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7 Ways to Use Evernote

7 Ways to Use Evernote

Evernote

    Last week, Lifehack founder Leon Ho introduced me to the beta note taking application Evernote. Evernote boasts a variety of features that make it an excellent application, including automatic synchronization between the web and your other devices, tagging and sorting features, an online client that makes it accessible from anywhere, and a search feature that can even search text stored within images.

    From the developers themselves:

    Evernote allows you to easily capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and makes this information accessible and searchable at anytime, from anywhere.

    I’m a big fan of anything that keeps my data synchronized between devices, let alone totally automatically, so I was keen to give Evernote a try. It has grown on me in a short amount of time. It’s great for keeping snippets of information, replacing stickies and taking down notes, and pasting research from the web into.

    It’s got a pretty unique set of features and fills a gap in my workflow I’d been looking to fill in terms of applications, so today we’ll look at seven ways to use Evernote to make life easier.

    For the record, I’m not affiliated with Evernote in any way, and I haven’t had any communication with the developers before – it’s just an insanely useful application that anyone interested in productivity can benefit from.

    1. The office cleaner: usually, by the end of the day when I zero out my email inbox and desktop, I’ve built up a collection of text files that I used to take down spur-of-the-moment notes. If the phone rings, I open a new text file as I answer it; if I have an idea while I’m working on something, it goes straight in a text file. It’s just more clutter that’s hard to find a suitable place for at the end of the day.

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    The same goes with sticky notes that get plastered around the edges of the monitor, and even scraps of paper floating around the desk (and floor… and ceiling!). One of the best, yet simplest, uses of Evernote has been to store those day-to-day snippets of information in a more organized, less cluttered manner. Let Evernote clean your office.

    2. Share information unobtrusively: instead of being “that guy” who sends every last scrap of info, relevant or not, in a new email to ten people at a time, store that information with Evernote and share it with the relevant people; you won’t clog up their email anymore, and they have more control of their own time back. It’s hard to zero out an inbox when everything’s being sent there whether you need to deal with it now or not.

    3. Sneak some work home without anyone knowing: got a spouse who gets snarky when you bring work home with you? Don’t make it so obvious – just save your material as an Evernote entry and sync when you get home.  It’s less likely to be spotted than the bulky folder you walked in the door with last week.

    Spouses aside, working in Evernote can make taking your work home a lot easier than emailing Word documents or transferring them to your PDA or laptop before you leave. Just hit the Sync button and you’re done.

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    While we’re on the topic, from a productivity point of view, work should only be brought home when it’s unavoidable – a good work-life balance is important to maintaining peak efficiency.

    4. Create a single research document: I recently wrote an article on digital rights management that involved a lot of online research, which I stored by keeping bookmarks in Firefox. The downside was that when I came back to write, I had to open all my tabs again and find the appropriate sections on each page.

    It’s much easier to take the relevant content from each page, including a link in case you need to go back, and pasting them into a single Evernote entry that gives you all the necessary information in a more concise and manageable format. If only I did this at the time!

    Instead of bookmarking your resources when you do research online, compile the relevant information from each page into a research file in Evernote.

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    5. Take notes during meetings without transcribing, or for that matter transferring them to other devices. Type away as your boss prattles on and before you’re even back at the cubicle, the notes are on your desktop (great if you process notes into GTD action items immediately after a meeting).

    6. Keep an always-accessible idea file: one of the best things any writer or blogger can do is start an idea file. It can be hard to think of new ideas constantly, and when you do come up with one, it tends to happen in a very strange, awkward spot. Evernote means that you’ll almost never be caught without a way to capture it and compile an idea file – once that list starts filling up you’ll never be short on something to write about.

    7. Plan big projects in Evernote – start a new notebook for a particular project and sort different tasks and research topics using the tags feature. Now, everything you could possibly want to recall or act on regarding a project will be in one spot.

    Evernote Invitations

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    If you want to skip the wait to get into the beta, I’ve got five invites in my Evernote account that I can give away. I’ll send them to five commenters who come up with a really unique way to use Evernote in the next twelve hours.

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    Joel Falconer

    Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

    The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

    Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    How to Self-Taught Effectively

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

    More About Self-Learning

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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