Going Paperless: Answers to Your Questions on Paperless Lifestyle

First, let me say thank you to everyone who asked questions. There were 28 questions and I’ve tried to answer them all below, and it has made for an exceptionally long Going Paperless post this week, one that exceeds 6,000 words! But the questions were great ones and I hope I was able to answer them all adequately.

A few notes before I get to the questions and answers:

  1. I have tried to provide some rough organization to the  questions, so you’ll see some major topic areas. Of course, you can also use your browser’s search function to search for your question, or your name if you asked a question.
  2. I clipped some of the questions for clarity, but I don’t think I changed what was being asked in any case. I also included the name of the person who asked the question. You’ll notice the name is hyperlinked. Clicking on the name will take you back to the original comment in which the question was asked. So if I did clip things, you can still see the original question.
  3. Some people asked the same question so I’ve grouped those questions together and provided a single answer.
  4. Some answers probably deserve a lot more detail. I’ve made some notes on these and will use them as a springboard for future Going Paperless posts.
  5. Some questions asked about legal limits (how long do documents need to be kept, or what documents can be scanned). I’m not a legal expert and I’ve noted this in the specific  questions. My answers are what I do with my own documents, but you should check with your account and/or lawyer if you are uncertain.

I think that’s about it for housekeeping. Thank you again for the questions. Also, many commenters took the time to say nice things about my posts. Thank you for that, too. It is always heartening to hear. Now, onto the questions and answers.

Dealing with paper (business cards, receipts, scanning, etc.)

What are your paperless recommendations for organizing business cards? Is there an efficient way to scan them? —Megan Voss

Since Evernote it my paperless filing cabinet, on those rare instances I do get business cards, that’s where they go. Evernote makes an app called Evernote Hello, which is very useful for this. It will allow you to take photos from business cards and capture the data discretely. It can also do things like capture a history of interactions with people you meet over time. I don’t use the app much because I don’t get a lot of business cards these days, but I have seen Hello in action and if you handle a lot of business cards, you should check it out.

Do you carry and give out business cards? —Mark Conway

I do carry business cards and give them out when requested. I do this for my freelance writing work only, however. At my day job, I ran out of business cards and never reordered because I rarely needed them. Meeting with editors, agents and other writers, it is useful to have them and give them out.

Carrying around paper business cards may sound counter to the Going Paperless lifestyle. But I’ve often said that going paperless isn’t an all-or-nothing venture. You have to expect people will still give you paper, so paper will come into your system and you need to be prepared to deal with that. Similarly, there are social conventions which aren’t going to change just because I go paperless. So I carry business cards, but, depending on who I am interacting with, I sometimes ask if I can email my contact information instead of handing out a card.

What is your approach to the endless stream of receipts offered for everything from a cup of coffee to a $100 dinner out? Do you capture every single receipt? Are you selective based on dollar amt or payment method?  —Tom

With respect to receipts, my approach is pretty simple and can be summarized approximately as follows:

  • If the receipt comes in electronic format instead of paper, I’ll send it to Evernote.
  • If the receipt comes as paper, I will only scan it and send it to Evernote if it meets any of the following conditions:
    • It is related to my freelance writing work (travel receipts, meal receipts, supplies, etc.)
    • It is what I consider to be a “big ticket” item. Usually something worth at least a couple hundred dollars
    • It is something I will need for tax purposes, like receipt for my kids’ daycare, or medical receipts to get reimbursed from our health care flexible spending accounts.

If the receipt doesn’t meet any of those conditions, I throw it out as soon as possible because I’ve found that they seem to grow and multiply like moss collecting on a stone.

If I do keep them in Evernote, they all go into my “Filing Cabinet” notebook, with a tag called “receipt” if they are not related to writing; if they are related to my writing they go into a “Business” notebook also with a tag called “receipt”. As is my practice for all scanned documents, I alter the create date of the note in which the receipt is scanned to match the date on the receipt. This makes it easy to find them using the advanced date search features in Evernote.

