Category Archives: Evernote

Going Paperless 2.0: Searching in Evernote, Part 4 of 4: “Where?”

In last week’s post, I described how I take advantage of the native date searching capabilities in Evernote to quickly find notes and documents in a specific time frame, answering the “when?” question of searching. This week, in the final post for this mini-series, I take the “where?” question.

Location services

Evernote can automatically capture the location each note is created. This requires location services (on Apple devices) to be enabled. Without location services enabled, capturing location has to be done manually.

Notes on a map

If you’ve enabled location services, you can get a nice picture of where your notes were created by going to the Atlas view. On Windows machines, the Atlas view may not be visible on the sidebar by default. To make it visible, go to the View menu, click the Left Panel option, and made sure Show Atlas is checked.

By default, I can see a summary of places where I have created notes.

Evernote Atlas

I prefer to look at this on the full map, however. I can this by clicking “All Notes”. What I get is a map of the United States. Scattered across the map, you can see counts of notes that I’ve created in various places.

Evernote Atlas, US

This map is zoomable, and as I drill into different areas, you’ll see the counts split into more detailed representations of exactly where I was when the notes were created. For instance, back in 2013, I attended the Launchpad Astronomy Workshop for writers at the University of Wyoming, Laramie. Zooming into that part of the map, I see my notes break down as follows, across the campus:

Evernote Atlas, Wyoming

The note flags tell me how many notes where created in each location. Clicking on the flag and then clicking the View All Notes option takes me to a list of all of the notes created in that location:

Launchpad Notes

Descriptive searches

On Evernote for Mac, it is possible to search notes by place using “descriptive searches.” Descriptive searching is a way to do natural language searching, which gets translated into an Evernote-style search for you.

Once, while visiting Maine, I jotted down the name of a few plants that I wanted to remember to add some verisimilitude to a story that I was working on. Of course, once I returned home, I had difficulty finding the note because I couldn’t recall the name of the plants. So I used a descriptive search as follows:

plants in castine

Castine being the name of the town that I was in when I made the note. When I typed this search into Evernote’s search bar, it translated it into a descriptive search:

Descriptive Search

By clicking on the descriptive search option, I got a list of matching notes—which happened to be a single note, and the very note that I’d been looking for:

Descriptive matches

Practical vs. Fun

“Where” searches are probably the least practical searches that I do. While I occasionally search for something by location, I can usually find it through other means. For instance, I could have found the note on plants by searching for notes between the dates that I knew I was visiting Maine that summer. I would have had to scroll through a few more notes, but I would have found it.

Still, I think it is fun to browse notes in this fashion from time-to-time. Location gives notes an added dimension, beyond that of just the timeline that I normally think of when I think of how my notes are organized.

And there are a few practical uses. For instance, when I park my car in a parking garage at the airport, I will snap a photo into Evernote of the parking zone in which I am parked. Because I have location services turned on, I end up with the exact location I parked my car, making it easy to find when I return from my trip.

Going to a new restaurant, I’ll create a note with the name of the restaurant, and sometimes jot down what I ordered. With location services turned on, I get the exact location of the place so that if I need to remember where it was that I had lunch with an editor on the Riverwalk in San Antonio, I can locate the note and see where it is on a map.

But again, these tend to be less practical uses for me, and more fun.

Summing it up

When I search for things in Evernote, I tend to think of the “who”, “what”, “when”, and “where”? But these aren’t the only ways to search. Evernote has some powerful search capabilities that go far beyond the basics. I can search for notes by their content type, or by their input source. I can search for notes containing to-do items, or reminders. I can search for notes that I have shared.

When I scan documents, Evernote makes the contents of those documents searchable as well. It even does a pretty good job of making my handwritten notes searchable.

If you are interested in learning just how rich Evernote’s search capabilities are, I’d recommend checking out this document on Evernote’s search grammar. It goes into detail on all of the various ways you can search Evernote, including many that you were probably not even aware of.

If you have a suggestion for a future Going Paperless post, let me know. Send it to me at feedback [at] As always, this post and all of my Going Paperless posts is also available on Pinterest.

Last week’s post: Searching in Evernote, Part 3 of 4: “When?”

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Going Paperless 2.0: Searching in Evernote, Part 3 of 4: “When?”

In last week’s post, I described how I narrow down searches for specific types of things, like forms, statements, or receipts. This week I am going to address the “when?” question. How I search for things by date in Evernote.

Notes on a timeline

Every note that goes into Evernote gets a create date. The create date is assigned at the date and time at which the note is first created. If you create notes more or less in real time, then by sorting notes by create date, you get a kind of timeline of notes. I find this timeline concept useful because it crosses all boundaries: notebooks, tags, note types. If I look at all the notes I created on a particular day, I get a nice picture of what happened on that day.

