3 Steps to a Smoother Life with Evernote

As a blogger, designer, photographer, business owner, author, former student, employee, avid reader, compulsive list maker and more, sometimes my mind can get a little too cluttered and it's in those moments that I need a place to unload it all. For the past several years, Evernote has served that purpose and continues to do so incredibly well. For those that are not familiar with it, it is a digital note-taking application that syncs across all of your devices and can be used to store documents, text, audio, images, lists and more so that you always have access to your information.

In a previous post, "How to Relieve Stress and Create the Best Work of Your Life," I walked you through three steps to help you boost productivity. Those steps included unloading your brain, organizing that information and making it accessible to you at any given time.

As a follow up on those thoughts, I want to walk you through the powerful functions of Evernote and show you why I've chosen it as my tool of choice. I believe that everyone can leverage this tool to help them improve their focus, their productivity, their organization, their creativity and their timeliness.

Here's the "Getting Started" guide from Evernote that walks you through setting everything up.

1. Unload

The way that Evernote works is that you can create Notes for each block of content. For example, you can create a Note for a grocery list and another Note for a business meeting. While stored within the same application the Notes are distinguishable and easily accessible (both points we'll go over in a minute) so that you keep your life organized. Forget about juggling three cloud services, a to-do list app, a sticky pad, a moleskin, a planner and ten other tools.

Note: a document within Evernote, able to contain files, text, audio clips, images, lists and more

Here are a few creative ways that Evernote can be put into play in your life:

  • Record the presentation as you simultaneously take notes on within Evernote. (link)
  • Have a master idea notebook where you can quickly jot down ideas on anything that comes to mind. (link)
  • Plan your vacations down to meal reservations and packing lists so that it's all in one place while on the road. (link)
  • Build a blog template that you can duplicate and fill in each time you write a new post. (link)
  • Collect inspirational images, paint colors and hardware specs for that room you're renovating. (link)
  • Forward important emails to your Evernote through your custom email address. (link)
  • Snap a picture of your receipts so you can quickly search for transactions later. (link)
  • Keep track of your tax information so it's all in one place when April comes around. (link)
  • Use IFTTT to automatically import your tweets into Evernote as a digital journal. (link)
  • Take a picture of business cards for future reference. (link)
  • Sync with folders on your computer so that you have updated files with you at all times (the function works similar to DropBox). (link)
  • Ask your hair stylist to snap some pictures of your new doo so you can show it to the next stylist who does your hair. (link)

2. Organize

If you are creating notes on a daily basis, it can accumulate quickly. By organizing it well, you will improve your ability to recall that information when needed.

Evernote provides you with several functions that make organization both easy and customizable: Stacks, Notebooks and Tags.

Stack: A collection of Notebooks.
Notebook: A collection of Notes.
Tag: A label for Notes.

Stacks act as a bookshelf or a genre - however you want to see it. Simply put, they allow you to group Notebooks. Sadly, the Stacking function only allows you to go one layer deep so you can't truly nest your Notebooks like you can Tags (we'll get to that in a bit). But if one layer of organization is all you need, Stacks will do the trick.

Notebooks are the Evernote version of their physical twins. The difference is that Notebooks within Evernote, unlike a classic Moleskin, can house unlimited amounts of Notes and can be further organized and rearranged within the Notebook giving you an incredible amount of personalization and flexibility.

Just as sticky tabs highlight specific pages in a book, Tags highlight specific Notes in a Notebook. Because Tags are not unique to a Note or Notebook they can be used countless times across your entire Evernote account allowing you to easily cull relevant Notes with a specific Tag from all areas of your life no matter how unrelated. Why does this matter, you ask?

Here's an example from my own Evernote:

I love quotes. I collect them from books, movies, manifestos, advertisements, speakers, old proverbs and graffiti. And I love pulling them out to encourage, inspire, educate, or humor either myself or others when the occasion arises.

For notes with great quotes in them (no matter what the original purpose of the note is - work, blog, speaking, inspiration etc.) I used the tag, "Quotebook" which allows me, later, to pull together every great quote in my Evernote account from years ago to an hour ago.

The ways in which you choose to leverage these organizational tools is entirely up to you! A great example is Michael Hyatt's system (from which, I borrowed a few ideas). 

3. Recall

A great wealth of information such as the Library of Congress would be close to useless if there was no card catalog system in place. Likewise, your Evernote is simply an information graveyard if you can't retrieve it.

Thankfully, Evernote has provided us with incredible tools to recall any information we're looking for.

a. Notebooks and Tags

You can use Notebooks or Tags to group Notes. For example, you can create a "Taxes" Notebook which contains scans of receipts, insurance records, deductible expenses, mileage log etc.

b. Search

Evernote built an incredibly powerful search function which not only allows you to search text within a Note but also text within images in a Note. As you can imagine, the implications are huge. Snap a picture of business cards, family recipes, serial numbers or even a note you scribbled onto a napkin and you can search for it later.

c. Devices

Limited to your computer, Evernote would still prove to be a powerful application, but it doesn't stop there. Evernote syncs between your mobile device, tablets, laptop, desktops... any device with an internet connection. This means that documents you put together from your desktop at work can be easily accessed from your phone at a cafe in Paris. All of your information, everywhere you go.

d. Attributes

You can search for Note attributes such as "Date of Creation", "Geographic Location", "Source URL", "Size", "Author" and more.


Related Reading

7 Pro Tips to Becoming an Evernote Ninja
Organizing Evernote: for the obsessive freaks like me


NOTE: This post isn't sponsored by Evernote. I don't make a penny if you sign up to use it (which, by the way, the basic version which I use, is free). This post is simply to pass along a tool that revolutionized my life.