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Bill Myers

Can anyone share best practices for archiving emails in Evernote?

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I've pretty much dived in and made Evernote my main productivity tool for everything from task management to archiving important documents. So I've decided to try using Evernote to archive important emails, but I'm struggling with this one. Often it's important to me to see the history of an email conversation, but if I archive an old email from 6 month ago the create date of the note is, of course, today and not the date the email was received. I know I can change the create date but that's an extra step. I can add the received date to the note title, but again that's an extra step.

 

Also, I'm struggling with whether it is worth it to save the original email. I'm probably just being too rigid with that one -- I'm not in a job where my emails are likely to be subject to legal discovery and our retention policies pretty much leave things up to individual judgment. Still this one is nagging at me.

 

It may well be that the small amount of extra effort may be worth it in the long run in terms of time saved searching for a piece of reference information; Evernote's search capabilities beat Outlook's by a country mile. But I was wondering if other forum members have developed personal best practices they might be willing to share.

 

Thanks!

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All my stuff,  emails included,  has the same overall naming convention;  so relevant emails go in as <date of receipt> - email - <sender> - <content> - <any extra comments or keywords> (all in low-case 'cause I'm lazy..)

 

If I'd received this post as an email forinstance it'd be "20140101 - email - bill myers - email headings - titles subjects"

 

I try to include the relevant date in the heading - even if it is the created date - because it makes my searches simpler,  and every so often I'll check back on all the emails from one sender on one topic because the last one I received probably has all the history in it that I need.  I can usually delete the rest.

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Not sure if the lack of response indicates I asked a dumb question or if I forgot to use my deodorant.  ;)

 

Anyway thank you for the tip, gazumped. I've employed a slight variant of it and I'm finding it useful. It makes sense to have a standard naming convention for reference and stick with it. If you have to think about it too hard you'll resist doing it and defeat the purpose of having a reference tool.

 

I take it you're not a tagger? I'm experimenting with tags. I like the flexibility of being able to add multiple tags so I can find the info in multiple ways. It's particularly useful when I attend a meeting where multiple topics are discussed. I can see a downside, though -- my list of tags could potentially become an unholy mess if I don't exercise some judgment and restraint.

 

Anyway thanks again for the input. Much appreciated.

 

EDIT: Forgot to mention I really appreciate the tip about saving only the note created from the last email in a chain and deleting the rest. Great way to eliminate clutter. And forget using a "variant" of your naming convention -- I liked it so much I I pasted it into a note that I save as a template and have completely ripped you off. :P 

 

Guess I shouldn't whine about the lack of response. The one response I got was the jackpot. Thanks for the tip.

Edited by Bill Myers

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Not sure if the lack of response indicates I asked a dumb question or if I forgot to use my deodorant.  ;)

 

Anyway thank you for the tip, gazumped. I've employed a slight variant of it and I'm finding it useful. It makes sense to have a standard naming convention for reference and stick with it. If you have to think about it too hard you'll resist doing it and defeat the purpose of having a reference tool.

 

I take it you're not a tagger? I'm experimenting with tags. I like the flexibility of being able to add multiple tags so I can find the info in multiple ways. It's particularly useful when I attend a meeting where multiple topics are discussed. I can see a downside, though -- my list of tags could potentially become an unholy mess if I don't exercise some judgment and restraint.

 

Anyway thanks again for the input. Much appreciated.

 

I think this is one of those messy topics that aren't easily solved. Me? I use titles like this "140203 correspondence myers bill email archiving" and that is enough for me. Tags could be useful as well, but the titles are usually more than sufficient for my needs. Here is more about my methodology:

http://www.christopher-mayo.com/?p=367

 

To be honest, though, I rarely archive emails these days. I save extremely important ones on occasion, but that is about it. My current philosophy with Evernote and stuff I don't create (clippings, emails, etc.) is to only put stuff that is note"worthy" into my account. I regularly empty out my email account and save it all to an external drive. Occasionally, I need to go through them looking for something, but HoudahSpot (a nice app on the Mac that uses the Spotlight search index) can always find it for me.

 

If Evernote really, truly wants to remember "everything," then they have to beef up the service. Obviously, it has major limits that make it practically impossible to read this ambition literally. Most relevant to this conversation is the 100,000 note limit.

http://www.christopher-mayo.com/?p=169

 

The cool thing, of course, is that Evernote is shooting for this goal. I don't know of anyone else who has expressed this desire. It is a pretty exciting possibility! In the meantime, I'd stick to keeping it for important stuff if you are planning to archive emails.

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For me, the issues involved with saving important emails to Evernote are:

 

1.) Many companies have policies that forbid saving corporate emails to non-corporate approved locations.

2.) Personal emails - in my case, GMail, has a search capability that is good enough for my needs

3.) Personal email conversation history - most email programs have the edge over Evernote

4.) Personal email storage space - many cloud based email accounts are almost limitless.

5.) Many important emails are time sensitive and quickly become irrelevant, so I don't have a pressing need to send them to Evernote.

6.) For the individual personal email I want to keep, most will be saved to DropBox and a few will be forwarded to Evernote using something similar to Gaz's method.

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5.) Many important emails are time sensitive and quickly become irrelevant, so I don't have a pressing need to send them to Evernote.

