I love Evernote. So much so some of my colleagues are wondering if I’m working on the side as a salesperson for them. Anyway, I saw a tweet in my timeline this morning asking for some tips for usage, so I thought I’d share my set-up and also some tips I gleaned along the way. I did a short post back in March about this topic, but I’ve moved on slightly since then, so this is a much fuller description and its been in place for about 4 months now.
Getting Things into Evernote
1. Your Evernote account has an email address. Its a a strange mix of characters, presumably representing an underlying unique username in their system. Too difficult to remember at any stage. So add it to your email contacts list and give it a friendlier name. Having my own domain, I’ve even set-up firstname.lastname@example.org just so others can email me direct to Evernote when in meetings.
To get your Evernote email go to Account Settings on the Web, or in the Windows Desktop App – Tools –> Account Settings.
There is also a plug-in for Outlook so you can just click a button to add any email to Evernote.
Its been a while since I installed it, but a quick Google takes me to this discussion page, which should provide further help.
There are also useful annotations that you can add to the subject line to get the email into the right notebook in Evernote. By default it goes into your Inbox/default notebook. You can alter this by (using a @ to change the notebook) or add a tag (adding a #). You can also add reminders this way with an !. I very rarely use these though. For fuller, more precise details see here in this video.
2. The Android Widget. (Probably available on iOS too?). Normally when I’m walking around is when I remember things I need to do. This little widget will allow me to take notes either written, via the camera or an audio recording and send it straight to Evernote. It also records the GPS of where you were – should that be a factor.
(Also worth noting from here, you can add a PIN to your Evernote Mobile App to stop access in case it falls into the wrong hands. Short video here. Is this a premium only feature?)
3. Camscanner (Android App – iOS?). This is basically a scanner for your phone. It allows you to adjust what you’ve captured and then share via a range of ways, including to Evernote. As another aside, I’ve found this incredibly useful when attending conferences / lectures and taking photos of the presentation slides.
Setting Up Evernote – Notebooks and Stacks
A caveat – this is my set-up. It works for me. Its not necessarily the way. Or even the way for you.
1. Current Notebooks
My framework is based loosely on the GTD principles from David Allen. At the top of my notebook view I have 5 main notebooks – !Inbox, !IncubationIdeas, !Journal, !ToDo, !WaitingFor.
You’ll notice the ! marks in front. This is on purpose. It means these will stay above all my other notebooks. These are probably my most used notebooks.
- Inbox represents things that I’ve captured but not yet processed.
- Incubation Ideas are ideas for things I’d like to do. At some point. I may not have time now, or the time might not be quite right.
- Journal is my attempt to capture everything I do in a day. (More on this later).
- To Do is my main go to area. I have a separate note in here for each of the tasks that I’m aware of need action. (The title of the note is usually the next possible action and the note itself contains a checkbox (more later)).
- Waiting For is stuff I’ve delegated but need to have an awareness of.
2. Current Project Notebooks
Sticking with the GTD principles I have a list of current projects that are happening in my life – ranging from home personal stuff to work related. Within these I tend to have at least 2 notes – ‘Project Log’ and ‘Project Actions’. Alongside these 2 notes sit anything else I’d like to refer to for future knowledge.
- Project Log is something I’m experimenting with. Its essentially like a blog where I put date ordered notes about anything that happened, who was involved. It gives me a nice overview of everything that has happened in a project. (I used to keep these as separate notes, but found it a bit unwieldy).
- Project Actions are a collect of To Do items that relate to this project. Again each action is annotated with an empty checkbox. It doesn’t always play nicely with my !ToDo notebook above, but I use the Search facility to overcome this generally (more later)
3. Other Notebook Stacks
Everything else is just for reference – stuff I may want to refer to in future or a way of storing things. This essentially takes a format of a file system – using notebooks as a folder equivalent.
Projects that are complete are moved into this area too for archiving / future referencing.
This for me is where Evernote comes into its own. The search facility is truly amazing, and was perhaps the part of Evernote that I really didn’t fully appreciate when first starting out.
Other Little Tips I’ve Gathered
1. Daily Journal. Each day I start a new note. Its created via a IFTTT recipe I’ve got in place so its automatically created and ready to use. The basic format is as below:
Before really starting work each day I note down the 3 overriding actions I’d like to get completed today – this comes from the principles outlined in Getting Results the Agile Way. I also note down any meetings, bullet point any actions I’ve performed during the day and I attempt to keep a food diary.
2. Search for Empty Checkboxes. Anything that requires action by me (either in my ToDo notebook or under one of my project notebooks) has a checkbox put against it. Once its complete I check the checkbox. This allows me to search for outstanding actions. To create this search (in the latest Windows Desktop App) click File->New Saved Search. Give it a title and set the criteria to:
3. Tags. I have used. And then I’ve removed. And then I’ve added back. Currently I’m not using them. I can see their benefit but it just adds an extra layer of complexity to my set-up.
4. Subscribe to your blog via Evernote Email. Have your own blog? Then subscribe to it using your Evernote email. That way every time a blog post is made, you’ll have an email back-up copy in your Evernote without having to do anything.