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Archive: Processing Info

Evernote Data Pruning: How To Keep Evernote Useful

The best way to keep your data clean & useful is to regularly do some easy tending and pruning.

WHY WOULD I LOOK AT OLDER NOTES?

Face it, when you started using Evernote you weren’t sure what to put in. Or you followed the idea of "dump everything in it" to the letter and now every search has way too many irrelevant results. Or you realize that your "how to use Evernote as a cookbook" period is over and you no longer need those entries.

Or you wish you would have tagged some notes. Or you would like to move personal notes to one notebook and article clippings to another.

An easy way to tend to this data household chore is by doing a search for notes created on that day in the years before.

Example: if today is December 28 then I can find the notes I made on December 28, 2009 by typing:

created:20091228 -created:20091229

The format there is since date, before date, and the result is a list of notes created on the since date only.

To view other years I simply change the year. My data goes back to 2005 when I started to use Evernote so it takes 5 searches.

I’m done with my data pruning in 1-2 minutes usually.

HOW I USE DATA PRUNING

  • I delete a lot of material that is outdated or no longer piques my interest.
  • See times gone by as I come across log entries.
    evernote data pruning date search
  • Add or remove tags
  • Move items to new notebooks
  • Consolidate notes, tags or notebooks
  • Tweet older but interesting material
  • See the big(ger) picture in areas of interest
  • Get ideas for blog posts, articles

BONUS TIP: PERSONALBRAIN

I use the same pruning procedure in PersonalBrain. The reports tab lets you pick a start/end date.It’s a bit more clicking with the calendar it has but it’s pretty cool to have your data in order.

How I Blocked Myself From Twitter For 3 Days

I’m a bit hesitant to say this but I blocked myself from Twitter and other (social) media snacking for 3 days – and I liked it.

(more…)

Make Your Own Query Language with Evernote Tags

Finding back items in Evernote is usually as simple as typing something, anything, into the search box and seeing the results appear as you type.

For slightly deeper data digging some of us might be tagging our notes and use the [tag:] query to get to very specific notes.

The problem begins when you need that note with that Word document attached to it. Or when you want to pull all your notes with .ppt attachments.

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Creating & Keeping Persistent Digital Memories

Recently I gave Rachel, one of my daughters, a collection of digital documents covering her teenage years and some of her childhood. The collection contains PDF’s, some saved HTML pages, WMV and MOV video’s, a few audio recordings in MP3 format and thousands of digital JPEG photos.

It’s a slice of a growing collection, a collection that encompasses the digitized memories of My Life. Thoughts, songs, clips, snapshots, links.

It’s a collection started in 1997 but by now containing items from long before that time; digitized photographs and video of my childhood and teen years, songs from back then, etc.

As time passed and the collection grew two main challenges emerged:

  • how do I make sure these items make it to my children?
  • where or how do they get the information about the items?

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Combined Searches: Powerful Data in TweetDeck

As a data processor I just had to switch to TweetDeck. The built-in Twitscoop view is a constant finger on the pulse of the community’s conversation; I “see” a lot of news and events approaching this way before they hit the news.

Another great feature is built-in persistent searches. You can add searches the Tweets of which will appear in their own column.

A “drawback” — one is never satisfied — is that TweetDeck enforces a 10 column maximum. You’ll quickly run out of columns to add, having to delete a previous search to start to monitor a new topic.

Bundle Searches

Searches in TweetDeck are powered by search.twitter.com (the previous Summize).

The default operator applied is AND: evernote chrome.

tweetdeck search twitter and operator

But Twitter search recognizes the OR operator: economy OR coffee.

tweetdeck search twitter or operator

This gives you the ability to combine or collapse a number of searches into one and the same column, giving you “virtual unlimited columns” in TweetDeck.

Good candidates are searches which during most 48 hour periods, the timeframe TweetDeck considers, produce limited results. For example, I combine the streams for knowledge management and mindmapping.

Topics can be more thoroughly covered this way as well. Hot is The Economy at the moment but simply searching economy gives you a restricted view. economy OR recession OR “wall street” OR “credit crunch” is much wider, covers more ground.

Adding Files to Evernote Using Adobe Acrobat

I don’t know if Evernote is indispensable as I don’t remember working without it. It’s installed on each of my computers and every reinstall of Windows since 2005…

Evernote3 has only made life easier, simpler, with syncing in the cloud. It’s the goodness of never having to chose between storing stuff on this computer, that computer, on your Flash drive or in the cloud: it’s and, not or. And Evernote does the transparent heavy lifting of all that synced goodness.