This is my main reason for not archiving many emails. If (when?) Evernote gets selective sync (the ability to decide what does and doesn't get downloaded onto your hard drive), lifts the note amount limit (currently a paltry 100,000), increases the maximum note size (currently at 100MB per note), etc. then I'll probably rethink stuff.

My guess is that Evernote won't do this anytime soon. It doesn't want to see people dumping hundreds of thousands of documents, notes, emails, images, etc. into Evernote next month and then complaining about sync problems, search problems, and slow databases. Google, on the other hand, mines your data and attracts advertisers with it, so they are more than happy to take whatever you are willing (or unwilling) to give to them :) They are different models, and we are better off adjusting our workflows to fit what they are designed to do. In Evernote's case, I think it works really well with note"worthy" stuff you'll want to hold onto for years to come, and emails generally don't fit that criterium.

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Now I feel bad about cracking wise about no one responding... 

 

It occurs to me my "use case" may be different than for most. I don't save every email, even in my native email client. But I am in sales and keeping a history of contacts with clients can be very important. Where I work we use Microsoft CRM but like all CRM systems that I've encountered it is overbuilt and makes it very difficult to find information. Evernote on the other hand makes it very easy to find stuff. There's a book called Mastering Evernote that has a section about how to use Evernote to create a CRM system and it actually works very well. While salespeople prefer to speak with clients it's often necessary to use email -- so I'm including that in my Evernote "CRM" (which doesn't replace our company CRM -- instead I feed both; it's not as hard or time-consuming as it sounds).

 

It's possible, however, that I may be at least skirting the line with respect to my employer's IT policy or outright crossing it, which is something I try to be conscious about. But since I started saving certain client emails in Evernote I thought, what the heck -- why not use Evernote as my email archive? Especially since I'm not one of those people who "saves everything." I'm selective and delete a fair amount of email.

 

Anyway, I also find that Evernote's search capabilities are much easier to use than either Outlook's or Gmail's. 

 

I guess it's a matter of personal preference but I find that using Evernote as my main digital tool for productivity and reference has created efficiencies for me so I'm always trying to find additional ways to use it. But I would agree with GrumpyMonkey that no one tool does everything well and it makes sense to use some discretion and accept that we have to use a combination of digital tools (the exact mix depending on who we are and what we do in life), and probably always will.

 

But thank you to everyone for contributing your thoughts. That's why I love forums like this. I never fail to pick up something cool from them. 

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It's possible, however, that I may be at least skirting the line with respect to my employer's IT policy or outright crossing it, which is something I try to be conscious about.

 

 

Not just IT policy but Corporate policy as well. Before I retired, I held several sales positions. As I accepted promotions and moved to competitors over the years, my previous employers' legal teams were quick to fire off certified letters reminding me of my obligations under Employment agreements and Confidentiality agreements I agreed to. If I did something that violated those terms (such as retaining client lists, pricing strategies, marketing plans, etc), I would have been in a lot of hot water.

 

I tried to get one of my employers to accept SalesForce.com as one of our tools, but they refused due to the possibility of losing control of private market data. All of our data had to stay on a tightly controlled corporate network.This matter has become much more difficult to police with the proliferation of cloud computing.

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Not sure if the lack of response indicates I asked a dumb question or if I forgot to use my deodorant.  ;)

 

Anyway thank you for the tip, gazumped. I've employed a slight variant of it and I'm finding it useful. It makes sense to have a standard naming convention for reference and stick with it. If you have to think about it too hard you'll resist doing it and defeat the purpose of having a reference tool.

 

I take it you're not a tagger? I'm experimenting with tags. I like the flexibility of being able to add multiple tags so I can find the info in multiple ways. It's particularly useful when I attend a meeting where multiple topics are discussed. I can see a downside, though -- my list of tags could potentially become an unholy mess if I don't exercise some judgment and restraint.

 

Anyway thanks again for the input. Much appreciated.

 

EDIT: Forgot to mention I really appreciate the tip about saving only the note created from the last email in a chain and deleting the rest. Great way to eliminate clutter. And forget using a "variant" of your naming convention -- I liked it so much I I pasted it into a note that I save as a template and have completely ripped you off. :P

 

Guess I shouldn't whine about the lack of response. The one response I got was the jackpot. Thanks for the tip.

 

Just on the tagging point - I had the same learning curve;  I got up to several hundred tags when I first started,  then lost control and started to duplicate/ misspell and generally confuse the issue all around.  Now I don't tag my notes on creation,  but I may tag after a search.  It's part of an ongoing curation process for my little knowledge base that each search includes some (occasionally lots of) hits that aren't relevant to my need.  I'll refine the search if I can,  but maybe its too complicated - or I'm too lazy - to work it out that way.  Then I'll start looking to change titles - adding keywords or dates and generally tidying up;  or delete some old notes that aren't relevant any more;  or,  if I'm searching for a specific purpose and I know I'm going to be back to this search again,  I'll flag the 'correct' hits with a new tag for that search.

 

So my tag total is still going up slowly - and one day I'll go through and curate the heck out of the old ones to get the numbers down to fewer digits!

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Sorry to jump on this so late, but it was the first result that comes up when you Google on how to do this. My strategy (on my Mac) is currently to "Print" the email in Outlook, and choose the PDF option in the bottom left of the Print Dialog. Then choose "Save PDF to Evernote". Copy and paste the title and sender from the PDF to the Title and viola, you have the email message archived and searchable.

Edited by MikeD87
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