Evernote, more than any other application, is what keeps me productive, sane, and on-task. It helps me remember everything, helps me get things done, and has all manner of other purposes and uses in my life.
My productivity system is based on Evernote as my inbox, my school organization is all based within Evernote, and so on and so forth. I could continue to rant and rave about how great it is, but instead I’ll tell you how it is that I use it.
First, the reason I use Evernote. It’s simple to set up, easy to customize, and available everywhere. I use the iPhone version, the Windows Mobile version, the Web version, and the desktop version daily – being so available means I can always add to and access Evernote, which makes it easy to create a system I trust.
I need to be sure that I can always get things out of my head, and into a place I can find them, and I’ve finally found that in Evernote. Here’s how I use it:
This is what Evernote started as for me, and it remains the most important use. Everything that comes into my head – everything – goes straight into Evernote. I can add things to Evernote via my iPod Touch, my Windows Mobile phone, my computer via the Evernote desktop client, or on any computer thanks to Evernote’s fantastic Web version. It’s the most ubiquitously available application I’ve ever seen, which makes it perfect for acting as my “ubiquitous capture” tool, to steal from GTD-speak. Every thought, every to-do item, and every random entrant into my mind grapes goes out of my head and into Evernote. Then it gets processed into Remember the Milk, but we’ll get to that tomorrow.
To do this, I created a default notebook called “Inbox” within Evernote. Every new note goes into the Inbox, and once or twice I day I process all the notes in the notebook.
Staying in the GTD mindset, using Evernote as a Tickler has been hugely useful for me. I created a notebook called, of all things, “Tickler.” Then, anything date-significant gets put in there with the date first in the title, in the format YYMMDD – this keeps it in exactly the right order for me. I check it every morning, and all things relevant to that day – files, tickets, anything – are right there.
Evernote is fundamentally free – it’s just got a 40MB upload limit every month, and a smaller number of files that can be added (pictures and PDFs are always okay). For $5/month or $45/year, you get a 500MB upload limit and no limit on the files you can upload. I paid, and now Evernote also acts as a backup for all my personal files. There’s nothing you can’t add (adding music and movies will add up fast), and having all my important files searchable and available anywhere is incredibly useful.
As a college student, I’ve got a ton of notes, handouts, tests, papers, and general stuff to deal with. To deal with it all, I created a notebook called “School.” Then, I created a tag for each individual class, and everything associated with that class goes in the School notebook, and gets tagged with the proper class. That way, I can look through my notebook easily, and find all my notes and information, which makes everything from studying to writing papers a whole lot easier.
One of the things that goes into my Evernote Inbox most often are ideas for blog posts – I write for a number of different sources, and having a steady stream of article ideas is important. So, I created a Notebook called “Blog” for everything blogging-related. I created a tag for each of the blogs I write for, as well as one called “Post Ideas.” If I have an idea that could work for multiple spots, it just gets tagged Post Ideas. If there’s a particular blog an idea fits best with, it gets that tag as well. There’s also a tag for “Blog Admin,” which is a storage place for all the things I want to do on the back end of this site and others.
Writing is much easier when I have a storage of ideas to look at and reference – that’s a cinch with Evernote.
I kept a daily journal for a long time, but eventually found it to be more of a chore than anything else – I always felt like I had to write, and felt guilty when I didn’t. Now, my journal comes more in one or two sentences, put directly into Evernote. Things I notice, or find interesting, or want to reflect on, get entered into my Evernote, put into a “Reference” notebook, and get tagged with “Journal.” That way I can see all my entries, all the things I want to remember and think about, in one place – there’s no pressure to keep it updated, and there’s no hassle when I do update it.
My journal’s really more of a “Note to Self” section, but it’s worked really well for me, dealing with the things that take up space in my brain.
Grocery lists. Bands to check out. Movies to watch. Gift ideas. These are all lists I update constantly, and might need available at any given moment. That’s why I created a Notebook in Evernote called “Lists.” All these lists, and more, go into that notebook, and are always accessible via any of Evernote’s many platforms (most often my Windows Mobile phone). Using Evernote’s ability to create checkboxes, I can make these lists, and check things off as I do or buy them. Grocery shopping without a list is bad news – thankfully, I don’t have to do it anymore.
Another school-friendly use, this one’s also applicable to anyone. If you’re doing research for a given project, create a notebook for it. When you find quotes, or interesting tidbits, or just things you want to reference, put them all into Evernote – adding notes is easy, and there’s even a Web clipper extension available for Firefox. I do this for papers, and it’s a great practice – it makes searching for information easier, puts all my research and sources in one place, and I can find and use all my research easier without having to hunt for information all over the Web.
If your research involves screenshots and images, taking them with Evernote is simple: you can clip entire Web pages into Evernote, or use the built-in clipping tool to be able to Print your screen directly into Evernote. It’s how I get screenshots for blog posts, and find images for a variety of uses.
I’m in the (slow and cumbersome) process of making my life totally paperless. Everything gets scanned into my computer, and most things go into Evernote. Things I found in magazines, receipts, bank statements and the like are all getting put into Evernote. Thanks to Evernote’s Optical Character Recgonition, the text of these scanned documents actually becomes searchable, meaning I can find the right bank statement or memo with a quick search, rather than flipping through all my files.
I created a Notebook in Evernote called “Files,” and a number of tags based on things I frequently file – receipts, statements, handouts, and the like. Everything gets added and tagged, and then is incredibly easy to find.
There’s a ton more that can be done with Evernote – the beauty of it is that it’s a massively customizable, universally-available way of managing all the information in your life.
For more on Evernote, here are a couple of articles I’ve written about how I use Evernote:
MakeUseOf – “7 Ways to Make Use of Evernote”
Gearfire – “Using Evernote to Save Your Schooling”
How do you use Evernote? Do you use it, or something similar?