Category Archives: software

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

Going Paperless 2.0: The Reboot

Last week, I did a Twitter poll to see if folks would be interested if I rebooted my Going Paperless series into a kind of 2.0 version. I’d revisit some old ground for newcomers, but forge ahead into new territory, talking about how I’ve changed my processes along the way, and describing new use cases I’ve found for Evernote and Going Paperless. The result was overwhelmingly positive.

Since then, I have been working on a plan to make this happen. I am still working out a schedule, and a list of post ideas to work off of, but it occurred to me that one possible topic of interest for folks sooner rather than later might be on how my mobile paperless office has changed.

Three years ago, I wrote a Going Paperless post which described the contents of my messenger bag. Essentially, it described my mobile paperless office. Lots of things have changed in three years, including what makes up my mobile paperless office.

So, later today, at about noon Eastern Standard Time, the first new Going Paperless 2.0 post will make its debut, describing what my mobile paperless office looks like today.

As I said, I don’t have a set schedule for the series as a whole yet, but I am working on it. In the meantime, I wanted to make at least one new post as a kind of thank you to everyone who responded positively to last week’s survey.

Stay-tuned later today for the new post.

Poll Results: Folks Would Like More Going Paperless Posts

The results of yesterday’s Twitter poll came in this morning. It would appear that folks are overwhelmingly in favor of more Going Paperless posts, and that makes me happy. The poll also got more responses than I imagined, and that makes me happy as well.

Going Paperless Poll Results

Next Steps

I need some time to figure out the best way to do these posts. Part of the reason I stopped the initial series was because I felt like I was beginning to cover ground I’d covered before. Part of the reason was that I felt like I’d run out of use cases to write about. I’d like to have a fairly good list of topics to cover in order to get started. I’ve got 2 right now, but I’d like to get a few more. If you have ideas or suggestions for topics you’d like to see me cover, drop them in the comments.

Also, there is some ground that I will need to cover again for two reasons:

  1. The way I do things may have changes (been refined with practice, I like to think.)
  2. Newcomers to the series of posts might need a more clear introduction.

So I have some things to consider, among them:

  • What to write about
  • How frequently to write
  • How much updating of old territory is necessary

Once I figure these things out, I’ll set a schedule and announce the new series so that folks can follow along, and participate. One thing that made the old series great was good participation and suggestions from readers. Everyone works a little bit differently and how I do things may not be how you do things, but we can learn from each other’s ideas.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the poll yesterday. Stay tuned for more on when you can expect to see the new series kick off.

Over on Twitter, A Poll About a (Possible) New 2.0 Version of My Going Paperless Series

Earlier today, I took advantage of Twitter’s new poll functionality to ask if folks would be interested in a new 2.0 version of my Going Paperless series. There’s about 15 hours left in the poll if you are interested in getting in your response.

Going Paperless: On the Qualities of Useful Paper

If Sherlock Holmes lived in a paperless world, he might have said,

When you have tried to eliminate all paper, whatever remains, however improbable, must be useful.

In the years that I have been on this journey to go paperless, I’ve found that there is some paper that, no matter how much I’d like to get rid of it, I still find useful. In the last year or so, two types of paper have managed to survive, and recently, I have given up trying to get rid of them. Like a virulent strain of bacteria, these have survived my attempt to banish them, only to come back stronger.

As I have often emphasized in these posts, going paperless is an ongoing and evolving process. I will never be completely paperless until the rest of the world is completely paperless–something I very much doubt I will see in my lifetime. Going paperless means process the paper I do get, and minimizing the paper I use, but there are still a few places where I find paper useful.

1. Moleskine notebooks

In the last few months my primary method for taking notes has reverted to paper. I use an Evernote Moleskine notebook to take notes in meetings, and on phone calls1. If I watch a video on YouTube, I’ll jot the notes down in my Moleskine. I’ve found a renewed fondness for scratching out the notes with a pen on paper, but it is not this fondness that drives my use of the notebook: it’s my memory.

A page from my Evernote Moleskine notebook

I have found that, as I’ve grown older, I remember things far better if I write them down as opposed to typing them out. I’d read articles that discussed how handwriting had good cognitive benefits, but until I tried it myself, I wasn’t convinced. Of course, it could entirely be a placebo effect, but I feel like I better remember my notes when I write them out in a notebook, than when I type them via a keyboard2 Actually, this makes sense. Back in college, I wrote all my notes for lectures and reading in a notebook, and on later typed them into Microsoft Word 5.5. for DOS3. I was younger, but writing the notes, followed by typing cemented them in my mind.

