I don’t recall exactly how I found Evernote, but I do recall not being real impressed with it at first. Based on my oldest Evernote note, I began using Evernote early in 2008, mostly to keep text notes. A month or so later, I all but stopped using it. In hindsight, I know why – I wasn’t using Evernote correctly. Fortunately after reading some Evernote tips articles, I tried it again.
The second time around, I decided to put everything in my life I possibly could in Evernote. This included:
- To be read articles
- Any and all paper I needed to retain (I scanned it)
Basically any bit of information that I needed to retain for more than an hour or so, I recorded in Evernote. A week or so later, my life was changed. I could suddenly find things, my desk was cleaner and I was more organized. I was hooked.
I’ve been using Evernote since then and not only for personal life, but for my blogging business as well. I’ve been engaged in a number of recent discussions related to Evernote out on Google+ and in doing so I realized that while I’ve said I use Evernote, I’ve really never captured exactly how I use Evernote for blogging. But, before I go there, let me explain what it is about Evernote that makes it unique.
Why Evernote is unique
I’m all about simplicity and less is more, which is the main reason Evernote works so well for me. Evernote allows you to place all of your data in one place and provides access that data from anywhere at anytime. When I say data, I mean everything, text, images, binaries, and PDFs.
I don’t have to think about where my data is, I just open Evernote on my MacBook, or my iPhone/iPad or via a web browser, search and I find what I need. Before using Evernote, I had data on my local hard drive, data in email, data in Google Docs, data in post it notes on my desk, in paper notebooks on my desk, and in file cabinets full of folders and paper … well you get the picture. I basically had important data all over the place and much of it not accessible when I wasn’t home.
One of the big problems I had was remembering where each bit of information was located. A few examples:
- If my kids needed birth certificates or social security cards those were in the file cabinet.
- If I needed a receipt, hopefully I kept it and put it in my file cabinet. Of course if it was, it wasn’t in order so I had to manually search for it.
- Login credentials would either be in my email or in some local file on my hard drive.
- If I was cooking dinner one night and needed a recipe it was either in our paper recipe file, in some cookbook, on some sheet of paper in some cookbook, bookmarked in my browser or in my email. I literally didn’t cook some recipes because I couldn’t find them even though I knew I had them, somewhere.
As you can see, I was spending a great deal of time and energy just trying to find things.
Once I committed to using Evernote, I saved time. Not at first of course, because getting all of that information into Evernote took time, but as I needed something, I would find it, and spend an extra minute or two to get it into Evernote. Then, the next time I needed it, the time spent was almost nothing.
As many of you know, by day I’m a software developer for a Fortune 500 company. I had the pleasure of working for a really brilliant guy early in my career on one of my first big projects. This guy was incredibly organized. If you asked him for something, he would pull open is file drawer and within seconds find it. His organization system was incredibly efficient. I asked him one day: “Joel, how do you have time to be that organized?” I’ll never forget his reply, and it has stuck with me for the past 20 years, he said: “I don’t have time not to be“.
See, Joel recognized the importance of thinking long term, not short term. He invested a little extra time upfront, in order to save far more time down the road. I started trying to do that with my life and specifically when I started my blogging business.
Everything goes into Evernote right away
For most things, my use of Evernote for blogging is really no different than my use of Evernote for every other part of my life. Anytime I get a new piece of information, it immediately goes into Evernote.
One little tip I’ve learned to help me do this is to make adding the information quick. I’m often very busy and telling myself “I don’t have time to add it now, I’ll add it later” is really easy to do. I’ve learned though, that if I don’t add it now, it probably won’t get done.
Evernote Tip: Add everything to your inbox by default. Circle back once a day, clean up your notes and correctly file them in the right place.
I have Evernote set-up so that each new note goes into my inbox. I create the note, quickly add the data and move on. I circle back, usually once a day, and go through my Evernote inbox and finish the add process. This involves:
- Making sure the title is correct and thorough
- Tagging the note
- Cleaning up any formatting issues
- Filing the note in the correct stack and notebook
I do this for every single note in my inbox.
Another big mistake I was making with Evernote was converting images to text manually. For example, if someone gave me a business card, I would key in the data from the business card into my contacts notebook. I later stated just taking a picture of the card instead.
If it’s an image how can I search for it?
That is handled by Evernote. When you bring a image or PDF (only with premium) into Evernote, Evernote performs OCR on the image so that it’s fully searchable.
Evernote Tip: Use your smart phone or laptop camera to take pictures of data whenever you can. This will save you time, and in most cases, Evernote’s OCR functionality will make it searchable. If not, you can always add additional text to the image note later just for searching.
