Going Paperless Quick Tip: See Evernote Reminders in a Calendar with Sunrise

I have been using the Sunrise calendar app for a few years now, and recently, they introduced a new feature that greatly expands the applications with which Sunrise integrates. Previously, I’d used Sunrise to view my Google Calendars, as well as Facebook calendars, the latter mostly to see birthdays or events.

In it’s most recent release, Sunrise now allows you to integrate other applications, including Evernote, so that you can see all of your calendars and Evernote reminders in one place. I love being able to see my Evernote reminders on a calendar. Here is what it looks like on my iPhone:

Sunrise iPhone

In the above image, you can see that I have items from my Google Calendar (“Vacation in Maine”) as well as reminders from Evernote (“Changed filter in water”). There is a web-based desktop version that you can use on your laptop or desktop machine, and that version looks like this:

Sunrise Desktop
Click to enlarge

I used to use Sunrise exclusively on my iPhone, but since the latest version, I’ve replaced my desktop-based Google calendar with Sunrise because it is so convenient to have all of my calendar’s in one place.

Sunrise is easy to setup with other services. You simply add an account in the Add Account section, select the services that you want to add, and follow the instructions to integrate with those services. Folks who use tools like Asana (for to-do lists) or GitHub (for coding) will be pleased to see you can integrate calendars from those services as well.

Sunrise Add Account

The integration with Evernote has been particularly useful because I use Evernote reminders for more and more things, from keeping track of when freelance contracts expire, to reminding me when to change the water filter, or register the car. Now I can see these things all in one unified calendar, and that saves me time and frustration. And best of all, it lets me see the big picture all in one place.

And for those wondering, Sunrise is available for the desktop (via a browser), iPhone, iPad, and Android.

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: 10 Ways My Use of Evernote Has Evolved Over Time.

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A Quick Programming Note

Being on vacation, I got a little behind on things yesterday, and this morning, we are heading off to Acadia National Park. Bottom line is that this week’s Going Paperless post will come out tomorrow (Wednesday), instead of today. Sorry for the last-minute change. But, you know, vacation.

My Makeshift Writing Space This Week

I posted a similar picture on Twitter a little while ago, but I figured I’d share it here as well. This is another view of my makeshift writing space for this week. When you look at this picture, keep in mind that rumor that the writer’s life is a lonely, angst-ridden one where every word on the page is difficult, and finding inspiration is nearly impossible. We cultivate these myths carefully, and so far as you are concerned, they are absolutely true. You never heard any different from me.

Writing Space

A Week in Maine

As we’ve done each 4th of July week for the last several years, we are spending the week up in a small coastal town in Maine. I have cousins who live up here, and who have a wonderful cottage across the dooryard from their house, and we stay in the cottage. It is perfect for the four of us.

We arrived here yesterday, after a 7-1/2 hour drive from Saratoga Springs, NY. We barbecued for dinner, and spent time catching up with my cousins. It was very nice.

I slept really well last night, despite the fact that the Little Miss wandered into our room several times to tell us how dark and quiet it was. It is dark and quiet here. We are right on the water. We had the windows open and the air was just perfect for a good night’s sleep. The only sound was the occasional gentle splash of water in the distance, or the croak of a frog from the pond behind the cottage. Those frogs can go all night long, but it is a pleasant sound to fall asleep to.

We are usually early risers, regardless of the day of the week, or vacation. The kids have us up at 6:30 am at the latest. But not today. We slept in until 7:30 am. I think we all needed it.

Our week up here is off to a very pleasant start. Blogging may be a little more intermittent than usual because I am, after all, on vacation. That said, I have been writing every day, and as of this morning my streak stands at 343 consecutive days, and 486 out of the last 488 days. Indeed, I’m hoping to do a little more than my usual writing while I’m up here.

Congress Park, Saratoga Springs

Congress Park
Congress Park, Saratoga Springs, NY
We began the first leg of our annual summer trek up to Maine withe a drive from our house in northern Virginia to Saratoga Springs. We’ve generally been very lucky with this drive. We’ve made it to just across the New York border in Rockland County in just over 4 hours in the past. Yesterday, was not our lucky day as far as traffic was concerned.

