I have been using Evernote for close to two years and regret that I haven’t written a blog post about it sooner. At its most basic, Evernote lets you type notes into their application and access and edit them on any Internet connected device. This simple premise can be expanded to the level of complexity you desire using their organization system of Notebooks (essentially folders) and tags. You can also add images, audio and attach documents.
Reasons to like Evernote
- No save button. Everything is saved automatically, and if you make a mistake, then you can restore a previous version.
- Add a new note, compose and edit on any Internet connected device.
- Small foot print. I have never had a device crash using Evernote. It is simple and doesn’t take many resources.
- Transfers your thoughts to text
- No pressure
- Build thoughts up over time
- Access information anywhere
- It is heavy on creation vs consumption
- Ability to search
- Integrates with other relevant online services
Add a new note, compose and edit on any device.
I use three primary devices to access the Internet: my desktop, notebook and Android phone. I can start writing in Evernote in the living room, continue working on the same note in the office, and then even add a couple thoughts on my phone while waiting to get my hair cut. Not having to thinking about synching my notes at any time, is a huge benefit. The best tools tend to be reliable, not take too much thought and provide value; Evernote fits all of those.
It is heavy on creation vs consumption.
While you can certainly save other people’s writing to Evernote, I find the majority of my use falls under creation. Whether it is documenting my own thoughts or composing for a web site or blog, I generally find myself creating without distraction in Evernote.
Capture your thoughts and then review them.
One great thing about journaling is being able to look back and see what you were thinking in the past. I did a personal journal from 1999-2003, and I still enjoy reading what I was thinking at that time. I don’t have an official journal anymore, but I do consistently write my thoughts in Evernote. Being able to accurately see what you were thinking about a topic at any given time is a big advantage. My mind often tends to think that however I am thinking now was always the case. A review of my notes, quickly shows that isn’t always the case.
When I write in Evernote I am generally writing just for me. At times I am specifically writing with an audience in mind, but the ideas that I put in Evernote are mainly for me, and this takes away a number of writing barriers. Have you ever set down at a blank screen wanting to write up a blog post or organize your thoughts on some idea, and were then overwhelmed with all the steps it would take to get the point of actually publishing? Hopefully for you, you can just start writing and everything flows really well. That isn’t the case for me. The pressure of a blank page can be difficult, but with Evernote I don’t feel any pressure. My history has taught me that I should write down whatever I am thinking at the time, and even if I don’t use this piece of writing right away, I have something to use in the future.
Organization for the disorganized
I am pretty messy. I don’t have a place for everything. My use of Evernote is often the same. I take random notes and don’t always add tags or put them in a certain notebook. Evernote helps me still get value from this disorganized style by having a good search function. When I am ready to put my thoughts together or act on a key piece of information, I can search for keywords on the topic and find my thoughts.
My other routine is taking an hour every month to go through my existing notes and organize them. I start with the most recent notes in my general folder and then drag and drop them in appropriate notebooks or add tags. I currently am adding about 80 notes a month to Evernote, and I can easily organize those in under an hour.
Another way Evernote has helped with my composition process is doing a small amount of editing each time I look at a note. I will read through what I wrote before and look for things to add to already written ideas, but also edit for readability on anything I have already written. This makes the process of article or idea creation systematized and routine.
You have to start somewhere.
Most complex ideas don’t get implemented in one day. I don’t generally wake up one morning and decide today is the day and knock out a whole project. If nothing else, Evernote is a great way to slowly transfer some of your ideas from your mind into text. It can start as a one line idea, that then becomes a paragraph and then maybe an executable plan or blog post; Evernote really makes it easy to get your thoughts down, organize them and then build on them.
Easy to start
Evernote doesn’t ask much of you. You can download their software for almost any device or just access it in a browser.
I know a number of people are now using Evernote. If you use it, I would love to hear your process and/or any tips you would like to share. In the next couple weeks I am going to write about some use cases, and it would be great to include yours.