The idea of journaling the events of your day is romantic. Being able to capture your life as it unfolds would be wonderful. But make no mistake. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to have to be easy.

And what if it could be as easy as speaking what’s happening right now into your phone or even your watch?

This piece of content is an update of a post from Oct. 2022 called How to Journal With Your Voice (Using Evernote). That post is an update of a post from Sept. 2020 called How to Use Evernote to Track Your Time. So why am I making a third post and a third video about the same concept? Glad you asked. I have two reasons for this post:

  • It’s an important concept. Having a record of the events of our lives is important. But if it’s the least bit cumbersome, it’s not likely to happen.
  • Technology changes. Integration between tools changes. That’s what happened between the first video and the second. That’s also what happened between the second and the one you are seeing today.

In the video and podcast, you’ll hear me speak a message into my watch. It’s a text message…a text message to myself. We send texts all day long. Many of us have found the ease of using voice input to compose those text messages.

Let’s take something that’s both familiar and easy to do, something of lasting significance…a journal of our days saved in Evernote.

The organized person of yesteryear…

The organized person of yesteryear carried a pocket memo pad. I still do for those times I need to jot something on paper rather than enter digitally with my voice. The idea is simple. Later in the day, you would look at that memo pad and transfer the information to the appropriate place.

What we had back then gave us an easy way to trap random bits of information on the fly. The “system” then had the job of remembering that bit of information until you could act on it or transfer it to a more appropriate place.

What do I mean by random bits of information?

You run into a friend on the street. You haven’t seen this friend in a long time, and just want to make a quick note about the interaction. Or, there is a major news story. You want to note a quick summary of the event and today’s date.

All I do is send a text message to myself. My message is added to a note in Evernote called “Frank’s Journal.” It’s a log of the activities that happened during the month.

At the end of the month, I create a new note in Evernote, label it with the month and year, and cut and paste the content of Frank’s Journal there. Then I am ready to start again for the next month.

How I make it easy…through voice input

I’m doing this through If This Then That. Watch the video to see how you can create an applet to do the same thing.

If you want the instructions in writing, here they are:

  • Go into If This Then That and create a new applet.
  • For the trigger, choose “Android SMS.”
  • IFTTT will ask for some information if you have not used text messaging with IFTTT before.
  • Next, choose “New SMS sent to phone number.”
  • Supply your own mobile number as the number to which texts will be sent.
  • Then Click “Create trigger.”
  • For the target, choose “Gmail.”
  • If this is the first time you are using Gmail with IFTTT, you’ll be asked for information and permissions.
  • Choose “Send an Email.”
  • Your Gmail address should appear in the correct field.
  • In the “To address” field, add your own personal Evernote email address. All paid users have an email address. If you do not know the address, open Evernote and click on your name in the upper left corner. Click on “Account Info.” On the next screen, scroll down to “Email Notes to.”
  • In the Subject line, put the name of the note where you want the information to go. For e, the note is called “Frank’s Journal.”
  • In the Subject line, add a space and plus sign (+) after the name of the note. When the email arrives in Evernote, the program looks for a note by that name. The plus sign causes the body of the note to be appended to the note rather than a new note being created. (NOTE: I experienced a problem in that Gmail was not recognizing the plus sign and was leaving it out of the subject line. IFTTT Tech Support suggested a workaround: Instead of typing a + instead type + (and be sure to include the semicolon you saw as the last character.
  • Complete the body as you see in the diagram
  • Be sure to select “Update action” to save the applet.

The text of the message you send will be appended to the bottom of the appropriate note in Evernote. It will be date-and-time stamped.

But I experienced a problem…

As I was experimenting with this Applet, the performance was inconsistent. I was puzzled why sometimes the applet worked immediately and sometimes it returned the result the next day if at all.

So I reached Out to If This Then That

I reached out to IFTTT and received a response. I tried what they suggested and the result has worked 100% of the time since then.

The quick reply read as follows:

Hi there,
Thanks for reaching out.
Could you follow these instructions for enabling a persistent notification for the IFTTT app?
Then head to Settings > Apps and notifications > IFTTT > Advanced > Battery, and select Don’t optimize.
Give that a try and let me know whether you see improved performance from your Applet.

And it worked! But why?

I reached out to IFTTT again to see if I could get an explanation for why the changes I made were now giving me consistent results. Again, I received a quick, yet detailed reply:

Usually issues like this are caused by Doze mode, which kicks in when a device has been inactive for a certain amount of time, and aims to conserve battery by restricting apps’ access to the network and background refreshes. Both of those things are crucial for IFTTT Applets.
By changing the Battery setting for the IFTTT app to Don’t optimize, we’re telling the system not to put those same restrictions on the IFTTT app, even if the device enters Doze mode.

Keep in mind the instructions here are for Android. Hey, if you are an iOS user, give this concept a try and let me know how the instructions should be modified for iOS users.

And one more thing…Get out of the note.

In order for your information to be appended to your journal note, Evernote has to let the email write to the note. Evernote has a wonder feature called “Real Time Editing.” This feature lets people who share the note edit it at the same time. At present, that note is closed to any other applications writing to it. In order the text you send to wind up appended to Evernote, that destination note must be closed. But don’t worry. If it’s open, Gmail will continue to try to deliver the message until the note has been closed.

You’re all set.

Now you can use voice input to add those little pieces of information. If you are somewhere where speaking the text message would be awkward, you can certainly key in the message. As long as it’s going to that same phone number, you’re OK.

I’m a fan of voice input, and the applet you saw in this latest video gives me something that will work not only with my phone but also with my watch. If you wind up doing the same thing, let me know.

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