What kind of documents can not be scanned and should be kept as an original? —Steffen Kroggman and also Rick in Reno

I think what you mean to ask is what documents are only valid in their original, paper form, because pretty much any document can be scanned. But not all scanned documents may be accepted by various official outlets. As to which are and which aren’t, I can’t say.  What I can tell you is what I do and my own rule of thumb:

  • If the document has a raised seal on it, like something that has been notarized, I will scan the document, but also keep the original.
  • If a document indicates that an electronic copy is valid, I will scan it and toss the original.
  • If a document is a clearly legal instrument (a deed, a will, a trust, a birth certificate, etc.) I will scan them but keep the originals.

That said, I scan virtually everything and in practice, when I need to present a document, I will offer the electronic version first. If the official with whom I am interacting says they need the original, fine, I’ll hand over the paper version. In two years, I can’t think of a single instance that this has happened.

Your best best, of course, is to consult with your accountant and lawyer to see what you absolutely must keep in paper, and what is okay to keep electronically.

Paperless Organization

I’ve seen you post about scanning and saving documents, etc. into Evernote, but do you keep electronic files outside of Evernote (like a NAS drive, etc.) that you reference? If so, what do you find the most effective method for “sorting” or “storing” these electronic files. GTD would tell you to file paper documents in pure alphabetical order for simplicity, but not sure that same system works for electronic files. Thoughts? —James Nunn

Not long ago, I wrote a post on “My Paperless Cloud” in which I showed where I stored documents online. What that post did not cover was what I did with documents that I stored locally. The answer, for the most part, is that they go into a single folder on my iMac: Documents. I tend to sort folders like this by Last Modified Date, so that the most recently modified files show up at the top. This makes it easy to find stuff I’ve worked on recently.

The reason I can do this is because these days, I have very few documents outside my day job that I don’t keep in the cloud somewhere. When I need to create a spreadsheet for something, I prefer Google Spreadsheet over Excel. When I need to make a presentation, I’ll use Google Presentation over PowerPoint. so those files ultimately end up getting stored in the cloud. It makes it easy to share with people. I can simply share a link to the documents, as opposed to emailing a copy and then worrying about people making edits to multiple versions.

Probably 98% of my documents are stored in a service somewhere on this diagram:

My Paperless Cloud

For the remaining 2% or so, tossing them all into a Documents folder makes sense to me.

Do you retain the digital files of scanned PDFs (or other file types) that you have in Evernote even once they are in Evernote? How do you organize them? I dump everything into Evernote, but because the originating files come from multiple sources (several different email accounts, work email, scans at home, scans at office, photos from iPhone or iPad, etc), the files themselves are scattered all over, a digital mess! Wondering what your file system looks like outside of Evernote… —G. Green

I try not to retain multiple digital copies of a document once I’ve scanned it into Evernote. On the other hand, I don’t go out of my way to delete them. When I scan a document, a PDF goes into a Photos folder on my iMac automatically. I think this is a default setting on the scanner software. Of course, the document is scanned directly to Evernote and that is where I look for it when I need it. Every now and then, I’ll purge all of those PDF files that also get created in my Photos folder, but I don’t lose sleep over it. On my local machine (outside of Evernote and the cloud) I the few documents I have locally all go into my Documents folder, which I sort by Last Modified Date so that the stuff I’ve changed most recently shows up at the top.

How would you organize notes for an academic research paper? —Matthew Crowe

Back when I was writing academic research papers (circa 1990-1994) I wasn’t paperless. Just the opposite. So I’ve never had to organize notes for an academic research paper using tools like Evernote. That said, I am a writer, I write both fiction and nonfiction, and I have had the opportunity to organize notes for both.

When organizing notes for research, my main goal is to keep it simple. I want to make it as easy as possible to find what I am looking for without adding a whole lot of overhead to the process.

Depending on the size of the project, I’ll use either a single note or a notebook. If the latter, the notebook usually gets tossed into my “Special Projects” notebook stack. If the former, the note probably goes into my “Inbox” notebook until I am done with it.

In either case, I create a shortcut to either the note or notebook so I can access it easily and don’t have to spend time hunting it down. Creating a shortcut probably saves me more time than any other organizational action I can take. I could tag the notes and add other meta data, but in truth, I am only every dealing with a few dozen notes at the most for my research and if they are all in one notebook that I can access from the shortcut bar, I don’t need to worry about tagging them.

If I was writing an academic paper and it was more elaborate, one thing I might use tags for would be to mark the quality of the source document. For instance, a “primary” tag for documents that represent a primary source (another academic paper of original research); and a “secondary” tag for documents that reference primary sources but are not primary sources themselves (e.g. a Wikipedia article that I’ve clipped).

