Going Paperless Quick Tip: 5 Spring Cleaning Tips for Streamlining Evernote

The weather here has finally started to feel like spring. Better late than never, I suppose. Spring is my favorite season. Don’t get me wrong, I love the summer, but when you have to go through a cold, snowy winter, there’s nothing quite like spring. For many people, of course, spring means spring cleaning, and so I thought I’d share some tips for how I keep my Evernote account clean and tidy this time of year.

1. Scan any accumulated paper.

Paper accumulates, even for those of us going paperless. As I’ve said often before, I may be going paperless, but much of the rest of the world still runs on paper. So I use this time of year to scan in paper that I’ve been ignoring. Not too long ago, as we converted our old office back into a living room, we finally cleaned out the old filing cabinet. I scanned close to 1,300 pages over the course of 2 days. Most of that scanning sat around in my Evernote inbox until recently, when I finally decided that I was going to…

2. Achieve Inbox Zero

I have automated a lot of stuff that goes into Evernote, and for much of the stuff that is automated, it gets filed in the appropriate notebooks. But I still have an Inbox notebook and that’s where stuff like scanned documents, clippings, and other things go before I’ve had a chance to look at them.

My inbox was overstuffed because of all of the paper I scanned earlier in the year. So I spent time this spring trying to get it to Inbox Zero.

Much of this is a mindless task that can be done while watching TV (or, say, a Yankees game). Typically, I only have to do a few things with each item I come across:

  1. Give the note a title.
  2. Update the “create date” of the note to match the date of the document. This makes it super-easy to search for notes based on their dates, without having to come up with complicated titles that include the date.
  3. Decide if it needs a tag. Many of my notes don’t simply because I can find them using Evernote’s search capabilities.
  4. Decide which notebook it belongs in.

Sometimes, something gets into my inbox which I decide I don’t need afterall. I’ll delete these to avoid the clutter.

I also take this opportunity to refine my daily review, which helps to keep my inbox close to zero each night before I go to bed.

3. Review saved searches and shortcuts

I make extensive use of saved searches and shortcuts to speed up tasks in Evernote. My shortcuts, especially, change frequently. As I work on different projects, I move different items in and out of my shortcut list. Here’s what my shortcut list looks like today:

Shortcut List

During this season of spring cleaning, I review what is on my shortcut list and remove stuff I’m no longer using. I also look to see if anything is missing. I can already see two things that need to be added to my current shortcut list, and I’ll make sure to get those added later today.

I’ll go through a similar exercise with my saved searches, mostly looking to remove saved searches that I’m no longer using.

4. Review upcoming reminders

Actually, I’ve recently added a task to my daily review to glance at my upcoming reminders, but it doesn’t hurt to look at all of the reminders you have set, especially as part of your spring cleaning. If nothing else, it serves as touch-point for things you have coming down the road. I use reminders mostly for my freelance work, things like when various rights on contracts revert to me, so my list is pretty short. But here’s what my reminder list looks like today:

Review Reminders

5. Review backup plan and current backups

This isn’t directly related to Evernote, but one thing I do each spring is to review my backup plan. I use CrashPlan for my cloud backups and this backs up data on all of my home machines. I use VaultPress for my WordPress blog backup. I review what I have set to back up (which folders on which computers) and I also check to make sure that I can access the files remotely from these services.

I also have an AppleScript that runs once a month and exports all of my notes in Evernote to an enex file, which is compressed and placed on an external disk, which in turn is backed up to CrashPlan. I review the script to make sure it is working properly. Because I imagine others will ask, here is the script that I use:

AppleScript Backup

There are plenty of other things you can do to spruce up your Evernote account for spring cleaning. But these are the ones that I spend the most time on during this part of the season.

What kind of spring cleaning do you do in Evernote? Let me know in the comments.

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: Creating and Sharing Household Instructions Using Evernote.

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  1. Most excellent…I am not really good at automating, but I like the shortcut suggestion and as soon as I lose my work outlook acct and G:\\drive (2 months, bless and curse the State of Illinois) I will do more with Evernote. Evernote & Google…and I’m not sure I trust Google. thanks…

  2. Hi Jamie,
    Thanks for your post. When reviewing your inbox, I’m wondering how you deal with the fact that it is not possible to change the notes’ creation date in Evernote iOS or Evernote Web. I’m asking because you mention doing your reviews and adjustments while watching tv or doing something else. I’m thus assuming you’re using your iPhone (Evernote iOS), iPad (Evernore iOS) or Google laptop (Evernote web). Is there a way to change the creation date on these devices? If there is, I would be very interested to know how to do it!
    Thanks again for all your posts!

    1. Nelson, I’d say that 95% of the time, I do this in my home office, right after I finish up my writing for the day. So I’m on an iMac when I do this work. Also, keep in mind that I scan less and less over time because I get paper less and less. So on any given night, there usually doesn’t have to be an adjustment to dates for a given note. That means that on those nights where I’m not at my computer and on an iOS device or my Chromebook, the chances are pretty small that I need to adjust a date. And if I do, I just wait for the next day. 🙂

      That said, I have put in a request to have this feature added to the mobile apps. I don’t know if it will be added, but I did make the request.


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