I’ve been using Evernote to go paperless. It’s a major project, but also satisfying to scan those papers then dump them.
Thanks to a tip from Daniel Gold who wrote a guide on how to use Evernote to GTD (Get Things Done), I’ve been using tags more and Notebooks less. Notebooks tend to cordon things off. They’re like folders. But with tags you can scatter stuff around in different notebooks/folders and not worry that it won’t be visible when you need it because it will pop up when you do a tag search.
I use Outlook for email. It’s not ideal: it’s slow to boot up or load or whatever you call it (I’m using Outlook 2010), and I still haven’t figured out how the 2010 version works. It contains an Evernote link right there in the toolbar which is neat, although come to think of it, I never use it: I just right-click and choose “send to Evernote” from the pop-up menu like I always do (it doesn’t work in Adobe pdf files, tho – to get a pdf into Evernote using Windows you need to close the file and drag the name of the document into a new Evernote note).
I haven’t customised Outlook yet, so it’s just got the standard inbox and a few archive-type folders I created to save stuff I want to keep for a while.
Wouldn’t it be more convenient if Outlook’s folder stucture matched my Evernote structure? I waste time dithering over where to save an email, and usually end up leaving it in the inbox – the kiss of death to email efficiency.
A quick search on the web brought up a number of “GTD for Outlook” sites (there’s a pdf and now an Outlook plug-in apparently that you can buy from Dave Allen’s GTD website). Here’re a couple that I found helpful:
One reason why going paperless is a major project is that thinking is involved (“Most people would rather die than think. In fact, they do so.” – Bertrand Russell). For example, looking at the OneNote organization of folders above, do I want my “Someday/Maybe” stuff in a separate folder/Notebook, or just tagged (as I’ve been doing up to now)? What’s the difference?
The difference is in what I’m going to do with this note later, and how I’m going to find it. That’s where the hard work comes in – thinking.
In his book “Getting Things Done”, Allen explains the essence of his system: you want to be reminded of those things you need to be reminded of at the right place and the right time. He gives an example of an important letter/document you need to take to work the next morning. The next morning, you will be groggy, you will almost certainly not remember to take the document. Where do you put it so you will be sure to remember? Allen suggests by the front door, on top of/next to your shoes, or on the mat or somewhere you will not fail to see it. You will see the mat/your shoes with the document lying on it/them. You will think, “What the hell is this? Oh, yeah! This is something I need to take to the office.” And you pick it up and walk out the door.
My GTD system, whether analogue or digital, paperless or paper-based, should work like that.
So, where should I put a “someday/maybe” note so that I will be sure to see it when necessary? Because the “Review” part of GTD is crucial and something that is done (or should be) regularly, daily, then I could shove a someday/maybe note into the Someday folder/Notebook and tag it with “read/review”. “Read/review” is what I need to DO next with this note. And these days I tag more than I store in folders, and I find things by tag searches (in Evernote at least) rather than searching in folders.
A similar process is involved when naming scanned files. I still tend to search for things in folders (outside of Evernote) and I still regularly can’t find what I’m looking for (because some idiot then moved my folder to Dropbox, forgetting that this action removes the original folder from its original location, doh; I’m surrounded by idiots). (Once again, I do recommend Brooks Duncan’s guide to going paperless, especially the section on naming and archiving files.)
Here’s an excerpt from GTD with Outlook 2010 and OneNote 2010. I’m considering adopting a similar structure in Evernote. I’ve got too many Notebooks and too many tags.
Inbox – A section devoted to capturing information.
Projects – Project Support Material PSM goes here as well, and I’ll explain later how I organize this.
Lists – lists that I review regularly. For example, I have a weekly review checklist of everything I need to process, and I have a goals list of my key areas I like to focus on in my personal and professional development.
Read – Review
Someday – Maybe
Page Templates – OneNote offers the ability to save layouts of pages for easy creation. I create basic project templates and daily notes templates. I’ll cover how to create these in a bit.
I recommend the following guides: Brett Kelly's "Evernote Essentials", Dan Gold's $5 guides to Getting Everything Done with Evernote and Springpad, and DocumentSnap Solutions' Paperless Document Organization Guides. Be sure to try DocumentSnap's free email course on going paperless first before buying his products. Sign up for it on his homepage.
Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”