This notion of notes as part of timeline encourages me to put things into Evernote in real time. For instance, if I make a phone call, I’ll create a note at the time I make the call. No need to jot down the date/time of the call in the note. It’s captured automatically as part of the note and becomes a part of the overall timeline.

Setting “Create Date” to match document date

Although Evernote sets the create date of a note to the date/time at which the note was added to Evernote, the create date is not written in stone. In the Windows and Mac clients, you can change the create date.

Changing a Create Date

Why would you ever want to change the create date of a note?

I do this all the time when entering scanning documents into Evernote. I do it so that the date of the note matches the date on the document. For instance, I might receive a letter in the mail dated August 3. By the time I receive the letter, it is August 10. After scanning it in, I change the Create Date of the note from August 10 to August 3, so that it matches the date on the letter, like this

Matching Dates

There are 3 reasons I do this:

  1. It keep my notion of a “timeline” consistent.
  2. It accurately reflects the information contained in the letter.
  3. It makes searching by date much, much easier.

Searching by date

Evernote has powerful date searching capabilities. It can search dates absolute dates, or relative dates.

Absolute date search

An absolute date search is one where you know the exact date you are looking for. For instance, if I wanted to find all the note created on March 27, 2015, I would run the following absolute date search in Evernote:

created:20150327 -created:20150328

The first criteria tells Evernote to search all notes created since 03/27/2015. The second criteria, the one with the -created, tells Evernote to limit the search to all notes created before 03/28/2015. In other words, the search returns just those notes created on March 27, 2015:

Absolute search

Absolute date searches are useful for when I am looking for something with a specific date. If I am talking to someone on the phone and they say, “It was referenced in the statement dated October 31, 2015,” I can run an absolute search to quickly narrow down what I am looking for.

Of course, it helps that I change the create date on scanned notes to reflect the date on the scanned item. If the statement was dated October 31, 2015, but I didn’t scan it in until November 5th, searching for October 31 won’t get me the note. Changing the create date, therefore, has become an important part of my scanning routine.

Relative date searches

Perhaps even more powerful than the absolute date search is the relative date search. This search allows you to find notes related to a specific date. The most common relative date search that I use is my “daily review” search, which looks like this:

any: created:day updated:day

“day” is a relative reference to “today.” The search is looking for any notes created since today, or updated today.” The “any” token tells the search to perform an “or” search (this or this) as opposed to an “and” search (this and this). The result of this search is all of the notes I created or updated “today”—that is, relative to whatever the current date happens to be. I run this search in the evenings to review my day.

Suppose, however, I wanted to do a weekly review? No problem. I would modify the search as follows:

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

This search says to look for any notes created or updated in the last 7 days. The results of such a search looks something like this:

EN Search When - 3

Relative date searches can produce some pretty cool results. Not long ago, another Evernote Ambassador, Seunghoon Park, asked if it was possible to show notes created a year ago today, or two years ago today. I replied with the following search:

created:day-365 -created:day-364

This tells Evernote to look for all notes created since 365 days ago (1 year) and created prior to 364 days ago. Since I am writing this post on February 22, 2016, the results would be all the notes created on February 22, 2015:

A year ago todayYou could store this search as a Saved Search in Evernote and on any given day, see what notes were created a year ago on that day.

Combining “when” with “who” and “what”

Generally speaking, I don’t have more than a dozen notes on a given day, but occasionally I do. Sometimes, I can’t remember exactly when a note was created, but I have general sense. In these cases, combining the various search tactics: who, what, and when, speed things up.

For instance, I can’t recall when exactly I received Kelly’s W-2 form, but I know it was in the last 2 months. I also know that I have received a lot of notes in the last 2 months (395 to be precise). Searching all of those would be too time consuming. So to find Kelly’s W-2, I ran the following search:

created:month-2 tag:taxes tag:kelly

The search is telling Evernote to look for all notes created in the last 2 months (the when) tagged “taxes” (the what) and tagged “kelly” (the who). That search resulted in a single match:

Combined search

Instead of spending minutes searching through a larger set, I found exactly what I was looking for on the first try with a relatively short search phrase.

Date searching in Evernote has proven very effective for me in answering the “when” questions. It certainly helps that I’ve taken the time to change the create dates of scanned documents to the date on the document so that my searches are more accurate. Relative searches are also useful in my daily reviews, or to find out what kinds of things were happening in my life a a month ago, or even a year ago.

Next week, I will wrap up this 4-part mini series with the final search question, “Where?” That post will focus on searching notes by the location in which they were created.

If you have a suggestion for a future Going Paperless post, let me know. Send it to me at feedback [at] As always, this post and all of my Going Paperless posts is also available on Pinterest.

Last week’s post: Searching in Evernote, Part 2 of 4: “What?”

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Going Paperless 2.0: Searching in Evernote, Part 2 of 4: “What?”

