"Oh, here we go again."
That's likely what you're thinking. "Another post about Evernote. I am so tired of the Evernote fanboys. I don't like it, see no purpose for it, and don't want to use it."
And hey, that's okay. If you're passionately against using Evernote, then you can skip this post - see you tomorrow! But if you just don't "get" Evernote, or you're completely apathetic about it, then pay attention, because I'm going to show you a bunch of ways to set up your life to automatically use Evernote, and you're going to thank me later.
This is always the biggest question, and it's simultaneously the easiest and hardest question to answer. Here's the easy way: Evernote will let you save and organize anything. I wish I was exaggerating, but I'm not. You can put just about whatever you want into Evernote, and for most users, it's flipping free. That alone makes it worth a shot.
Evernote is a catch-all solution, and it's available anywhere you want it to be. Got a smartphone? Then you have an Evernote app. Windows - check. Mac - check. Linux - a bit wonky, but check. And you can use the web version anytime, anywhere. So run to the library or work or wherever and go to Evernote.com and sign in. Boom - there are your notes.
The program also makes everything you save searchable. This is invaluable, especially as your note collection grows - and it will once you start using the tips below. Searching your notes is incredibly useful when you want to find that recipe you want to make for dinner, or those instructions on how to build that table, or that receipt you need for that thing you bought for your business. All text in any note is searchable.
Plus, you can create your own organizational structure. You can just have a pile of notes, or you can have notes separated into notebooks. You could leave it there, but you can also group those notebooks into "stacks", where you group them however you like. Every note you add can be tagged also.
A real-world look at my Evernote setup
Before I show you how to add content to Evernote, let's take a quick look at how you could organize your Evernote setup. I have 10 stacks of notebooks, grouped by the type of notebooks that are in them:
- 2013 Goals: A separate notebook for each goal that I have, so that I can insert notes tracking my progress, or helpful notes/articles that could keep me going.
- Bible Notes: A separate notebook for each book of the Bible, with notes in each one for each passage.
- Book Notes: Each notebook under this stack contains notes on books that I have read, usually inserted from highlights on my Kindle.
- Business: A catch-all business-related notebook, with business ideas and other notes about a variety of biz-related items.
- Copywriting: Two notebooks in here to help me along on my copywriting journey, including tips on improving my copywriting and a "swipe file" of successful promotions to learn from.
- Direct Response Projects: These are all notebooks for active promotions I'm working on. My work requires a lot of research, so I can clip items and articles as I research them to refer to later as I write.
- Financial Records: A notebook for each year where I can save receipts and order confirmations.
- Personal: This is the biggest stack, as I have plenty of notebooks within this one, usually as they don't fit any other category - Bucket List, Church Music, Cigars, Green/DIY tips, Home ideas, Liquor, Recipes, Social, Tech Tips, Timeline (my journal, see below), Travel, and Wish List (for tracking things I want to buy).
- A stack for my biggest client, since I'm usually writing several promos at a time for them.
- Writing: This is for miscellaneous writing, like writing tips, blog post ideas, freewriting sessions, and quotes that I can go back to for inspiration.
I also have a notebook not in any stack called "To Be Organized", which is set as my default notebook. If I just quickly send something to Evernote, or I have one of the setups below that automatically sends something to Evernote, it just dumps it into here. Then, a few times a week, I'll go in and review what's in here to plop it into the appropriate notebook or tag it accordingly.
Tags are also really important when you have a large database of stuff to search, like I do. For example, finding ideas for stuff to cook during the week can be difficult when you have 180 recipes (and counting) in your Evernote notebook. But thanks to tags, it's not so hard. My recipe for Garlic Grilled Shrimp has the following tags:
- cheap cooking
- quick meals
So if I'm looking for any of the above items, that note will show up in the results. Tight week? I'll bring up all my recipes tagged with "cheap cooking". If I feel like grilling, I can bring up all my grilling recipes with that tag, and so on.
"I don't have a use for Evernote."
Short answer: yes you do. Everybody does.
