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PaperlessBrian

Evernote for paperless - 60 days in

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Hey folks!  So I've been using Evernote for my paperless office for 60 days now and I thought I'd share some of my thoughts.  I'd like to get some feedback from you all as well.  Before I get into some of my challenges, I'd like to share my current process.

  1. Input files come from either FileThis, scanned paper or emails direct to Evernote.
  2. Pre-processing is done by Hazel which sends to Evernote with the correct tags.
  3. Notes that cannot be automatically tagged by Hazel are put in Inbox for manual processing.

So this works pretty well for much but here's the issue.  First off, FileThis, as a service, is getting pretty unreliable.  The guy who runs it no longer response to emails and as sites add more and more multi-factor authentication, connections keep failing to work.  This means that more and more of my files need to be scanned manually.

This brings me to the first challenge:  what do I save?  When I had FileThis working, it was pretty much "free" to download and save all my bills and statements.  Now it's a nightmare.  I'll need to start getting my bills/statements sent to me in paper again.  I'm definitely not going to download them one at a time.  I would love some advice on what to save and what to "shred".

My second issue is with tags.  I have three notebooks in Evernote:  File Cabinet, Inbox, and Secure (local).  I have about 45 tags answering three questions:  "What is it?"  i.e. correspondence, statement, bill, etc; "Who is it for" i.e. pets, people, etc;  and "Why is it important?"  i.e. tax year, legal, etc.  This worked REALLY well when I had like 20 tags but now it seems to take forever to manually classify notes and frequently I end up failing to stay consistent.  I've been storing all my notes on my computer in a folder system in parallel so I can compare the two.  And I have to say that the folder system is SO SIMPLE and CONSISTENT.

So, I'm actually thinking about just ditching Evernote and going with a folder system, but here are the features I will really miss.

  • Adding comments:  Evernote allows you to add some comments to the notes (rather than just dropping files into a directory).  This is useful if I need to add context to some kind of tax-related receipt.
  • Email to Evernote:  It's very easy to email things to my Evernote inbox when I'm out and about (receipts, licenses, etc).

Also, my folder system is useful in cases where I have an active worksheet describing tax info or perhaps home improvements.  Generally I don't like to include this stuff in Evernote.  So there's the added advantage of 'keeping everything in one place' with folders.

Any thoughts/advice?

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1 hour ago, PaperlessBrian said:

I have about 45 tags answering three questions:  "What is it?"  i.e. correspondence, statement, bill, etc; "Who is it for" i.e. pets, people, etc;  and "Why is it important?"  i.e. tax year, legal, etc.

I also group my tags by note type   
For example receipt notes receive tags for Vendor and Budget

>>I've been storing all my notes on my computer in a folder system in parallel

I don't see a need for the  "folder system in parallel"   
All  my notes/documents are stored and organized in Evernote

Folders can be emulated using the notebook/tag trees in the sidebar

>>where I have an active worksheet describing tax info or perhaps home improvements.

I would store the worksheet in Evernote

>>I'll need to start getting my bills/statements sent to me in paper again.

Check for an email option

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2 hours ago, PaperlessBrian said:

This brings me to the first challenge:  what do I save?  When I had FileThis working, it was pretty much "free" to download and save all my bills and statements.  Now it's a nightmare.  I'll need to start getting my bills/statements sent to me in paper again.  I'm definitely not going to download them one at a time.  I would love some advice on what to save and what to "shred".

I've been paperless thanks to EN for some years now and I still brute force statements and the like via downloading to a local folder which imports to an EN notebook.  Typically I search via tag:.statement tag:companyname prior to the download so as to autotag.  Then it's a matter of copy pasting a previous title and adjusting the statement date in that title.  May not be for everyone but works for me.  Currently have 2676 notes tagged with .statement.  FWIW.

