Back in the old days (before smartphones and even PDAs), I loved paper. I carried bits of it everywhere. I printed out my college timetable and put it in a plastic window in my wallet. I did the same with my contacts.
When I got my own place, I bought a filing cabinet and dutifully filed away all of my bank statements and important letters. I felt grown up.
Things started to change when I got my first PDA – a lovely Palm Pilot. It stored my calendar and my contacts. Along with my mobile phone, it was the start of my paperless journey.
I still kept a filing cabinet though. There was just nowhere else to store all my stuff. I suppose I could have scanned it all in and saved it to my hard drive, but space wasn’t as cheap back then, my scanner was slow and cumbersome to use, and cloud storage was nonexistent. The filing cabinet stayed.
Fast-forward a few years to the development of online storage services, smartphones and note-taking apps. My first attempt at paperlessness was with Springpad. I started to clip articles from the web, to record memos. I kept track of wine that I’d enjoyed by taking pictures on my phone and saving them in a notebook. Most of my bank accounts offered online statements, so the amount of physical paperwork I had reduced greatly.
Springpad was (and is) a great service, but it was slow. There were no native Windows or Mac clients, and the web interface was not brilliant. I had previously tried Evernote but didn’t get on with it. However, I decided to give it another go.
I migrated all of my Springpad data into Evernote (manually). I read Brett Kelly’s excellent ebook on Evernote and applied many of the techniques and ideas within to my own notebooks. It’s a good read, and I heartily recommend it.
Next, I installed the Evernote web clipper for Chrome, which allows me to clip any page, selection of a page, or image directly into Evernote. I also signed up for an Evernote premium account. This give me a personal Evernote email address – anything I send to it goes straight into Evernote. You can specify the target notebook and tags on the subject line as well. Finally, I installed the Evernote application on my Mac, my home and work PCs, my iPad and iPhone.
So that was me, all set up with Evernote. I then began the slow process of moving all of my paper archives into it. For scanning, I use JotNot Pro on my iPhone. It creates multi page PDFs from photos. A premium Evernote account OCRs these documents, thus making them searchable by text.
Cards and drawings from the kids, old letters from my Mum, gift tags from presents that I wanted to keep – all of this went into Evernote. I didn’t necessarily throw away all of these things, but it was comforting to have a permanent backup.
I also saved dozens of photographs that I liked. I’m an amateur photographer, and I now have several notebooks full of inspirational shots. They’re all tagged neatly and easy to find using Evernote’s powerful search.
Every time I receive a letter, I deal with it immediately. If it’s junk, I shred it. If I need to keep it, I scan it and then shred it. It’s then available wherever I am should I need to reference it.
I soon became an Evernote junkie. I clipped everything, scanned everything, I used it for my diary, for work, for my todo list. I begin using Evernote Food to keep track of memorable meals (yes, I’m one of those people!) I’ve moved beyond JotNot and I’m planning to get a Doxie One, to make things easier to scan when I receive them.
Although Steve Jobs famously told the world that nobody needs a stylus, I do. I use one to take notes at home and at work, and those notebooks are regularly archived to Evernote. My note-taking app of choice is GoodNotes, but some people swear by others. I tried about ten before settling on that as my favourite. Your mileage may vary.
NOT THERE YET
I’m still not completely paperless. Two small dusty filing boxes remain, filled with paper archives. I plan to deal with them both when I get the Doxie.