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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.

    More by this author

    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 July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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