But again, I like to keep things simple, so I’d only take this additional step if it made sense and saved me time in the long run.

What is the best way to search and organize 7 years of documents for my company? Say I have 7 years worth of one phone bill. Should I have all 7 years in that one notebook and just search for the one i want? Or, should i have multiple notebooks for each year for that bill to keep it better organized? —Riki

The “best way” to organize is whatever works best for you. Everyone is different in this respect. That said, I have two suggestions that might make organizing and finding things easier. This goes for phone bills as well as anything else.

  1. A note should be discrete. I prefer one “thing” in each note as opposed to cramming lots of things into a single note. There are lots of reasons for this, but with respect to searching and organizing, you want to be able to find the one thing you are looking for quickly. If you put lots of things into a single note, you might find the note quickly, but then you’d have to search through the note for just the right attachment or piece of information you are looking for.
  2. I alter the create date of notes that I scan in so that the create date of the note matches the date on the document. If I scan in a phone bill dated June 30, 2013, I will change the created date of the note to “June 30, 2013” even if I happen to be scanning the note in on December 15, 2013. This makes it easy to find what I am looking for using the advanced search capabilities in Evernote. I can search by date instead of having to try to remember other details. Basically, my search say, “Show me all notes from June 30, 2013.” Of course, I can narrow that down further to something like: “Show me all notes from June 30, 2013, tagged ‘bills’.”

These two actions: make each note discrete and change the create date of a note with a scanned document to match the date on the document, are quick, easy, and make it easy to organize and find what I am looking for.

How to use tags? I use prefixes : @Dirk for persons, :today and :next for GTD-actions. I have more than 600 different tags as I tagged my articles in the past with multiple tags, using them as keywords. Now it is overwhelming. Tips for using tags? —Dirk Vos

First, let me confess that I suck at GTD methodology. There is too much overhead for me. I’ve tried it in Evernote and I’ve tried it outside Evernote and I am one of those rare few who just can’t make it work. So I don’t use tags for GTD at all.

That said, I do use tags and I’ve written extensively about how I use them, in particular here and here. So let me just touch on three ways I use tags in this post and allow those other posts to go into detail.

  1. If at all possible, I don’t tag a note. Evernote has powerful search capabilities, and I’ve found that 95% of the time, I can type a search into Evernote and find the note I’m looking for within 5 or 10 seconds. (And for reference, at present I have nearly 8,000 notes in Evernote.) Why take the time to tag a note if I can find it quickly without a tag.
  2. Okay, but sometimes, tags are useful, like in lists. If I want to be able to pull up a list of notes, particularly a list that crosses multiple notebooks, I’ll use a tag. For example, I’ll tag my receipts, which then get filed into two notebooks, one for personal stuff and one for freelance writing. But if I need to see all of my receipts, I can just search for notes tagged “receipt.” It does’t matter what notebook the notes are in.
  3. I use tags for attaching people to notes. Sometimes, I’ll tag a note with my kids names or my wife’s name, or even my name. This is useful in multiple contexts. For instance, I can easily pull up all notes related to my son. Or, instead of pulling up all medical insurance statements, I can pull up just those medical insurance statements related to my daughter. Tagging by name allows me to create a timeline of notes for the people I’ve tagged, which I find very useful.

I find that tagging can get out of hand quickly. Tags grow like weeds. Then, too, people tend not to plan out a taxonomy before tagging. You get some notes tagged “receipt” and others tagged “receipts” and searching “receipts” does NOT bring up notes tagged “receipt.” So again, I like to keep it simple, avoid tags where I can, and use them where they will actually save me time, like in the three examples I’ve given above.

Digital Photos and Media

How do you manage your digital photos? —Pixie and also Rick in Reno

I use Flickr as the central “authoritative” repository for all of my digital photos. In other words, all of my photos ultimately go up on Flickr, and when I need to search for a photo, that’s where I look.

Behaviorally, Flickr isn’t always the first place a photo goes. Sometimes, I’m snapping a picture of my kids and send that photo to Facebook, for example. One of my pet peeve’s is having to do the same thing twice. Since I’ve already uploaded a photo to Facebook, I don’t want to take the time to upload it again to another service, like Flickr. Fortunately, I don’t have to.

