September 23, 2014 by Beth
Welcome back, grasshopper!
If you read the post about why you should join the Evernote cult and the post covering all the basics to activate your account, you’re ready to rock and roll. Now, let’s talk about how to actually use and maximize Evernote. All four of the posts in this series are part of a recap on the “Becoming An Evernote Ninja” session I offered at the 2014 Arkansas Women Bloggers conference.
Getting The Lay Of The Evernote Land
First, let’s go back to that comparison of Evernote as a filing cabinet, although it does MUCH more (as covered in the previous post). Picture the typical office circa 2004, with a big metal file cabinet. Each drawer typically holds hanging files, and those are stuffed with manila folders containing documents and other files.
- In Evernote, you’ll use a familiar system of NOTES (i.e. documents, images and much more), NOTEBOOKS (i.e. manila folders labeled for various projects or clients) and STACKS (i.e. hanging files which hold multiple manila folders).
There were plenty of limitations to the typical file cabinet, however – you could only use it in the physical office where it was located, and you couldn’t drag it to meetings just in case you needed a particular file. The drawers often became overstuffed, and then you were relegated to hitting the office supply store for banker’s boxes so you could empty the drawers and lug the boxes off to a basement archive for posterity.
- In Evernote, you’ll never have to worry about overfilling your file cabinet, which means you can stuff things into it with abandon. Unlike your email inbox, it won’t become more and more difficult to find things the more you save – rejoice!
Worst of all, even if you took the time to set up an ingenious filing system with neatly labeled folders for every possible file, you still wouldn’t always be able to remember where you put a particular item. And what about those files that could potentially go in more than one file?
- In Evernote, it doesn’t matter what your workstyle is – whether you want to go paperless or use countless notebooks, and whether you want to throw all your stuff in a massive heap or spend hours setting up neatly arranged files and labels – it’s your choice and your workstyle, and Evernote can handle it. If you’re prone to detailed filing systems, you’ll love Evernote’s tag system which will let you “file” a particular item under all sorts of different categories (you could label a note using all of the following: Clients, Receipts, 2014, 2013, Projects… tag to your heart’s content). A little less than organized? There is no need to ever tag or properly file a thing. Evernote can handle you treating it like the world’s largest file drawer and stuffing everything you’ve got into it without any kind of organization or system. You’ll still be able to find it all with ease – promise.
Once you activate your account, you’ll see essentially the same set-up across various platforms, although the way your dashboard looks will vary slightly based on whether you are accessing it on the web or have it installed on a Mac or PC (which is one of the best ways to start incorporating Evernote into your daily habits as your virtual workspace. You can adjust your settings from more visual (with your notebooks looking literally like brown paper notebooks stacked on your desk) to a list view, as I prefer (below).
Regardless of platform, you will typically see a list of all your notebooks on the far left, your reminders and most recently-accessed notes in the middle and your current note in the largest column on the right.
Evernote will assign you a default notebook, something like “Bethany’s Notebook.” I strongly recommend changing the title of the notebook and treating it as your virtual Evernote inbox. This first notebook will automatically be set as your default notebook by Evernote, which means everything you throw into Evernote lands here unless you specify otherwise. This creates a virtual inbox that you can use to process – kind of like going through your mail and separating it into items to recycle, bills to pay and items to address later.
- Pro tip: My default notebook is called ACTION, which causes it to appear at the top of my alphabetical list of notebooks and keeps it visible and top of mind.
As you create additional notebooks, it’s important to use a consistent system of naming conventions. I prefer using one word for my notebook titles, because it allows me to take advantage of Evernote’s email into Evernote feature (more on that in the next post) with ease. So, I use titles such as “Recipes” or “Art” and combine multi-word titles into one, such as SocialMedia.
- Pro tip: Set up a notebook called ARCHIVE. This will allow you to throw everything that is not particularly current or relevant into one place – it’s the equivalent of a virtual banker’s box in the attic. You don’t need all those notebooks you never access (such as 2009 taxes) visually cluttering up your list of notebooks, so throw them in the archive and you’ll always have them handy.
Click on the word “Notebooks” in that right hand column if you’d like to check out a list of your notebooks and create new ones. Within that list, you’ll also be able to pull one notebook on top of another one to create a “stack.” Again, think of this just like a stack of files on your desktop for various clients, neatly stored together for reference.
