Going Paperless: 5 tips for how a paperless lifestyle can better capture some everyday interactions

Tuesdays are the days I write and post my Going Paperless tips. It’s funny, but I find that on Tuesdays, without really thinking about it, I wear one of the cool t-shirts the good folks at Evernote sent me some back when I became their Paperless Lifestyle ambassador.

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I don’t really think about, it just kind of happens, as if my subconscious self was reminding my semi-conscious self to write that post today! Well, write the post I did, and today, I have some tips for folks who have embraced a paperless lifestyle and are looking to see some real-world benefits of it. Today, I have some tips on how going paperless can improve some everyday interactions we all have.

1. Giving people directions to your house

We have friends and family over from time-to-time. With small children, we often have play dates at our house and are inviting over other parents and their children who we’ve met, either through school, day care, moms groups, etc. And when you invite people over, be it family, friends, or even service people, you inevitably have to give them directions for getting to your house. Of course, many people have GPS units these days and all they need is an address, but you can’t always count on folks having (or using) those systems. So I keep a set of instructions for getting to our house in a notebook in Evernote. I can easily email the note to anyone who needs directions to our house. Here is how I put it all together. For the purposes of this example, let’s pretend I live at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City.

  1. I grabbed a map image of the area around my “house” using the Map function in Skitch.
  2. I used Skitch’s annotating functions to annotate my mapphoto.PNG
  3. I sent the image to Evernote.
  4. In the Note, I added some written instructions, some of which were keyed to my annotations.
  5. I added some contact information in case people got lost and needed to call.
  6. I moved the map to the proper notebook and tagged it accordingly.
Now, whenever someone needs directions, it is easy to send them the map and instructions. I simply open up the note and email it to the recipients. I don’t have to rewrite the instructions each time I send them, and everyone gets the same thing.

2. Paying bills

Almost all of the regular bills that I receive, I receive electronically. There is a huge convenience to this. The statement is already in electronic format so it doesn’t have to be scanned. The bill can be paid automatically. And if there are any problems, I don’t have to go digging through a file cabinet looking for the paper. A quick search in Evernote will turn it up in seconds. But there are the occasional bills I get that are not automatic and not electronic. The most common of these bills are from doctors. With little kids, it seems like we are constantly visiting doctor’s offices. After the insurance has taken care of their part, there is sometimes an excess and for that we receive a bill.

After I scan the bill into Evernote, I’ll typically write a check to pay the bill. In the same note as the scanned in PDF file, I will add some text indicating the date that I paid the bill, the check number and the amount of the check. This is convenient because all of the information is in one place and in context. Should a problem of some sort arise, all I have to do is look up the statement in question and find the notes that I’ve added to it.

3. Phone calls

I’m not much of a phone person. I’m on the phone enough at work in various meetings with different offices to make being on the phone outside of work an unpleasant thought. But, sometimes, it can’t be helped. So when I do have to make a phone call, especially one that is requesting a service, or assistance, or following up on some business, I usually try to keep notes about the call. I do this in one of two ways:

When there are no related notes in Evernote…

If the call I am making has no related documents in Evernote already, I’ll create a new Note before making the call, using a Phone Call template that I keep in my Templates notebook. (I do this by selecting the Template note and the clicking Copy To Notebook….)

My Phone Call template is a simple template that helps me remember and record a few things about the call. Here is what my template looks like.

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The note from the call will typically go in my Timeline notebook which I use to track my daily activities. But the note is also tagged with “Phone Call” so I can easily find any phone call-related note.

When there is a related Note in Evernote…

When there is a related note in Evernote–say a bank statement for which I have a question about a charge–I will make the phone call notes in the same note as the statement. I do this to keep all of the information together in one place. It allows the notes from the phone call to have a direct and obvious context–the statement.

4. Dealing with technical support

As someone who has worked in technical support, I’m not overly enthusiastic when I have to deal with technical support. But there are times when that is unavoidable. When I must do it, I try to keep notes in context so that if the problem recurs, I have them all in one place. A good example from a while back is an issue I had with my cable modem. I knew it needed to be reset but I couldn’t remember the exact steps for doing it. Reluctantly, I called my cable company and they were actually very good at walking me through the steps. Here is how I captured the overall interaction:

  1. I scanned the QR code I’d put on my cable modem. This pulled up a note in Evernote containing the manual for the modem, as well as the technical support number for the cable company.
  2. I called technical support, explained the problem, and gave them all of the information they requested (which I had in the note right in front of me).
  3. I jotted down the steps they gave me in the same note and then tried them out.
Lucky for me, in this case, the steps worked and everything was great. Since I recorded them in the note in context to the manual for the device, when I needed to repeat the steps eight months later, all I had to do was scan the QR code on my modem and then read the notes I’d written from the call.