Getting my handwritten notes into Evernote

Just because I’m writing the notes in a notebook doesn’t mean they don’t find their way into Evernote. I use Evernote’s Scannable app on my iPhone to pull my handwritten notes into Evernote. Here is the same page of notes from above captured in Scannable:

Continue reading Going Paperless: On the Qualities of Useful Paper

  1. And because I will almost certainly be asked, I use a Pilot G-2 0.7 pen to write in my Moleskine
  2. Of course, this is me. Things might be wired differently for you.
  3. Still my favorite version of Word.

What I Do in My Day Job

When someone asks what I do in my day job, I have a brief, 3-word answer: “I make software.” I used to say that I was an “application developer” but that seemed unduly pretentious. I’ve never called myself a “software engineer” because I don’t have an engineering degree. I make software. I’ve been at my day job (yes, at the same company) for coming up on 21 years. For a lot of that time, I’ve been making software.

But what does that mean exactly? If you don’t make software it might not be obvious. Certainly you use software (you are using it to read this post). But what does it mean to make software? What goes into it?

There is an amazing post on Bloomberg today by Paul Ford called “What Is Code?” It is long. I mean, really long. About 38,000 words long. Which is the length of two novellas, or an (admittedly) short novel. But it is well written, engaging, interactive, funny, and best of all it answers the question “what does it mean to make software”? If you read the article, and come through on the other side, you’ll have a very good understand of what I do every day when I am making software.

More Updates to the Google Docs Writing Tracker

I recently pushed a new branch called “project-tracking” out to the Google Docs Writing Tracker on GitHub. This branch includes code for project-tracking that I wrote about a week ago. The changes have been working fine for me over the last 10 days or so. The one thing I haven’t done yet is update the template spreadsheet. The new code requires 2 new tabs in the spreadsheet, along with some additional settings. I’ll get to that eventually.

Meanwhile, I have been trying to figure out a way to simplify what happens each night the scripts do their processing. Right now, the scripts perform a comparison between the current working document, and a previous snapshot of the document in another folder. That snapshot mechanism takes up a lot of code, and is relatively inefficient. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about an alternative, and today, I tested that alternative out with positive results.

Every Google Document keeps a revision history of the changes to that document. Here is the revision history for a story that I worked on back in February:

Revision history

It turns out, that using the advanced Google Drive API, I can access the revisions through the API. Today I performed a test, which essentially compared the current document to the last revision of the previous day. That is essentially what the snapshot method that the script current uses does. But it does without needing to maintain two files. I can get all of the information I need from the previous revision. Ultimately, that simplifies the code for the scripts. It also simplifies setup.

There is a tradeoff, however.

You can only access the advanced Google Drive API via OAUTH2 authentication. That means configuring the scripts to be able to handle that authentication. It turned out to be a pretty straight-forward one-time setup for me, but I do this kind of thing for a living. For someone who isn’t technical, it may be a little tricker.

It will likely be a while before this major architectural change is available. There are several reasons for this:

  1. My priority each day is on getting my writing in. I do this scripting only if the writing is done, and I have time.
  2. If I were doing this just for me, it would be easy. The code I wrote today checks for the last revision from “yesterday” and compares that to the current document. Simple, right? But not everyone who uses these scripts writes every day. What happens if you skip some days. Then there is no revision from “yesterday” so the script has to know to look for the previous revision regardless of date. There are a few other uses cases that need to be considered as well.
  3. Once I have the code written, I like to test it for a few weeks before pushing it out, just so that I can work out any kinks.

That said, once this feature is in place, I think it will make for an enormous improvement. Since everything, including the revisions, is contained in the one document, there will no longer be a need to manage a snapshot folder at all, and all of that code can go away.

It also opens up the possibilities for analytics on the evolution of a document over time, which would be pretty cool, too.

Working on a new feature for the Google Docs Writing Tracker: Projects!