You don't have to use it like I do, but you have no idea how useful having an online "brain" is until you start using it. In fact, somebody on Lifehacker wrote about this topic a couple weeks ago. The only way to really "get" Evernote is to just start using it for everything. This setup took me years to really appreciate, and now I can't imagine life without it, nor would I want to.
With the 8 setups below, you are going to connect the rest of your digital life to Evernote and you will automatically start seeing results from it. It doesn't take long to set up any of these, and the possibilities extend far beyond this. But as the weeks and months go by, you'll start to see why exactly using Evernote in your everyday life is so stinking useful.
So let's get started. Here are 8 different ways to connect your Evernote account to your everyday life.
Connect your browser with the Web Clipper and add just about anything
This is by far the easiest and most basic step. If you already use Evernote, you probably already have the Web Clipper added and are using it regularly. If not, the Web Clipper does just what it sounds like: it clips web pages to your Evernote.
In real-life use, you might see an article or recipe or photo or something that you want to save online. Just click the Web Clipper, and you have a few options to pick from:
- Clip full page: This lets you take a snapshot of the entire page, top to bottom. Useful for clipping Amazon listings, for example.
- Clip article: Evernote can try to grab just the main content of the web page. If you are reading a blog post, it will cut out just the post, along with any relevant pictures. It won't save the headers at the top of the page, ads on the side, or the comments. Just the content that you want to see.
- Clip selection: You can highlight a piece of text before clicking on the Clipper, and just save that.
- Clip PDF: If you're reading a PDF file online, you can save a copy of that file to your Evernote also.
- Clip URL: You might just want to save the URL address of the site as a little bookmark note, and Evernote will let you do that too.
Every note you clip from the Web Clipper will also have the URL saved in the note details within your Evernote note. This is really handy when you need to cite something, because you have the original source linked right there. The Web Clipper is the easiest way to get started, but also the most handy. I use it religiously when researching something for a promotion, going through recipes, or building up a wish list of stuff I want to buy.
To install it, just go to the Web Clipper site and click on the appropriate link for your browser.
Send content from your RSS reader to read later or reference
Most major RSS readers at this point are integrated into Evernote, and they should be. As I talked about last week, I'm using Feedly now. When I read something I want to save for later, I can just click the "Send to Evernote" button, and a new window will pop up with my new note containing the content of that article.
More often than not, this will be built in to your reader of choice. If not, you can just open the article and click the Web Clipper to grab the content anyway. On your mobile device, the "Share" feature of your reader can create a new note in Evernote with that article. Either way, there should be little-to-no setup required here.
Connect your email to create notes whenever you want, and save important emails
As you well know, keeping backups of important documents is really important. Not only that, having them searchable is a huge plus. Keeping them organized is key, and Evernote lets you do so really easily.
Here's how it works: we all have a unique email address attached to our Evernote accounts. So, you just find that email address in your account, copy it, save it in your address book as "Evernote", and now you can send emails directly to Evernote. If you don't tell Evernote where to put the note, it will just save it in your default notebook. But the subject line would work as follows:
Title of your note @Notebook you want to put it in #tags #to #add #to #the #note
So, if I order printer ink on Amazon, it's a business expense. That means I need to save a copy of the receipt in my financial records. The notebook is "2013", and I want to tag it as "office supplies" so that I can find it quickly later. Amazon sends me the order confirmation, and I click "Forward" and change the subject line from "Your Amazon.com Order #43589i6" to...
Printer Ink @2013 #office supplies
And it automatically gets sorted into my Evernote account. Cool, hey?
Evernote wrote a quick blog post on how to find your Evernote email address and set it up here.
Alternate method: If you need an easier way, you can use IFTTT. IFTTT stands for If This, Then That. It's a very powerful service, and it's going to basically run the rest of this list. Go to http://www.ifttt.com and create an account. Then, go to "Channels" and add your Evernote account. Now you can browse "recipes" to automatically send stuff to Evernote, or you can create your own.
Sounds complicated? Don't worry: I'll link to each recipe below so that all you have to do is click to add it and turn it on, and it'll do the rest of the work.