In last week’s post, I described how I search Evernote for things related to a particular person. I demonstrated how I answer the “who”? question. In this week’s post I am going to address the “what?” question, how I find a particular thing in Evernote based on what it is.

Types of notes in Evernote

Searching for things in Evernote over the years, I have found that I often know what type of thing I am looking for. Kelly might ask, “Do you have a copy of Zach’s school health enrollment form?” Or I might want to know where that recent letter from the Gas Company is. Experience has taught me that knowing the class of note I am looking for can really help speed up the search. I tend to focus on two broad classes of notes:

  1. Documents.
  2. Media.

Evernote has some nice built-in search capabilities for searching for multimedia documents. Using the “resource” keyword in a search makes it easy to find documents containing various multimedia. For instance, if I was searching for a note with an image file, I could type the following into the search bar:


This would return notes with any kind of image file. If I wanted a specific image type, I could search for:


This would return notes with PNG images. I could then combine this with other search terms. If I wanted to find notes containing pictures and related to me, I could search for:

resource:image/* tag:jamie

The resource can be any MIME-type, which allows you to find notes for things like sound files and movies, as well.

Identifying documents in Evernote

I think of documents as notes containing attachments that might once have found their way into a filing cabinet. Documents can be things I’ve scanned into Evernote, or things that a service like FileThis has automatically added to Evernote. I’ve found over time that documents fall into 11 categories:

  1. Artwork. My kids’ artwork from school.
  2. Bills. Various bills for things that aren’t paid automatically.
  3. Contracts. Mostly these pertain to my writing, but they can be contracts for anything.
  4. Documents. Legal documents and miscellaneous documents that aren’t captured by other categories.
  5. Forms. Things that have to be filled out.
  6. Invoices. I’ve considered consolidating Invoices and Bills into a single category, but have yet to get around to it.
  7. Letters. Personal letters as well as official correspondence.
  8. Manuals. Instructions and manuals for various things we own.
  9. Payments. Pay stubs and checks.
  10. Receipts. Receipts for things we’ve bought and paid for.
  11. Statements. Bank statements, utility statements, medical statements, etc.

To quickly find these types of documents, I’ve created a tag for each one of them. To make it easier to illustrate, I’ve moved all 11 of these tags into a tag called “.documents” so you can more readily see what they look like in Evernote:

EN document tags

Whenever I add a new document to Evernote, I quickly determine its type, and assign that tag (and possibly some others, like who it is for) to the note. For documents that I scan, I do this tagging as soon as I scan the document so that I don’t forget. If a document doesn’t fit one of the categories, it gets tagged as “document” which is my short hand for miscellaneous documents.

Searching for things in Evernote

Tagging notes with a document type makes it much easier for me to find what I am looking for. If I need to find the recall letter we received for the Kia, I’d do the following:

tag:letter tag:kia

That search is saying, “Show me all letters related to the Kia.”

Kia letter search

Note that I only got 2 results. The fact that the result list was so short is part of the beauty. While a less specific search might have resulted in more notes to wade through, this simple, but specific search resulted in an almost exact match on the first try.

I could have made the search even more specific by searching for:

tag:letter tag:kia recall

Adding the word “recall” eliminates one of the two resulting documents, and I now have an exact match.

Thinking about what the document that I am searching for is helps to narrow things down quite a bit. Compare the above search to a search for the tag “kia”:


Tag Kia

This search returns 40 notes. That is a lot of notes to wade through. Knowing that I was searching for a letter made it that much faster and more accurate.

Combining “what” searches with “who” searches

By combining search tactics, I can improve things even further. I use a “school” tag for school-related documents. So instead of just searching for forms, I can easily search for school-related forms. The same is true for taxes. I uses a “taxes” tag for anything tax-related. If I need to search for a tag form (as opposed to, say, a receipt) I can combine my tag search to include forms and taxes.

But sometimes that isn’t enough. Take school for example. If we go back to that example question I gave at the beginning, where Kelly asked, “Do you have a copy of Zach’s school health enrollment form?” I can run a quick search as follows:

tag:form tag:school tag:zach health

That search returns exactly one match (out of more than 12,000 notes), and it is the exact form that I was asked for. This really happened. Kelly asked if I had the form. I took about three seconds to type the above search into Evernote, get the match, and forward the resulting document to her.

“Yes, I’ve got it,” I said.

“Can you send it me?” Kelly asked.

“It’s already in your inbox,” I replied.

Not everyone uses the same tag structure, but I think that some form of tagging that allows you to capture the type of document you are putting into Evernote can help in the long run. In my experience, most “what” questions come down to what the document is in the first place: are you searching for a bill? A form? A letter? An invoice? Knowing what it eliminates a lot of other documents from the mix.

Knowing who, and what I am searching for are useful, but sometimes it helps to know when I got the thing. How many times have you been on a call when the person on the line says, “It is in the statement dated February 14, 2016.” Or, “I know we bought that TV in December, but I can’t find the receipt?”

