Going Paperless Quick Tip: 3 Ways I Use Evernote to Avoid Sweating the Small Stuff

When I first started using Evernote, I did so with the full intent of pushing their slogan, “Remember everything,” to its limit. There are many benefits to this. In his book Getting Things Done1, Dave Allen points out that getting things out of your head so that you don’t have to remember them helps reduce stress. That’s as good as any reason for me. At first, some of the more arcane things I’ve put into Evernote seemed almost silly. But in the last year or so, it’s really started to pay off. So today, I thought I’d share some of the questions that have come up in everyday life that I’ve been able to answer because Evernote remembers for me.

1. When was the last time…?

The Little Miss was sick over the weekend. She will be three this summer and is rarely sick. Hardly ever a fever, a sniffle, or complaint of any kind. So when her fever spiked at well over 102 F on Saturday, it surprised us. Kelly asked, “Do you remember the last time the Little Miss had a fever?”

I didn’t, but Evernote did.

I’ve described how I capture “milestone”-type notes in my timeline notebook. These are notes that really don’t belong anywhere else, but form part of a bigger picture on a timeline of events.  I have also described how I think about searches in Evernote, especially when it comes to the question of “who”; that is, who is this note related to? Over the years, I’ve developed a practice of capturing simple, discrete notes, often nothing more than a title, and a tag for who the note is related to.

So, when Kelly asked me if I remembered the last time the Little Miss had a fever, I opened up the Evernote app on my iPhone and ran a search:

tag:littlemiss2 fever

This resulted in exactly one matching note:

Fever Match

Within seconds, I was able to turn to Kelly, and say, “The last time she had a fever was back on June 4, 2012.”

Initially, it took a little effort to remember to record these types of things at the time they happened. But it made it really easy to answer questions like this.

2. Changing the water filter

We have one of those Brita water jugs that goes into the fridge and into which you can put tap water from the sink. The tap water gets filtered and you get clean, refreshing water. And I always forget to change the filter. When I finally got around to changing it the last time, I did two things that will help going forward.

First, I created a note in Evernote indicating that I changed the filter. I filed the note in my Timeline notebook. Here is the entire note:

Water Filter

A quick search (for the term “filter”) brings this up as the first match. I can glance at the created date and see that I changed the filter on May 3. Since the filter is supposed to be changed every 2 months or so, I went one step further: I created a reminder on the note for July 2, so that Evernote will remind me when I need to change the filter again.

In this example, Evernote is remembering two things for me:

  1. When I last changed the filter
  2. When I need to change it again.

And I don’t need to do anything to remember this. Evernote will ping me when it’s time to change that filter again.

3. What lightbulb goes in this ceiling fan?

We have a ceiling fan in our bedroom. The light in the fan blew out a while back and I went out and bought a replacement bulb. It was too big. So a few weeks later, I went out and bought another replacement bulb. It was too small. It seemed we had a model of ceiling fan for which bulbs simply weren’t made.

Last week, I decided to solve the problem once and for all. I went to Home Depot and learned that there are 3 sizes of bulbs for ceiling fans. I’d tried the large and the small. Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, all that was left was the “intermediary” bulb. So I bought a pair, came back to the house and guess what? The bulb fit! And worked.

I immediately created a note in Evernote for this. I snapped a photo of the packaging, and added some annotations to the photo using Skitch. I tossed the note into my Digital House notebook so that I could easily find it when I need to replace it next time:


Often these posts are how I use Evernote to manage big things. I hope these three examples help provide some ideas for how you can also use Evernote to avoid sweating the small stuff, as well. The small stuff adds up, and when I have a service like Evernote that can sweat the small stuff for me, I feel much more relaxed.

Do you use Evernote to remember the small stuff? Drop your ideas and suggestions 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: Automatically Tracking Business Mileage with an Automatic Link, IFTTT, and Evernote.

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  1. I am not a GTDer, alas, but I took some good stuff away from the book.
  2. Not her real name.


