In my efforts to use Evernote to help me remember everything I have discussed in earlier posts how I think of Evernote as a timeline. I get questions on this subject from time-to-time and I thought I’d spend today’s column discussing this in more detail, and providing some additional examples of how I use Evernote in this capacity.
All notes have create dates
Whenever you create a note in Evernote, the note automatically gets a create date. The default is the date and time at which the note was created. More often than not, I find that the default create date is fine, but it is important to know that…
The create dates can be changed
Why would you want to change a create date?
I tend to change create dates when I want to ensure the document in question is searchable by date. Most of these notes come from documents that I scan in. If I received a statement in the mail, the statement is often dated several days before the day I actually receive it. Then, too, I don’t always scan things in on the day they arrive.
When scanning in these types of documents, I will alter the create date to match the date on the document. For instance, if I scan a statement today, June 18, but the date on the statement is June 6, I will change the create date of the note to June 6. The reason for this is twofold:
- It allows me to use the “created:20130606” and “-created:20130606” type of search notation which makes searches much more accurate because Evernote is doing a real date search, as opposed to search for text in the title.
- It allows me to find documents quicker when someone references them by date. For instance, if I am on the phone with the business that sent me the statement and they ask me to refer to the statement of June 6, I have multiple, simple ways of finding the document. I can look at my “timeline” for June 6 and find the document. Or I can do a search for notes created on June 6 and add additional tag and notebook filters as appropriate.
I’ve found that by making the create date of a note match the date on the document itself, I can find just about any note I’m looking for in 2 or 3 seconds.
I do this for bills and statements I scan in. I do it for insurance policies. I also do it for old letters and other correspondence that I have scanned in,
All notes combine to create a timeline of events
If you looked at the create date of all of your notes in Evernote, you would see a timeline of events. Even seemingly unrelated events can prove useful when searching your timeline. When did I make that phone call? I know it was after my son’s birthday party, so let me find the note for his party and then start looking at notes after that. Graphically, the timeline of all notes might look something like this:
Each dot is a note with a line representing where it falls on the overall timeline. The different colors might represent different notebooks, or different tags, or a combination thereof. Within Evernote, I find it most useful to look at timelines using the List view:
In the view above, I am looking at all of my notes and have sorted them by Created date, from present to past. You can see from the titles that there is a big mix of things, but that the timeline notion itself forms a pretty complete picture of my life and goings-on.
Filtering your notes also filters your timeline
As I said above, all notes form a timeline. When you filter notes, you are also filtering your timeline. Using the illustration I did above, a filtered timeline might look something like this:
The blue dots and lines might represent bills, or things your kids did while growing up, or oil changes, or whatever you choose. When I look at my filtered timeline in Evernote using the list view, say, when I filter on where I’ve been (my foursquare check-ins), I see something like this:
Other things I capture in my Evernote timeline
I’ve written before about how I use the notion of a timeline to capture things like when my little girl said her first word, when my boy’s first teeth came in, and other life events. I capture these things in a “Timeline” notebook because they don’t really fit in other places in my structure and this gives these arbitrary notes a useful home. That said, all of my notes, regardless of what notebook they are in or how they are tagged form a complete outline. I can see that my little girl said her name for the first time about a year ago, but I can also see where I had dinner on that same day, or what story I was working on that same evening.
I’ve started to use Evernote to capture other things on my timeline. Here are a list of just a few of these things:
- Maintenance. I try to capture various maintenance that I do that isn’t captured in some other form. For example, when I take my car in for service, that gets captured when I scan in the receipt (I change the create date of that note to match the date of the service). Now, if I put air in the tires, I’ll create a quick note saying, “Put air in left rear tire. Was 35 PSI, now 42 PSI.” This is useful because if the “low pressure” light comes on in the car, I can easily see when I last put air in the tires.
- Diagnostics. I get curious about how long it takes before I have to change batteries. So whenever I change the batteries in my wireless keyboard, I make a note. Then, when I have to change them again, I can see it was 5 months between battery changes. Even better, because I have a key logger that runs on my systems1 I can actually see how many keystrokes it took to wear down the batteries. I also do this when I change the batteries in other devices like the thermostat, or a smoke detector.
- Weather. I use an IFTTT recipe to capture the day’s highs and lows in Evernote for each day. These go on my timeline. It is interesting to look back at a given day’s worth of notes and easily see what the weather was like on that day.
How I use the new reminder feature to help with my maintenance and diagnostics.
By capturing data on my timeline like how long the batteries on my keyboard last, or how long between filling air my tires, I get a pretty good idea of when I will need to replace the batteries or fill the tires in the future.
Now that Evernote has introduced a reminder feature, I have started to use it to set proactive reminders of these types of tasks, based on the data I have already collected. For example, since it takes about 5 months to use the batteries in my keyboard, and since I just replaced them recently, I added a reminder to that replacement note for 5 months in the future. Five months from now, Evernote will remind me to change the batteries in my keyboard.
It will remind me to change the batteries in the thermostats.
It will remind me to check the tire pressure in the tires.
These are little things, true, but this is also just the beginning, as my timeline continues to grow.
If you have a suggestion for a future Going Paperless post, let know me. Send it to me at feedback [at] jamietoddrubin.com. As always, this post and all of my Going Paperless posts is also available on Pinterest.
- These does not keep track of what I type, it just counts my keystrokes. ↩