Next week, in Part 3, I’ll discuss how I use Evernote’s dates and date searching capabilities to quickly answer the “when” questions.

If you have a suggestion for a future Going Paperless post, let me know. Send it to me at feedback [at] As always, this post and all of my Going Paperless posts is also available on Pinterest.

Last week’s post: Searching in Evernote, Part 1 of 2: “Who?”

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Twitter | Facebook | Google+ | Blog | PinterestReddit | MediumRSS

Or use one of the share buttons below. Thanks for reading!

Going Paperless 2.0: Searching in Evernote, Part 1 of 4: “Who”?

I get lots of questions about how I use Evernote. One of the more frequent questions I get is how to find things in Evernote. Over the years I have accumulated more than 12,000 notes in Evernote, and it is important that I can find any one of those notes quickly. Over the years, I have come up with a framework that makes it possible for me to find things quickly. Over the next four weeks, I’m going to share the framework with you.

My basic framework for searching in Evernote

Although it might be obvious now, it took me a while to figure out that the vast majority of my searches fell into one more of four categories:

  1. Who? I was searching for something related to a specific person.
  2. What? I was searching for a specific thing. A document, a form, a bill, a receipt.
  3. When? I was searching for something in a specific timeframe.
  4. Where? I was searching for something tied to a specific geographic location.

Once I figured this out, I began to alter how I used Evernote to make it easier to for me to quickly answer the “Who?”, “What?”, “When?”, and “Where?” search questions. In this week’s post, I will discuss how I answer the “Who?” question; how I search for things related to a specific person.

Next week, I’ll dive into the “what?” question; I’ll tackle the “When?” question in two weeks; and finally, I’ll address the “where?” question in three weeks.

Relating notes to people

One of the more common ways that I narrow down my search for a note is based on who the note is for. If our accountant says that she needs Kelly’s W-2 form for 2015, I could search for all of the notes tagged “taxes” and then scan through the resulting notes looking for Kelly’s W-2, but that would take a little while.

If, on the other hand, I could do a search that essentially asked, “give me all of the tax notes for Kelly” that would speed things up dramatically.

To answer the “Who?” question and related notes to people, I use tags.

Giving notes name tags

Each person that I need to be able to search for gets a name tag. Because I only need to search for a handful of people, I keep my tag grammar simple: “first name.” Thus, I have a tag for each member of the family, including myself. I also have tags for our pets.

In an organization where there are many people, I recommend using a slightly different version of this tag grammar, calling the tag “lastnamefirstname.” This way, when you look at the Tags page in Evernote, the names are sorted alphabetically by last name.

When I add note to Evernote, I ask myself if the note is related to a particular person, and if so, I tag the note with that person’s first name.

Searching for notes by name tags

With name tags in place, it makes it easy to find notes for a specific person. In fact, there are multiple ways to do this. I can go to the Tag page in Evernote and look for the person’s name in the alphabetical listing:

Evernote name tags

This has the added bonus of showing me how many tags are associated with that person. Clicking on the tag, I can go directly to a list of all the notes tagged for that person.

More often than not, however, I combine name tags with other search elements. For instance, if I wanted to search for all of Kelly’s receipts, I would type in the following in the search bar:

tag:receipt tag:kelly

Instead of just getting receipts, I get receipts that I specifically tagged with Kelly’s name:

EN Search Who 1

For me, a large portion of my searching involves searching for a document related to a person. Kelly might ask, “Do you have Zach’s latest report card?” I could search for the term “report card” and get lots of results, but instead of wading through all of them, I can make things a little easier by searching for

tag:zach report card

This gives me exactly what I am looking for:

Evernote Zach Report Card

More tips for searching by name tags

One my name tag structure was in place and I began using it regularly to relate notes to people, it became much easier to do a variety of searching.

Searching for notes related to one or more people

If I wanted to find notes that were related to me or to Kelly, I could do the following search:

any: tag:jamie tag:kelly

This shows notes that are tagged “jamie” or “kelly”. The “any:” at the beginning of the search make the search an OR search.

If I wanted to find notes that were related to me and Kelly, I could do the following:

tag:jamie tag:kelly

This would only return notes that had both of our names tags on them.

Saved searches

I can speed things up further by creating saved searches using name tag for frequently-searched for things. One example is a search for the kids’ school-related notes. Creating a saved search for each of the kids that returns their school-related notes makes it quick and easy to locate a school document. Since I also tag the kids’ school notes with the school name, it makes the saved searches easy:

For Zach: tag:zach tag:st-ann

For Grace: tag:grace tag:st-ann

I never realized how much I searched by people until I started giving notes name tags. Name tags has made searching much faster. Moreover, I am much more likely to find what I am looking for the first time around when I associate the note with a name tag.