We decided to leave at 11 am to try to push through Newark, NJ before rush hour. I  think everyone else in the D.C. area had the same idea. As soon as we slid onto the Beltway, we were mired in traffic. That didn’t last too long. The next batch of traffic we hit was in Delaware, not uncommon, but we usually miss it. We hit the really whopper of traffic somewhere around Exit 7 or Exit 8 on the New Jersey Turnpike. Over the course of an hour, I think we made it 17 miles. When we turned onto the Garden State Parkway, things were clear for a while, and then, right around Newark, rush hour was in full force and slowed us down once again.

We stopped for dinner near my old stomping ground in Spring Valley, NY. The last leg of the drive, to Saratoga Springs, was traffic-free. That said, we didn’t arrive at our hotel until almost 9:30 pm. Considering that we left at 11 am, that was a lot of traffic. Without traffic, that trip can be done 3 hours faster.

We spent today with old friends in Saratoga Springs, walking around Congress Park, eating lunch at the Circus Cafe, visiting the Children’s Museum, and finally capping things off with some hard-earned Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. I’ve known my friend for 27 years. We went to high school together, and it was fun to watch our own kids play together.

Tomorrow, we leave early (as in between 6 and 7 am) for Maine, where we will be staying though the Fourth of July. The GPS wants to take us down to the Mass Pike, but I managed to wrangle it into taking us through some smaller roads in southern Vermont and New Hampshire so that we can cover territory the kids have never been through before. I can’t imagine the traffic on those roads will be anything like we encountered yesterday on the interstates.

How Writing Has Affected My Blogging

I‘ve noticed that I haven’t been blogging quite as consistently as I used to. I used to get in at least one point every day. Now, I sometimes go 2 days without a post (although that is still pretty rare). This has been more obvious these last few months as my fiction and nonfiction writing has picked up, so I decided to take a look at the data. Here is what my total monthly writing word counts look like, broken down between writing (fiction and nonfiction) and blogging from March 2013 through last week.

Total Monthly Writing

For a while, it seemed that my writing and blogging were somewhat even, especially early on. There were months when one would take over the other, but the totals were fairly consistent. Until May 2014. Beginning May of this year, my writing shot up, and my blogging went way down. If you look at my blogging as a percentage of my total writing over time, here is what it looks like:

Blogging Percentage

That is a pretty major drop off over the last two months. I haven’t done correlations on the two datasets yet, but intuitively, it looks to me as thought I tend to blog a lot less on days where I write 1,000 words or more. In the last few months, 1,000+ word days have become the rule, rather than the exception, which would help to bolster this theory.

I’ll be on vacation for the next week, and may have the time to strike a better balance between these two writing activities. We’ll see what happens.

A Selfie In Miletus, July 2007 #TBT

I thought I’d go international for Throwback Thursday today, and take you to the ruins of the ancient theater in Miletus, Turkey, where I took a selfie in the 105 ºF heat, in the days before selfies were called selfies.

Miletus Selfie

If you want the full story of that day, you can check out the post I wrote while I was there. (I have been blogging for a long time, folks.)

Q: Do Second Drafts Count As New Writing? A: For Me, They Do

One of the questions that came out of my article in The Daily Beast yesterday was whether or not I counted re-writing in my word counts. It is a good question, to say nothing of a natural one, when you see numbers like 400,000 words in a year.

The short answer is, yes, I do count rewriting in my word counts. I have scripts (above and beyond those I’ve made available on GitHub) that compare what I write each day to the previous day, and mark the differences in Evernote. Here’s a portion of what one such day’s effort might look like:

Big Al Excerpt

The stuff in red are words I’ve removed from the previous day. The stuff in green are words I’ve added. There is occasionally yellow text which is a change.

The important thing to know about my process is that my first and second drafts are complete rewrites. In the first draft, I tell myself the story. In the second draft, now that I know the story, I tell it to an audience. First and second drafts often look completely different, and in most cases, this is new writing to me.

Another thing to keep in mind is that I sometimes write something that I don’t keep in the story. I may try writing a scene in two or three different ways, and keep only one of them. But all three attempts are counted in my daily word counts because they represent writing I do. Not counting them would be like not counting pitches that weren’t in the strike zone, even though the pitcher is still throwing them.

For those interested in my process in detail, check out this post I wrote back in February called “Evolution of a Story from Idea to Publication: A Behind the Scenes Look.” In it, I use an example of a story I wrote late last year and sold early this year. I show the numbers for each draft, and I think by reading it, you’ll get a better idea of my process and why I count all of the words, even the “rewriting.”


