Imagine a world without sticky notes. A world where you can have an idea, capture that idea, and have that information or idea come back to you just when you need it. Imagine how clean your desk would be. Imagine how organized you would feel. Imagine how productive you could be. (Is this starting to sound like a John Lennon song?)
Now go and download the Evernote app and go from dreaming to reality.
That download link is my referral link to Evernote. Once you become an Evernote user, you can earn points toward free premium services, but more on that later.
This is Part 1 in a two-part article.
Evernote is one of many, many note-taking apps available for your computer and phone. It’s been around since 2004, and I won’t bore you with the business end, but they aren’t likely to go away anytime soon. As of 2020, Evernote is still my favorite note-taking app and all-around way to get digitally organized. Evernote is the best tool to create a personalized database of any kind of information, no matter where I find it or how I create it. And it’s one VERY big factor in being able to keep my desk clear and organized!
If you think of Evernote as “sticky notes in the sky,” you immediately start to get an idea of how flexible and powerful this app is.
Put simply, Evernote lets me organize my random thoughts and big ideas, little bits of information and big projects. There are only two main elements that you need to know about to start using Evernote: Notes and Notebooks.
Although not strictly grammatically correct, I’ll capitalize Notes and Notebooks here to indicate the main elements of Evernote.
The easiest way to start is to simply type a list into a new Note.
At this point you are thinking, yeah, sure, I already do that on the Notes feature on my phone. But if you are an iPhone + PC user, you can’t get to your iPhone notes from your PC. Evernote is cross-platform, so you can access it from any device you use, and ALSO from any browser on any computer at all.
If you like your phone’s Notes app, then you really should check out my favorite elephant. The Evernote logo is an elephant because elephants never forget. With Evernote’s help, you’ll never forget important info, either!
You can stash all sorts of random bits of information in Evernote and use the powerful search feature to recall it again quickly. Where Evernote really shines for me is in gathering together information for a topic, event, or project I’m planning. A good example from my own life is planning big trips. Not all travel arrangements require a Notebook, but on several occasions when I’ve planned personal or business trips, I’ve been glad to keep everything in one place including:
- Airline ticket confirmation (forwarded from email)
- Hotel confirmation (forwarded from email)
- Train scheduled (clipped from the web)
- Links for metric conversion and currency conversion (live links in a Note for easy access)
- Contact information for my hosts and friends
- List of people I want to meet at conferences along with photos I’ve clipped from their social profiles
- Copies of my presentations
- Links for local attractions I’ve researched
- An offline map of the area
- A copy of my travel insurance policy
- Boarding passes, once they are issued
- Scans of receipts for major purchases and booked activities
- Scans of cafes, restaurants and wine labels that I might want to remember for future trips
- Lists of foreign words I’m learning
- Recipes and pictures for pies I had on my trip and want to make back at home. (Have you met me? I’m all about the pies. The kind with crusts, not the mathematical kind.)
If you are still thinking, “I can put all that in email,” I dare you to compare! Look at what you’re doing now in email and compare it with the ease of storing so many different types of information in a personalized Notebook. I think you’ll find it so much easier.
If you are working on a complex project, like writing a book or working on a big proposal, Evernote is amazing! Each time I begin a book, I create a new Notebook. A book is essentially just a very big report or proposal, so you might already be doing something similar at work, but storing your documents in many different places on your computer, the cloud, in email, and in project management apps. Next time, bring all of those pieces together in one place, an Evernote Notebook.
And it’s not just a tool for individuals. There is also an Evernote Business option, should you need to build a common brain with your work team.
Evernote isn’t for everyone. If you only use spreadsheets, if you don’t like apps, need an app that’s beautiful, or if you really need a robust project management tool, then Evernote probably isn’t going to be your best option. If Evernote isn’t for you, don’t despair. Evernote is currently updating its user interface and core functions, like search, so stay tuned for exciting updates this year. There are also plenty of other note-taking apps to explore. Check out this video comparing several well-known and a few newcomer apps.
Like I said, I have found Evernote to be such an important part of my productivity toolbox personally and for my clients, that I’ve invested dozens of hours in becoming an Evernote Certified Consultant.
This article is getting a little long, so I’m going to come back tomorrow with a full feature list and the few downsides that I’ve found with Evernote. While you are waiting for part two, download the free Evernote app on your mobile device and your main computer. Take it for a test run, and I’ll be back with more info tomorrow. This is Part 1 in a two-part article. Click here for Part 2.