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paperless Organizational schema for paperless office: redux

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I'm endlessly fascinated with how different members on this forum organize their stuff. Having read all of the relevant posts on this issue I realize that my method appears to be very different (which sometimes makes me slightly nervous). Like everyone else here I use minimal notebooks, judicious tagging and very compulsive key words on all my notes. The vast majority of my important stuff is on pdf's. The difference is that instead of thousands of notes I prefer to trim it down as much as possible. Therefore, I will have one note per issue with many pdf's within that note. So, one Visa note, one AMEX note, one T-mobile note, one Verizon note, one Tax 2011 note etc. Therefore, the T-mobile note contains all my t-mobile statements for the last 6 years. The statements from 2005-2011 are all scanned into one pdf file (using compressive, B&W parameters) and occupies less than 2MB. Then the 2012 statements are all there seperately stored by their month eg: "T-mobile stmt 03-18-2012." From time to time I have to consolidate these statements using Acrobat ie: at the end of the year I will merge all 12 of the t-mobile statements into the one that already contains the last 5 years. Using Acrobat, this type of merge takes about 1 minute. This lends to a very clean, minimalist structure which is very easy to search through.

Until recently, the main downside of this technique was that by changing the pdf's within EN you would not really have an updated version of the pdf in your import folder. This was not a crucial issue since obviously the backup enex and exb files were always available. However, recently I have started using the "file...save attachments" feature to isolate all my pdf's and store them in a free cloud drive such as google drive. This now guarantees that I always have the updated pdf's even when I change them within EN. The only other downside to this technique was the fact that it is difficult to search for items within a specific pdf in an EN note if you have multiple pdf's in the same note. This limitation has been eliminated by google drive which now OCR's all the pdf's and will produce the text in the exact pdf where it resides. Since this problem rarely pops up I can deal with this slight limitation.

I would be interested to find out if anyone else uses this method of doing things, if not why? If yes, how has it been working out? So far, I'm less than a year into it and am thrilled. My efficiency has skyrocketed and friends/colleagues are startled by how organized I am.

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I would be interested to find out if anyone else uses this method of doing things, if not why?

I prefer a simple system and keep individual notes.

Easier to add new PDF's to Evernote and easier to search.

And easier to maintain backups.

Putting 12 months of T-Mobile bills into one note does not offer any advantage to me.

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I would be interested to find out if anyone else uses this method of doing things, if not why?

I prefer a simple system and keep individual notes.

Easier to add new PDF's to Evernote and easier to search.

And easier to maintain backups.

Putting 12 months of T-Mobile bills into one note does not offer any advantage to me.

I initially started my system in the way that you do it but found it somewhat less reliable in my sloppy hands. For example, if I really needed "T-mobile stmt 4-18-2007" I would only find it if I had been meticulous about the keyword labelling or the tags. The reason being that when there are thousands of notes to cull through even a small error in labelling, or spelling etc will make it very difficult to find. I remember one instance when in a moment of carelessness I named a pdf "statement" instead of "stmt" and then also mislabelled it "citicard" instead of "visa" (I must have been sleepy); I think it took me 20 searches to finally track it down. Things like that happened more than occasionally and prompted me to change the system. Now, it's almost impossible to misfile since even if I've misnamed the pdf I still know exactly where it's sitting. Naturally, I still have tons of notes that are filed one pdf/one note but almost all of my important recurring stuff is filed in notes that act like folders.

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Seems like quite a bit of work, but once you get into the swing of things, I guess it flows smoothly.

To get around the typo problem, I use more tags than the normal Evernote user.

If that doesn't help, the Evernote search does a good job finding the detail inside my searchable PDF's.

If I'm still stuck, I'll narrow down the possibilities with the intitle: search for date ranges

My monthly T-Mobile bill is 7 pages long.

I find it easier to search a 7 page PDF vs an 84 page PDF (1 year) or a 420 page PDF (5 years)

By the way - good job on the work you did with Tips and Tricks.

https://www.evernote.com/shard/s15/sh/be42981b-6fe4-4dc5-ad52-d71274f4ab80/058d57387c69436a46aa84c14ec15909

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One way or another, sooner or later, you're going to have to spend some time. Seems to me the balance is between spending that time in little chunks every time while scanning/filing, or spending it in bigger chunks occasionally when searching for something that doesn't come up right away.

If the frustration of narrowing your serach and clicking through a number of notes is more painful, I'd think you'd want to go for "spend more time filing" (aka "eat your vegetables first.")

If the idea of constantly spending extra time with every...darn...thing...you...file drives you batty, then you'll probably want to go with "put up with an occasional frustrating search" (aka "put off eating those vegetables as long as you can.")

There's no right or wrong way, just the quesiton of how you prefer to take your pain.

Me? I can't abide the notion of doing extra work on the 90% of things I'll never want again, just to avoid having to search a little longer for the 1% (or less) that I can't find instantly. AND I put off eating those vegetables until the bitter end. (Hey, the world might end...what do you want to leave on your plate when the bombs go off, cake or vegetables?) :)

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Therefore, the T-mobile note contains all my t-mobile statements for the last 6 years.