  1. Jaime,
    Good stuff! Here are a couple ways I use Evernote to stay on top of the small stuff. Maybe other readers will find them useful…

    1.) Heating Unit air filters. We have two heating units in our house and they actually require different sized filters that are supposed to be replaced every 90 days. When I first owned the home I was not good about changing the air filter and it eventually resulted in an expensive repair charge one Christmas eve. Learning my lesson, I am now diligent about replacing the filters. I have setup a note in Evernote with the dimensions of the needed air filters for each unit and also set a reminder for 90 days after I put new ones in. I keep the same note and just keep pushing out the reminder when I change them. I also use the same note when I notice I need to buy new filters and set the reminder to an upcoming Saturday when I am out running errands. I can open up the note and make sure I buy the right sized filters.

    2.) Dog Care. Yup. I have a dog (see need for diligent air filter changing in #1.) Our dog needs monthly flea/tick treatments. These supplies need to be replenished every so often too. Having a note with pictures of the specific supplies as well as a reminder setup to not only give her the treatments but also remind me to order refills is very useful. (Oh, and I also have a reminder note setup with her annual Dog license that needs to be renewed with our town. I scan not only the renewal application, but the actual License we receive back in that note. )

    Thanks for the ideas around sick kid notes and home bulb replacement. I think I can use them myself!

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Very nice. I like the timeline notebook idea for logging everyday events – you can never know when you’ll want or need to recall that info – I will use it more…

    I also use “Placeme” app on iPhone to automatically capture my daily whereabouts and save it to EN.

    1. Thanks, Amir. I used Placeme for a while but today, between the info I get from my Automatic Link and my Foursquare checkins (which, via IFTTT are automatically collected in Evernote), I’ve got a good enough set of data for my needs. I can generally jump into Evernote and see where I’ve been on any given day, which has been almost as useful as trying to remember where something happened.

  3. I have a hard time getting certain clothing that fits (bras, shoes, and hats, especially). Living rural, my only options are on-line shopping, or checking out the stores when I go to the “big city” (5 hours away) or travel.

    So, in order to keep track of brands, sizes and models that have worked in the past, every time I get shoes, bras, hats or other hard-to-fit items that work for me, I snap a picture of the box, label and/or other pertinent info and put it into a note along with where I got the item.

    Next time I need shoes (or whatever), or when I have an opportunity to shop, I can pull out my iPad and look up what worked in the past.

    Since I am not a “shopper” (in fact, I really hate shopping), this system makes it possible to find what I need as quickly as possible -either online or in person.

  4. @Tom I. there is a website that has a whole bunch of recurring reminder options. They are working on setting up a smooth interface with Evernote so you can, in your case as an example, use the Heating Unit note, send it to the site & it is turned into a recurring reminder. No need to keep changing the date in the note anymore:-)
    Like I said, the interface is still under construction, or rather under amendment because Evernote changed something in their server settings recently. But you can generate recurring reminders via email too. I use it & it works well. Visit the website: FollowUpThen.com.
    By the way, I do not have any links with these guys, I just think it works well & I don’t need to beg EN anymore for this feature, they can leave it off as far as I am concerned.

    1. @peter Thanks for mentioning FollowUpThen!

      As you mentioned the interface between the systems (described in this blog post: ) is currently not functional due to a change on Evernote’s end. A workaround is scheduled and will hopefully be live by next week (May 20th, 2014). As soon as that done, then yes, you can schedule recurring reminders, SMS reminders, view them on your calendar and schedule a reminder as a task and more : ) Stay tuned…

  5. like others have mentioned, air-handler system filters is an obvious use. Also vacum cleaner filters.

    Even better than reminders, what if the stuff just showed up automatically? Amazon (I’m not sure if it’s a Prime-only service or not) will let you schedule purchases of items ahead of time – you could have filters just show up at your front door every x months (assuming you trust to have the charges automatically made to your credit card as well).

  6. My geekest small thing is the note I created “Shoes in Basement Door Rack”. I list all the shoes stored there so his highness doesn’t even have to travel down 10 steps to see which shoes are there versus other racks in the house.

  7. Jamie, I am not seeing this post in the Evernote joined notebook. Something broken?

    1. I think it is an issue with the thick client. The post is there if you log in over the web. Evernote is looking into it, but some people have reported that upgrading to the latest version of the thick client solves the problem.

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