For those of you participating in Evernote’s 30-Day Paperless Challenge, welcome to week 4!
One of the great benefits of going paperless that I have discovered is that it allows you to automate a lot of things that–when they were done on paper–simply couldn’t be automated. I’ve found dozens of things that can be automated, from the archiving of my to-do list, to the creation of my monthly reading blog posts. Some things save more time than others, but none of this automation would be possible if I still did things on paper.
I thought about one practical example that has been a real boon for me over the last month or so that I’ve been doing it, and I thought I’d share it here today: automatically creating meeting minutes before the meeting begins. This doesn’t sound like much but it has done two significant things for me:
- Ensured that I am always read for a meeting when I go into it
- Saved me perhaps 2-3 minutes of prep-time before each meeting
Two minutes does not sound like a lot, but when you have five or six meetings each day, you can be talking about saving more than an hour a week!
Overview of the automation
This automation depends on 3 things:
- Using Google Calendar to capture your meetings
- Using a “template” in Evernote for meeting minutes
- Using IFTTT for the automation.
A few weeks back, I made a couple of my Evernote templates available in a public notebook. For this post, I have added a third template, called “IFTTT Meeting Template” to that public notebook. The HTML text inside that template will be used in this automation.
I have also written a post on how I use IFTTT with Evernote to “remember everything” and some of the details of that post may come in handy for this automation.
Finally, this really only works if you use Google Calendar to record your meetings because right now, that is the only calendaring system that is integrated with IFTTT.
Setting up the automation
To set up this automation, you will need to make use of IFTTT (If This Then That). To simplify things, I have created and shared a recipe that does the automation for you. If you have not registered Google Calendar or Evernote with IFTTT, you will be prompted to do so.
Here is how the automation works:
- You add an item to your Google Calendar at a specified time.
- You include the term “@en” somewhere in the calendar event. (This can be in the subject line, the body, the location, etc.)
- 15 minutes prior to your scheduled event, IFTTT will create a note in Evernote.
The title of your note will be the title of your calendar event. The tag for your note will be “meeting minutes”. The body of the note will contain my template for meeting minutes.
At this point, if you go to Evernote (desktop, mobile, web, whereever) and make sure you are synced with the server, you will see your new meeting minutes note for the upcoming meeting within 15 minutes of the meeting start time.
So, for example, let’s say I create a new meeting on my calendar for 9:45am this morning and called it “Notes for Going Paperless Post”:
Note that I added “@en” at the end of my meeting title. This is the trigger that tells IFTTT to create the meeting minutes. If I leave this out of the event, no minutes are created. If you don’t want to put this in the title, you can put it in the body or location field. I tend to put it in the title because it serves as a reminder of which meetings I’ve setup to have minutes automatically created. If you are wondering why minutes are NOT being created for a meeting, check to make sure you’ve included the “@en” somewhere in the event.
Now, once we are within 15 minutes of the meeting, I can go to Evernote, make sure that I am synced with the server, and then check to see if I my meeting minutes have been created. Here is what it looks like on my iPad:
Note that the create time of the note is 9:30am–exactly 15 minutes before the start of the meeting. You can see that the HTML in the template has been converted into a neatly formatted meeting minutes note. The note contains the title that I gave it on my calendar: “Notes for Going Paperless Post (@en)” and is tagged with “meeting minutes”. The note goes into my default notebook.
Extending this automation
This automation is particularly useful because copying notes is not easy from the iPad and usually means going back to the desktop client or doing a lot of awkward cutting and pasting. This automation eliminates all of that. By the time I get to my meeting room, the notes template is there and I don’t have to worry about it.
You can imagine that similar function can be applied to things beyond just meeting minutes. Any time-sensitive note based on a template of some kind can be created in this manner, and it really begins to open up the possibilities of automation. And, of course, none of this would be possible if I wasn’t already paperless.
If you want to try this for yourself, I’ve provided the links below to both my shared template notebook and my IFTTT recipe. You should only need the latter, unless you want to alter the template used by the IFTTT recipe:
And if you have suggestions for more ways to automate your paperless lifestyle, please drop them in the comments! Good luck with the final week of Evernote’s 30-Day Paperless Challenge!
(As always this post and all of my Going Paperless tips are also available on Pinterest.)