I have started work on a new feature for my Google Docs Writing Tracker: Project Tracking. My goal with this feature is to close the loop of manual tasks that I tend to perform around my writing process. These are are two-fold:

  1. Tracking the progress on writing projects
  2. Tracking the “ROI” on my writing projects

Right now, I’m focusing on just the first of the two. As a freelance writer, I am sometimes given a deadline for a project, and I sometimes have to set my own deadline. Either way, I spend some of my time informally tracking my progress. If I could automate that tracking, I could eliminate some manual work that I do, which frees up time to do more writing.

Yesterday, I created a new branch on the Google Docs Writing Tracker1 to focus on project tracking. I wanted to keep things fairly simple, because project tracking can quickly get out of hand, and become overly complex. There are currently 3 components to my project tracking system for the Google Docs Writing Tracker

1. Project documents

Some projects I work on involve just a few documents: one for the first draft, one for the second draft, and one for the final draft. They are still all part of the same project, and if I want to be able to track the progress across all three documents, I need a way of tying them together.

To keep things simple, I am currently using the Description field of a Google Docs document to embed project information. I have a simple JSON format that I am manually entering into any project-related document. Right now, it looks like this:

Google Docs Writing Tracker Project Info

The information in the project description field is simply a JSON string that identifies two values: the first is the project title the second is the draft. In this instance, I am treating the individual draft as an entire project itself, but the point is that any documents that share this tag will be associated with the project.

2. Project progress

I have added a “Progress” tab to my Writing Data spreadsheet. This tab contains records of the day-by-day progress on a project. I modified the Google Docs Writing Tracker code to check to see if a document is part of a project. If it is, its word count still counts as part of the overall for the day, but it is also logged individually on the Project progress tab, along with the project name, and how much time I spent working on the document.

Google Docs Writing Tracker project progress

This allows me to capture project progress at the daily transactional level, which will make it easy to build automated charts that show the overall progress and time-spent working on the project. The time comes from RescueTime data for documents that match the document name of the project in question.

3. Projects

Of course, I also need a way of capturing and defining what a project is. So I have added a “Projects” tab to the Writing Data spreadsheet that allows me to define projects and provides some simple, but useful tracking tools. You can see the four upcoming projects for my novel drafts entered on the project tab below.

Google Docs Writing Tracker Projects

The green items are the only items that need to be entered manually, and usually at the time the project is first created. Everything in yellow is captured automatically. Here is what is in this table:

  • Project #: a unique number identifying the project.
  • Project Name: the name of the project.
  • Start Date: the date on which the project will begin.
  • Deadline: the deadline assigned to the project.
  • Est. Words: the estimated word count of the project.
  • Est. Completion: an estimated completion date based on the current progress, the current date, the deadline, and you 30-day rolling word count average. This is calculated and updated automatically.
  • Status: the status of the project. Pending means it has not yet started. Active means it is active and in progress. Completed means that it is finished. Overdue means that it is not finished but past deadline. This is calculated and updated automatically.
  • Daily Goal: the average daily word count you need to hit in order to finish this project by the deadline. This is calculated and updated automatically.
  • Current Words: the current total word count of the project across all project documents. This is calculated and updated automatically.
  • Writing Progress: the current percentage of the way through the overall word count for the project. This is calculated and updated automatically.
  • Timeline Progress: the current percentage of the way through the project timeline. This is calculated and updated automatically.
  • Days off Schedule: this is a fairly sophisticated calculation that gives number of days off-schedule based on all of the available information. Ideally the number will be 0 or positive. 0 means your are on schedule to deliver on your deadline date. 1.5 would mean you are scheduled to deliver 1.5 days ahead of schedule. A negative number indicates behind schedule. So a -2 would indicated you are scheduled to deliver the project 2 days behind schedule. As with the other yellow cells, this is calculated and updated automatically.

Automation is key

Because I don’t want to spend time tracking this stuff manually, automation is key. So far, the only manual tasks I have to take are at the very beginning of the project:

  1. Adding the project JSON code to project documents.
  2. Adding a record for the project and filling in the green items on the Project tab

That’s it. Once that is done, the project is tracked automatically, just like everything else in the Google Docs Writing Tracker. I can spend my time writing, and then glance at the Project tab to get a quick status check on my progress. Eventually, I’ll add some visual project trackers as well to my site so that anyone can follow my progress on a given project.