The Student Pilot’s Flight Manual

Student Pilot's Flight Manual

In the category of Books That Have Made an Impact on Me, there is one that I always seem to forget, although it’s impact has been profound: The Student Pilot’s Flight Manual by William Kershner.

I first encountered this book (with the cover seen above) in 1980 or 1981 when I was 8 or 9 years old. My dad was taking ground school at T. F. Green airport in Warwick, Rhode Island. The book was sitting around, I guess, or maybe he gave it to me to look at. The result was astounding. The minute I began flipping through its pages, I knew I wanted to fly.

I believe it is the first book I ever memorized from cover-to-cover. Much of it I didn’t understand, despite having memorized it, but a lot of I did. For one thing, the book taught me that flying a plane was not as simple as driving a car. For another, it taught that in many ways it was far simpler. I could draw the control panel of a Cessna 152 from memory, thanks to that book. I would draw them and pretend I was flying. A few years later, when the first version of Microsoft Flight Simulator went on the market, I began pretending on those as well.

When I was 15 years old, my cousin, a pilot, took me up in his Cessna 182. We flew over parts of New Hampshire, and he let me at the controls. That just confirmed what the book told me when I picked it up. I was supposed to fly.

In 1999, I began taking flying lessons out of Van Nuys airport in Van Nuys, California. On April 3, 2000, I passed my practical examination (on the first try!) and was a licensed private pilot. I don’t think we used Kershner’s book in the ground instruction I took for my license. There was some other book. But I still had Kershner’s book, tattered though it was, and I read and re-read it. I had about a year and a half of flying before 9/11 made it difficult and expensive for fair weather pilots like me.

I haven’t thought of The Student Pilot’s Flight Manual in years, and I’m not sure why I thought of it recently, but I’m glad that I did. I think it is the perfect demonstration of the power of books. Give a kid the right book when he’s 8 years old, and 19 years later, he’s achieved one of his dreams.

Going Paperless: 10 Ways My Use of Evernote Has Evolved Over Time

I was looking through the list of my Going Paperless posts the other day and realized that I’ve now been writing this column for over two years. In that time the way I use Evernote to go paperless has evolved, and while some of the earlier posts I wrote are still useful, they don’t always reflect how I do things today. So I thought I’d use today’s column to describe some of the ways my use of Evernote to go paperless has evolved over the years.

In most of the cases below, I’ve either learned better ways to do things, or found more comfortable ways to do things. Comfort is important because I find that if I am not comfortable with a tool or a service, I tend to shy away from it. These are listed in no particular order, mostly just as they occurred to me as I reviewed the old posts.

1. I’ve switched from Evernote Premium to Evernote Business

I switched from Evernote Premium to Evernote Business a few months ago. I had 3 main reasons for doing this:

  1. All of the Evernote Ambassadors were switching, in order to be able to take advantage of the collaborative features in Evernote Business.
  2. On a couple of occasions, I found myself getting close to the monthly upload limits in Evernote, even as a premium user. Evernote Business doubled those limits from 1 GB/month to 2 GB/month.
  3. I find it to be more and more helpful in my freelance work.

2. My Process for going paperless in 5 minutes per day

One of the first posts I ever wrote for this column was on my process for going paperless in 10 minutes/day. More than two years later, that has dropped to about 5 minutes/day. Actually, even 5 minutes is a bit of an illusion. On any given day, I rarely have to scan anything in, which is what took most of the time two years ago. That said, I have added new steps, like my Daily Review, in which I look at all of the notes created that day, and make sure they are properly filed and addressed. That adds a little time.

These day, however, the vast majority of notes that get into my Evernote account get there automatically. Let me illustrate with two days worth of notes. A recent weekday, and a recent weekend.

A typical weekday in Evernote

Evernote Weekday

I have annotated the above screen capture of my notes from yesterday. I created 11 notes in Evernote yesterday. Of those 11 notes 8 went into Evernote automatically, without any action on my part. The notes with pink labels beside them are automated. The notes with blue labels beside them are manually entered by me.

The three notes that I manually entered included the recent issue of Scientific American (I have a digital subscription and keep all of the PDFs in Evernote), a screen capture that I annotated in Skitch, and a note for an idea for a going paperless column.