Next week, I’ll discuss tips for searching for specific things: searches that answer the “What?” questions that I often ask.

If you have a suggestion for a future Going Paperless post, let me know. Send it to me at feedback [at] As always, this post and all of my Going Paperless posts is also available on Pinterest.

Last week’s post: Using Evernote to Track Library Book Due Dates.

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Recommending readers is one of the highest compliments you can pay to a writer. If you enjoy what you read here, or you find the posts useful, tell a friend! Find me online here:

Twitter | Facebook | Google+ | Blog | PinterestReddit | MediumRSS

Or use one of the share buttons below. Thanks for reading!

No Going Paperless Post This Week – Digging Out!

I have been busy digging out from the blizzard, and taking care of the kids while Kelly is under the weather, and haven’t had time to finish and post the latest Going Paperless post. And given that I have a pile of day job work, and the kids’ school still closed, and lots of cleanup still to do at home, I am going to have to punt on this week’s post. I’ll get the new post out next Tuesday.

Sorry for the hiccup in the schedule.

Going Paperless 2.0: Using Evernote to Track Library Book Due Dates

Some uses of Evernote are more humble than others. I was reminded of this over the weekend when Evernote reminded me that the Little Man’s library book was due on Tuesday.

I like keeping track of the books the kids check out from the library. I have my own list of books that I’ve read, but mine only goes back to my 20s, and I thought that one day, my kids might like to see the book they read when they were little. Here is how I keep track of them:

1. Snap a photo of the book into Evernote.

Sometimes I do this from within Evernote itself, other times, I just snap a photo from my phone camera and add it to the note in Evernote. It doesn’t have to be a high quality image.

Either way, I use the image to create a note in Evernote. I title the note with the title and author of the book.

2. Tag the note

One of the things for which I find tags particularly useful is associated a note with a family member. So I’ll tag the note with either my son’s name or my daughter’s name, depending on who checked out the book.

I also add a more general tag called “reading-list” so that I can easily call these notes out on a search. Here is what a typical note looks like:

Library book note

This was simple and straight-forward. If I wanted to find the list of books that they’d read, I could simply search for notes tagged with the name and “reading-list”, something like:

tag:reading-list tag:zach

Library book reminders

At some point, I realized that I could use Evernote’s reminder function to remind me to return the library books. On the notes in question, I’d set a reminder for a day or two before the books were due back at the library.

I use Sunrise Calendar because it takes calendars and reminders from many different sources and pulls them into a single calendar view. Sunrise Calendar can pull Evernote reminders onto the calendar, so that when I am looking at my calendar, I can see the reminders along with everything else. Between Evernote’s reminder, and seeing the reminder in Sunrise Calendar, I always know when to put the library books in my son’s or daughter’s backpack to take back to school.


When the kids come home with new books, the cycle starts over again.

The reminders have come in handy on a couple of occasions. And so has the list of books. The Little Man sometimes can’t remember which Magic Treehouse book he has or hasn’t read yet. We can pull up the list in Evernote the day before he goes to the library and review it so that he can pick out a new one.

And, of course, other books we read, besides library books, get added to the list as well, but the Evernote reminders are particularly handy for library book due dates.

If you have a suggestion for a future Going Paperless post, let me know. Send it to me at feedback [at] As always, this post and all of my Going Paperless posts is also available on Pinterest.

Last week’s post:Quickly Access Frequently-Used Information in Evernote.

Enjoy these posts? – Tell a friend

Recommending readers is one of the highest compliments you can pay to a writer. If you enjoy what you read here, or you find the posts useful, tell a friend! Find me online here:

Twitter | Facebook | Google+ | Blog | PinterestReddit | MediumRSS

Or use one of the share buttons below. Thanks for reading!

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.


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 —>

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] 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.

Going Paperless 2.0: Tracking Accomplishments in Evernote

At the beginning of each year, one of the things that I find useful is to create a new “accomplishments” file. This a place that I can track my achievements and successes for the forthcoming year. A few years back I wrote about how I tracked my achievements in Evernote, but things evolve, and how I track my accomplishments today is a little simpler, and a little more useful to me. Here is how I track my accomplishments today.

1. Create an “accomplishments” note in Evernote.

At the beginning of the year, I create a new “Accomplishments” note. This note goes into my Timeline notebook. Longtime readers know that I think of notes in Evernote as being on a timeline. Each note has a date and time. I used to track each achievement as a separate note, but over the years, I’ve found simpler to track them in a single note.

2. Use a numbered list with one item per achievement.

I use a numbered list within the note to document each achievement. I capture all types of accomplishments, some big, some small. What makes up an “accomplishment” varies from person-to-person. I’ve gotten a feel for it over time. I use the numbered list instead of bullets because I like seeing the numbers go up as I accomplish more stuff. When I hit 9, I always think, “Can I make it to 10?”

