For a while, I have heard of Evernote in passing and never sat down to understand the application. Now that I am a graduate student, though, I can’t imagine how I ever survived without it! For those that don’t know, Evernote helps you:
“remember everything, communicate effectively and get things done.”
With this broad mission, I asked myself, what could I really use it for?
Well, it turns out that I actually have a HUGE need to remember everything, communicate effectively, and get things done! Before I get into the details, it is important to know why I have predicament in the first place.
Frankly, we are moving from a knowledge worker society to a knowledge management society in which real-time knowledge over a breadth of topics is often valued more than a deep vertical expertise. In essence, we are becoming experts in just a few clicks. Whether you are trying to look up a definition or information on something or someone, Wikipedia and LinkedIn are key tools for getting smart, quick.
In addition, our sources of information have also grown exponentially. We need to keep up with all the various information sharing platforms in order to keep up with trends and maintain our expertise. From Twitter to Facebook and beyond, there are hundreds of platforms with information to keep track of. It has become expected that you keep up with them or risk becoming irrelevant.
Well, I figured out very fast how to organize all my sources of information but was left with this burning question: What now? There was simply no way to easily retain everything and also share with others over time. Social media and other communications tend to be more real-time and don’t “hold” information for search well. This is compounded further when you operate on many different platforms!
Evernote’s ability to collect almost anything (i.e., articles, pictures, PDFs, URLs, etc.) directly from the browser or phone enables seamless “filing.” I can easily select the notebook and add any tags as I capture the content.
For my Government 3.0 class, I am constantly coming across articles and PDFs of interest for future blog posts. As I do so, I read, then capture the content directly to Evernote for a later date when I am ready to write. When I am ready to write, I can easily reference the material on any of my devices (phone, tablet and two computers) and by completing simple searches or navigating directly to my Government 3.0 notebook. No longer do I have to remember where I put it.
But wait, what if the content is directly related the notes I just took in class or a meeting I just had? Well, I can merge the notes together, place them in the same notebook, and/or tag them with the same information. Essentially, disparate content and information can easily be merged if they share any similar characteristics.
There is no doubt we are in the age of teams and collaboration! This means that effective communication is a must in order to be successful. Tools are popping up all over the place that assist with this, but I have found Evernote to be the one that most suits my needs at the moment. It is fairly priced (free to $45/year) and is the simplest to use and sync across all my devices.
Evernote’s sharing features allow me to share notes via email or social media and share notebooks with collaborators and the public. Working on my capstone project for my MPA, our team decided to dump our research, articles, thoughts, meeting notes, etc. into one shared notebook for easy reference. This comes in handy as we all have access to the material for related blog posts and conversations that we will create or have over the duration of the project. The search features combined with tagging also allow us to hone in on what we are looking for very easily.
But what if it is something important that everyone should be aware of right away? Share your note with your collaborators via email directly from any Evernote interface. And what if I receive an email reply from a subject matter expert? Copy and paste into Evernote? NO! Send your email to your personal Evernote email address. The email will automatically be uploaded and synced. Use the “@” symbol followed by the notebook name for the email to get automatically filed in the appropriate notebook.
Of course, getting things done is a huge part of being a graduate student. I am often so busy with classes, projects, student council, consulting and professional development that I rarely have time to keep it all straight and organized. Evernote helps me easily stay organized with all the important emails, articles, and other messages I receive and want to remember. With these concerns off my plate, I can concentrate on getting things done.
Many people also use Evernote to develop their To-Do Lists. Evernote is certainly a great product for this, but my life (in terms of task management) is a bit more complicated. As such, my preference is to use Wunderlist for task management. It allows me to group and schedule my tasks and even schedule repetitive tasks such as laundry, paying the bills, food shopping, etc. The subtask feature also helps identify min-tasks that lead up to the larger task at hand. The application is also available on every device I have and has collaboration features.
Evernote is a tool that makes my life easier…much easier! But what has really helped me succeed and to be productive is my approach. I have given a lot of thought to my personality, work habits and needs when it comes to being productive. As such, I was able to select the right tools for me, of which Evernote is a major part.
P.S. It is unlikely that one solution will meet all of your needs. However, with some advance strategic thought, you can reduce the number of solutions to a few.