I have a series of IFTTT (If This Than That) recipes that do this for me:

  • When I upload a photo to Facebook, it is automatically sent to Flickr.
  • When I upload a photo to Instagram, it is automatically sent to Flickr
  • When other Facebook users tag me in a photo, it is automatically sent to Flickr.

These recipes save me a ton of time, while at the same time, work to ensure that all of my photos get into Flickr, no matter where they start.

Beyond that, I have ways of organizing the photos once they are in Flickr to make it easier to find what I am looking for, but I’ll save that for a separate Going Paperless post, as this one is already long enough.

My question is how to reduce the size of a photo before submitting to Evernote. When I had my iPhone 3, I could submit a ton of photos but with the upgraded camera (and upgraded size of photo) I hit my Evernote upload limit quickly. I know I’ll upgrade to premium in coming years, but not quite ready, as I need to become more a proficient user first. —Lisa

As I said above, I use Flickr to centralize all of my photos. Each photo on Flickr has a download page that can provide the photo in a variety of sizes. Take for example, this photo I took:

Flickr Size

Note that I have a ton of sizes to choose from. You can click on a size, then copy the photo and paste it into Evernote. Beyond that, there may be tools that you can download to your phone to change the size, but I tend to do all this work on Flickr.

My question is about audio notes. I use Evernote audio extensively for my official meetings, visit to physician and other important occasions and tag them appropriately. But when I want to retrieve them later, I don’t have any keywords except the tags, as the notes contain only audios and no written matter. I find using too many tags overwhelming. This sometimes make it difficult to search. What do you suggest to have a more effective retrieval management system? —Prasad

I have no experience with audio transcription, but it sounds like what you are looking for is software that would transcribe your audio notes into text. You would then store both the text and the audio file in a single note in Evernote. Search would search the text, but you’d still have the audio file as your original source material.

As I said, I have no experience with audio transcription software, but there may be others reading the post who could jump in and help.

Paperless automation

Hi Jamie, can you give examples of using IFTTT and Evernote together (other than the meeting notes example which I’ve already read). I tried auto forwarding of email such as iTunes but the formatting gets lost and the note ends up being hard to read. —Jayne

In addition to the meeting minutes, I have IFTTT recipes that do the following with respect to Evernote:

  • Send the day’s weather to Evernote at the end of the day. The note is sent to my Timeline notebook. It tells me the high and low temperature for the day and what the general conditions were. This gives me a history of the weather over time. This helps complete a picture when I look at the notes for any one day in Evernote.
  • When someone tags me in a photo in Facebook, the photo is sent to Evernote. This is just a way for me to keep tabs on the photos I am being tagged in.
  • When I create a new blog post here, it is automatically sent to my Social Media notebook in Evernote.
  • When I post a picture to Instagram, it is automatically sent to Evernote.
  • When I check in at a location in Foursquare, it automatically creates a note in Evernote in my timeline notebook, so that I have a running record of the places I’ve been. Also useful in recreating a day.

Hi Jamie, My question is about working with microsoft-documents. I can’t find a good workflow when I receive a word-document from a co-worker and want to make some changes and than send it back. Do you use dropbox for that? But than you have two places where you’re documents are archieved. Do you have an advice? Thanks and greetings from Amsterdam.  —Niek

I don’t work with Microsoft documents nearly as much as I used to. Of course, in my day job I have to, but there, we collaborate using Microsoft SharePoint, which makes it relatively easy for everyone involved to work off a single copy of the document without having to email copies here and there.

In the publishing world, more and more I am using Google Docs instead of Microsoft. I’ve worked with several editors who also use Google Docs, which makes collaboration–even real-time collaboration–so much easier. There are, however, still editors who use Microsoft Word. When I turn in a manuscript, they turn on the Track Changes feature and then mark up the document and send it back to me. In these instances, I have a process I’ve worked out that centers around Scrivener and Word, the tools I use for my final drafts and generating manuscripts. I’ve written about this process in great detail, if you are interested in learning more.

I love reading your posts and am constantly integrating your tips into my paperless system. Now that Evernote has reminders, which you recently mentioned using, how has your reminder system been impacted? I’m thinking of this post. Do you still use these other systems, or has Evernote replaced some/all of them? —Lara

I have been moving toward a more context-based reminder system over time. This system spreads my reminders over all kinds of devices and services, but always in the context of what I am doing. Let me give some examples:

For basic to-do lists, I use Wunderlist, which can send me reminders when certain to-do items are coming due.

