My Tools: Productivity (Evernote)

This is the first of what I hope to be many posts describing my current favorite tools. For this post, I’ll focus on Evernote. Here goes:

For many years I wanted to like Evernote. The allure of the cross-platform, cloud-based, indexed, document-friendly organization tool was pretty powerful. But every attempt I made to incorporate it into my daily routine failed miserably. I was addicted to a long habit of paper notes and to do lists. There is something about the process of writing with a pen that fixes the words and ideas into my memory, and I missed that too much whenever I’d attempt to transition to an electronic system.

I finally found a solution that works for me!

I purchased two Moleskine Evernote “Smart” Notebooks, one for work and one for personal use. I bring my work notebook to every meeting, starting each meeting off with a heading (for example: “weekly management meeting 2013-08-29”) followed by a list of attendees. I then proceed to take notes as usual.

Once every few days I use the Page Capture feature of Evernote for Android to “import” the pages into Evernote. I’ll edit the title of each imported note to match the written title of the page, but beyond that I rely on Evernote’s handwriting recognition to make the note searchable.

I played around a bit with tags and notebooks, attempting various approaches recommended on blogs and books. I found that what works best for me is a small set of notebooks (with simple titles like work, personal, inbox) and the occasional use of tags when I think the title won’t prove sufficient for future searching. I keep notes in the inbox until their immediate relevancy has passed, then I archive them to work and personal.

I’ve been using Evernote for a little over six months now and I’m certainly seeing the benefits. My previous system of physical file folders organized by subject has been replaced with a searchable, always-with-me archive that can be sorted by subject or date. I’ve found that the percentage of notes I write from within the apps themselves has increased as has my overall volume of notes.