Tips for Getting Started with #Evernote from An Unapologetic Fangirl

hero_evernoteThe other day I posted on Facebook:

Scanner, Shredder and Evernote: the holy trinity of home organization.

A few friends responded that they'd like to use Evernote but haven't quite figured it out. I wish I could sit side by side with each of these people and offer a tutorial--I love Evernote just that much. (I love it so much I have the water bottle!) It has made my life easier and more organized in countless ways.

What I can do, however, is try to capture some general getting-started ideas and offer some examples of how I use it in hopes that others will be inspired to give it a try.

GENERAL THOUGHTS

  • It may not be your thing. If you've really tried to use Evernote and just not gotten anywhere, it could be that it just doesn't work the way your mind works. No sense in banging your head against the wall.
  • Know your options. Some people use Pinterest in the same way I use Evernote---to collect things in notebooks (or in Pinterest's case, boards) for easy access. The problem with Pinterest is it's mainly built for web pages, and it's public... so private information and info you get from non-websites are hard to store there. Similarly, many people use Dropbox as a repository for their stuff. Also a good option, except Dropbox doesn't have the sophisticated tagging and thumbnail capabilities that Evernote does.
  • Understand Notebooks v. Tags. These are the backbone of Evernote. Notebooks are self-explanatory---they are collections of common information, such as Recipes, Travel Destinations, Tax Receipts. Tags are searchable and are good for labeling things across notebooks. So for example, maybe I have a great article about raising tweens that's in my Articles notebook, but I also wrote a journal entry about my experience that's in my Personal Writing notebook. Both can be tagged with "parenting."
  • Start where you are. I think people get stuck because they've got lots of paper files and the thought of putting all of that into Evernote seems overwhelming. It definitely is. I feel the same way about all these photos I have in albums. It stinks to live between two different technologies. My advice? Don't worry about your backlog for now. Just move forward using Evernote instead of a paper filing system, then get to the historical data some other time. (Or not--do you really need all that? The stuff you do need, you'll dig up and use, and that will be your cue to put it into Evernote.)
  • Start with one topic. One manageable way to get going is to choose one topic and start putting all of that into Evernote, then put other stuff in there later. So start with a Recipes notebook, for example, or financial stuff.

WHAT YOU NEED

  • An Evernote account--premium is best, but start with the free version if you're not sold yet.
  • The Evernote app installed on your desktop and, ideally, your phone/tablet.
  • The Evernote web clipper for the browser of your choice.
  • A scanner, although you can take pictures of documents with your camera for a lower-tech alternative. Photos in Evernote have character recognition, and there are plugins that will straighten and clean things up too.
  • Your own unique email-to-Evernote address. When you sign up for Evernote you are given an email address that you can use to forward email messages straight to Evernote. There's even a complicated system where you can tell it in the subject line which notebook to sort it into, but I can never remember the syntax, so I just send it and sort and tag manually later.

USE CASES

A big sticking place for people (I think) is getting into the Evernote mindset. The more you use Evernote, the more useful it is, because it'll become your go-to place to find stuff (as opposed to that pile on your desk... or was it in email... or in that blog post you read three weeks ago, where was that again?).

So here are some of the ways I've used Evernote in just the last week. Hopefully this will spark your own ideas. (I also wrote a post a few years back specifically for pastors.)

  • While traveling this week, I got a receipt when I checked my bag. I took a picture of that receipt with my phone and filed it in my Tax/Expense notebook so I can forget about it until next spring when I want to write off that expense on my taxes.
  • Along the same line, I emailed a receipt for that flight to my Evernote account so when I need that receipt at tax time I won't have to hunt around my email for it.
  • Evernote is my digital scrapbook, so I scanned the bib of a recent race, as I do for all of my races. I can look at these later and, if I wish, can get them professionally printed and do one of those artsy-crafty bib display projects. (But let's face it--I'm not going to do that, so why keep them lying around?)
  • I scanned an article from Runners World on "healthy evening snacks for runners."
  • I did menu planning using an Evernote that lists the most common recipes we make, which helps jog my memory of what we've had recently.
  • I wrote a blog post for my contract gig. Evernote is great for composing early drafts because it's faster than Microsoft Word, it saves automatically, and there's even a note history if you end up liking a previous version better. Once you get to the track-changes phase you can save that Word document into Evernote too.
  • A friend posted this article on my FB wall and I clipped it from Chrome into Evernote and gave it tags like "courage" and "kindness" so if I'm preparing a sermon or other presentation on that topic I can find it.
  • I scanned all of our bank statements, bills, and other financial items we've received recently. I do this every month or so. (Again I refer you back to the "it may not be your thing" bullet point. If the thought of doing this gives you hives, don't do it.)
  • I scanned an essay Margaret wrote for school about swimming across the lake in Maine last summer. Each of the kids has their own notebook containing my favorite artwork, schoolwork, and letters.
  • I input statistics from the girls' latest doctors appointments so I have them all in one place.

Each of these tasks (except the blog post and updating doctor stats) took less than a minute to complete--often much less than that. As I type all of that, though, it sounds like a lot of work. But for me it's a lot more work not to have the receipts I need at tax time. Or to spend 45 minutes looking for that article that illustrates my point perfectly in the article I'm writing. Or to rifle through a pile of bank statements until I find the one I'm looking for. I've written about how the harder thing is the easier thing. Evernote is a prime example of that.

Again, everyone's temperament is different. But I do hope this inspires people who are "Evernote shaped" to give it a try. You may end up loving it as much as I do.