For events, meetings, travel, etc., I use Google Calendar. Since I’ve gotten my iPhone 5, I often get things onto my calendar by asking Siri to put it there for me, which simplifies things.

And speaking of Siri, I’ve found that I’ve used Siri to remind me of things based on time or proximity. For instance, I’ll say, “Remind me to mail the contract when I get to work tomorrow.” When I get to my office, Siri will remind me.

I use Evernote reminders for more context-based things. For instance, when I sign a contract for a story, I sell certain rights for a certain period of time. I’ll scan the contract into Evernote, and then create reminders for when the various rights revert back to me.

Another example: I’ll take a photo of the service sticker in my car and send that to Evernote. I’ll add a reminder to the note to remind me a week before my next service is due.

In email, I tend to use Boomerang to remind me of things and keep my inbox clean. If I get a message that says I need to respond by August 31, I’ll “boomerang” the message so that it disappears from my inbox and reappears a few days before August 31.

All of this is to say that I find it increasingly easy to use reminders in context, whatever that context may be.

Paperless Reading

Can you explain more about your workflow for using Evernote to go paperless in reading, especially related to annotating & highlighting?  —Brett Boe

First, let me break my paperless reading into two categories and deal with each separately, as they are different processes: (1) “Online” reading, or the stuff I’d typically read in my browser; (2) Kindle reading.

1. Online Reading

I have a fairly straight-forward process for my online reading workflow. I typically read RSS feeds via Feedly, but will occasionally come across articles from other sources like Facebook or Twitter.

Reading Online

When I am reading online, I’ll look at an article in question and decide whether or not I want to read it now. If I do, I’ll read the article and then decide whether or not to clip it to Evernote. If I don’t read the article right away, I’ll clip it to Evernote using Evernote Clearly. I have clearly set up to send my articles to my Inbox with a “to-read” tag.

When I find some time on my hands, I’ll pull up my “To-Read” saved search which look for all notes in my Inbox notebook tagged “To-Read”:

To-Read Process

I will read one or more articles. After I finish each article, I remove the “to-read” to so that it no longer shows up in my search. Sometimes, I also refile the article to a more appropriate notebook, like a research or reference notebook.

2. Kindle Reading

If I am reading on my Kindle, I highlight and make annotations frequently, but these rarely go into Evernote. I am a big believer in having notes in the context of where they belong. If I am making notes and annotations in a book, I want those notes and annotations with the book, because that’s where I’ll look for them.

That said, Michael Hyatt has a great article for getting your Kindle note and highlights into Evernote, if you are interested in doing so.

Data security and data protection

My question has to do with the local notebooks (mostly financial). I have several on my desktop computer, but lately I have been spending a lot of time away from home and I need to refer to something in one of those notebooks. Is there anyway to get them to my laptop without syncing the folder. —Marsha Bembry

I have no experience in manually moving local folders from one computer to another without syncing. You’d probably have to go to Evernote support for that. That said, what I tend to do in these situations is the following:

If I know I am going to be out of town and there may be a chance I’ll need a document in a local notebook, I’ll copy the note from a local notebook to an online (sync’d) notebook, and then tag it with something like “temp” or “remove later.” Yes, I am copying a note or notes that may contain more sensitive information to an online notebook, but I am not copying all the notes, just those that I think I might need. Then, too, when I return from my trip, I can search for any notes that I’ve tagged “temp” or “remove later” and delete them from my online notebooks.

Of course, a person’s willingness to do this varies with their comfort level with online security. I have no problem doing it, but others might.

I am currently working on a paperless system but face a number of challenges to which Evernote would appear to offer solutions. My concern is after 30 years of using tech I have seen many formats and media types come and go. My question is therefore what precautions do you take against a world without Evernote? I’m thinking both in terms of backup of data and retaining that data in a format that remains accessible. —Grant

And Tony asks a similar question:

I also am concerned with keeping a hard copy or a second cloud copy in the event that Evernote crashes and can’t be recovered. Does this worry you? —Tony

First, let me say that I don’t lose sleep over this. There are three reasons for this:

  1. Evernote seems to be doing something right in terms of business and they have planned for the long-term.
  2. Evernote has made your data exportable in an open format.
  3. As a matter of course, I backup my Evernote data anyway.