So, for the alternate method of emailing in, you can just click the star next to an email you want to save (if you use Gmail), and it will automatically send it to your default Evernote notebook (which, in my case, is "To Be Organized"). Here's a link to that recipe after you've created your IFTTT account. Or, you can just label an email as "Evernote" and send it right along that way.
Send new blog posts to Evernote right away
If you like a particular blog - say, you know, this one - and you want to save all the articles that are posted to it as an ongoing archive of the entire site, you can use this recipe. Now, the recipe listed here is set up to use Lifehacker, which you should be reading anyway, because it's awesome. This recipe in particular will save the new blog post and tag it as the author of the post, which is really great.
But it doesn't stop there. You can add any blog that has an RSS feed right to your Evernote account using this same method. And as you'll see in a minute, this recipe can be used beyond blogs as well.
Save your new Pinterest pins for easy access later
This actually was the inspiration for this entire post.
I'm a man and I love Pinterest. There, I said it.
While Pinterest is largely considered to be a female-dominated site, which it is, there is a lot for anybody to enjoy and look at. From funny stuff to green/DIY-type stuff to future home inspiration projects to recipes, there's a lot to look at. And I love it.
But my biggest problem came later, as I realized going through my pins to see some of the content was a bit cumbersome. I don't know where I left off in looking at my pins, and I don't want 500 different boards. I like having a few big buckets that I can dump pins into.
Using IFTTT, I can have new posts to my Pinterest RSS feed get sent to my Evernote's "To Be Organized" notebook. Just add this recipe and follow the instructions. Whenever I repin something, that pin gets sent to my Evernote account.
A couple times a week, I go in there and clip what actually looks interesting/useful that I want to save for later, and put it in the appropriate notebook. It's a beautiful thing, and it really cleans up my Pinterest workflow.
Create quick notes on-the-fly by texting into Evernote
I prefer to carry a paper notebook in my pocket for certain reasons, but if you want to create a quick note to save for later - say, that business idea you just discovered over a few beers with friends, you can send a text to IFTTT.
Go to the IFTTT Channels and click on SMS to get the number to text to. Add that number to your phone's contact list under "IFTTT". When you set up SMS with IFTTT, you then add tags when you create a recipe, so that IFTTT knows where to send that text.
So, for example, sometimes my data connection might be weak, and I still want to send a tweet, but my Twitter account won't load on my phone, or speed is a priority here. I can just send a text to IFTTT, and at the end of the text, I write "#tw", because that's how it's set up under my IFTTT account. IFTTT will receive the text, see the "#tw" tag, and post the text of the SMS message to my Twitter account. Same for Facebook with my "#fb" tag.
This principle applies to Evernote notes, too. Using this recipe, you can text anything to IFTTT and add "#enote" at the end of it, and IFTTT will automatically create a new note with your text in it. This is often way quicker than using the smartphone app, and it's great if you don't have a smartphone at all!
Send your Kindle notes and highlights to Evernote straight from your Kindle
As you know, I love reading books on the Kindle. One of the best features about the Kindle is the ability to make non-intrusive highlights and notes in books while you're reading them. But having them in your Kindle isn't always ideal.
If you want those notes in your Evernote, you can send them through Twitter. Here's how it works:
Finally, for power users: create an ongoing journal of everything you do in one Evernote notebook
This might not be for everybody. I'm fascinated with the idea of archiving my life. I keep a written journal, and now I keep an automatic digital one, too.
I feel like it will be something that's interesting to me someday, whether it's to refer to my initial reactions to worldwide events, or just something my grandkids will stumble on. Could be cool.
And again, it's a backup of sorts.
I have one Evernote notebook dedicated to grabbing all of my online activities and keeping an ongoing note. When I tweet, it adds that tweet to the timeline. Same goes for Facebook status updates, photos posted to Flickr (or Instagram), blog posts, and even LinkedIn updates. You could also save Foursquare check-ins if you'd like. Really any online activity you want.
It's a slightly involved process, but it doesn't take more than 10 minutes to really set up. Plus: Lifehacker has the step-by-step instructions covered for you.
So there you go - if you implement these strategies, I think Evernote's usefulness will start coming to you rather quickly. Do you already use Evernote? What are your favorite ways to integrate this app into your daily workflow?