Evernote for blogging
Over the past few years I’ve developing a system to keep myself organized specific to my blogging and services work. I have an Evernote Stack called Side Income Blogging. In that Stack I have the following Notebooks:
- Articles – contains ideas, drafts and ready to be published articles. I also keep guest articles here as well.
- Services – all of my Side Income Blogging Services notes go here.
- Code Snippets – Anytime I write code for myself or a client that I think I might use again, it goes here.
- Design Scrapbook – I spend a great deal of time reading design blogs and surfing for clipart, textures, photoshop brushes, etc. All of those finds go here, including sites I run across that have great designs I like.
- Receipts – Anytime I purchase something related to my blogging business, I scan the receipt and put it here. If it’s a taxable write-off, I tag it taxable to help with my taxes at the end of the year.
- Site Information – This notebook is used to keep all of the information on my sites. I keep domain names, IDs, URLS, passwords, database names, etc. here. I highly recommend you encrypt notes containing sensitive information such as passwords.
- Affiliates – Contains my affiliate information, including websites, products, contacts and other related informaiton.
- Misc – Everything else goes here. I try to minimize putting data here, but for one off items where I can’t justify a new notebook, this works well.
Evernote tip: Minimize the number of notebooks you have. Use tagging to further organize notes within the notebook
Let’s talk about Articles, because that is the Notebook I use for my article workflow. The notebook has three types of articles:
- Article Ideas – tagged: articleidea – This is where I jot down any and all article ideas I come up with. I have tons of stuff in here. Some of these start out as verbal recordings if I’m on the go, and I come back later and turn them into text. You do know that Evernote can record sound and voice right?
- Draft Articles – tagged: articledraft – These are articles I’ve started on, but are not be ready to be published. These can be outlines to almost complete articles.
- Complete Articles – tagged: article – These are complete articles ready to be published.
- Guest Articles – tagged: articleguest – These are articles I’m writing for other people or blogs
When I sit down to write, if I don’t have an article idea in mind, I’ll skim over my article ideas to see what appeals to me. I’ll then edit that idea and begging flushing out a draft of the article. Once the article is complete, I’ll retag it so I know it’s ready to publish. Sometimes I’ll go ahead and do that, other times it will sit to be published in the future. I also use tags to track which blog the article is for.
Evernote Web Clipper
A key tool to making Evernote work for me is Evernote Web Clipper. Web Clipper is a plugin that runs in all popular browsers and provides intelligent web clipping. If I run across an article I want to read, but don’t have time, I use Web Clipper to capture it to my Personal>>To Read notebook. If I run across a recipe I want to try, I use Web Clipper to capture it to Personal>>Recipes.
I also use Web Clipper to manage bookmarks. I do this by visiting the page, opening Web Clipper and changing the Save button to “Save URL” rather than the default “Save Article”. Bookmarks get saved in Personal>>Bookmarks and I use tags to further organize them.
Another way I use Web Clipper is for capturing images. I frequently use Creative Commons images in my articles and headers. I also use textures and photoshop brushes in my services work. I use Web Clipper to capture the images and website. This allows finding and viewing images later on much easier.
Evernote tip: Be careful using Web Clipper on Google Images. Web Clipper won’t just clip the opened image, but the entire page. This is a huge problem because google images page’s are infinite scrolling, so the clipped page is huge. Instead, visit the actual site where the image is and clip from there.
Evernote has turned out to be the single most positively impacting tool I’ve ever used for blogging. I was so disorganized before and spent countless hours in wasted time trying to find stuff. Evernote has freed up my life and given me more time to devote to blogging and my services work.
If you haven’t tried Evernote, I would strongly recommend you download it and give it a go. Commit to using for a few weeks, not just a few hours or days. Evernote has huge benefits in the long term that you just can’t appreciate if you only use it for a short period of time.
If you have tried Evernote before and didn’t like it, try it again. Make sure you put everything in it and again use it for a few weeks. I can almost guarantee you’ll stay with it.
One of the biggest selling points for me is that Evernote is free for up to 60MB of data each month. I’ve come close, but so far I haven’t gone over the limit. If you need more features or additional upload capacity, Evernote premium is only $5.00 per month or $45.00 per year.
Also, let me recommend a really great resource on Evernote that I’m currently reading through: Evernote Essentials (affiliate link). Evernote Essentials is the guide for getting started and being successful with Evernote. I’m about half way through the 95 page guide, and am very impressed. The author even wrote a good portion of the Evernote documentation.
Do you use Evernote? What’s your best tip? How do you use it?