Home > GTD, ipad, Productivity > Part 2, How to keep track of your notes

Part 2, How to keep track of your notes

I’m an Evernote fanatic…there, I said it! Ever since my very first note/link way back on May 14, 2008 I have been diligently capturing links, notes, pictures, emails and now various other documents. Being the techy nerd that I am I’ve tried many applications out there that do some (and sometimes all) of what Evernote does. But, for whatever I reason I have not wandered from this great app cum service cum virtual networked memory. I heard once that because we are connected through our various devices that our memories have basically exploded in potential  as every piece of information we may want to remember is instantly available to us. This is especially important for memory-challenged folks such as myself.

In my previous post I wrote that a tablet can not be embraced as a serious productivity tool without snapping the pencil in two and simply storing information directly into the tablet. Instant information capture is a great way to store your notes in a more virtual fashion, but to truly leverage your virtual expression you are going to need some way to intelligently store and index all of these notes. Without this intelligence, your notes will wallow in the same way that your notebooks do. For me, Evernote provides the intelligence that I need.

To be honest, my implementation of Evernote is far from the most creative or efficient out there. I have read about tons of different ways to setup and utilize Evernote and will provide some useful references below. However, if you want a simple way to utilize this great tool look no further than my basic process.

  1. Install Evernote everywhere! Evernote literally can run on just about every computer, smartphone, tablet and browser currently in use. Don’t believe me, click here. The best places to start are with the web clipper on each computer you browse on, the desktop version on your work computer (if allowed), home computers and finally on your tablet.
  2. Open the desktop version and start creating your notebooks. The easiest way to do this is to create a logical notebook to match each of the paper notebooks you are using now. I have created over 27 different notebooks in the three years I have been working with Evernote. Seems like a lot, but consider all of the projects you work on, the staff you support or manage, the clients that you serve, etc. All of the information you generate through your life needs a logical home that is easily found. For example, I have 7 direct reports and another 3 I indirectly support; each of these folks has their own notebook in Evernote where I organize all of my communications with each of them. I have a notebook for my boss, a general notebook for general stuff, a notebook for this blog and many others.
  3. Create one additional notebook called “unprocessed” and set this as your default notebook. I recently created this additional location to keep track of all information that has not been categorized yet. Think of this as your stack of unprocessed paper in GTD terms.
  4. Figure out your Evernote email address by visiting the Settings screen. This simple little email will allow you to literally capture anything and everything from any device that has email capabilities. I use this functionality from my Blackberry and it is here that I utilize the “unprocessed” folder. Any email I send to Evernote is automatically stored in this folder. Whereas if you are utilizing the Clipper or the Desktop version you can drop your notes directly into their proper location.
  5. Start creating tags for each note you create. A tag is simply another way to cross-reference information. As an example I have regular meetings with each of my direct reports called “PMIs” which is simply an acronym for “personal management information” or something similar. Because I have a notebook for each direct report I will place my notes for each meeting in their appropriate notebook and tag the note as “PMI” as well. This allows me to find notes by people and by topic without having to utilize the search tool.
That’s it! Simply following the above steps will set you on your way towards a true virtual filing cabinet. In fact, I am slowly moving away from physically filing paper in manila folders by scanning most every piece of paper I want to save. I have found that it is faster to do this up front and a lot faster later when I am trying to find things. Think of filing a piece of correspondence into a folder and 2 years from now you try to find that same piece of paper in your two or four drawer filing cabinet after having forgotten how you labeled the folder. What you end up doing is going through 2-3 different potential folder names trying to locate the folder and then in the end you go through every folder in your cabinet. Now, if you had scanned that document, placed it into a virtual folder on Evernote and added a tag most likely you would have found what you were looking for in about a minute…on your iPad wherever you may be working at that moment! Amazing!
Give Evernote a try and let me know what you think.
If you are already using Evernote and find my process a bit simplistic, check out some of the resources below for some additional ideas.

Other Alternative Evernote GTD/Productivity Implementations:




Random ways to use Evernote:



A real alternative to Evernote – Springpad:



The elephant pictures comes from the Honolulu Zoo

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