Having kids produces a lot of paper. Even before they are born there are forms to fill out. Then they are born and there are more forms. There are medical records. School forms. Artwork. Report cards. Permission slips. By the time they leave for college you could very likely be buried in paper. My kids are still a long way from that point, but I’ve been using Evernote to go paperless for almost as long as my oldest has been around and so I thought I’d share some tips on how I try to stay paperless when it comes to my kids.
1. Have a plan for organizing the documents to make them easy to find
There are as many ways to organize notes in Evernote as there are people who use Evernote. In an earlier post, I’ve described how I organize my notes. Here are a few more suggestions that have helped me when it comes to dealing with the paper resulting from having kids:
- I have a tag for each of my kids. This allows me to easily find all notes for a specific kid.
- I have a saved search for each of my kids. The search looks for any documents tagged with the specific child’s name or any document that contains their name.
2. Scan in all medical paperwork, school forms, etc.
Any time we get paperwork, it goes into my inbox and gets scanned into Evernote as part of my daily process. There are a couple of things that I do when I scan these in:
- I set the create date of the note to the date on the form. This makes it easy to find the form when someone says, “It was dated 6/23/2011.”
- I tag the form with the name of the kid to whom it is related. (If it happens to be both of my kids, I tag it with both of their names.)
- Some notes, like the school calendar, I’ll mark as a favorite on my iPhone so that I can pull it up quickly.
Not everyone is comfortable having this kind of information in the cloud and that is a perfectly reasonable concern. For those who want to capture this paper but don’t want it in the cloud, simple create a local notebook in Evernote and store these documents in your local notebook. Local notebooks only exist on the computer they are created. They are not put into the cloud. The disadvantage, of course, is that the notes and documents are accessible only from the machine on which you store them.
Having these documents has come in very handy. At the beginning of the school year, we have to turn in my son’s immunization records. We did that, but the school misplaced them. It might have been annoying if those were the only copies we had, but I simply pulled up the note in Evernote and provided them with another copy.
3. Snap photos (or scan) in artwork
Once my son started at his school, he started producing artwork and he hasn’t stopped. Everyday he brings home something new. Looking back, I can remember bringing back a lot of artwork as a kid and very little has survived the 35 years or so since I started bringing it home. I assumed the same would be true with my kids, which is why I started photographing or scanning the artwork he brought home. Just like other notes related to my kids, it is tagged with his name to make it easy to find. At this point, I have dozens upon dozens of pieces of art captured in Evernote. It is actually fascinating to go through it and see the progression of skill and style. Here is one early example:
4. Capture milestones on a timeline
I’ve written about how I use Evernote to remember everything. One of the ways I do this is to maintain a “timeline” notebook. I’ll use this notebook for all kinds of things. For instance, the other day, during the Yankees’s division series playoff game, my daughter said, “baseball” for the first time. So up went a note indicating that she said “baseball.” I have a bunch of notes for when my kids first said certain words.
Other things that I capture on my timeline:
- When my kids are sick. Makes it easy to find when the last time they weren’t feeling well was.
- When I read a book to my kids (what they book was)
- Photos of my kids after they get a haircut. (I do the same thing for myself.)
- Pictures of how tall my kids are against the wall. Instead of marking the wall, I’ll take a photo and then use Skitch to mark the height. And of course, the note has the date. I can easily run through a progression of these photos.
- When my kids say particularly funny things.
- When my daughter started sleeping through the night in her crib.
- When they had a babysitter watching them
You get the idea. Anything that seems interesting or might be useful later on.
There are probably a lot more ways you can go paperless with kids. These are just a few examples of how I do it.
As always, this post and all my Going Paperless posts are available on Pinterest.
Thank you for this post!! Running a business from home and accumulating school papers has been driving me crazy. I love your idea about the milestones and the way you’ve organized the rest. Good job dad!