I generally don’t get too excited about software. (Not counting video games, of course, which I’ve been playing relentlessly since the Atari 2600 came out in 1977.) Photoshop is Photoshop, Word is Word, Excel is Excel, and love’em or hate’em (usually both), you pretty much have to use’em in our line of work.
But every once in a blue moon a brilliant hunk of compiled code comes along that radically changes the way I do things at work and/or at home, and I become an evangelist.
At first glance, Evernote is little more than an electronic notekeeper, but in reality it’s a lot more than that. It’s a game-changer. And it’s free (though I recommend upgrading to premium for more storage and functionality).
Evernote has become my personal assistant, my memory backup, for keeping track of all sorts of stuff:
- Client meeting notes
- Gift suggestions
- Photos of great gardens to use for ideas
- Purchases and order confirmations
- Bus schedules (love the Bieber!)
- Directions to different places
- Recipes I’d like (to give to my wife)
- Political candidate information
- Kids’ social security numbers
- Dogs’ vaccination dates
- Motorcycle VINs
- Car insurance policy numbers
- Craigslist searches
- And on and on
I can also share notebooks with coworkers and family so we can collaborate. Best of all, Evernote data is stored in the cloud, so everything I need is instantly accessible on any of my devices – home and work computers, iPad and Droid phone. And it all stays in sync automatically.
The more I use it, the more I think of new ways to use it. It’s particularly helpful at work. Every time I get on the phone with a client, or get into a meeting about a client, I open a new note and record everything there so I have a record of it later.
Each client has its own notebook for each searching, and the notebooks are shared with everyone else on staff. I can add audio notes, documents, screenshots and photos to each note, too. (Evernote can also recognize words in photos. When you upload a picture to Evernote, it’s automatically indexed and searchable.)
My quest to buy a car is a great illustration of how I use Evernote.
This past summer I wanted to buy a used Jeep Wrangler. I decided to use Craigslist exclusively (for the local aspect of it). The search process entailed reading hundreds of ads and at least 20 personal visits. The whole thing would have been completely overwhelming without Evernote. Here’s how I used it.
- Created a “Jeep – Possible” notebook
- Used the web-clip feature in Evernote to save every single Craigslist ad that looked even remotely likely. (The web-clipper basically saves the entire web page ~ images, links, text and all ~ and copies it into Evernote.)
- Tagged each individual Jeep note with different keywords for easier searching and sorting (4-cylinder, 6-cylinder, hard top, soft top, lift kit, tire size, color, etc.)
- After calling a seller, I wrote on each Jeep note to remind me who I called and what we talked about.
- Moved rejected Jeeps to a “Jeep – Rejected” folder.
- Added new photos of each Jeep if the seller sent me additional photos via text or email.
- Added Google maps and directions to the note when I scheduled a visit.
- Called up the directions on my Droid in the car so I could navigate to the seller’s house.
- Added new notes after each Jeep visit, including pros and cons and price negotiations.
- Added new photos that I took of each Jeep (sending them directly from my phone into each note).
In the end I got a great 1994 Wrangler YJ that I love. But of course, after you buy a Jeep, you have to buy STUFF for the Jeep. So I created a “Jeep Equipment” notebook. Then I searched dozens of ecommerce sites, saving hundreds of items in Evernote so I could compare features and costs before making a purchase.
Owning a Jeep next entailed finding places off-road where I can actually drive it without getting arrested. So I trolled Jeep enthusiast forums, Google maps and state park websites. I saved maps, directions, trail information and more into an “Off-Road Opps” notebook.
Of course, I’m an off-road newbie, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to learn more about HOW to drive a Jeep off-road. So I created a “Jeep Knowledge” notebook and saved every bit of advice I could find, including photos and videos, so I could drive it without flipping it over and killing myself while climbing boulders.
I’m always checking the Evernote blog to learn new uses. Other Evernoters often post advice and suggestions on how they use Evernote in their business and personal lives. If my story hasn’t convinced you, check out the blog and find out for yourself.