Evernote can store images (and yes, index and search text in those images…) and PDF files (which, again, it can index and search too). So I didn’t take out my notetaker walllet to copy down the addition to the opening times of the nearby swimming pool; I snapped a photo with the low-res CMOS camera built-in to most cellphones today and emailed it to my Evernote account.

French image OCR in Evernote

Likewise my copy of Leo Babauta’s Zen to Done has been drag-and-dropped into Evernote and is thus available to me anywhere at any time.

Nice.

However, as it goes with these kind of improvements, they make you long for more. That longing rises quickly when you attempt to drag a non-image, non-PDF into Evernote.

Unsupported or unrecognized Evernote file

Can’t be done.

Adobe Acrobat to the Rescue

Having been on the fence whether to continue to use a patchwork of alternative solutions or buy Adobe Acrobat, I interpreted the recently-ish release of Acrobat 9.0 as a sign that I should buy a copy.

Adobe Acrobat on ObjectDock

Ever since I’ve been playing around with the program, liking my new software toy very much — thank you — and turning just about anything into PDF’s. Our Husky now scurries away when he sees me approach.

One of the things I came across is the ability to create a PDF Portfolio. A PDF Portfilio is a PDF-ish file that can contain other files: images, Word files, Excel, video, etc. etc. …

You see where this is going to go, right?

Create a PDF Portfolio

Except for the reader-only version, obviously, any edition of Adobe Acrobat 9.0 can create PDF Portfolio’s.

Open your copy and go for Create -> Assemble a PDF Portfolio.

Create PDF Portfolio

Grab a file and drag-and-drop it to the PDF Portfolio screen.

Drag file to PDF Portfolio

If you want you click on the file name to change that. Or click under the file name to add a description to that file.

File dropped in PDF Portfolio Add description to PDF Portfolio file

You can switch to the esthetically more pleasing list view too. Adobe Acrobat Pro and Pro Extended can also apply templates to how these PDF Portfolio’s look and behave. Brian S. Friedlander’s Assistive Technology has a good entry on creating PDF Portfolio’s in Adobe Acrobat Pro (Extended).

The created PDF Portfolio, containing your files, can be dropped into Evernote and will be synced with and through the cloud.

Even when (if?) Evernote adds native file sharing, using PDF Portfolio’s in a very elegant way to move and share files which should be kept together.

Gmail To Evernote Information Management Workflow

Capturing information has to be as low-key, as easy as it can be. Smooth, is the word I’m looking for, I think.

My favorite capture tool since 2005-ish has been Evernote. Highlight, CTRL + C, CTRL + ALT + V to create a new pasted note from anywhere within Windows.

But back then Evernote was a local installation application only. Bugged me as I switch between my desktop and a laptop provided by Canada’s SEO company.

Enter Gmail [hat tip: Turn Gmail Into Your Personal Nerve Center].

Gmail Capture Process

  • Get the Google toolbar.
  • Highlight info on a page, click Send To, choose Gmail.

    Google toobar Send to Gmail menu

  • In the subject line I use a pipe followed by keywords/tags.

    Delete Sent Using Google Toolbar text

    use keywords in the subject line as tags

    Those keywords allow you to do “tag” searches by doing a subject search in Gmail.

…to Evernote Workflow

To send information into my Gmail database I, of course, use a special + email address as in Gmail you can do youremail+anything@.

In Gmail I’ve setup a filter which will label any email to this specific address with DB, short for database (why not database in full? simple, in a search it is faster to restrict to label:db or l:db than using the word “database” spelled out in full….).

The address is also filtered to automatically forward to my special Evernote email address. Minutes after the note arrives in Gmail it’s available in Evernote too.

Once every 1-3 days I go into my “InBox” notebook in Evernote and go through the incoming notes. This is a fast, short job. Give it one “real” Evernote tag, usually. Very high level too. Then drag it into one of the handful of notebooks I keep (again very high level. Any complete web page capture goes into Web Archive, for example).

Done.

The Benefits

  1. Future proof: Evernote might disappear, email won’t
  2. Automatic backup
  3. Both available from anywhere with Gmail being just a tad better available even
  4. Keywords (“tags”) in the subject/title of the note allow for subject searches in Gmail and intitle searches in Evernote
  5. Searches in both Evernote and Gmail are fast while each has its own strengths
  6. Since a little while Evernote has removed the inline Goto Source to a tiny button, making note export with URL a royal pain. Gmail includes the source link.

    Send to Gmail with clear source link

The only time I clip directly into Evernote is when images/graphics are of importance to me: Gmail stores a link to the images, not the images themselves. And yes, in that case I often email the note to Gmail :)

Intention Deficit

If you feel it’s all just too much information and you don’t experience the stream of information available to you as something great and laid back then you might be suffering from Intention Deficit.