- Pro tip: I keep both my ACTION and ARCHIVE notebooks labeled in all caps to help them stand out visually at the top of my notebook list.
Creating Your First Note
Oh my gosh – it’s here! You’re going to create a note in Evernote!
For each note you’re currently working in, after you’ve given the note a title and moved your cursor into the body of the note to begin working you’ll see editing tools appear which will feel very similar to a word processor (font tools such as bold, strikethrough, bullets and checklists). These err on the side of simpe, and I can honestly say that I have barely used traditional word processing programs in the past four years since Evernote has everything I need without all the fluff.
- Set reminders (fabulous for revisiting something time sensitive).
- Annotate or mark-up images or PDFs (just as I’ve done in red above).
- Use presentation mode to clear the clutter and use a note as a presentation.
- Share the note via email, URL* or social media as well as printing or exporting.
- Access note information (such as tags, the folder it lives in, when and even where it was created – so you can find all the notes you took in San Francisco because they are geo-tagged).
*Sharing a note by email or message provides a stagnant version of the note as it appeared at the time you sent it, but you can share notes with other Evernote users or provide a URL to non-users or presentation attendees and they will always have a “live” version of the note in its most current format. So, you can always make changes and the recipient will have the most up-to-date version, which is excellent for shared documents.
Examples of Notes
The incredible thing about notes in Evernote is that they are not, in fact, always just notes. This is where things get cool, because you can create all sorts of different notes. Here are a few examples, just to get your wheels turning:
Books to read, articles from a magazine vs. tearing out pages, what you had for lunch, photos from a trip, store displays.
Capture data, benchmark a social media account’s activity on a particular date, save a webpage and mark it up or make requests for edits.
Open up Evernote on your phone or tablet to jot notes during a meeting or create a template for regular meetings. Prefer a notebook? Go ahead – then scan or take a photo of your notes to store in Evernote for future access.
Icons, project logos, your signature, a copy of your driver’s license or medical insurance cards, your kids’ artwork, greeting cards and letters you want to save.
- Pro tip: Don’t get too notebook happy – it’s a common mistake when you first start using Evernote, and then you can feel overwhelmed. Think in terms of fewer notebooks, more tags. So, for example – instead of having multiple notebooks I have one called “Art” and items in it might be tagged by the name of the artiste.
- Pro tip: Evernote is the perfect place to store all the art and school projects your kids bring home. Hold on to a few of the real gems, but otherwise train your kids to scan their artwork (they’ll love it!) or take a picture of them holding it. You can always create a photo book of the best masterpieces, and Evernote doesn’t care if the art came home covered dripping in glue, glitter or stale maceroni pieces!
That information you’re always looking up:
Your company’s tax ID number, your social security numbers, your kids’ class roster or soccer schedule.
- Pro tip: One of the most worthwhile features in Evernote Premium (see the second post in this series) is the availability of a passcode feature to protect your personal information on smartphones and tablets. With iOS 8, you can use fingerprint scan to access your data on these devices.
Daily checklists and action items, life goals, books to read, gifts to buy, your wish list, new year’s resolutions… you name it.
Fleeting thoughts, ideas for blog posts or articles, observations to revisit later.
Meeting agendas, items to discuss, frequently-used templates, PDFs, manuals.
Scan into Evernote (there are various layers of capability in both the free and premium versions) and make those bad boys searchable. Read more on a partnership with LinkedIn that helps populate your contacts, and how to make them accessible outside Evernote.
From links to ideas torn from magazines to jotted recipes and index cards, it’s all there.
Kids singing, those brilliant ideas you come up with when driving, audio from a conference speaker, evidence a neighbor dog barks all day.
Start putting all those loose items in Evernote and get rid of all the clutter: takeout menus, warranties, links to product manuals, brochures.
- Pro tip: When you get your car serviced, scan the service paperwork into Evernote and recycle the original. Set a reminder for the next time service is due. Genius.
- Pro tip: When you renew online subscriptions (think Amazon Prime and others that come up infrequently), forward the receipt into Evernote with a reminder a week before that $99 comes out of your account next year.
No doubt your brain is now feeling a bit overwhelmed. It would be best to take a nap to prepare yourself for the final post, in which we will activate your Evernote Ninja Super Powers.
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