How I fell in love with Evernote

evernote productivity app

I’m a sucker for productivity software, so when I started using Evernote I was cautious about getting too hyped up about it. Now 6 months into my Evernote journey I’m more in love with it than ever. But like Quicksilver, it’s a little hard to describe what it is and why it’s valuable. Maybe by seeing how I use it you might see a way it could be helpful to you.

It’s a notebook.

If all I did with it was take notes it would be the bomb. It’s got a nice simple writing interface that lets me focus on what I’m writing. It has folders (Evernote calls them Notebooks) and tags that I can use to keep all my notes organized. Plus it has a terrific search engine for finding anything I need. So right away I’m miles ahead. If I just start taking meeting notes in Evernote I’m instantly more organized and effective.

But I can’t always whip a computer out and take notes in a meeting. No problem, write notes on paper, then snap a picture of your notes, or scan them in with your ScanSnap and presto. Your notes are in Evernote. The bonus? Evernote uses some kind of OCR magic and reads your handwritten notes so that the text in them is searchable! (You have to write somewhat neatly, your mileage may vary.) See how it’s making your notebook better?

The mobile app takes your notebook to a whole new level. With it you can easily record a voice memo, or snap a picture to get something into Evernote. See a book you want to order, snap it. Have trouble keeping track of receipts, business cards, or other scraps of paper, take a picture of the item and toss it! It’s all in your notebook now.

It’s a list machine.

I tried a bunch of fancy GTDish to-do apps, with little success. But Evernote got me back on the GTD bandwagon, with focus and productivity.

I keep four lists in my To-Do Notebook in Evernote, Today, Tomorrow, Later and Saturday. Each day I construct my Today list from the Tomorrow & Later lists so that I have a focused list of things that are urgent and important. I also measure what I put on the list based on how much time I have work on to-do’s that day. This means it’s likely I can actually accomplish my Today list today! This keeps me tons more focused on my tasks during the day. (Saturdays are different for me, that’s mostly errands, so those chores go right on the Saturday list.) I can easily cut and paste tasks from one list to another to make my lists. Once I complete a task I mark it off and move on.

Because the notes sync effortlessly to and from the mobile app to the desktop I can capture to-do’s anywhere, mark things off as soon as they are done, and easily remember what’s next on the list. It’s hard to screw up!

It’s a brain.

My hatred for (and frustration with) paper is legendary. I can lose, misfile or otherwise misplace any piece of paper no mater how important, or how little time I’ve held onto it.

By creating a list of things that I frequently forget, and dropping them into Evernote, I became a genius! I added:

  • The school calendar
  • A map of the Pedway
  • A photo of my license plate (that I can never memorize)
  • Clothing sizes for my family members (useful at gift giving time)
  • Measurements of each room in my house (useful when shopping for house stuff)
  • List of places to go on date nights (no more “I don’t know, where do you want to go?”)
  • A list of Books/Music/Movies I’d like to buy/borrow/experience

The web clipper adds websites into my brain easily. Push one browser button to clip a webpage as a PDF and dump it into Evernote. I use it for two things, reference notes and recipes. When I’m doing research for a client or a project I will often clip some of the webpages I find that are helpful. It makes it nice and easy to reference them. It’s also easy to email those pages out of evernote if the client wants to see them. Cleaner and more convenient than emailing a bunch of links (and the email includes the URL if the recipient wants to visit). When I come across a recipe I want to keep, clip it! Then when I’m working on menu planning they are all there.

Pro Tips: I found Brett Kelly’s Evernote Essentials e-book enormously helpful. He helped me to think through how I wanted to use Evernote so that I would start as I intended to continue. He gave me some great hints including: He also has great tips for when to use notebooks and when to use tags, it’s really worth the small investment (if you are going to make Evernote a key piece of your workflow).

How do you use Evernote?

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Brad Farris

As principal advisor of Anchor Advisors, Brad Farris has experience leading businesses & business owners into new levels of growth and success. Through his work with over 100 Chicago area small businesses he has experience in guiding founders and business owners through the pitfalls and joys of growing their business. Prior to joining Anchor Advisors, Brad spent over 10 years managing business units for a family-owned conglomerate with sales of $2 million to $25 million.
When not working Brad enjoys cycling, cooking and the NFL. He is married with 5 children and lives in Chicago, Illinois. Connect with him on Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn.