Geetanjali Mukherjee

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

An Ode To Evernote: 5 Ways Evernote Has Changed My Life

I mentioned Evernote as one of my favourite apps in this post in December. I have since started to become even more organised and thought I would write a post on my favourite ways to use Evernote, some of which have evolved in the past months.

1. Makes Research A Cinch
I do a lot of research projects, usually in collaboration with others, and they require writing reports that need a variety of sources. I used to prefer journal articles and books as sources (the hangover from college), but many of the topics I research now are either too niche or too new to have many journal articles, and usually have no books at all. Much of my material is now sourced from the internet, either in the form of reports and government brochures (usually pdf documents) and web pages.
I always create a folder in Dropbox for each project, and in it save all pdfs I come across. But web pages are difficult because you never know if you will need it later, it’s hard to save the information in a way that’s easy to cite and find the page again if necessary. I have to admit that throughout college I simply ignored web pages in my research or lost anything useful I found because I had no reliable way to deal with them (my bookmarks usually was a mess and I gave up using it years ago).
Then I recently decided to use Evernote for this. I always used Evernote for a while, and it occurred to me it would be perfect for my research. Here’s what I do: I create a new notebook in Evernote for the project, and each web page that is vaguely helpful, I save as a new note. You can even use the web clipper to clip pages directly in, although I don’t use that much, because of issues with Internet Explorer. Even so, I find this extremely convenient, and Evernote automatically saves the url of the web page, to make it easy to cite or go back to the original page. Since I created a new notebook for the project, I don’t usually bother to tag pages unless I know they are useful for a specific section of my report. However, since you can tag each note, you don’t need to create a separate notebook for this, I simply prefer to.

This way I don’t waste time during the research process, and if I later find some of the pages I saved weren’t that useful, I can simply delete the note.
2. Keep Recipes Handy
My other favourite way to use Evernote is for recipes. I love to find recipes online, and sometimes I get newsletters on ‘healthified’ recipes - healthier versions of foods I like.
Initially I created several different notebooks, one for healthy recipes, one for everyday cooking; but now I have simply consolidated them into one notebook named Recipes, and used tags to differentiate. For example, I have tags for main dish, sides, salads; so if I want to make a salad, I can simply sort by tag.

Since Evernote is completely searchable however, this is less useful, because if I search for salad, all recipes for salad will come up. What I find more useful for tagging is things that the search won’t bring up - such as tags for ‘healthy’ indicating that it’s a healthier version, or if I think it’s perfect for weekday dinners, I will tag it ‘daily cooking’. This makes it customisable to my own requirements.

3. Keep My Inbox Uncluttered
I am nowhere close to maintaining Inbox Zero, but I have been trying quite hard to keep my inbox manageable. This is another area where Evernote comes to the rescue.

Often you need an address or web link or other small piece of information that you keep in your inbox like a holding pen, but often just when you’re looking for that particular email, it’s impossible to find. In the meantime, all these bits are cluttering up your inbox. Evernote is great at holding little bits of info - you don’t even need a designated notebook - you can just dump all this in your default notebook.
I also get a lot of newsletters in my email, and some of them are articles I would like to save, which I previously did by creating an appropriate folder. But I never seemed to remember that I had these articles, and even if I did want one, I couldn’t find it in the mess of folders. Now I simply put them in Evernote and tag it, and even if I can't remember the tag, I can just search for it. My inbox is much less cluttered with someday-I-might-need-it items.

4. Track My Progress On Goals
I use Evernote to create tables that track my goals. Sure I can use an Excel spreadsheet, and do for the more complicated goals that need formulae. But just to keep a running tally of how many blog posts I have written or how many hours I have put in my latest book project, it’s easier to use Evernote - because it’s the one program I have open every day, and I can easily access it.

I also use it to save screenshots of my blog stats page, and my reports from Rescue Time (which I have just started to use). I can imagine there are lots of other ways you can customise this - save your weekly to-do lists, or keep a food diary. The possibilities are limitless.
5. Inspiration At My Fingertips

I use my iPad for a lot of my reading, and I am a fan of Feedly and Pocket for catching up with myriad reading. But if I'm looking for inspiration on writing advice, or to find an interview with a writer that really moved me, I would prefer not to search Google or my Pocket archive - because it would be far too easy to fall into the rabbit-hole of one article after another, and before you know it 2 hours are gone, and I still haven’t read the original article I was looking for.
Instead, I save articles that I know I want to refer to again, especially ones relating to writing and productivity, to dedicated folders in Evernote. That way I simply search within the folder, and in seconds I have what I want - an article on how to write a marathon number of words over a weekend, or an interview with Neil Gaiman that’s really inspiring. If you want, you can also email articles directly to your Evernote account by sending it to your dedicated Evernote email address (you can find that by logging into your Evernote account through your web browser). I use this also to send notes directly to my account from my inbox.
Another way I save articles is when I am browsing online and I find something I want to save, I just use Evernote Clearly through my Firefox add-on to display the page without the annoying formatting, and then with the click of a button, add it directly to my Evernote account. Clearly is also smart enough to put it in the correct notebook, although because my system of notebooks is a bit messy, sometimes it goes into the wrong notebook. But it’s still incredibly convenient.

So there you have it, 5 ways that Evernote can make finding and organising things online incredibly easy. The internet is wonderful in all that it has to offer, but sometimes it can all be a bit much, and you can feel like you’re swimming in a sea of information, trying desperately to hold onto the pretty shell you found, when you see something else, and swim towards that, dropping the first shell, and losing it in the tide. Evernote is a bit like a service that picks up the shell and stores it for you, leaving you more time to browse for shells.
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