Let me touch on the last two items. You can always export your notes from Evernote. I have written about this in more detail on my post on “Securing Your Digital Filing Cabinet” last year. When you export notes, you can export them to an EXEN format, which is essentially XLM with some additional meta-data and the ability to support attachments.

Recently, Evernote published a post with the details of this open format. The post describes how you can use the export files and gives the exact specification for how data is stored in the export files.

I am big on backups. I use CrashPlan for backing up my computers at home and it is great because I don’t have to think about it. I just backup up the machines and lets me know when it has trouble backing up a machine for some reason. I use VaultPress to back up this website, and I love it too, because it is just as automated. I have had to restore data from both CrashPlan and VaultPress and it has been easy to do each time.

As part of my normal backup process, I export my Evernote data to the EXEN format once each month. I compress the file and put it in a place where my CrashPlan backups will find it so that it gets backed up along with everything else.

Now, in the unlikely event Evernote were to go away, here is what I would do in the short term:

  1. Move all of my notes to local notebooks so that I didn’t have to worry about the data being on Evernote servers when the service finally went away.
  2. If I couldn’t access the servers (e.g. if Evernote went away overnight), I’d restore the most recent backup of my EXEN file and then import the file into a local folder in Evernote. All of my data would be there, but it would be in a single, local notebook. At this point, I could begin looking for alternative, but I’d still have access to my data within Evernote.

I think this is a very unlikely scenario, but I protect myself against it by having good backups. Today, my monthly export of Evernote data has been automated thanks to some AppleScripts I’ve written to do the work for me.

I have a question about archiving. I’ve been using Evernote since the beginning and now have several years of notes including many from past companies (meeting minutes, project plans, etc). I tagged them all with “Archive” and can do searches with a -tag:Archive to remove them from search but I am wondering if there is a better way to hold onto my archive but not have it as part of my regular Evernote Account? —Adam

Without exporting your archive notes to an EXEN file and removing them from Evernote, I think that, for simplicity, what you are doing is probably your best bet.

If you want to archive your “Archived” notes, you would search for all notes that are tagged “archive”, select them all then export the notes to an EXEN file. Once you’ve done that, you can remove the notes from Evernote. If you needed to import them back in, you can use Evernote’s import function to import the EXEN file you exported. This will import all your notes to a single “Import” notebook, after which you could begin moving notes to their final destination notebooks.

Note-Taking, Note-Taking Apps and Tools

What are some of the fastests ways you enter notes? Email with hashtags and notebook designations? iOS app suggestions? Good desktop program? I feel the need, the need for faster note entry. —Mike

On the desktop, the Mac version of Evernote builds in a quick note keyboard command into the OS menu bar. Press CMD-CTRL-N and the quick note window pops up for you to start making your note. You don’t even have to have Evernote open:

Quick Note

In iOS, I have found that a little app called Drafts is about the fastest way to create notes in Evernote. It starts up quickly, has a very low overhead and allows you to start typing your notes almost instantly.


Of course, you can also jot notes down in a notebook with a pen and paper and scan the pages in later. Evernote and Moleskine have teamed up to make a notebook for just this purpose.

You’ve touched on the topic of email before, but I was hoping you could elaborate a little on what you think is best kept in the email inbox and what would benefit from being stored in Evernote. I know this isn’t exactly a paperless question, but I really struggle with the small size of my email inbox and the lack of a logical and consistent way to handle email in Evernote… —Meri

Here is how I think of things: Email is for communication; Evernote is for reference.

I try to keep my inbox as close to zero as I can manage. If I need to keep an email for communication purposes, I’ll archive in Gmail. If I feel like I need to keep an email for reference purposes (maybe it’s a receipt, or a travel itinerary), I’ll send it to Evernote and delete the original email.

When I go looking for something, I tend to think: am I looking for a communication or reference material? If the former, I’ll search Gmail first; if the latter, I’ll search Evernote first.