3. Date each item, and link it to a related note or website

I will append each accomplishment with a date, and sometimes, I’ll link the accomplishment to another note, or related web site. If I receive some kind of certification, I’ll scan the certificate into Evernote, and then link the accomplishment back to the note containing the certificate, thus connecting the accomplishment to the thing I accomplished in a direct way. Here is what my Accomplishments in 2016 note looks like right now. Keep in mind, it is still early in the year.

Accomplishments in 2016

The note text links to a blog post I wrote yesterday on my experience changing the flat tire.

4. Create a shortcut for the note

To make sure that I don’t have to go hunting for the note listing my accomplishments, I create a shortcut to the note so that it is easily accessible to me wherever I might be using Evernote. Here is what the shortcut looks like on my Mac client:

Accomplishments Shortcut

Here is what the shortcut looks like on my iPhone version of Evernote:

iPhone shortcuts for Evernote

5. Set a reminder to review my accomplishments at the end of the year

Toward the end of the year, I like taking some time to review what I accomplished. This helps me plan for what I’d like to do in the following year. To that end, I set a reminder on the Accomplishments note in Evernote in order to remind myself to review my accomplishments at the end of the year. I usually pick a date around mid-December—which happens to coincide with the start of our long annual vacation. In this way, I head on vacation with an idea of what I managed to accomplish that year, and I can spend some of my vacation thinking about what I’d like to accomplish in the year to come.

Accomplishments reminder

Reviewing the previous year’s accomplishments, and create a new note to track my accomplishments for the coming year always feels good. It also helps to remind me that accomplishment can be big things (like selling a story, or winning an award), and small things, like successfully changing a tire. Having the note in my shortcut list helps keep it in front of me, and reminds to jot down those things worthy of capturing.

I could see taking this a step further. You could create a note listing your goals for the year, and then tracking your accomplishments toward reaching those goals, and linking the two, either within the same note, or using note links in Evernote. I prefer to keep things simple. Some of things I accomplish in a year (like changing a tire) are completely unexpected and not tied to a particular goal.


If you have a suggestion for a future Going Paperless post, let me know. Send it to me at feedback [at] As always, this post and all of my Going Paperless posts is also available on Pinterest.

Last week’s post: 4 Tips for Getting Started in 2016

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Sponsors and Transparency

The official reboot of my Going Paperless series kicked off yesterday. I often mention or recommend different types of software and hardware products in these posts. Pushing a product or service without disclosing how one is compensated for such promotion is murky business at best. I prefer to be completely transparent. To that end, here are a few things to keep in mind when reading posts in which I mention or refer to various products that I use.

1. I don’t promote products that I have never used myself

I don’t believe in plugging things I have never used myself. If I mention it in a blog post I have used it, and usually in more than just a casual fashion. I probably get 2 or 3 requests a month to try out a product and promote it here on the blog. I routinely turn these down. I’d say that 8 out of 10 things I find useful are things I’ve stumbled across on my own. The other 2 out of 10 are things that readers have recommended to me. If I end up using something that a reader recommends, I’ll usually try to give that reader a shout-out.

2. I prefer to pay for the products and services I use myself

The vast majority of software, software services, and gadgets that I mention on the blog I have not only used myself, but paid for myself. When I find something useful, I pay for it. Buffer, Boomerang, CrashPlan, ThinkUp, GitHub, VaultPress are all examples services that I have recommended on the blog. I pay for all of these services. I prefer this because when I pay for something I feel like there is no conflict of interest whatsoever. I makes things easier.

3. I try to be completely transparent about compensation I do receive for products and services I mention

On a few rare occasions, I have been compensated for something I’ve written about, but I have also tried to mention that at some point along the way. As an Evernote ambassador, I don’t pay for my Evernote Business account, but am not otherwise compensated. And I was paying for an Evernote premium account before I ever became an ambassador.

Three-and-a-half years ago or so, Fujitsu reached out to ask if I wanted to try their Scansnap s1300i. They assured me there was no obligation to write a review. I accepted, and I did end up recommending the scanner—and still do. Three-and-a-half years later, it is still the only scanner I use, and it has worked flawlessly for me. Why wouldn’t I recommend it.

There have been two or three other things I have been given over the years. In these cases, after using them, I decided they didn’t work for me. They never made it into my regular workflow, and I never wrote about them.

At some point, when I have a little more time, I plan to put up a page on the blog that will list each time I’ve been compensated in some way for something I’ve mentioned on the blog. I can assure you that the list will be short—and obvious (like my Evernote Business account).

As I have said, the vast majority of what I use, I have paid for myself. I prefer it that way.

If there are any questions about this, drop them in the comments.

