Several months ago, I ended the regularly scheduled series of Going Paperless posts, with the emphasis on “regularly.” I felt that I was beginning to stretch the ideas I was writing about. I decided that I would only write new Going Paperless posts when I had a good idea. And so today I’m back with a post on how I use Evernote to remind me of everything.
I make use of a very simple to-do list manager that consists entirely of plain text files. It works well for me, but it has one significant drawback: there is no easy way to do reminders in my system. Fortunately, I don’t need that feature as part of my to-do list system because it is built into Evernote, and I use the reminder features there extensively.
Reminders in context
One of the great features of Evernote is that it allows reminders in context. I have written about this feature before, but it is worth re-emphasizing it here. Let’s say I get a document in the mail on which some future action needs to be taken–car registration, for example. Without Evernote, I might toss a copy of the document in a pile on my desk, with a Post-It note reminding me when it was due. I might also stick a note about it on my calendar. But the calendar note would be separate from the document itself and if I saw the note on the calendar, I’d still have to go hunt for the document somewhere.
With Evernote, I follow 3 simple steps:
- Scan the document
- Organize it appropriately (put it in a notebook, and tag it, if necessary)
- Set a reminder on the note to remind me that I need to take some action on it.
In the case of the car registration, I set the reminder to 10 days before the due date. When I look at my list of reminders in Evernote (on my home screen), I see it there waiting for me to take action.
Clicking on the reminder take me to the document itself. Having the reminder linked to the actual document is a powerful feature. It does two important things:
- It saves me from having to remember to do the thing. Evernote will send me a reminder when it is due.
- It saves me from having to search for the document when I am reminded, because the reminder is attached to the document. This makes it much easier for me to act on the reminder as soon as it happens.
A substitute for Post-It notes
Over time, my Evernote reminder system has become a substitute for Post-It notes. I use it for all kinds of things. And all of those things have some sort of context attached to them so that it is easy to take an action. For example, have a reminder to test and change smoke detector batteries when Daylight Saving time begins. The note itself is pretty simple:
The “Instructions” link is simple an Evernote note-link to another note, containing the instruction manual for the smoke detector. Clicking on the link takes me to that note, so that I don’t have to go hunting for it.
I might have simplified things by attaching the reminder to the smoke detector instruction note directly, but in this case, I prefer to have a “history” of the times I changed the batteries, and so the individual notes give me that history: one note for each change/reminder. They get filed in my Timeline notebook so that they don’t clutter other things.
For those interesting in more information about using note links, I’ve written in detail about using Evernote note links elsewhere.
Seeing Evernote reminders on my calendar with Sunrise
I use the Sunrise app for my calendar. One thing I love about Sunrise is that you can integrate all kinds of calendars into it, including your Evernote reminders. I’ve written about this before, but it is worth emphasizing here.
Because I have integrated my Evernote reminders into my Sunrise calendar, I see those reminders in my calendar view, not just in Evernote. Here is an example from a week in early January 2015:
It’s hard to tell from the screenshot, but the Evernote entry has an Evernote elephant icon on it to make it clear that it is an Evernote reminder. Having all of my reminders show up on a single calendar is powerful, and a big time-saver for me. It also helps ensure that I rarely forget anything. Even if I don’t see the reminder in Evernote, I will certainly see it on my calendar. And if I don’t see it on my calendar, Evernote will email me a reminder on the reminder date, and I am certain not to miss that.
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.