Part 2: ROI tracking

I have not yet implemented part two of the project tracking, the part that closes the loop on the overall project. I’m still testing this stuff I’ve outlined above. Part 2 is really about tracking the return on investment in my writing. That is, I invest time (mostly) and when I sell something I get paid. Tying those payments back to a specific project can generate a useful metrics on the business side of writing, the part well all hate to deal with. Eventually, I should be able to see how much I am paid for the labor that goes into various projects.

Payment is not why I write–at least not right now since I am not making a living from my writing. But if I ever got to the point where I could make a living from my writing, then data like this could be useful in looking for ways to work more efficiently. Of course, I am looking for ways to automate this as well, so that all I am ever doing, when it comes to my avocation, is writing. The numbers just help to steer the ship.


I don’t yet know when I’ll have this branch checked into GitHub as it is still fresh and needs some testing on my end before I am comfortable putting it out there for others. Also, it requires an update to the underlying spreadsheet, and it is always a hassle to make a new version. But when I do get the new branch committed, I’ll let you know.

  1. I haven’t yet pushed the branch so don’t bother looking for it yet. I’ll you know when it is out there.

Going Paperless: Mobile Scanning with Evernote Scannable

I keep my eye out for apps that can help save me time and be more productive. So when Evernote recently released their new app, Scannable, I was eager to try it out. Not only was it designed to do one thing really well–namely, scan documents–but it filled a niche that I found I needed more and more in my efforts to go paperless.

For those who aren’t familiar with the app, Scannable uses the camera in your iPhone or iPad1 to scan documents into Evernote (or other apps). It makes it incredibly easy to do this. You simply start the app, hold the device over the document so that the entire document appears, and wait a few seconds while Scannable detects the edges, and snaps a photo. You don’t have to click button. Scannable does it all. It cleans up the image, makes sure the edges are straight, and then gives you the opportunity to send the document to Evernote or other applications.

How it works

First, you start the app. Then you hold your device over the document you want to scan, and wait a second or two. When the document is highlighted in blue, it means Scannable has detected it and automatically grabs the image. Note how the document below is highlighted and detected even on the edge of my table.

Scannable scanning

Once detected, you can continue to scan more documents, or deal with the ones you’ve already scanned.

Scannable action

When I finish my scanning, I send the document or documents to Evernote. Doing this, I am prompted for which notebook I want the documents to be filed in:

Scannable file

A few seconds later, my scanned document is available in Evernote.

Continue reading Going Paperless: Mobile Scanning with Evernote Scannable

  1. Sorry folks, right now the app is just iOS.

Going Paperless: Distraction-Free Evernote

Over the years, I have become a big-proponent of two aspects of software: (1) That it is entirely web-based; (2) that it is as distraction-free as possible.

The first item has been an interesting transition. I used to like the secure feeling I got using a piece of software I installed on my laptop. But now, the fact that I actually have to install something on my laptop in order to use it seems quaint. I have, for instance, been using Google Docs almost exclusively for all of my writing over the past 2 years, and I love that I don’t have to install anything. I love that the experience is the same regardless of what computer I am using. I love the that updates are automatic since the application runs in the cloud.

More recently, I have been looking for software that does a good job of getting out of my way. Eliminating distractions is a key part of this. Outside of email, the two applications I use most are Google Docs and Evernote. Google Docs has an excellent distraction-free mode. And recently, Evernote introduced a revamped web application that is distraction-free. I like it so much that I’ve almost given up the thick client for the web application.

Distraction-free Evernote

Here is what distraction-free Evernote looks like when I use it on the web:

Distraction-Free Evernote

I can just start typing my note, or drag a file onto the note if I want to attach something. Despite the clean, distraction-free screen, there is a still a lot of core functionality available when creating or editing a note.

Evernote Web Features

As I type, Evernote is saving what I type so that nothing is lost. You can see this at the bottom-right of the browser window. I green checkmark indicates that the document is saved. While typing, a circle rotates around the checkmark indicating that what you are typing is being saved.

And while there isn’t much else on the screen other than the note, there are still a rich set of features available. I can easily tag my notes, or refile them to another notebook. I can set reminders, or share the note, all from the simple screen.

Formatting the note

The distraction-free mode makes it easy to format the text of the note. If you hover over the small toolbar to the right of the note text, it expands into several icons that allows you to do some basic formatting like add lists, indent text, add a checkbox or a table, or even an attachment.

