5 Ways to Use Evernote to Be More Productive

Tom TumbushIf you’re trying to figure out how to use Evernote to be more productive in your business, join us on Oct. 22, 2013 for an all day, online event, “Strategies for Creative Freelancers.” Here’s a taste of what you’ll learn; freelance copywriter, Tom Tumbusch, will be doing a video demo of how he uses Evernote to be more productive. 

In the past few months I’ve heard a lot of creatives asking about Evernote, a web-based service for capturing, storing, and organizing information. Many people have a sense that it could improve their productivity, but aren’t sure what to use it for or how to get started.

While I don’t work for Evernote—and don’t get any incentives from them for talking about their products—my clients and friends will tell you that I’ve been a raving fan for several years. But is it right for you? Let’s take a look.

What’s Evernote good for—and do you really need it?

Much of the confusion among the Evernote-curious results from its flexibility. While there are many different ways to use it, figuring out how to customize it for yourself can seem a little intimidating. And like many software companies, the Evernote team is constantly adding features—some of which you may not need—in the hope of staying fresh in the minds of consumers.

That being said, it’s worth the effort to dive in and play around, because there many ways Evernote can make your life easier. Best of all, a free account gives you access to most of its features.

Five of the key things Evernote can help you do better:

1.    Remember stuff, and find it fast

As the logo (an elephant with an ear resembling a Post-it note) suggests, Evernote’s evernote_logo_center_4c-lrgprimary function is to make sure you never forget useful information. You can use it to type text, record audio or video, take pictures, scan documents, enter links to websites or other notes in your Evernote account, clip web pages, and store files in any format.

Do you have a pile of papers on your desk or a board on the wall covered with a hundred little pieces of paper? Get that stuff into Evernote and it all becomes searchable using the content your notes contain, tags you assign, or the names you give to individual notes. Evernote even scans PDF files and images of hand-written documents to enhance its search. If you give Evernote permission to use location services, you can also search for notes based on where you were when you created them.

I still have the first note I ever created: the name and phone number of a piano tuner recommended by a friend. That was March of 2010. I would have lost or discarded a Post-it note with that information long ago, but today I can still find it quickly just by typing “piano tuner” in Evernote’s search field.

2.    Keep organized

Information in Evernote is stored in “notebooks” and “notes” (think “folders” and “files” for a close analogy). This allows you to organize your stuff by client, job, type of project, or whatever you like. You can also tag individual notes, much as you would use hashtags on Twitter.

Don’t let all of these options overwhelm you when you start. You don’t have to know everything right away. Evernote’s Freelance Ambassador, Kristi Willis, recommends that you focus on solving just one organizational challenge when you get started, and learn as you go from there.

For example: I use an Evernote notebook to store portfolio samples, and tag each note with one or more categories. When a client asks for samples of website copy, I use my custom “web copy” tag to narrow my search.

3.    Access information anywhere

Evernote synchronizes your notes across every device you use it on, and is also accessible from the Web. In addition, the desktop version of Evernote keeps a local copy of everything so that you can access it even if you don’t have an Internet connection at the time.

This feature is especially useful when you work on the go. For example, you can start something on a tablet computer, flesh it out on a desktop machine, and later make edits on your phone.

4.    Share files with clients or collaborators

You can post notes in Evernote directly to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, send notes via email, or create custom web links to individual notes.

I use this feature to handle one of the most common requests I get from new clients: submitting a W-9 form. No matter where I am, I can send this form to an HR department in seconds—even from my phone. This note alone has prevented corporate bureaucrats from holding up job assignments and payments for more than three years—priceless.

If you have a paid account, you can also create shared notebooks, which allow multiple users to share a collaborative space. You can assign editing privileges to shared notebooks or make them read-only on a user-by-user basis.

The maximum amount of stuff you can store in Evernote is constrained by a monthly upload limit and a maximum note size (these vary depending on the type of account you have), but not a total storage cap. This allows the amount of stuff you store to grow on an ongoing basis, but limits Evernote’s usefulness if you need support for large files. Many users get around this limitation by using Evernote in conjunction with Dropbox or other Web drive services.

5.    Stay on schedule

One of Evernote’s newest features is the ability to assign reminder alarms to notes. On the day you need to deal with something, the note pops up at the top of your Evernote list, allowing you to access any files or information that need to be dealt with. Optional email notifications give you another way to stay on top of these reminders.

By combining some of Evernote’s other features, I’ve created a “hot list” that I use to prioritize tasks, eliminate distractions, and meet deadlines. I’ll show you how it works in my next post!

There’s much more where this came from so join us on Oct. 22 for Strategies for Creative Professionals. Only $99 when you use promo code: CFFALL2013. Details here.

Tom N. Tumbusch writes copy that creates action for designers, creative agencies and green businesses. He publishes a free writing tips newsletter each month and periodically shares more casual wisdom on the WordStream of Consciousness Blog. His tiny solar-powered corner of the Internet can be found at www.wordstreamcopy.com.