Use Your Smartphone to Organize Receipts and Business Cards

Business travel used to be a whirlwind of random receipts, business cards, and lost expenses. Not anymore! Get-It-Done Guy has 5 tips on how a smartphone can simplify your life on the road.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #217

When traveling on business, our lives become one giant haze of receipts from expenses, and business cards from well-meaning people who somehow believe that trading business cards and then never talking to each other again is a successful networking strategy (it’s not).

Fortunately, I just love receipts! No, I don't. I hate receipts. They're little scraps of paper that get everywhere. The most important ones, of course, always get lost in the lining of my coat, where they show up a year later, right after the Statute of Limitations expires on expense reimbursements. And don't even get me started on business cards! They're just like receipts, but with sharp corners, and they give you paper cuts if they don't like you.


Life is hard.

Fortunately. it doesn’t have to be. In the episode How to Prepare for Travel, I discussed using Ziploc™ bags to keep my receipts and business cards organized. And that was the method of choice for many years. Then, late last year, my life changed. I bought an iPhone!

I'd been a Blackberry user for 12 years, and tried an Android for several weeks, but neither of those made a particular difference in my work life. But the iPhone was different. I discovered apps that worked, were easy to use, and truly made me more productive. Some of those apps changed my approach to travel. Here are 5 ways that your smartphone can make organizing all those little receipts and business cards much easier:

Tip #1: Scan Your Receipts

JotNot Scanner Pro is a simple app that uses the smartphone's camera to take pictures. But there’s a clever twist: it lets you collect the pictures into documents. Now every time you take a trip, you can create a document just for that trip.

Say you're in Orlando, visiting Disney World's legendary leadership academy. Because you really want to be a better leader, and the prospect of spending a week partying at Disney World had nothing to do with your decision to attend. Clearly.

The waiter brings the credit card receipt. He is dressed like the Mouse. During the 3.5 seconds it takes you to sign the credit card slip, your companions compulsively pull out their smartphones to check their email. Now they're busy for the next 3.5 minutes and you're the one who's bored. In Disney World, boredom is verboten. So just pull out your phone and take a picture of the receipt. File it right into the receipts document for that trip.

This is one time that the new, 21st century version of friendship—where you all get together so you can be in the same room while you text someone else—works in your favor.

Tip #2: Mail Your Receipts to Your Bookkeeper

Since smartphones are, well, smart, they can do email. At the end of a trip, email the document containing all the scanned receipts directly to your bookkeeper with a subject line of "RECEIPTS From Orlando Leadership Academy." Your bookkeeper will fall on the ground in profound thanks, and prostrate themselves in abject worship of your amazingly streamlined workflow. (Which, of course, is why you hire someone else to do you bookkeeping in the first place.)

Tip #3: Send Your Scanned Receipts Securely

Remember security! Your mother always told you to play safe, and sending receipts over the internet is not the time to start slacking off. JotNot Scanner Pro lets you set a password for each document, and the PDF gets encrypted with that password before it's sent over the internet. If you have an app that doesn't support encryption, find out if it can use DropBox or a similar service to transfer the PDF securely to you or your bookkeeper.

Once you've sent the encrypted PDF along, delete it from your phone and you're ready to start collecting receipts from your next trip. No more paper receipts! EVER!!!

Tip #4: Scan in Business Cards

As I discuss in great detail in my episode on Successful Networking, I believe in accepting business cards. You can jot notes on the back of the card reminding you of who this person is, what you talked about, and whether you should schedule a follow-up phone call, or put them on your blacklist and have a restraining order all ready to file, just in case.

But accepting and writing on business cards doesn't mean you have to suffer with the sharp edges and paper cuts. I tried every business card scanning app I could find, and settled on ScanBizCards, which is available on almost every smartphone in existence.

After you've taken someone's card and jotted down your notes, find a quiet corner and use ScanBizCards to snap a picture of their card, both the front and the back. Later, you can run ScanBizCards' optical character recognition feature and pull the information off their card straight into your address book, where it magically synchronizes with your desktop.

Tip #5: Record Where You Met in the Notes

You can also edit the address book notes for the scanned business card. In each note, put the name of the event you're attending. Type it exactly the same for each business card. Once you've imported the cards into your desktop contact manager, you can search for all contacts who have that event name in their notes field. Now you're ready to begin sending your follow-up emails, making your follow-up phone calls, and filing your follow-up restraining orders.

ScanBizCards has a ton of other features in their app and on their web site. You can back up scanned cards to the web site. (Tech Talker would definitely approve). You can even scan in a sheet of business cards using a flatbed scanner and the web site will recognize all of the cards and create separate contact entries for each. Genius!

While my travel used to involve a chaos of little pieces of paper, my smartphone has changed all that. JotNot Scanner Pro handles scanning my receipts, gathering them up into documents, and sending them securely to my bookkeeper. ScanBizCards scans, interprets, and organizes business cards. By the time I'm ready to pack for the trip home, all the paper has been thrown into landfill where it's turned into environmentally friendly fertilizer, and I'm ready to get right back to business.

I mentor successful people in advancing their careers by identifying and leveraging their strengths to help them perform at an even higher level in everything they do. If you want to know more, visit SteverRobbins.com.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!

Enter before April 30, 2012, for a drawing for a free premium subscription to ScanBizCards.com.

About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.