Evernote Format 1

Even better in my opinion, is the Medium-like feature that Evernote has introduced for formatting text fonts, and styles. You simply highlight the text that you want to format, and a popup format bar appears that lets you apply the formatting you want:

Evernote Format 2

Distraction-free searching

In addition to providing an elegant, distraction-free interface for capturing notes, the new Evernote for the web provides an equally elegant distraction-free interface for searching. Clicking on the search icon presents a simple search screen:

Continue reading Going Paperless: Distraction-Free Evernote

Going Paperless: Managing Social Media Profiles with Evernote and TextExpander

Once a year, I’ve gotten into the habit of reviewing and updating my social media profiles. You know, what I say about yourself on Twitter, or Facebook, or LinkedIn, and what I send to publications when they request biographies.

JTR Twitter

I generally only do this once a year, and I use 3 tools to manage the process:

  1. Evernote, where I store my profiles from year-to-year.
  2. TextExpander, in which I keep my updates profiles for easy insertion into email messages and other documents.
  3. The Press Kit page on my blog, where I made the profiles available to anyone who requires them.

The annual review of my social media profiles

I know that there are people out there who change their social media profiles frequently, but I strive for consistency of message. I also like to keep my profiles professional for the most part. So I review them once a year and decide what updates, if any, need to be made.

My profiles are easy to maintain because I use only 4 variants:

1. 140 character Twitter-specific profile

This profile is what I use for Twitter, and for any social media platforms based on Twitter which limit the profile to roughly 140 characters or so.

2. 140 character profile

This is a variant of #1 above, and allows me to have a very short profile available for outlets who request it.

3. 50 word profile

This is a profile I use when I have a little more space. I used this profile frequently when I wrote guest posts and a bio is requested to accompany the post.

4. 100 word profile

This is a profile I use for places that request a little bit more information, or want a little more background.

By maintaining just these profiles, I assure that the message I send out into the world about myself is consistent across the board.

I review these profiles at the end of each year, and I do it at the end because it provides a convenient marker for looking back at any new or significant accomplishments within the year that I might want to include in the profile.

I have written before about how I use Evernote to track my achievements. This comes in handy in updating my profiles each year.

Updating my profiles in Evernote

I update my profiles in Evernote, and rather than overwrite the old note containing the profile, I create a new note with the new profile, one for each of the four listed above. This allows me to see the overall history of changes I’ve made to my profiles over time.

I create one note for each profile, work out the kinks there, and use Evernote’s built-in character and word counts to make sure I’m sticking close to the lengths of each profile.

Profile Note

Once I am satisfied with the updates I’ve made to my profile, I copy the updates and paste them into the appropriate social media platforms.

Updating my snippets in TextExpander

One big time-saver I’ve found is to have my profiles and bios available as snippets in TextExpander. This allows two things:

  1. I can access them quickly, to reply to an email, or insert them in a web page, without having to hunt them down.
  2. I maintain consistency by not having to reinvent them each time I am asked for a profile or bio.

I use simple abbreviations for my snippets so that I don’t have to stretch my memory to recall them. Here is what the snippet for my 140 character (Twitter) bio looks like:

TextExpander bios

Updating my Press Kit page on the blog

The last step in the review process is updating my Press Kit page. I maintain this page as a place where media outlets and others can go to for accurate bios and author photos when needed for a publication or interview.

The Press Kit contains the most up-to-date profiles and bios that I have. Granted, I often only update my bios once a year, but as I try to keep them simple, the changes tend to be small and subtle

Having the information centralized and managed from Evernote is convenient because it makes it easy to search, and to see changes over time. Having the snippets in TextExpander probably save me more time than I imagine throughout the course of the year, especially as I am asked for these things with increasing frequency. Having them on the Press Kit page makes for a convenient self-service model.

Most importantly, for me, is the fact that the profiles vary in length, but not in message. They are consistent with one another, and that helps to ensure that I am sending out a consistent message for all of my profiles.

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: How I Use Evernote to Remind Me of Everything.

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Going Paperless: How I Use Evernote to Remind Me of Everything

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:

  1. Scan the document
  2. Organize it appropriately (put it in a notebook, and tag it, if necessary)
  3. 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.

Evernote Reminder

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:

  1. It saves me from having to remember to do the thing. Evernote will send me a reminder when it is due.
  2. 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:

Smoke Detector Reminder

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.

Smoke Detector

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.

Continue reading Going Paperless: How I Use Evernote to Remind Me of Everything