Evernote: A virtual file cabinet

One of the biggest challenges related to getting things done, for me, is how to collect the pieces that I need to complete a task, or how to save things I come across that you might want to use someday. I have tried dozens of approaches to this, a few of which I still hold onto.   I finally came to the conclusion that there just is not one and only one way to do this!  It was helpful to me, as a digital immigrant, to kind of construct an “equivalent” mental image of the new digital tools with the old paper, wood and metal tools and structures needed to organize the stuff I have to get done!

So Evernote has become the equivalent of my personal metal filing cabinet!  It is available for Windows, Mac and all smart phones and tablets.  Everything synchronizes beautifullyEvernote between your devices, so you have your entire metal file cabinet at your fingertips!  There is a free level, but there are additional features that are available at the 24.99 annual fee level that are valuable if you can spring for this fee — for example, you need to have this level of subscription to email stuff to Evernote.

So you might be wondering .. what does Evernote actually provide that beats just saving my files to my computer!  You can see a review here that explains a lot, but for me, there are two main reasons I am a huge Evernote fan.

First, Evernote “saves” and organizes everything .. not just files you would otherwise save to your computer..  You can drag and drop or manually attach any kind of file to a notebook, save a web page to Evernote, record a voice recording (even record a lecture), take a snapshot. I can scan a document with my phone, and save the scanned document directly to Evernote.  Evernote automatically preforms “OCR” (Optical Character Recognition) on PDF files you save, so that the PDF file is fully searchable.   So, for example, you are planning a big vacation!  Everything you come across that relates to your trip can go into Evernote. You organize the trip items into a notebook for the trip, so when you open the notebook you can see all the things you have saved for the trip.

Second, you can share notebooks with as many other people as you wish.  So you have six other people joining you for the trip?  Share the trip notebook with them, and everyone can add anything they find related to the trip – web pages about restaurants to try, reviews of the tours you are considering, Youtube videos about using public transportation … anything you find!  My 11-year-old granddaughter and I shared a notebook for the trip to Hawaii last year, where we each filed all sorts of things we found to do while we were there.  I saved the emails about our reservations in the notebook so that we both knew about them, plus they were handy to refer to when we actually arrived at the hotel, for example, and needed to show our reservation details at check-in!  On a more serious note, I have a notebook of “Important Information” where I keep notes about insurance policies, car registrations, the current lease on the apartment, account information for bank accounts — all the stuff anyone might need to know if I am incapacitated!  That notebook is shared with everyone who might need to know this information at any time!

There are, like any application, features that I personally do not use.  You can tag all of your notes – to me it is too much of a bother to remember to tag notes, and not too useful since I can search all of my notes for any term and Evernote will find all the notes where that term applies.  I also do not use the “reminders” feature in Evernote!  If a note I am saving needs a reminder, I enter that into Toodledo.  Or, if I am sending an email to Evernote that also involves a task and a due date, I email the message to both Evernote and Toodledo!  But some people find tags and reminders essential features .. once you start using it, you will find what works best for you.

To be useful to the max, you have to do some maintenance and housekeeping!  It is all well and good to dump stuff into Evernote, but if you do not organize what you dump there, then you won’t get the most out of it.  Of course you can search all of your notes to find anything that mentions a term you want, but if you organize your notes into notebooks, then when you need to see all the stuff you have saved about a particular “thing” then you have quick access to it all in one place.

I am loving the discussion that this series is prompting!  So if you have questions or comments, or recommendations based on your experience with Evernote or with something similar, let me know!

About Peggy L Chinn

feminist, nurse activist, writer, founding editor of ANS Advances in Nursing Science, quilter, grandmother nurturing the future of the amazing children in my life.
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