Evernote has changed my life. It’s such a simple thing, but it has had a massive impact on my day-to-day life. I have a really bad memory, so I use it to remember everything, so I don’t have to.
I remember first hearing about Evernote in mid 2010 and dismissed it pretty quickly, thinking “why would I need another note taking tool when I can use the Notes app on my iPhone or a text editor on my computer, or Google Docs?”. A few months later, I thought it might give it another go as a way to write down and keep notes from meetings and be able to easily reference them again later.
And that was just the beginning…
I did indeed start using Evernote to write down my notes during meetings. The beauty being that I could take notes on my iPad and then reference them as soon as I got back to my desk. And so that’s how I started to use Evernote. I tried out the photo upload and audio capture (for iPhone/iPad) and, after confirming that they worked, and that I didn’t have a use for those features (as far as I could tell), I left them alone.
A little while later I discovered that Evernote supported PDFs and other file uploads. That gave me the idea to drop brochures, white papers and case studies about the product I was consulting for at the time, SugarCRM into Evernote. This was brilliant! Now, if I was on-site with a client, I could quickly show them, or even email them, any piece of documentation they needed, right from Evernote on my iPhone!
This really cemented my love affair with Evernote. It keeps everything for me, giving me one place to look for information that I need.
Here are some examples of how I use Evernote today:
- I copy email threads into it that are worthy of keeping, or have important information in them straight into a new note.
- My method of taking notes in meetings has changed though – I now take my notes with pen and paper, BUT, I use the audio record feature of Evernote to record the entire meeting! Yep, I can capture the entire conversation from every meeting. After the meeting, I then type up my handwritten notes into the same note that the audio is in. This gives me the opportunity to recap the meeting, and expand or clarify my notes.
- Every idea I have goes straight into Evernote. If I have 30 seconds or so I will type it into Evernote on my iPhone. However, if I have to be quick before I lose my train of thought, I’ll start a new note, and use the audio recorder to just speak my thoughts.
- Evernote is my filing cabinet. The amount of paperwork, receipts and other documents I have lying around has practically vanished. When I get a document I would normally file away, I now scan it and put it in Evernote and throw away the original. I have setup a notebook (actually a notebook stack) in the same way my filing cabinet was setup, and combine each document with note tags so I can easily get back to it when I need to. Now, wherever I go, I can access any file in my filing cabinet… from my iPhone!
- Task management and tracking. I can easily create tick boxes for items I need to follow up on. Once done, tick, and it’s done. Any other history or notes I’ve made about that item are kept right alongside the todo item itself – including any photos, files or audio.
The search capabilities of Evernote are amazing too! Take the example of my digital filing cabinet, Evernote actually performs character recognition on any image/photo or PDF, which means when I do a search, it not only searches across note content, but more importantly, any text in PDF and image attachments!
As I’ve already mentioned, I often use Evernote on my iPhone to jot down, or speak ideas before I forget them. Once I’m done making the note, it saves… but where?? All my notes, images, PDF, files, audio, everything, is stored very kindly by the people at Evernote on a colossal collection of big muscly computers called “servers”. These servers do some incredible stuff. It’s these servers that make searching your notes (and text inside images and PDFs) lightning fast. It’s these servers that make it possible to use your notes from anywhere. It’s these servers that make sure you never forget or lose anything, ever. These servers are in the cloud. So I can use my iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Mobile, Mac, or PC or any web browser to get to, and add to, my notes. They are always up to date no matter where I access them from. For example, I am actually writing this post in Evernote, using the web browser client. I may even later edit this post using my iPhone or Mac.
You can even share notebooks, and of course, access other peoples notebooks. Here’s a great example: let’s say you’re a bit of a wiz in the kitchen. You, like me, would have a notebook for Recipes. Now, you can share this notebook with any people you invite, giving them insight into how you make your amazing meals. Or, you can make your Recipes notebook public and share them with the world!
Evernote is a must. Not just for people in the workplace, but for EVERYONE! I don’t know how I managed without it before – actually, I do… I wouldn’t write things down, or if I did I would lose the piece of paper I wrote on; I would constantly forget things and my filing cabinet was overflowing. You owe it to yourself to give Evernote a go. It’s free for all devices – it doesn’t get any better than that! Once you get the hang of it and really get a feel for just how powerful it is, you’ll want to upgrade to Premium, which gets you more monthly storage quota, PDF text recognition (for searching), the ability to share notebooks with others and have others edit your notes and other goodies. And the Premium upgrade is ridiculously cheap at only USD$5/month or USD$45/year – for me, this was a no-brainer.
And now, Daniel Gold has written a fantastic eBook, Evernote: The Unofficial Guide to Capturing Everything and Getting Things Done, which explains how to turn Evernote into a professional GTD application that focuses on YOU.