This statement made my eyes roll back into my head. I have one statement per note. This way, I can easily/quickly find the bill from a particular month w/o having to page down through a single note.

But hey, as long as it works for you & you're happy, then it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. The one pragmatic drawback to your system is if your notes ever exceed the note size.

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Therefore, the T-mobile note contains all my t-mobile statements for the last 6 years.

This statement made my eyes roll back into my head. I have one statement per note. This way, I can easily/quickly find the bill from a particular month w/o having to page down through a single note.

But hey, as long as it works for you & you're happy, then it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. The one pragmatic drawback to your system is if your notes ever exceed the note size.

I'm not quite sure that I understand why it made your eyes roll back. For example, I also consolidated 3 years of electric bills into one pdf. Since all my pdf's are in the import folder anyway, it involved merging 18 pdf's by highlighting the first and the last and then asking Acrobat to merge them. Within 10 seconds I had the consolidated pdf which I then imported back to EN. Now I have one note which covers the entire subject of electric bills. Today I had a conversation with a solar panel installer who asked me detailed questions about my electric bills for the past 18 months. I essentially went to that pdf and was able to retrieve the info in under 2 minutes (his eyes rolled into the back of his head!). Not quite sure why anyone would find this more difficult than combing through 18 different notes and hoping that they all come up correctly in the search. Furthermore, as previously mentioned, with my scanning parameters the entire pdf was under 2mb. I"ve never even come remotely close to my limit on any pdf's or in any month.

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Therefore, the T-mobile note contains all my t-mobile statements for the last 6 years.

This statement made my eyes roll back into my head. I have one statement per note. This way, I can easily/quickly find the bill from a particular month w/o having to page down through a single note.

But hey, as long as it works for you & you're happy, then it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. The one pragmatic drawback to your system is if your notes ever exceed the note size.

I'm not quite sure that I understand why it made your eyes roll back. For example, I also consolidated 3 years of electric bills into one pdf. Since all my pdf's are in the import folder anyway, it involved merging 18 pdf's by highlighting the first and the last and then asking Acrobat to merge them. Within 10 seconds I had the consolidated pdf which I then imported back to EN. Now I have one note which covers the entire subject of electric bills. Today I had a conversation with a solar panel installer who asked me detailed questions about my electric bills for the past 18 months. I essentially went to that pdf and was able to retrieve the info in under 2 minutes (his eyes rolled into the back of his head!). Not quite sure why anyone would find this more difficult than combing through 18 different notes and hoping that they all come up correctly in the search. Furthermore, as previously mentioned, with my scanning parameters the entire pdf was under 2mb. I"ve never even come remotely close to my limit on any pdf's or in any month.

I would have to say most times, (the generic) we need either one or a subset of bills. Having one bill per note (IMO) facilitates that b/c I don't have to filter through one note containing 18 PDFs. Using my method, I'm equally able to pull up notes/bills within a matter of minutes. But as I said, if your method works for you, then it really doesn't matter what anyone else thinks.

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I think Don put it best: Spend your time on the stuff that matters.

For me, there are all sorts of things in Evernote like bills that I might only need once in a while, and as long as I have filed them away following some basic rules (see http://www.princeton.edu/~cmayo/evernote-organization.html) then I can find them if needed. For things directly related to my work, especially ones I regularly browse through, I will spend more time cleaning up notes.

Everyone has a different situation, and you have to do what works for you, but I think the principle of doing the least amount of organization necessary is a good one to remember. Evernote provides a lot of tools like advanced searches and so forth that make this possible.

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For example, I also consolidated 3 years of electric bills into one pdf.

What advantage does that give you, if I may ask? Particularly going forward, when you only get 1 bill for a vendor at a time; are you planning on continuing along this path and deal with the merging of many notes/pdf's into one every 3 years (or however long), or was this a one time "get all my old stuff scanned" deal that you don't plan on continuing?

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OK. here's one example but there are many, many others. I am putting together a solar project at my house. I have shopped this out to several solar panel installation companies. They all want to see the last 12 months of electric bills so that they could figure out how large a system to build.

Also, I was recently audited by a worker's comp company who wanted to see the last 26 payroll statements and were looking for a particular entry in each one. Since I had this in one pdf file (OCR'd) the request took me 2 minutes to comply with (he gave me 2 weeks to complete the "project").

Addendum:

I forgot to answer the second part of your question: Normally, I download only one statement at a time but I keep it with all the other similar statements from the same vendor. For example, Vendor A's note may have 12 monthly statements stored as pdf files all within one note. At the end of the year (or at any other time) I can combine all of those pdf's into one annual file. Incidentally, this is extremely simple to do with Evernote and Adobe Acrobat (a minute at most). Likewise, I can combine several annual files so as to contain clutter ie: instead of 60 seperate notes of T-mobile bills I have one note containing "T-mobile stmts 2005-2012".

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