Let’s face it, we’re all busy — pulled in 700 different directions at once, more to do and keep track of than ever before, or at least it seems that way. I blame the Internet. Or the fact that we’re constantly “connected” somehow, whether it’s to the TV, or your iPad/iPhone/computer/etc. I try to disconnect as much as possible for my own sanity (future blog post topic? maybe…). But today I’m just going to talk one of the best apps ever for keeping my brain in check.
Back in the “olden days,” I used to hand write everything that I needed to keep track of, whether it was work-related or personal, on actual paper (with a pen!). Sometimes on whatever scraps of paper I had nearby, but usually a legal pad. And if I DID write something down, like a list, on a scrap of paper, I always transferred it over to my trusty legal pad so that it was all in one place. If I had a project call with a customer, I’d take notes on my legal pad, sometimes rewriting them on a new sheet to organize them, but then I’d act on each item and then cross it off my list. Such a good feeling, crossing items off of a list. I love it.
I’d end up with several legal pads full of notes that I might need to refer back to — things that I might need to talk to a customer about, or just notes for future reference — and I couldn’t throw the paper away for quite awhile. Every once in awhile I’d go back through the notepads and either get rid of pages or entire notepads if I could. However, when I did I’d end up with that nagging feeling that I was throwing away something I might need later, like that one vital bit of information somewhere that I should have kept, or a missed requirement, for example.
Fast forward to 2009 (holy cow, it’s been THAT long!), when I discovered Evernote. Sigh… If I could write poetry, I’d definitely write a poem about Evernote. It’s the best thing since sliced bread (next to my Kindle, of course…).
Evernote is an app for Mac, Windows, Android, iOS, you name it, and it remembers EVERYTHING. You install it, create an account (or you can create your account online first), and then you’ll see your first “notebook” pop up in front of you. Here you can add notes to capture anything you need to keep track of. I have a “Shamrock” notebook for all work-related items, and I also have a TON of other notebooks for different purposes (too many to admit to, so we’re just gonna go with “a lot.”).
I even have a notebook called “Product Manuals” that holds PDFs of all of my paper product manuals — KitchenAid stand mixer, blender, food processor, TV, electric toothbrush, etc. There’s an amazing browser Evernote Web Clipper extension that you can use to save PDFs or articles directly from your browser right into Evernote. Find the product manual PDF you need online (usually at the product manufacturer’s website), click the Web Clipper icon on your browser’s toolbar, and it’ll “clip” the PDF right into whatever notebook you want. I was able to get rid of a TON of manuals that were taking up space in a kitchen drawer, and also in my filing cabinet. That made me ridiculously happy.
Back to how I use it for work, though — let’s say I have a call with a customer to discuss a form that I built that needs modification. I click on the Shamrock notebook and either hit Ctrl-N or click the New Note button to open a new note. I enter the customer name and the date as my note title, and then I take notes during the call, typing them directly into my note. I can add lines to separate sections of notes, as well as bullets, numbered lists, tables, check boxes, format text with different fonts, sizes, and colors, as well as bold, underline, etc. You get the idea — basically any kind of formatting you’d do in Microsoft Word you can do here (but there’s no fighting formatting like with Word — magic!). You can even add tags to your notes, as many as you’d like. I rarely use this though because of Evernote’s amazing search feature (more about that in a minute).
Users have unlimited storage and, depending on your user type (free, plus, or premium), you can upload up to 60 MB, 1 GB, or 10 GB of data each month. I’m a Premium user and never get anywhere near my upload limit each month. And I use Evernote EVERY DAY. So feel free to store everything you might need in there. I do. You can even lock the Evernote app with a password, or encrypt specific notes or text in notes for added security.
There are waaaaayyy too many awesome features in Evernote to write about each one in this post, so I’ll just mention a couple more, and then you can go check it out for yourself, and then come back later and thank me. (You’re welcome!)
First, because you’ve created an account with Evernote, all notes sync to “the cloud” (ooooooohhhhh…), so they’ll sync between all of your devices if you so choose. I have it syncing on my MacBook, iPad, and iPhone, and it works seamlessly.
Second and most awesome, it will index EVERYTHING once it’s uploaded to the cloud, and will make it available for searching. And when I say EVERYTHING, I mean everything. Regular notes, PDFs, graphics, whatever. Take a picture of a menu when you’re at a restaurant, then later on, if you’re looking for the restaurant where you had that amazing flatbread with shaved peaches, whipped goat cheese, arugula, and all sorts of other goodness (lookin’ at you, Grand St. Café on the Plaza in KC…), search for “goat cheese” or “arugula,” for example, and it’ll pull up all notes with your search term(s) in it, including the note with the restaurant menu. Or if you need to find your popcorn popper manual, just search for “popper” and it’ll bring up your popper’s product manual.
By the way, I typed this post in Evernote. Blam! Go check out Evernote, try it for a month or so, and you’ll never look back.