DEVONthink Usage Tip : Daily Notes

I was recently asked by someone on a mailing list to document some usage tips related to the DEVONthink information manager. I’ve been looking for time to write a complete article, and haven’t found any, so what I’ve decided to do is to publish bit by bit, starting with this post.

The Problem
My company, MakaluMedia GmbH, is a software engineering and services company, and at any point in time we’ve got several commercial and internal projects active. During the course of any given day, I will receive a multitude of emails, meetings and phone calls (some of which are important and some of which are not).

The Solution
To help manage this information, I have created the following structure in DEVONthink:

DailyNotes/
MakaluMedia/
  Projects/
    Project A/
      History/
    Project B/
      History/

Of particular importance are the root-level DailyNotes/ folder and the project-level History/ folder.

At all times, I keep a separate window of the DailyNotes/ open, and set to the “Outline” view. This splits the window into two vertically stacked sections: 1) the top section listing the contents of the folder (DailyNotes), and 2) the bottom section listing the contents of any selected item in the above list.

Whenever anything noteworthy happens during the day, I create a new text or RTF document in DailyNotes, and give the document a name that completely describes the event. I also use a Spell Catcher shortcut to enter the date and time in the file title, in the format YYYY-MM-DD-HH-MM:

DailyNotes/
  2003-11-06-15-07 MLK Requested New FTP Account to be Established

Sometimes the document title alone serves as a sufficient representation of the event. In case more information is needed, I record that information in the document content. In the above example, I could copy/paste the contents of the requesting email.

Replicates
Once this is done, I use DEVON’s “replicate” function to create a replicate of the entry. A replicate is like a duplicate, except that the replicate is the same as the original — so if you edit the original, the replicate is also changed.

Once the replicate is created, I control-click on it, and move it in the menu hierarchy to the MLK project’s History folder:

Projects/
  MLK/
    History/
      2003-11-06-15-07 MLK Requested New FTP Account to be Established

In this way, my DailyNotes folder has a running history of everything that happens, while my Project History folders have a running history of the project-related happenings.

Record Everything
I use the DailyNotes area for everything, not just project-related information. I also record software purchases there, modifications to my computer, etc.

DailyNotes/
  2003-11-07-09-36 Installed Apple Security Update on TiBook
  2003-11-06-15-13 Purchased Freeway Pro for the Mac
  2003-11-06-15-07 MLK Requested New FTP Account to be Established

Actions/ToDos
Taking this all one step further, if an event requires that I take some action, then I will embed the word ACTION in the document title:

DailyNotes/
  2003-11-07-09-36 ARTS Request to Clarify Specifications [ACTION]

At the end of the day, or whenever convenient, I will scan the recorded events in DailyNotes, and will create ToDos in (one of) my other critical productivity applications, Life Balance.

Clean-Up
I normally keep about a month’s worth of entries in DailyNotes/. At the end of the month, I’ll create a new folder within DailyNotes/, e.g. “2003-06”, and drag all of that month’s entries into that folder, thereby shortening the DailyNotes visible list, while retaining the entries.

Conclusion
I’ve found that consistently documenting events in this manner helps in many ways. I quickly review the past week, getting an idea of how “under-control” things are. If a particular project has a lot of entries, and needs some intervention, it becomes apparent. When a customer calls, I’ll switch to the history of their project, and immediately have a complete project overview at my fingertips, with all details available. The information is all available for easy drag-and-drop into an email (using Mailsmith, of course. 🙂 or other programs.

And having all this data available to DEVONthink’s amazing internal search engine is icing on the cake.

Ok, that’s all for now. More tips on the way in future posts. Hope this was helpful.

5 thoughts on “DEVONthink Usage Tip : Daily Notes”

  1. Very helpful! I have been looking for time to explore how I might use Devon Think. Up until now I’ve used it only occasionaly to catalog and create a cross-refenece concordance with a bunch of documents. DevonAgent I have found useful for searches too. So please, anytime you have something to say about Devon products publish it!

  2. Have you found a way to have it automatically insert the current date with a hotkey or are you manually doing it each time? I love DT and continue find new things to use it for everyday.

  3. @jmck: Actually, as of a couple months ago, I stopped using LifeBalance for todos, relying completely on DEVONthink. I’ll be posting an update article soon about this.

  4. hey this is great. I just reposted on Google+. I have started to use DTPO of more of a daily “to do” and organizer in general and what you are doing really helps. Now onto the implementation….

    Ryan

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