Get In The Habit of Dating Everything

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Habit of Dating Everything

Have you ever come across a note that might be important but have no idea when or where it was written?

Getting in the habit of dating everything isn’t relationship advice… it means adding a few extra pen or key strokes and time-stamping your written notes.

It takes only seconds to date all of your written communications. The seconds invested give 3 main benefits.

1. Know Exactly How Much Time Has Passed

Just like having a “use by” date on a carton of milk, knowing when an idea first came to mind or an intended action was created will allow you to know if the idea or action has expired.

If it’s too late to salvage, toss the note and try to do better next time. If not, throw it into your to-do list and take action on it when the time and place allows.

2. Holds Others Accountable

Emails, voicemails, and other electronic notes have the benefit of time-stamping communication for you. That automation is not (yet) available on handwritten notes and many word processors.

Dating delegated tasks or agreements takes away the excuse that you only just gave them the project.

“The note says three weeks ago… get on it buddy.”

3. Hint At Where the Note Was Taken

If you know when a note was written, it may jog your memory enough to figure out the where.

“This was written on October 15th. Wasn’t I at the marketing conference in New York mid-October?”

In Closing

Knowing how much time has passed, holding others accountable and using the ‘when’ to figure out ‘where’ of a note, are some simple reasons to date all of your written communications.

Did I miss any? What are some reasons you choose to date or not date your items? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Tobias May 6, 2014 at 4:08AM

I agree. Here’s a tip: I’ve been doing this manually for a long time but I just started using TextExpander and now use the snippet “xts” which expands to “%Y-%m-%d-%H-%M-%S” (so right now, 2014-05-06-10-05-35). I’ve chosen this format because it’s the one Drafts on iOS uses with the [[time]] variable to automatically time stamp notes added to files.


Zachary Sexton May 8, 2014 at 6:07PM

Thanks for the tip Tobias. I am just about to take the dive into the wonderful world of TextExpander (the software has been on my productivity tool wish list list for quite some time). I will definitely experiment with your time-stamping technique.


Zachary Sexton May 10, 2014 at 9:46AM

Guess when I got TextExpander? May 10, 2014 7:43 AM. I chose the default “ddate” and “ttime” because it seemed memorable. Can’t wait to start time stamping my plain text documents. Thanks again for the tip.


Mattheous May 13, 2014 at 7:22PM

Will you be doing an article on text expansion? I’ve been wanting to get into that ever since I heard Merlin Mann talk about it.


Thanh Pham May 13, 2014 at 7:42PM
Michiel May 7, 2014 at 1:45AM

One reason I date my received mail is because some (government) company’s have the tendency to date their mail on the same day I receive it. Well, that’s not really possible, right? ;-)


Zachary Sexton May 8, 2014 at 6:11PM

Silly government. Although, that sounds like something I would try to do if I were paying a bill late.


Stephen Davis May 12, 2014 at 12:25AM

I do this and I got it from Coppolla – This is right in line with what Francis Ford Copolla does:


Zachary Sexton May 23, 2014 at 6:49PM

Date Everything Stapler! =>


Shaun June 16, 2014 at 2:57AM

Are you guys considering dating your articles? It would be convenient when trying to determine if an article linked from your Twitter feed (or elsewhere) is new or an older one. The age of the article doesn’t usually affect it, but sometimes it would be nice to have that information. Thanks, and love the site.


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