all of the e-receipts I receive.  I set-up files for all of the same categories.  Throughout the year as information comes in that will be used for completing my taxes, I file that information in the appropriate folder.  When it comes time for filing out the tax forms and collecting the paperwork, all I need to do is cull those files.  No rummaging and searching.

Check out this video featuring me demonstrating my filing system.  Let me know what you think and if you have any questions.  

 Wishing you good luck with submitting your files.  If you have already checked them off your list, a big WOOHOO and congrats!

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Stay Focused to Get More Done

January 31st, 2014

Are you ever looking to get something done but keep getting interrupted by external sources?

If those interruptions are caused by wandering to other websites (such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or even email), try StayFocusd.

Stay Focusd

Nuclear OptionStayFocusd is a free Chrome browser extension that you set to limit how long you spend on time-wasting websites.  You choose the websites you block, the days of the week and the amount of time you are blocked from those sites.  It also has a “Nuclear Option”.  If you need to sit down and get things done, you can click on the StayFocusd browser extension and “nuke” all the sites you have chosen to block.  If you attempt to access one of the blocked sites, you are prevented from accessing the site and receive an error message “Shouldn’t you be working?”.

shouldnt you be working

find it really effective in keeping you productive and focused.  Check it out!  

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Want to improve your time management? Use a calendar!

January 8th, 2014

Getting organized always ranks within top 10 New Years Resolutions in the United States. It may not be just “getting organized” but related effects of organization such as reduce stress or have more free time.  Getting organized helps you improve both. 


What does getting organized mean?  

For some it can be clearing out paper or things, for others it may mean reducing the clutter in their head or putting a stop to double booking or missed appointments. The easiest way to get organized is to make a plan.  Where do you make or keep your plan?  On a calendar or planner, of course!  Writing (typing for the digital folk) on a calendar makes you more aware of your time.  This is the same way keeping a food diary makes you more aware of what you are putting in your mouth.


Using a calendar to improve time management

What can you do to improve time management?

Use one calendar.  If you are not using a calendar, start.  Whether you prefer a paper planner or an electronic, digital calendar, it has to be one that is mobile.  The key to success using a calendar is it has to be one you are comfortable carrying with you.  When you are making an appointment with a business contact, a friend or the dentist or doctor, you need to be able to consult your calendar.  You may forget about the appointment or the specifics of the appointment by the time you get home or back to the office or lose the scrap of paper or reminder card.  Smartphones have built-in calendars and many of them allow you to speak your appointments. Your device adds the appointment to your calendar.  Digital planners allow you to set visual and audible reminders.  They can act as a digital assistant keeping you on track.  

If you are using both a paper and digital calendar, pick one and stick with it.  Using both can cause confusion and add unnecessary time.  Using one calendar avoids having to look in two places to determine your schedule and the risk of double booking.

Before starting each day (could be the night before or in morning), write down your three most important tasks (MITs) for the day.  There may be more than three but these are the three things that must get done.  It allows you to build them into your day rather than panicking at the end of the day.

Do you use a planner?  If no, please share how you keep track of your appointments and commitments.  If you keep a calendar, please comment below about your experiences of using your paper or digital/electronic planner. What are your favorite time management apps?
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Happy 2014!

January 1st, 2014

2014 New Years2

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Are you prepared? September is National Preparedness Month

September 1st, 2013

September is National Preparedness Month.  What does this mean?  National Preparedness Month is a U.S. Governmental effort that encourages Americans to take steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, schools, and communities.  Emergencies can be anything from a flood or other natural disaster, loss of power, loss of access to your financial and online storage systems, an automobile accident, loss of your computer system or your mobile device to a terrorist attack. sites default files documents files checklist_1.pdfThere are lots of ways to get prepared.  For residences, it can include creating a family plan, a place to meet up or communicate in case of an emergency, creating an emergency supply kit for your home or vehicle (filled with non-perishable foods, medications), access to contacts for your banks or credit cards.   For businesses, it can be creating a back-up system in case an emergency wipes out your primary system, a plan to communicate with clients/vendors, a back-up of your client records and financial systems, a plan in case an emergency stops the flow of income.  

Why is this important to me?  My goal is to help others simplify their lives and to reduce stress so they can have greater enjoyment.  By being prepared, you can sometimes prevent emergencies or be better equipped to handle them when they occur.

Below are access to lists prepared by various governmental agencies designed to help make sure you are prepared.  What one thing are you going to do today to get prepared?

Banner_National_Preparedness_Month_2013_leaderboard_728x90 was created by the US Department of Homeland Security.   A readiness campaign started in 2004, now run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides lots of information to help citizens be prepared for anything from natural disasters, terrorist hazards, medical emergencies, home fires, blackouts to creating an exit at the workplace or school, and helping out employees in an emergency situation. Check out some of our favorites below.
Emergency Supply List
Caring for Animals
Emergency Food List
Supplies for Unique Needs – babies, seniors, cold climates

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).  They have a page on their website dedicated toward preparing for all hazards.  Resources include recommendations for families, schools, childcare centers and emergency and health professionals.  They also provide resources for coping with a disaster or traumatic event.

ucm367034U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also a an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).  The FDA is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety, prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceutical drugs (medications), vaccines, biopharmaceuticals, blood transfusions, medical devices, and veterinary products.  They provide a list that helps you determine if drugs are safe after a natural disaster. They also provide information on what to do if you encounter Anthrax.  The obvious first response would be to contact your physician, a clinic or your local emergency room.

Alert MontgomeryLots of local jurisdictions have their own resources for local businesses and citizens.  My county and town has the option to sign up for emergency text or email alerts.  The State of Maryland also has its own resources for business and residents in case of emergencies.

Montgomery County
City of Gaithersburg –

While it may not fall under the National Preparedness Month fold, I think getting rid of excess in your home helps you prepare or prevent emergencies.  The local Montgomery County Division of  Solid Waste Services is hosting a secure paper shredding events (they are recycling other things at these events as well).  Shredding papers is a great way to prevent an identity theft emergency.  The first event is this weekend.  Mark your calendars. SWS Resources Files paper shredding.pdf

What are you doing to get you, your family, your business prepared for an emergency?  What steps have you taken or plan to take?  We’d love to hear in the comments.

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