One of the challenges many people face in using Evernote is it’s simplicity. For me this was daunting at first but then I realised this is a bonus. The key is to make Evernote work for you and support what you are trying to achieve in life. In other words, what problem are you trying to solve?
Many people refer to Evernote as their external brain, and this is how I view it too. My information in Evernote relates to all parts of my life. This is how I am becoming paperless (where appropriate) and how I manage my commitments and responsibilities electronically. I’m not sure how I can do this without Evernote. Over a few posts I’ll explain why.
Before I dig into detail on this, my Evernote story goes like this. Signed up in 2009 on recommendation from a friend, used it ever since, sometimes more than others, each year slightly more than the last. I’ve always paid the subscription for Pro features. Primarily, if I’m honest because I buy into the company and it’s ethos, and what it enables me to do is worth £45 of anyone’s money. In the grand scheme of things – even if I barely used it – thats’ surely worth less than a pound a week. I use Evernote on all my devices: Mac, iPhone and MacBook. I use it on my workplace laptop running windows. I should add I’m not an evernote affiliate or in any other way associated with the company. Just a happy advocate.
So whilst this blog – and others that will dig into how I use Evernote in more detail – won’t necessarily say anything earth-shatteringly new, I have learned a lot a long the way and that may be helpful in setting up a system that works. It’s basically my approach, to add to the others that are already out there to look at. I’ll start with a summary of the Evernote ecosystem then, in future posts, I’ll give examples of some of the problems that I use Evernote to help me solve and what I think are the most important issues:
- how to get stuff into Evernote
- how to organise it when its there
- how to find what I need when I need it
Then I’ll summarise what I’ve learned along the way.
The key elements of the Evernote ecosystem are as follows. Future posts will explain how I leverage these in my own system.
NOTES Notes are basically snippets of information that you want to keep; they are a blank canvas that can incorporate documents, scans, images, audio clips, web pages, text.
NOTEBOOKS These are ‘buckets’ into which you can group notes. Your Evernote account will allow you to set a default notebook which can be helpful when you set up your system. You can also stack notebooks which means you can group a number of notebooks within a notebook. Think of the ‘windows’ folder hierarchy with which you may be familiar: for example, perhaps you want to cluster separate notebooks for all your trips under one called Holidays. You can only stack two deep in Evernote. At first this may feel like a restriction but I will show how this is a benefit.
TAGS Just like a hashtag, tags are a way of adding contextual information to a note in addition to the information that comes already stamped in the note. Notes come pre-populated with date created, date updated, URL (if clipped online) and location.
That’s it. It’s really pretty simple. From this starting point it’s possible to configure a system that works for you. This is Evernote’s strength. It enables your system to evolve as your life evolves. And, truth be told, after years of playing around with various set ups to suit my needs, I keep coming back to this basic idea: don’t overcomplicate things. Keep it simple.