I have a question regarding note taking and recurring meetings – daily, weekly, or monthly. Do you create a separate note for each meeting or do you just have one note for each meeting and put the latest entry at the top of the note? —Doug

I am a big believer in one thing per note. The reason is that each note carries its own set of meta-data that is extremely useful in searches. If had one note for all of my meetings, it would take longer to find the notes for the meeting on August 10th, because first I’d have to find the note with the meeting notes, then I’d have to search within the note for August 10. Because I keep one note per meeting, all I need to do is search for meeting notes on August 10 in Evernote and the note I’m looking for comes up instantly.

So, bottom line, I create a separate note for each meeting. And when in doubt, I create a separate note for each “thing” I am capturing.

My son’s middle school will start a new optional program where kids can “bring their device to school”. My hope is he can write his in-class assignments on a device and get him to the teacher without printing. I originally was showing him evernote, now I’m thinking google drive might be better with the editing, commenting capability. Thoughts? I don’t want to buy lined paper and copy paper for the school anymore!! Thanks. —Lisa

I’ve written about how I use Evernote versus Google Drive in my post on My Paperless Cloud, which you might want to check out if you haven’t already done so. Off the top of my head, I’d say things could be divided as follows:

  1. Static documents and references materials (stuff that isn’t really changing or stuff that won’t be shared) can go into Evernote where it is accessible for searching and reference.
  2. Assignments which require collaboration, either with a teacher or other students, are probably better suited to Google Docs because of the great collaboration tools Google Docs offers.

Which Bamboo Stylus do you recommend for iPad. —Chris Keller

I use the Bamboo Solo Stylus. It is the only stylus I’ve ever tried and I’ve been very happy with it. It came with a soft tip and that is also what I use.

I have used the paper notebooks and calendars for over 35 years. I have the Penultimate software in my iPad but have trouble writing on it. I have set the wrist settings but still get lines and dots all over my page. I have the bamboo stylus you suggested but I can’t get the notes to come out without skips in all the words. Can you give me some ideas on how to write better on the notes. Thank you for all your tips and tricks. —Carol Pearson

I have run into that problem as well. I have setup Penultimate to write-handed wrist position closest to how I actually write:

Penutimate Settings

But as you suggest, it doesn’t always work. My solution: I’ve learned to write on my iPad without touching my wrist to the screen. 🙂


My question is regarding work. I work for a small book company who sells on Amazon and eBay, and we send out packages. Every morning, we print hundreds of pieces of paper; a pull list for people to physically pull from the shelves, plus a packing slip for every individual order. I know my boss won’t invest in an iPad or other tablet for all the employees so we can pull while looking online, but is there a way you can suggest we eliminate as much morning paperwork as possible? —James

I think you are on the right track. The trick is convincing your boss that the tablets would result in a cost savings, which I imagine they would over the time which the tablet is depreciated. The idea is that you not only save the cost of the paper, but you are saving labor costs, which are far more expensive.

My husband is minister. We would like to use this to record sermons, save them to our website for others to listen to, download or for us to email to folks desiring a topics. We have used it a few times but the volume is extremely low when we play it back. We feel we have volume turned up all the way. Have tried iPad 2 & iPhone & had same results. Tips, suggestions needed. Also how do we make certain the iPad or phone will not ring or alert during services. We have turned Do not Disturb on…if that what it best assurance. –Mary Ann & Joe Matzer

I’m afraid I have no experience whatsoever with audio recording and podcasting and wouldn’t even know where to begin with that. I’ve recorded audio notes into Evernote directly once or twice, and each time, the volume has sounded fine to me. But I did nothing other than press the record button. I adjusted no settings and made to changes to the defaults.

If you have a suggestion for a future Going Paperless post, let know me. 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: 4 Ways I Use Evernote in My Freelance Writing.


  1. Regarding your comment about your ScanSnap scanner leaving PDFs of your scans in your Pictures folder, you can change that. I created a folder in my Documents folder called ‘Evernote Scans’. Then I went into ScanSnap>Settings>Save and then changed the default folder from Pictures to the Evernote Scans folder. It makes cleanup a lot easier.

  2. At our Church I helped set up our podcast for the sermons. We use a digital voice recorder like those one might use to record a meeting or lecture. We can download the resulting mp3 file by usb, make any edits required using Audacity and upload to our podcast host.

  3. “Today, my monthly export of Evernote data has been automated thanks to some AppleScripts I’ve written to do the work for me.”

    This sounds like a great idea, could you explain a bit more about how its done?


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