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If you’ve been looking into productivity and organizational tools (or even if you haven’t), you’ve most likely heard of Evernote. It’s a popular productivity app that lets you “Remember everything” – their tagline – in an easy and straightforward manner. Its most basic use is allowing users to create photo and text notes, and getting these synced across multiple devices.
But once you actually get down and get the hang of using it, you’ll find out soon enough that it really goes way beyond simple note-taking and having a digital to-do list. For all the purposes that it can serve – an electronic file cabinet, project management system, research information organizer, universal inbox, etc. – Evernote may well be the Swiss army knife of productivity apps.
Here are some tips on how Evernote can help boost your productivity. With Evernote, you can:
1. Capture ideas right away
Have you ever experienced having that Eureka moment when suddenly you got the best idea ever? Unfortunately, all you can do is scribble down your idea on the nearest piece of paper, and when you finally find the time to act on it, that random piece of paper is... gone. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.
Now, you’ll be sure to get those concepts immediately documented each time the inspiration hits you because you can easily jot down notes and record your thoughts (with the audio feature) using Evernote.
2. Make it your inbox for everything from everywhere
Individuals who’ve found the most use for Evernote are those who utilize it as their universal storage. Every Evernote account comes with a unique incoming email address where users can forward emails, tweets, web pages, photos, audio recordings, newly-created notes, and others to their respective accounts.
You can even send content from other online services such as Gmail or Google Reader to your Evernote inbox with IFTTT (If This Then That) support. And because it’s designed to be accessible from multiple platforms, you can forward all forms of content and information from any of your devices - smartphone, desktop, tablet - and be assured that you’ll find everything in your Evernote account.
3. Create as many notebooks as possible
Many people say that even after using Evernote for some time already, they still don’t see what makes it so amazing. Well, it could be because they’re actually limiting the notes and ideas they’re saving. The good news is, there’s no such thing as information overload with Evernote. Once you dump everything into it (see number 2) it’s all just a matter of putting which files into what folders. In Evernote, these are called ‘notes’ and ‘notebooks’.
A collection of notes can be organized into notebooks, and a notebook can have an unlimited number of notes, each of which have their own title. You can think of a notebook as any ongoing work assignment, projects you plan to tackle in the future, personal plans such as a travel itinerary, and others. You can also create a Notebook Stack where you can group together two or more notebooks. For instance, a stack labelled as ‘Household’ may include notebooks such as Paid Bills, Renovation Projects, Weekly Budget, Kids’ Activities, and others.
4. Create as many notes as you want across different notebooks
You can create an unlimited number of notes to record information relating to any project and then save these into the project notebook. As soon as a note is created, you can attach content to it. Attachments can be any form of content including text notes you made with the app’s native editor, audio notes you’ve recorded, web pages extracted by the web clipper, snapshots, and screen captures.
Evernote notes can also be a smart way to go paperless. You can conveniently scan bills, receipts, letters, song lyrics, recipes, medical results, and just about any paper document that you wish to file electronically. There are just so many ways to capture, store, and organize information with Evernote.
5. Go through your notes using tags and saved searches
Worried that you might have misfiled important notes or web research? Don’t be. Any content uploaded to Evernote is searchable by keywords. This means you won’t have any trouble finding all ideas and information related to a project, even if that note is erroneously saved in another notebook. Evernote even comes with a character recognition tool that searches for words within a photo or image.
In addition, Evernote also has a built-in tagging system that allows you to add tags to all relevant notes of whatever media type so you can retrieve all data intended for that project quickly. For example, you can tag all your payslips and receipts with 2013IncomeTaxReturn for easy reconciliation and tax preparation, while you can use 2013SummerGetaway as a tag for notes on your travel itinerary, ticket details, and hotel bookings.
6. Make the most of the web clipper
If you think that Google bookmarks is the only way to easily save relevant articles you may want to use again later, you obviously haven’t tried Evernote’s Web Clipper yet. This feature works like a bookmarking tool, only better, because instead of just generating a long list of links, the Web Clipper actually pulls out the specific information from the Internet and lets you store it in the right Evernote notebook.
The content could be an entire web page, or just part of the text or an image from a page. You can easily clip anything and everything that you find interesting or useful. Going on a trip? Just copy that list of great yet budget-friendly hotels on the web, or cut images of the amazing places you could be visiting to review your options later. Now that’s research made easy.
7. Use it as a GTD/ task management tool
Evernote also works great for managing tasks, whether on a daily basis or for projects that may extend for over a period of time. While Evernote does not come with the usual trappings of task managers, i.e. it does not have reminders, you can set up a system for task management using Evernote’s notebook and tagging features.
In fact, a quick search in the web will point you to several templates that have been specifically created to integrate the GTD (Getting Things Done) productivity method with Evernote. While setting up a GTD system with Evernote requires some reading, structuring of your Evernote notebooks for task management, and integration with other apps such as email and calendar support, the results are guaranteed to help you really accomplish more. Some users even go as far as calling it a “life-management” tool as opposed to just a simple task manager.
8. Sync and collaborate
What makes Evernote powerful as a productivity tool is having your notebooks and notes synced and available across all your devices. Whether you’re in the office, working remotely, or just killing time, you always have the option to be more productive because your ideas and projects are practically a click away.
Evernote also allows you to share notebooks and notes with other Evernote users, who can add to or edit the existing notes. This makes it easy to pitch a sales proposal to your business colleagues, collaborate on your kids’ softball team schedule with other parents, or share ideas on Grandma’s 75th birthday with family members.
9. Review your To-Do and Goals lists as well as your Complete List
Knowing what you need to accomplish and what you’ve done so far makes for great motivation. By keeping a To-Do, Goals, and Done list on Evernote and evaluating these on a regular basis, you can keep yourself focused on your priorities. At the same time, you can also give yourself a pat on the back for the objectives you’ve met so far. Ideally, To-do lists should be reviewed on a daily basis, Goals lists weekly, and Done list bi-weekly or monthly.
10. Jump in with both feet
Evernote can only be as useful to you as how much you want it to be. If you only use some of its features and not in its entirety, you’ll be missing out on how smoothly it integrates with all other features. Consequently, this also means you pass up on the chance of being as productive as possible. By putting all of Evernote’s powerful tools to use, you can get more things done and get tasks done more quickly.
Evernote is a basic yet excellent tool for keeping track of all manner of information and helping to increase your productivity. It is easy to use, available for almost any device, and also free. Everyone should give it a go!