Going Paperless Quick Tip: How I Do A “Daily Review” in Evernote

I have never jumped on board the GTD bandwagon. This is entirely because of my own failings, and not any failings with the methodology of GTD. It fits well for some, and not for others. I’ve read David Allen’s book multiple times, and I’ve tried his GTD methodology both before and after I used Evernote. For me, it is just too much overhead, and more importantly, it doesn’t work the way I do.

That said, I can usually find something beneficial in everything, and the most significant thing I took from GTD was the concept of the “daily review.” The idea is pretty simple. You spend a few minutes each day reviewing your day, updating your to-lists , and basically keeping tabs on what is going on in your life so that you can empty your head and still make sure everything is captured as it is supposed to be.

I put a lot of notes into Evernote. More and more of these notes come from various automations, so that I am not putting them in myself, but other systems are putting them in for me. That means that sometimes, things get into Evernote that I might not be aware of if I didn’t pay attention.

I use a “daily review” to pay attention to the notes that I put into Evernote. Here is how I do it:

Step 1: Create a “Daily Review” saved search (one-time only)

When I started with my daily review, I created a saved search that looks for all notes created on the day I execute my search. That is a simple enough search to create. The search syntax looks as follows:

created:day

which tells Evernote to search for all notes with a create date equal to or greater than today. This worked pretty well, but after a little while, I realized that I was seeing only note that I created today. What about notes that I updated today, but that were created before? So I modified my saved search as follows:

any: created:day updated:day

This search tells Evernote to find any notes created since today or updated since today. The “any:” keyword at the front is what tells Evernote to look at any of these conditions.

Once I had the search I wanted, I saved the search and gave it the name “Daily Review.” Finally, I dragged the saved search to my Shortcuts so that I have easy access to it.

Step 2: My Daily Review (once a day)

With my saved search, I now spend a few minutes each evening reviewing all of the notes created or updated on that day. Usually this takes less than five minutes. In most cases, there aren’t more than 20 notes to review in a given day, but on some days, for instance, when I do a lot of scanning, there may be more.

I run my search and look at the results. I usually look at them in the List view. Here are my results from January 28:

Daily Review

I was out of town on this day, so you won’t see a lot of scans, but otherwise, this is pretty typical of what I might see in a daily review. I use the List View because I can easily see what notebook the note is in, and what tags have been assigned. I’ll typically do a few things as part of my daily review:

  1. Look for any action items that need to be added to my to-do list. I use todo.txt for my to-do list1 and some of my to-do items are pulled automatically from Evernote via some automation I’ve created. This is more of a scan to see if there’s anything I missed.
  2. I properly title, and organize any notes that require additional organization. You’ll note that the third note down is titled “Note from In Kentucky in Lousiville.” This is one of those notes that I created quickly on the fly. I allowed Evernote to title it. During my Daily Review, I’ll look at the note, give it a proper title, and file and tag it accordingly–or delete it if it is a throwaway that I no longer need.
  3. Review my day and see if there is anything missing. Often times, this is where I’ll add “milestones” to my timeline. In reviewing my day, I might recall that my daughter had a big first that morning, or my son brought home some good work from school. I’ll makes notes (or scan) those milestones as appropriate.

Weekly Review, Monthly Review, and Beyond

I work pretty much day-to-day, so I don’t bother much with weekly or monthly reviews, but you can see how easy it would be to created saved searches for each. A weekly review saved search would look as follows:

any: created:day-7 updated:day-7

and a monthly review would look like:

any: created:month-1 updated:month-1

I find that the daily review works fine for my purposes, but it is easy enough to create additional saves searches for weekly, monthly, even yearly reviews. I spend maybe 5 minutes on this a night and it helps ensure that I recall what came into Evernote that day, and gives me an opportunity to review it and process it in some tangible way.


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.

Last week’s post: Annotating Paper Books and Magazines in Evernote without Marking Up the Originals.

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  1. I plan on writing about this more in some detail in the future, just no time right now.

16 thoughts on “Going Paperless Quick Tip: How I Do A “Daily Review” in Evernote

  1. First, hope you feel better. Second, glad to see you were in our town (Louisville). Next time through, reach out for coffee. Would love to say hey! Last, (and to the point) love this idea. Going to employ but one question. If you’ve given yourself a reminder in Evernote, will that daily search architecture pull in the reminders for that day? If not, is there an adaptation you can make to the search stream that would? Maybe they come in b/c of the “update” addition. Also, (different topic), what notebook do you use as a default? I’m realizing the more diverse my sources become, the more I struggle with where the note is. I know search fixes this, but I opted to create a “Notes to File” default notebook so I have a central place to start. Would love to know your process. Again, feel better.

  2. This is great! I have been struggling with how to keep up the flow of data, and this seems to hit the sweet spot between useful and simple.

  3. Excellent! This is very close to what I do, but I will need to switch to list view. That’s a great tip. I’m also not as diligent as you. So my saved search reaches back 2 days, just in case. But I found with my search I can just the “update” parameter since that seems to also capture “created.” However your example is great at showcasing a syntax for more complicated scenarios.

  4. That’s a great idea!

    I would like to do that daily review in the morning when I start work. I can’t figure how to do a review of all the notes I touched yesterday. I tried this but it doesn’t work:

    any: created:day-1 -created:day updated:day-1 -updated:day

    How would you set that up?

  5. First I want to say thank you for the excellent information that you publish.

    I have a question.

    I also use todo.txt. I add tasks with draft app on iphone. The only problem is that on the iPhone app todo.txt always crashes. And I can not see the review and sort tasks or complete on the phone. How do you solve this issue?

  6. Stan, about the closest you can get is to use the following:

    created:day-1 -created:day

    Note, there is no “any:” clause in the above code. This will show everything created yesterday. You could substitute “updated” for “created” but the results will drop some notes because of some odd behavior in how Evernote seems to treat some note dates. I’ve inquired with my contacts at Evernote about this behavior.

  7. I haven’t had problems with the todo.txt app crashing on my iPhone. Although I will admit that I only use there when I have to. I mostly work off the command line on either my Mac or Windows machine.

  8. Great post. I just starting using more automation with Evernote, and this is a great idea that I will definitely put to use! Thanks!

  9. Ok, now I’m showing my ignorance, or my before coffee brain, but I’m using Evernote on iPad. When I search using the monthly review syntax, I get everything in the last year. Suggestions, or should this only work on the desktop. Thanks for the article, and your time.

  10. Also, is the line view only in the desktop version? I’ve had Evernote since 2009, but have only used the basics. My goals this year are to utilize Evernote more and to go as paperless as possible. I am enjoying the articles, tips, and tutorials. However, I use my iPad, 90% of the time and I’m finding that maybe it doesn’t have the full capabilities of the desktop version. Sorry if this is getting off topic.

  11. Sometimes the iPhone app crashes because of blank lines or create dates that are out of order. Other todo.txt apps sometimes cause this. Try editing the text file manually and clean up anything out of order.

  12. Solid post, thank you. I have this type of search to review images I throw into evernote but completely forgot about applying the any: created:day updated:day to all content. Set up the filters now.

  13. With Nozbe’s new update, it integrates Evernote very nicely with the GTD methodology. When you add a reminder to a note in Evernote, it adds it to your Nozbe task list which has the ability to assign a context, and a project. Then when you update it as done in Nozbe, it also marks it as done in Evernote.

  14. I would LOVE to know how to create and search for my action items efficiently. Looking forward to this! Thank you. Very helpful post.

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