Going Paperless 2.0: 4 Tips for Getting Started in 2016

Welcome to Going Paperless 2.0

I wanted to preface this post with a brief note on the newly rebooted Going Paperless series. I started writing the original series in April 2012, and continued the series through more than 120 posts, concluding it in December 2014. I ended it because I had other time commitments, and I felt I’d covered everything I had to say about going paperless to that point. A year later, I’ve found new use cases to write about, and so I’ve rebooted the series.

For those new to the series, I take a “use case” approach to what I write. That is, I write about things that I do with Evernote and other tools to help me go paperless. While the use cases I write about work well for me, they don’t necessarily work well for everyone. This is to be expected as people work in different ways. One of the best parts of the original series was the discussions that took place around each new post. I hope that continues here.

I plan to broaden the scope somewhat in the 2.0 series. While Evernote forms the center of my paperless framework, there are other tools that I use in conjunction with Evernote. You’ll see more discussion of these tools over the next few months.

As always, if there are certain topics you’d like me to cover, shoot me an email at feedback at jamietoddrubin dot com. I can’t promise to cover every suggestion, but I will do my best to touch on some of them.

Welcome to the new series, and thanks for reading!

— Jamie Todd Rubin

New Year’s is just a few days away, and with the new year comes resolutions. With that in mind, I thought I would kick of the rebooted Going Paperless series with a post on Going Paperless in 2016. If anyone has been thinking about going paperless, here are 4 tips for getting started.

1. Remember, you are going paperless

I call the process going paperless because, for me, it is an ongoing process. I have never been entirely paperless, nor is it really a goal of mine to be entirely paperless. Two things stand in the way:

  1. While I might go paperless, the rest of the world still uses paper. Paper comes into my life through the mail, at work, from stores, and other services. I need ways of dealing that paper.
  2. I have found that some things are just easier with paper. I use a Field Notes notebook to jot down reminders to myself because I remember them better if I write them than if I type them.

Going paperless means eliminating all unnecessary paper from my life to streamline things. It is an ongoing process for which I am always look for ways to improve.

2. The basic toolkit

It doesn’t take much to get started. If I were starting today, I’d want 3 tools in my toolkit:

1. Evernote. Evernote acts as my digital filing cabinet. Any significant paper I get finds its way into Evernote. It also serves as the hub for much of the automation that I’ve built up around going paperless. While I have an Evernote Business account, Evernote provides a free version that you can use to get a feel for how it works. It’s flexibility is among its best features. It is also available across multiple desktop and mobile platforms. And its cloud storage means that I can access my stuff from anywhere.

2. A scanner. A scanner is what you’ll use to convert physical paper into digital documents. I’ve been using the same desktop scanner for over three years now: a Fujitsu Scansnap s1300i. For those in the market for a scanner and looking for some guidance, I recommend looking for a scanner that meets the following 3 requirements:

  1. The ability to scan both sides of a page in a single pass. This will save a lot of time.
  2. A sheet feeder that will allow you to scan multiple pages.
  3. The ability to scan directly into your digital filing system. In my case, this would be Evernote.
Paper Stack
Paper I eventually scanned from the filing cabinet.

While a physical scanner makes things easier, it is not required to get started. The Evernote mobile app has the ability to take photos of documents. Evernote’s Scannable app does this as well, and can save a few steps along the way.

3. A staple remover. I can’t tell you how much stapled paper I’ve gotten over the years. A staple remover has saved me a lot of time when I go to scan documents.

3. Start with new paper

When I started going paperless, I made the deliberate decision to begin with new paper only. It was years before I decided to go to my filing cabinet and begin scanning old paper. I had 2 reasons for this:

1. By focusing on new paper, I kept the scope of the effort manageable. I’ve found that I can tend to bite off more than I can chew, and going paperless can be a very big effort if you allow it to be. I was curious to figure my on process, and I used new paper coming into my life as way to experiment. It allowed to see if going paperless would work for me.

2. I did not want to spend time scanning paper I never look at. As it happened, I almost never go back to look at something I’d filed in the filing cabinet.  If I am not going use it, then why scan it in? This worked to my advantage because I discovered that about 95% of what I had in my filing cabinet, I never needed to look at. Eventually, I did go back and scan some old stuff in when I moved my home office, but even then, it turned out to be a fraction of what I’d had. The rest of it I was able to get rid of.

4. Don’t worry about structure; it will evolve over time.

A lot of discussion around systems like Evernote focus on the best way to organize your notes. How do you tag them? How do you structure your notebooks? Let me suggest that when you are starting out, you don’t need to worry about this on day one. Evernote’s search capability is so good that I can generally find anything I am looking for in a few seconds even without using tags or knowing what notebook I filed the note in. Tags and notebooks structures are important, but for me, it was better to spend time figuring out how I would use Evernote in practice before I began figuring out the structure of how I’d organize things.

Remember that is an ongoing process, keep it simple to begin with, and get a feel for how it works for you. And if you have any questions about getting started, drop them into the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.

