Going Paperless: 3 Ways I Annotate Notes in Evernote to Make Life a Little Easier

Prior to going paperless, I often found myself jotting notes down on various pieces of paper in order to keep track of things. If I paid a bill, I’d scribble the check number with which the bill was paid right on the statement so it was readily available if I needed it, for example.

These days, I still annotate my notes in various ways, but because I can use the richer set of features available in Evernote, these annotates are much more useful than they ever were in their paper form. Here are three examples of how I annotate my notes in Evernote to make life a little easier.

1. Add note links in context to quickly jump to related notes

On rare occasions, I’ll still receive a bill for something in paper. For instance, our city recently changed where it gets its water. When the change took place, I got a new “first” bill from Fairfax county. This was paper, of course, since I hadn’t yet set up auto-pay. I scanned the bill into Evernote, and then paid the bill online. After paying the bill, I clipped the receipt into Evernote using the web clipper.

What I did next was to annotate the original bill note to indicate when it was paid, and to provide a link back to the note containing the receipt.

Here is what the bill statement looks like:

Fairfax Water

You can see that just above the PDF file, I’ve made a note about when and how I paid the bill. The hyperlink is an Evernote “note link.” If I click on that link, it will take me directly to the note containing the receipt for my payment. For completeness, I also link the receipt to the note for which the payment was made. So the receipt note looks like this:

Fairfax Water Receipt

This makes it easy to find the receipt from the original bill, or vice versa, saving me some time if I need to look up this information.

If you’ve never used the Note Link feature in Evernote, it is very easy.

  1. Go to the note for which you want to create a link.
  2. From the Note menu select Copy Note Link.
  3. You can then paste that note link into another note. I generally highlight the text I want to make into a link and then paste the note link as the hyperlink so that it appears as it does in the two examples above.

To create a note link from an iOS device1 (iPhone or iPad), you can do the following:

  1. Go to the note for which you want to create a link.
  2. From the toolbar at the bottom of the note, touch the “…” button.
  3. From the popup menu, select “Share”
  4. From the Share screen, select the “Copy Link” option.

You can then paste the link into another note and it works just the same as the method for doing it from the thick client.

ETAIt looks like the above method on iOS creates a public shared link, so be warned. It doesn’t look like there is a way to create an internal note like from iOS at this point, the way you can from the Mac and Windows clients. Thanks to Amir for pointing this out.

2. Capturing notes from calls or conversations in context

I will use a similar method as described above when I need to make a call or have a conversation about something in the context of the note in Evernote. For example, on rare occasions when I need to contact customer support for something, I will typically do the following:

  1. Open up the note in Evernote containing the thing I’m calling about. Let’s say it’s a cable bill. I’ll have this open so that I can refer to it easily
  2. Create a new note in Evernote to document the conversation I have with customer support.
  3. Copy the note link from the new note into the note with the statement. Sometime, if I may more than one call, I’ll have a small bulleted list of 2 or 3 links to other notes.

Why keep separate notes as opposed to doing it all in the note to the statement? I prefer this method because each note has its own date/time stamp, which is different from the date/time of the statement note. This way, I capture the dates and times of the calls and can easily build a timeline of the events if I needed to.

3. Annotating instructions

You know how some sets of instructions have a blank page for jotting down your own notes? I will occasionally annotate notes containing instructions in order to put in reminders to myself (or my wife).

For example, I can never remember how to reprogramming the one-touch dial keys on my desk phone at the day job. So what I did was made a note in the instructions for the phone to remind me exactly where in that nearly 300 page instruction manual, I can find the instructions for updating the one-touch dial keys:

Phone Instructions

This makes it easy for me to find exactly what I am looking for because I now know where to look in that PDF file.


I find that annotating my notes, especially those with attachments like PDFs, images, or clippings, very useful for keeping the notes with the context of the thing in question. It is the same thing I used to do when I’d scribble my notes on the instructions themselves, but it is more powerful because it is searchable and shareable. These little annotations save me time each week, and that time adds up. They also help paint a complete picture, and by linking to other notes, the reduce any redundancy  in what I have to capture.

Postscript: For those who might be interested in hearing my talk about Evernote (especially for writers) I was interviewed on the Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing podcast and that interview is now online. In it I talk about writing, wearable technology (like FitBit) and, of course, Evernote. Have a listen if you are interested.


If you have a suggestion for a future Going Paperless post, let me know. 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: Quick Tip: Edit Scanned PDFs Directly in Evernote.

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  1. I don’t have an Android device so I’m not sure how this works on that OS.

10 thoughts on “Going Paperless: 3 Ways I Annotate Notes in Evernote to Make Life a Little Easier

  1. Amir, looks like you are right. I hadn’t noticed that. I compared two links for the same note, one created in my Windows client, the other on my iPhone and they are different. I’ve added an update in the post to call this out.

  2. Jamie, I always prefer to leave internal links green, external ones blue. Makes for easier reading 🙂

  3. There is a workaround if you want – I created a Zapier “Zap” to append notes (tagged “Zapier Link”) with their internal link:
    Internal Link: evernote:///view/########/s###/{{guid}}/{{guid}}/
    (Replace the “#” with your personal codes – copy from another link you have).

    This way an internal link is added to the note after a few minutes and you can copy and use it in other notes or apps.

  4. Back in my “paper” days, whenever I paid a bill, I would print the receipt and staple it to the original bill then file it. Now in my paperless world, instead of linking them to each other, I just merge the two notes into one, so the bill and its payment are right there together. Is there a downside to this method I might not have thought of? Is it just the time stamp? I just feel like my digital cabinet will be cluttered. Do you throw both notes into the same place?

  5. Jamie
    In relation to 1. Add note links in context to quickly jump to related notes
    You have me confused why not just merge notes ?????
    All this silly linking in this instance makes no sense and is a real time waster!!
    I understand linking index to several notes; but a receipt and a bill statement seems strange. Or am i missing somthing

    Dale

  6. Dale, yeah, it’s personal preference. This method works really good for me. I filter by date a lot and I prefer to have each note contain a discrete item. Of course, your mileage may vary.

  7. Was reading this on Pocket… Just had to visit the web version so I could comment on the same thing… Why not just merge the notes or pop one item into the original note with the PDF? … Anyhow, I see the answer is below!

  8. Me too, on the question about merging. I merge a lot of notes. My criteria is simple: can I think of a reason why I would ever need to find one but not the other? If the answer is no, then I merge the notes.

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