Intention Drives Actions

Normally we intent to do something with something at a specific time and place. Thus we find ourselves in the supermarket with the intention to buy groceries.

Removing intention from the equation is frustrating.

Loss of intention makes your actions meaningless and impossible.

Ever stood up to go to the kitchen only to find yourself thinking; “Why am I here?” That’s loss of intention for you right there…

Intention Deficit Kills Information Joy

If you don’t have a clear intention for each piece of information you expose yourself to soon that information will become a source of distraction and frustration.

You open your feedreader, see “1000+ unread” and think; oh no. Clicking “mark all as read” you sigh, clench your muscles and think “I failed again but this time I’ll stay current and up to date — this time I’ll read it all, all the time”.

From Intent to Read to Intention for Reading

jump-for-joy

The clearer your intention, the better you feel. “I follow this feed to stay up to date on the news in my industry” sounds like a clear intention but soon you’ll find yourself stressed at somehow staying “up to date”.

Why?

Because the question is; why do want to stay up to date? Answering that question for yourself gives you a chance to bring things back to your real life; “I follow this feed to stay up to date in order to learn about code exploits as soon as possible so I can protect the company server”.

If you find yourself storing information or URL’s ask yourself: what do I intent to do with this?

The fact that it is remotely interesting isn’t enough. You have to know for yourself “I save this article because I’m planning to write about the body-space awareness of termites”.

More elsewhere:

  • Horizons of Focus
  • Covey’s idea of Roles (would love to include a link but alas, can’t find a good write-up on it! Know one?)

Do you think clear intention helps — or do you maybe think all this talk about information processing and knowledge work is way overdone?

Treat Your Feeds Like Magazines

Adopting a “first in, maybe never out” approach to RSS feeds assures you have tons and tons of content from sources you know you like.

It’s there, ready to go when you want to enjoy it.

This Saturday morning, for example, I passed in bed with some heavenly espresso (Italian stovetop method, yes) and tons of great, funny, interesting, emotional, informing articles. It’s like having a huge pile of recent magazines.

Be Your Own News Filter

Young woman reading a magazineAs you browse through your collection of feeds and feed items you’ll come across a lot of tasty stuff. Just as with reading a magazine, it’s perfectly OK to skip forward to what caught your interest, to sample and article or to earmark another for later reading.

In Google Reader the Starred Items works perfectly for this. [S]tar that post, [S]tar that item you think sounds like a good read, [S]tar for later on.

This routine is like being your own news filter. Not only do you have your hand selected subscriptions waiting for you; you have your hand selected “most interesting” articles preselected.

Photo at the generous courtesy of AJ Schuster

Surfing vs. Information Overload

My main reaction to the idea of information overload is one of disbelief. David Allen does a wonderful job giving words to that disbelief:

"If information overload was the issue you’d walk into a library and die. The first time you surf the web, you blow up."

Now as we don’t have people dying or suffering a mental meltdown caused by information "overload", clearly we don’t mean "overload".

What we’re trying to say is; "Look, there’s too much information here to digest". To which my answer is; so?

If someone is clutching his stomach complaining about "food overload" caused by there being too much food to digest, you’d ask "but why in the world do you try to eat it all at the same time?!"

Take Television

Information abundance isn’t new. Just think about the thousands of television programs, the hundreds of hours you could spend in front of the tube. Hard news, breaking news, reportages, documentaries…

TV screens

Hear anyone complain?

Between 1993-2002 television program supply in Finland (PDF) increased by 73%; 23 additional TV program hours per day. Yet television viewing time over that same period increased by only 40 minutes a day.

And no-one is collapsing under TV, entertainment or information overload.

Why?

Don’t Try To Finish

Nobody in his right mind will try to finish watching all programs on all channels.

Likewise no-one around you is attempting to read all newspaper article in all newspapers. Or sitting in a library speed-reading all books.

And you yourself, when you sat down and connected to the World Wide Web, were just "surfing the web"; you weren’t actually trying to reach the "last page" and finish, were you?

The same holds true for your RSS feeds. Yes, there’re 1000+ unread items. Great! Even if everyone would stop publishing today, you would still have a ton of great reads ahead.

Because face it, you don’t need to "catch up" with all those unread items. Stand up! Surf! Welcome to the information wave.

Custom Queries for Evernote

Custom Queries for Evernote

Custom Queries for Evernote

How I Use Projects in Evernote (and tie them back to actions)

12 Month + Some People Tickler File

Recurrence in Evernote GTD