Going Paperless: Creating A Year-End Baseline Using Evernote

Happy New Year everyone. By the time this post goes online I should be on the road on the final leg of our drive home from our awesome vacation1 and the new year has come, whether we want it to or not. The new year is a time when many people make one or more resolutions to improve their lives. I am guilty of this, although less so now than in the past. But there are two things I do each new year that have relevance to these Going Paperless posts:

  1. I record my baseline for the previous year.
  2. I evaluate how I did in various areas throughout the previous year.

I’ve found that Evernote is a great tool to capture my baseline year-to-year. What do I mean by a baseline? Mostly I’m talking about personal measurements of some significance to me that I can use to record my progress throughout the coming year. I also evaluate my progress on various things that I’ve tried to improve on during the year (to some extend, using last year’s baseline). So today, I’ll give some examples of what I mean for each of these items.

Using Evernote to Capture My Year-End Baseline

There are lots of things that we measure and it can, from time-to-time, be useful to know this information. A very common example, for instance, is how much mileage we put on our cars each year. Of course, I capture all of the information about our cars in Evernote: registrations, maintenance records, property tax payments, etc. But on the first day of each year (or the end of the last day) I also capture some metrics from our cars: like mileage.

It’s pretty simple: when I’m done driving for the day on December 31 (or before I start driving on January 1), I simply snap a photo of the odometer and capture that photo in Evernote with the appropriate labels:


I’ll tag and file this information appropriately and now I have a record I can refer to at any point in the year to see how much further I’ve driven the cars. You can imagine doing this with all sorts of things.

As a writer and blogger, I am particularly interested in measurements that have to do with my social media and blog. So at the end of each year, I create a note in Evernote to indicate how many Twitter followers I had or how many RSS followers I had for the blog. Here, for instance, is the note I captured on January 1, 2011, one year ago:

Stats for 2011.jpg

I can then compare these numbers year to year if I want to and have an easy record of changes. For those curious, as of December 31, 2o12, the numbers were, respectively, 1,356 Twitter followers (a change of +914) and 844 RSS followers (+716).

I try to capture these notes on the same day each year, either December 31 or January 31. And capturing the notes in Evernote is easy and makes the data accessible anywhere.

Evaluating My Paperless Progress

The other thing I do each year is evaluate how I did in each of my areas of interest. These include fiction writing, blogging, and, of course, going paperless. For those interested here I how I looked at my progress going paperless in 2012.

  • Number of pages scanned in 2012: 1,408
  • Total number of notes created in Evernote in 2012: 4,500
  • Total number of notes created automatically23,094
  • Total number of mobile notes created: 234

I was pretty surprised with these results. They demonstrate that I’m doing a pretty good job scanning in any paper I get. This doesn’t amount to nearly as much as I used to but still averages to about nearly 4 pages every day of the year.

It also shows that I’ve been able to automate a lot of what I capture so that I don’t have to spend time capturing it manually. Of those 3,094 notes created automatically in 2012, they breakdown as follows:

  • 2,038 notes created from Twitter.
  • 623 notes captured from Foursquare check-ins.
  • 352 notes captured from my blog posts.

For those curious as to how I calculated the number of pages I scanned, I did the following:

  1. Created a search in Evernote that looked for notes with PDFs:resource:application/pdf created:2012
  2. Wrote a script that ran through the resulting notes and grabbed page counts from the PDFs.

The search assumes that every PDF I captured was a document that I scanned, which, while not a perfect match, is close enough to reality not worry about it.

An easier way to do this may be to simply capture the page counter for your scanner the beginning of each year in a note in Evernote and compare the results from year-to-year.

These are just some ways that I use Evernote to capture my baseline from year-to-year and to measure my progress on things–like Going Paperless.

As always, this post and all of my Going Paperless posts are also available on Pinterest.

  1. More on this in an upcoming Going Paperless post.
  2. Mostly using IFTTT.


  1. Happy New Year, Jamie! As always, nice post. A question: which language/tool do you use to create scripts to interact with Evernote? AppleScript, or is there another option?

  2. Jamie, this is a great post. For some reason, I’d never thought of tracking this stuff as a baseline. I’m really glad I read it today. It’s a great way to reflect on the past year. Thanks for writing it.

  3. I’ve been wanting to ask this of someone for a while so I’ll do it here. I’m real happy saving stuff in Evernote, but what does one do with all of their twitter postings or Foursquare checkins in Evernote? It’s nice that Evernote can store all that but it seems like collecting data because you can.

    1. Beirne, for me it’s a mix of things First, I do hoard data because I am interested in personal analytics, and you never know when a set of data might be useful. From a more practical sense, I use the twitter postings as a way of archiving my tweets. I use the Foursquare check-ins as a way of remembering where I was on any given day. Since it is all captured automatically, there is no effort on my part to do this.

  4. This is awesome Jamie. I’m curious about your scanning into Evernote – how is that workflow working for you? Do you have a printer integrated, or do you have any automation around that at all?

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Deacon Bradley. My process hasn’t changed much since I started out. I use a Fujutsu Scansnap s1300i scanner. I try to spend no more than 10 minutes each day scanning in paper, usually right after I pick up the mail. That works pretty well for me. I’ve written a more detailed post on my process here.

  5. This a very interesting post. Could you please give more information or a link to explain how you use IFTTT with twitter to automatically create notes ?

    Concerning scanning papers, I use Xambox which is very useful to manage all administrative documents. Nothing to install, free OCR, and so on… Really useful.

    Thanks for the tips.

  6. Hi Jamie,
    Liked the paperless challenger earlier this year.Thought
    your end of year stats were interesting. Really never occurred to me to keep how many items were scanned….but I do have about 3500 notes in EN! Did a reorganization and now can’t find a thing!!! If it isn’t broken don’t fix it really is true! Happy New Year!

  7. One question which I am not able to find a good reliable answer – What resolution should I scan my documents into PDF? 100dpi, 300dpi or 600dpi. I want to future-proof it and don’t want to regret later and wish I had scanned at a better resolution. Hope to hear from you soon.



    1. Dave, I believe I have my Scansnap set to scan at 300dpi. The quality is plenty fine for the text recognition, to say nothing of my eyes. And it is a much faster scan than trying to scan at 600dpi. I think it is a good tradeoff of speed and quality.

  8. Thanks for your prompt response. Is there a OCR software you recommend because the once supplied by Epson for my all in one does not do OCR.

    1. Dave, I let Evernote handle the OCR. It slows things down too much when I have the scanner set to “searchable PDF.” I just scan in the document, it is send to Evernote, their systems perform OCR on it and eventually the search data is updated to the note. It means that the PDF isn’t searchable the instant I scan it, but it usually has the searchable data within 5-10 minutes. (And I’ve never needed to search for a document right after I scan it anyway.)


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