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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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    Last Updated on April 8, 2019

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

    Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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    1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
    2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
    3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
    4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
    5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
    6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
    7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
    8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
    9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
    10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
    11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
    12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
    13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
    14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
    15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
    16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
    17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
    18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
    19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
    20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
    21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
    22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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