Going Paperless 2.0: Quickly Access Frequently-Used Information in Evernote

One of the things that attracted me to Evernote back in 2010 was its slogan, “Remember Everything.” Although I am not a canonical GTDer, I’ve read David Allen’s book, and one important take away was getting stuff out of my head so that I didn’t have to remember it. When I started to use Evernote, I let Evernote remember stuff for me. Fast forward five years, and Evernote is remembering a lot of stuff for me. At last count, 12,465 notes. The notes are organized into notebooks, and some of them are tagged. Still, there is a certain subset of information that I find myself needing much more frequently than other information. What follows are some tricks I use to make sure I have quick access to frequently-used information.

1. Create a FREQUENTLY-ACCESSED INFO Note

I have a note in Evernote titled “FREQUENT” on which I keep my most-frequently accessed information. This means I only need to go to one place to find it all.

Frequent Note

In the note, I use a tabular format to keep it simple. I include the information I need right on the note itself. I also add a link to more detailed information. Clicking the link for Blue Cross, for instance, takes me to an image of my current insurance card. The same is true for clicking on a license #, or car tag number.

I created a shortcut to the note which I keep on the shortcut bar so that I never have to go hunting for it.

Having this note saves me a lot of time and frustration, especially when filling out forms, or when I am on the phone with a service organization.

2. Use TextExpander for frequently-accessed info

I am a big fan of TextExpander on the Mac1. If you are not familiar with the tool, TextExpander allows you to use shortcuts to expand longer snippets of text. I have created a bunch of snippets for frequently-used information. For instance, the various pieces of my address all have expansions. So does my home phone number, which I can never remember. Also my kid’s birthdays. Here is example of some of the snippets I have created for frequently used information. Typing the part of the left automatically expands to the part on the right. I preface my shortcuts with ;; so that typing the shortcut word doesn’t cause the snippet to expand.

  • ;;address —> full address
  • ;;street —> street address
  • ;;city —> Falls Church
  • ;;state —> Virginia
  • ;;zip —> our zip code
  • ;;hphone —> our home phone number
  • ;;zach —> Zach’s birthdate
  • ;;grace —> Grace’s birthdate
  • ;;email —> my email address
  • ;;gp —> http://www.jamierubin.net/going-paperless/

3. “Current Travel” saved search

It seems to me that I need some piece of information more often when I am away from the computer than when I am sitting in front of it. Traveling is a good example of this. There are confirmation messages, frequent flyer program information, airline itineraries, notes about interesting places to stop along the way.

When I am getting ready for a trip, I tag any trip-related notes with a “current-travel” tag in Evernote. I have a saved search that I’ve created that shows me everything tagged “current-travel.”

Thus, when I am at the airport and I need to call the hotel I’ll be staying at, all I have to do is tap my “current-travel” saved search and I’ve got easy access to my hotel confirmation, which also contains the phone number of the hotel.

Some notes keep the “current-travel” tag, like frequently-flier and hotel points program information notes. But when I finish a trip, I remove the “current-travel” tag from all of the notes related to that trip. That way I’m ready to fill it up again with useful information on the next trip.

4. Set a reminder to review and update the info at regular intervals

Finally, I use Evernote’s reminder feature to set a reminder on my FREQUENT note so that I review the information there on a regular basis, and update it as necessary. Currently I have this set to six months. When I get the reminder, I review the information on the note, update anything that requires updating, and then reset the reminder for another six months.

Having frequently-accessed information at my fingertips, without having to keep in all in my head, has been incredibly helpful to me. It speeds up filling out paper forms. It makes it easy to provide information when I am away from the house. Checking into hotels, I’m often asked for the license plate # of the car for parking. When I call to order pizza and they ask me, “What’s your home number?” I don’t have to go hunting for it. And it helps ensure that I am giving accurate information.

Frequently-accessed information will vary by person, but I think I have a good model for making sure that information is readily accessible when I need it—whatever the information might be.


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: Tracking accomplishments in Evernote

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  1. On my Windows machine at work,  I use a similar tool called PhraseExpress.

6 thoughts on “Going Paperless 2.0: Quickly Access Frequently-Used Information in Evernote

  1. Thanks for a great post! I use Evernote a lot, but have sometimes had trouble keeping my notes organized. I love the tip with the ‘most important’ notes all in one, I might just create a new folder for that!

  2. Love the idea of a “current travel” tag. I am planning a trip and that will definitely come in handy.

    One addition to that (I’ve learned this lesson the hard way) is to make sure those notes are also in a notebook that is available offline so they sync to your mobile device. Nothing is more frustrating than being unable to get online and not having access to travel documents when you need them.

  3. I have a variation on tip #1 I’ve used for awhile.

    I have a stack in Evernote named “Reference Stack”. In this stack are notebooks such as Auto, Home, Medical, etc.. These notebooks contain scanned PDFs of receipts and important documents and documentation. Some of these notebooks have a lot of notes in them, and they are not necessarily in a useful order.

    I have a notebook at the top of the Reference Stack titled “!Master Reference Notes!”. In that notebook, I have a note for each key aspect in my life that acts like an index to the related notes I need to access quickly.

    For example, I have a master reference note called “Ford Explorer”. In that note are links to all of the important notes I have in the Auto notebook related to the purchase and service of that vehicle. I list these links in reverse chronological order so that the most recent information is always at the top. The Ford master note looks something like this…

    SERVICE HISTORY
    2016-01-15 –
    2015-12-20 –
    2015-06-01 –
    :
    :
    2011-08-01 –

    REPLACEMENT PARTS

    Tire size: XXX/XXRXX

    INSURANCE INFORMATION

    VIN: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

    WARRANTY INFORMATION

    PURCHASE INFORMATION

    I may have 500 notes that are related to the Ford Explorer in Evernote, but only about 25-30 of them are important enough to make the master note.

    I have similar master notes for health information for each member of my family (including pets). These notes have dates and info or links to illnesses, prescriptions, vaccinations, doctors, insurance cards, and even X-rays.

    Reference notes are a great way to add chronology and context to the mass of information you have in Evernote.

  4. I’ve been using frequently used notes that link out to other detailed notes for a while now too… what I find disappointing (rather missing) from Evernote is that I can’t create a search link within a note. Such ability, I think, would be extremely useful in further organizing and keeping the chaos of thousands of notes under control. Anyone know how to create an embedded search link without it being an official feature?

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