When our circumstances change, our procedures change to match. Our desktop computers served as the center of our digital storage for two decades. Our procedures consisted of creating a system of folders within folders to house digital documents.
A decade ago, smartphones became common. Having information available from anywhere via those mobile devices became our desire. That’s why Evernote was founded in 2008. Today, it has over 200 million users.
If you’re looking for a better way to house the information you want available from anywhere, this article serves as a brief overview.
Very simply, Evernote is the place for the notes we want to keep digitally and access from anywhere. Notice I said notes, not documents. Much of the information you need to access will never be printed. You just need to be able to find it no matter where you are, and on any digital tool you possess.
Evernote organizes notes into “notebooks.” If you are new to Evernote, this post is your starter list.
Folders on the Computer = Notebooks in Evernote
Your computer uses the metaphor of “folders” (and folders within folders that are within other folders). You house your digital documents in them the way you would house paper documents in manila file folders.
Evernote uses the metaphor of “notebooks.” You organize information in them the way you might organize information in a three-ring binder. In Evernote, the organizational system is flatter. You don’t have notebooks within other notebooks.
The Three Evernote Notebooks You Need (Must-Have)
You need a place to trap new information quickly. Later in the day, you will review it and decide what you need to do about it. You’re already familiar with this concept in many areas of your life:
The mailbox in front of your house is an “inbox.” It traps all the mail in one place: letters, bills, junk mail, etc. Later, you handle the whole batch at once.
Your voicemail and email are two examples of an “inbox.” Each traps messages from many people about random subjects. You sort it out at a time that is convenient for you.
You have a desk tray that traps incoming paperwork. It’s the original “inbox.”
The value of an inbox is that it holds all the “new stuff” in one place until you can make decisions about each item. You need the same in Evernote. For example, you see an item in a store and want to include it as a gift idea. Pull out your phone. Snap a picture in Evernote. Put the phone back in your pocket. Done!
When you get home, you will view your Evernote “Inbox.” There, you see in one place everything you have thrown at Evernote during the day. Now, you make decisions about what each item means to you, what you need to do about each item, and then move the items to the appropriate notebooks.
For example, when you view the photo of the item you wish to give as a gift, seeing it serves as a trigger to research where else you could buy the item, the price, etc. You would add this extra information to the note. In my case, I have a notebook called “Gift Ideas.” I would drag the note to that notebook. At the end of the day, you want a clean “Inbox.”
Some items are of temporary need. For example, you take a picture of the parking spot where you left your car. This photo helps you find the car after a trip. Once the trip is over and you have retrieved your car, the photo is of no use. You would want to delete it. The next time you examine your Evernote inbox, you will see that photo. Seeing the photo becomes your trigger to delete it.
How to Rename Notebooks and Set a Default Notebook
When you create an Evernote account, Evernote creates a notebook for you and names it with your name. It called mine “Frank’s Notebook.” Let’s rename that notebook.
If you are using the web version of Evernote, click on the name of the notebook. Next, click on the small letter “i” in the notebook’s header. Now, you can change the name of the notebook. Change the name to read as follows: .Inbox
Notice the dot in front of the word “inbox”? That’s important. Using a punctuation as the first character will make this notebook sort to the top of the list., which is exactly where you want it.
While you are there, look for a checkbox that says “Set as default notebook.” If you don’t see one, then the notebook you are in is already the default notebook.
Miscellaneous: Because You Won’t Know It All at the Beginning
Your system of folders will emerge over time. Along the way, you will create notes and not be sure where to put them. Create a notebook and call it “Miscellaneous” so you have a place for notes when you don’t know where to put them.
Don’t worry if you have quite a few notes in “Miscellaneous” to begin. As your system matures, you will have a collection of notebooks that work for you. You will find yourself moving notes from “Miscellaneous” to their new homes. You will find yourself putting fewer things into “Miscellaneous” as time goes on.
Where do you keep the following bits of information?:
- Hotel rewards number
- Airline frequent flyer number
- Code to the copying machine
- License plate number
- Serial number for major purchases
- The dimensions of the air conditioner filter at home
Far too many people rely on sticky notes, random scraps of paper, or just trying to remember it all.
Your “Personal Information” notebook provides the answer. Within mine, I have notes entitled “A-C,” “D-F,” “G-L,” etc. Within each note, I list the various accounts alphabetically.
Create a “Personal Information” notebook. Create the “A-C,” “D-F,” etc. notes. Start gathering those random pieces of information and enter them into these notes.
The real benefit will come when you need one of these bits of information when all you have at your disposal is your phone. Being able to access your information from anywhere is one of the hallmarks of Evernote’s value.
Other Notebooks to Consider
Examples from Education
- Checklists—If you are the principal of a school, what are the steps involved in hiring a teacher? If you are a teacher, what are the tasks to perform at the end of each grading period? In your personal life, what would you put on a list of items to pack when going on a trip? Put these checklists in a notebook. When you need one, you can copy and paste it into your digital to-do list. If your to-do list has the capability, you can email from Evernote directly into it.
- Classroom Observations—For school principals, each visit to a classroom would be a note. Title the note with the teacher’s name. At the end of the year, notes from all observations are in one place.
- Curriculum—Do you need a place to capture “best practice”? Do you need a place to house your list of standards? This notebook would likely have many notes, each one housing a particular teaching idea. You could use “tags” with the names of various subjects. All ideas related to math would have the “Math” tag. Evernote allows multiple tags, because ideas may apply to more than one subject.
Examples from Sales
- Clients—A note for each client. Include contact information. Include notes from important conversations. Copy and paste important emails. I like to arrange that information chronologically from bottom to top.
- Clients-Potential—When you meet someone and collect a business card, create a new note with a person’s contact information and important points from your conversation. A “Clients-Potential” notebook gives you a place to keep them together. Periodically, look at the notebook and decide next steps for turning them into customers. When a “potential client” turns into a “client,” drag the note from one notebook to the other.
- Clients-Past—Your business may be one where a person is a customer only until a job is complete. When the job is done, drag the note from the “Clients” notebook to “Clients-Past.” But, you want to reach out to that former client again in the future to see if there are additional ways in which you can work together. Periodically look at your “Clients-Past” notebook. Each note contains a full description of the work you did, when you did it, and communication. Add new communication. When they contract with you for the next project, drag them back to the “Clients” folder.
Any journey begins with a single step. Every Evernote user started somewhere…started with one notebook…created their first note, and grew from there. The world is full of people who created an Evernote account but don’t know how to use it. You don’t have to be one of them.
For those who already use Evernote, what notebooks do you use?
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