2 hours ago, PaperlessBrian said:

My second issue is with tags.  I have three notebooks in Evernote:  File Cabinet, Inbox, and Secure (local).  I have about 45 tags answering three questions:  "What is it?"  i.e. correspondence, statement, bill, etc; "Who is it for" i.e. pets, people, etc;  and "Why is it important?"  i.e. tax year, legal, etc.

I have the aforementioned .statement tag and a tag for each entity with statements.  I also have a set of _yyyy tags should it be important to assign the note to a fiscal year, typically only tax stuff.

3 hours ago, PaperlessBrian said:

So, I'm actually thinking about just ditching Evernote and going with a folder system, but here are the features I will really miss.

I would add the ability to search PDFs as a major feature that might be missed

3 hours ago, PaperlessBrian said:

Also, my folder system is useful in cases where I have an active worksheet describing tax info or perhaps home improvements.  Generally I don't like to include this stuff in Evernote.  So there's the added advantage of 'keeping everything in one place' with folders.

For improvements I have a table in EN and include a link to the appropriate note per line item (row).  For taxes I use a set of tags prefaced with 1040 and store all the notes in a local notebook with year tags, etc.

After 10 years I would prefer that some providers email me their documents so I wouldn't have to download, but it's not enough aggravation to cause me to change.  Net of it all, you have to find what works best for you. 

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3 hours ago, PaperlessBrian said:

Pre-processing is done by Hazel which sends to Evernote with the correct tags.

25 minutes ago, CalS said:

Typically I search via tag:.statement tag:companyname prior to the download so as to autotag.

Can you explain your autotag process?

I'm still manually selecting tags.     
I use a script (Mac) to enforce consistency; I could possibly insert some autotag rules

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1 minute ago, DTLow said:

Can you explain your autotag process?
I'm still manually selecting tags; I use a script (Mac) to enforce consistency

With Windows if you have an active search when you import a document the resultant note is assigned the tags of the search.  Tools - Options - Note and check Assign selected tags to new notes.

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On 11/24/2019 at 4:14 PM, DTLow said:

I don't see a need for the  "folder system in parallel"   
All  my notes/documents are stored and organized in Evernote

Folders can be emulated using the notebook/tag trees in the sidebar

...

Check for an email option

I have been storing in a folder system in parallel so I can compare the two systems.  i definitely don't plan on doing it forever.  Unfortunately, using hierarchical tags doesn't really replace the folder structure.  For example, tags cannot share names and therefore you'd have to make everything unique.  Not really the same but there's certainly a way to simplify with a hierarchy.

So far I haven't found a single vendor who will email my statements.

On 11/24/2019 at 6:52 PM, CalS said:

I would add the ability to search PDFs as a major feature that might be missed

For improvements I have a table in EN and include a link to the appropriate note per line item (row).  For taxes I use a set of tags prefaced with 1040 and store all the notes in a local notebook with year tags, etc.

Thanks for the tip.  OSX has an amazing search feature with Spotlight so I don't really need Evernote's search feature.

On 11/24/2019 at 7:13 PM, DTLow said:

Can you explain your autotag process?

Were you asking me, DTLow?

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32 minutes ago, PaperlessBrian said:

OSX has an amazing search feature with Spotlight so I don't really need Evernote's search feature.

The Evernote search feature includes OCR of text/handwriting and an easy to use syntax

>>Were you asking me, DTLow?

Sure, I"m interested in any tips on auto tagging

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9 minutes ago, DTLow said:

Sure, I"m interested in any tips on auto tagging

I use a series of rules in Hazel on OSX..  I have two different sets of rules in Hazel.  One set is tied to FileThis which will deliver the statements automatically to a folder on my laptop.  These rules generally just match the title of the file and snag the date.  The other set is for scanning for which I use a separate "inbox" folder.  These rules are a little more complex as they need to match the contents of the file which often changes.  The maintenance can be a problem because sometimes statements/bills will change their format.  In either case, I use AppleScript to push everything into Evernote and tag it.

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