5. Capturing miscellaneous interactions when reviewing your day

At the end of each day, I scan through a set of notes that I captured during the day–one note for each of the places I visited. I review each note and try to decide if there is something important about that place–or an interaction I had there–that is worth capturing. Generating notes for where I have been is automatic. I use Foursquare to check into each place that I go during the day. My Foursquare check-ins are private and I use them only to record where I go. I use the IFTTT service to automatically create a note in Evernote for each Foursquare check-in I make.

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At the end of the day, I review all of the foursquare check-ins for that day (using a saved search) and decide if I need to add anything to the notes. If I do, I will add notes directly to the note that was created from the check-in.


These are some simple ways that a paperless lifestyle can improve some everyday interactions. How do you improve your everyday interactions? Do you have tips for making them easier?

(And, as always, this post, and all of my Going Paperless posts are also available on Pinterest.)

24 thoughts on “Going Paperless: 5 tips for how a paperless lifestyle can better capture some everyday interactions

  1. In point 4, you mention that scanning a QR code pulled up a note in Evernote. Can you elaborate or direct me to instructions as to how that function works? Thanks.

    1. Bill, I thought I’d linked to my earlier article on that point, but I wrote up a whole tip post about how to use QR codes to pull up instruction manuals in context a few months back. You can find it here. Be sure to read the comments on the post because there was some further clarification there, if I recall correctly.

  2. Very interesting post! The QR code trick is awesome, and I plan to try putting that into use. I’ve kept service manual PDFs and such in Evernote before, but going back to find them can be a little annoying sometimes since I don’t always tag things properly.

    Do you have any thoughts on ways to streamline better tagging or just in general being able to find stuff at a later date? I’ve seen posts about nesting tags, and while it seems incredibly useful, I can never seem to quite wrap my head around actually implementing that.

    At the very least, I’d love to see a post giving a rundown of the different ways you use Evernote on a daily basis. I was really intrigued by the idea of keeping a Timeline notebook and essentially Evernoting your whole day, utilizing Foursquare and other things. I’m always on the look out for new ways to use Evernote.

  3. Hi Jamie

    It’s quiet impressive how many things you can do with Evernote – sometime I sit around and thinking about what else could I do with it – then another article from you comes up and autsch – why didn’t come this and that to my mind :-)

    Keep on going! :-)

    Udo

    1. Template:

      1) Create a new note and type all in what you want in the template.
      2) Save the note in a notebook called “template”
      3) When you need a template, go to the template notebook and rightclick the template and click on “copy note” and choose the notebook, where you want to save the new note.
      4) you’re fine :-)

      Udo

  4. I work much the same, but with different tools – such as Stickies or notepad on my desktop and Reminders on the mobile devices. I think the main point however is to actually have and follow a set process to make your life easier.

  5. Dear Jamie,

    I was trying to sort of “subscribe” to your “going paperless tipps”, however, since they are part of your normal blog it proves somewhat difficult to me. Subscribing to the whole blog when I’m only interested in the paperless tips is nonsense, on the Evernote-Blog alot of other stuff is also published which I find often not very useful. I was even thinking of setting up a ifttt trigger, but it seems your blog is not supported. Got any ideas how I can get your paperless tips by email, into my evernote inbox or some other way? Im helpless …

    Markus

  6. UdoJ. Lol. I copied your instructions on my iphone and dropped it into my “Evernote tools and tricks” folder in Evernote!

  7. Great tips the phone template in particular, would you be so kind to share this template, or is there a place were templates can be used?

  8. Hi,
    Is there anyway you can share some of your templates. I really like your ideas and are trying to teach my colleagues and convince them of the benefits of using Evernote.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas.

  9. I have created a new template, however I cannot see how to Copy Note to anywhere via iPad or Android clients. It’s less likely I’ll be sat with a laptop or desktop client while making a call and would benefit from this feature on a mobile client. Is there a way to do this?

  10. Jamie,

    I have really appreciated your tips! I’ve gleaned and implemented several.

    I was particularly interested to try #5 using IFTTT to connect Foursquare check-ins to Evernote but have not been successful. You said “My Foursquare check-ins are private and I use them only to record where I go.” While troubleshooting I noticed all three triggers say “Only works with public check-ins.”

    How did you get this to work with private check-ins or has something changed since you wrote the post?

    Thanks

  11. I love this series, been plowing through it all week. But I had to laugh when you said you write checks to pay bills, I hope that was code for online bill pay.

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