If you have a suggestion for a future Going Paperless post, let me know. Send it to me at feedback [at] As always, this post and all of my Going Paperless posts is also available on Pinterest.

Enjoy these posts? – Tell a friend

Recommending readers is one of the highest compliments you can pay to a writer. If you enjoy what you read here, or you find the posts useful, tell a friend! Find me online here:

Twitter | Facebook | Google+ | Blog | PinterestReddit | MediumRSS

Or use one of the share buttons below. Thanks for reading!

Schedule for the Rebooted Going Paperless Series

I have a tentative schedule for the rebooted Going Paperless series. Like the original series, I plan to do a weekly post. The regularly scheduled series will begin on Tuesday, December 29. Every Tuesday thereafter, a new Going Paperless post should appear. So far, I have the first half dozen posts planned out, which would take us through early February. I’m sure I’ll come up with more as time goes on. Of course, I am also open to suggestions.

The first regular post on December 29 will be a simple tips for folks who want to get started going paperless in 2016. So if you are interested in getting started, look for that post at the end of the year.

There may be weeks that I have to skip due to other deadlines, but I am trying to minimize those by writing as many of the posts I can well ahead of time. This is different from my approach in the original series, when I was essentially writing the posts in real-time.

In addition to being available here, the new Going Paperless posts will also be available on Medium, for folks who prefer to read things over there. And of course I will announce each new post on Twitter, and other social media.

Going Paperless 2.0: My Mobile Paperless Office, November 2015 Edition

Back in December 2012, I wrote a Going Paperless post that described my mobile, paperless office. A lot can change in three years, especially when it comes to technology. I wanted to use this inaugural post of the rebooted Going Paperless series to describe my mobile paperless office today. Here it what my mobile paperless office looks like:

My mobile paperless office, November 2015
Click to enlarge

Starting in the center and working around clockwise, here is a description of what makes up my mobile paperless office:

1. My MacBook Air

I got my MacBook Air about 15 months ago, and it pretty much goes with me wherever I go. For a while I was using a Google Chromebook, and that worked surprising well, but there were some tools I wanted with me that I couldn’t use on a Chromebook. (Mostly developer tools like Mathematica, for instance).

I write on my MacBook, of course. And I have Evernote and Skitch available there so I can quickly refer to anything in my Evernote inventory. But I do other things on my MacBook. I write code, I edit photos, and occasionally, I even play games.

I like the MacBook Air because of its long battery life, and relatively low weight and profile. It is easy to lug around in my backpack.

2. Moleskine Notebook, Evernote Edition

Perhaps one of the biggest changes in my mobile office in the last 3 years is the addition of paper. I have been using an Evernote Moleskine notebook for about 5 months now, and I find it incredibly helpful.

It might seem counterintuitive to add paper to a paperless system. But I call my process going paperless because it is an ongoing and evolving process. Two steps forward, one step back. Except, I don’t think of the addition of my Moleskine notebook as a step backward. I switched to it for one primary reason: I found that when taking notes, I remember things much better if I write it out as opposed to typing it out. Perhaps this is a change that has come with age. My memory just isn’t what it used to be.

It has had a few positive side-effects, one of which is that I tend to capture more in real time than I did when I tried to keep notes directly in Evernote on my iPad or iPhone.

And of course, all of these notes find their way into Evernote. I use the Scannable App to take snapshots of the pages, which then get loaded into Evernote. What’s more, my handwriting is clear enough that the text in most of handwritten notes is searchable within Evernote, making it easy to find things that I have written down.

3. Pilot G2 Pens (0.7 mm, Black Ink)

I’ve found this particular pen to be the best one to use with my Moleskine notebook. Everyone has their own favorite in this respect, and like organizing notes in Evernote, you have to do what works best for you. In my case, after trying out a few different types of pens, I settled on these as the best.

I’ve used up nearly two pens in the 5 months that I have been using my Moleskine notebook, and so I’ve taken to keeping spare pens in my backpack, in case one should go dry in the middle of what I am writing.

4. Karma Go WiFi Hotspot

Over the years, it has been rare when I have not had access to the Internet from wherever I may be. Sometime I have to pay for it, and when I saw what Karma was doing with their new WiFi hotspot device, the Karma Go, I jumped on the chance to get one. I have been very happy with my device so far. It is a pay-as-you-go device, and you are credited with data when other Karma users connect to your device–so there is a kind of pay-it-forward mentality to using it.

It has already come in handy on several occasions, most notably when I was working from home one day and we had a rare day-long cable/internet outage. I fired up the Karma Go, and was able to continue to work, and at high-enough speeds that I really didn’t notice a difference.

The Karma device had come in handy also when I am out somewhere with my laptop and need WiFi. Sitting at the park, watching my kids play, I can fire up the Karma Go and have the access I need to get some writing or other work done.

Continue reading Going Paperless 2.0: My Mobile Paperless Office, November 2015 Edition