The rest of the notes were automatic, and came into Evernote via other services. Those notes categorized as “Blog”, “Travel”, “Exercise”, and “Receipt” all came into Evernote through some IFTTT recipe or other. The note marked as writing was sent to Evernote by a custom script I’ve written that sends me a summary each day of my writing.

A typical weekend in Evernote

Evernote Weekend

On the weekend day, of the 13 notes that got into Evernote, all but one was created automatically. The only manual note I created on Saturday was the book recommendation.

This illustrates just how much information I get into Evernote without requiring any action on my part. And it should help to explain why my process for going paperless is down to 5 minutes per day, despite adding in a daily review.


3. Lately, I’ve been using the Evernote Smart Moleskine Notebook

This is one of the “comfort” changes. I know a lot of people who use the Evernote Smart Moleskine notebook and I just got curious about it, so I picked one up without any real thought of how I–the paperless guy–might use it. Turns out, I kind of like it. More and more I’ve been feeling the need to disconnect a bit each day. I do this in part through daily walks, but sometimes, I need to be away from my computer and phone. I still need to write and I still get ideas, so I’ve started using the Smart Notebook as a way to disconnect and still write or jot down ideas. It’s nice because I can use the document camera to snap a picture of my pages and get them into Evernote once I am ready to reconnect. For instance, last night, as I was thinking about this post, I jotted down the list of topics I wanted to cover and then snapped a photo of the page in Evernote:

Evernote Smart Note

Also, while I prefer writing at the keyboard, there is something to be said for scratching out the words in a notebook. Especially when I know that it will be easy to capture those words in Evernote.

4. More frequent use of the Drafts app in iOS for getting notes into Evernote quickly

That said, I still find myself using the Drafts app for iOS to quickly get notes into Evernote throughout the day. These are typically not the kind of notes I’d whip out the Moleskine for. I have several automations set up in Drafts so that I can easily capture story ideas, article ideas, and append to notes for my work-in-progress. The Drafts app allows me to just jot the note and click a button. It does the filing, tagging, and date stamping for me. I can do it easily when I’m on my daily walks, and that tends to be when I use the app most frequently.

5. More use of the Document Camera feature for capturing documents away from the office

These days, if I am out and someone hands me a piece of paper, I use Evernote’s document camera to capture it, and then hand the paper back so that it can be reused, or recycled. I don’t need to carry it around only to toss it or recycle it myself. So, for example, on Sunday, when I took my son to his newest swim lesson class, a staff person gave me a handout while I sat in the bleachers watching the action. I pulled out my phone, opened up Evernote, snapped images of the handout with the Document Camera, and then returned the handout so that someone else could have it.

Document Camera

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My New Column on Quantified Self at The Daily Beast

Yesterday, on Twitter, I promised some exciting writing news:

This morning, I am delighted to tell you that I have a new column at The Daily Beast which debuted early this morning. My column, currently biweekly centers around “quantified self.” For those not familiar with the term, think: FitBits, JawBones, food trackers, calorie counters, and all of the other ways that we track things about ourselves to learn and improve.

My first column, “How I Wrote 400K Words in a Year” focuses on how I’ve used data to improve as a writer, and offers tips for others who might want to do the same.

It was pretty cool waking up this morning to find my article featured on the Daily Beast‘s home page:

Daily Beast Home

This column marks another step in my writing career, an outlet for writing a column on how we can use data to improve, in front of what has to be the largest audience I’ve had thus far. I am grateful to Tessa Miller, my editor at The Daily Beast (and who I’d previously worked with over at LifeHacker) for giving me this opportunity, and providing helpful tips on my first article.

So, if you have some time today, head on over to The Daily Beast and check out my column. And by all means, let me know what you think.


An Excerpt From “Conversations at Our Dinner Table,” Ep. 1

Toward the end of our pasta dinner this evening, the Little Man looked at the kitchen table before and pointed to something.

“What’s this, Daddy?” he said.

I looked at it. “Looks like a stain in the wood.”

“No, because feel it.”

I felt it. “Maybe it’s a stain from food. Probably maple syrup from one of your waffles, don’t you think?”

“No!” the Little Man said, “It can’t be from one of my waffles, Daddy. I never eat my waffles at the kitchen table.”

I thought about how he sat in the rocker in our bedroom in the mornings, eating waffles while he watched Disney Junior and could offer no response because his statement was unanswerable. He was absolutely right.