So many forgotten things

It’s almost a cliche to rave about how great Evernote is  — but I’m going to do it any way. My friend Medley first tipped me to it, and since the first time I tried it, it just worked for me. Effortlessly.  Here’s a few notes about how I use it:

  • It’s everywhere. I use Evernote on my laptop, my desktop at work, my phone and on the web.  I can access all my notes from everywhere.  It’s amazing how much difference that makes.  Unfortunately, the iPhone app is pretty rudimentary.  The company says they are working on improvements — that can’t happen soon enough.
  • Collection is easy.  It’s so easy to get notes into Evernote.  Directly entering text, voice and photo notes is so easy (although the photo notes aren’t that useful since you can’t annotate the photos easily from an iPhone). The interface is simple and very easy to use. I can (and have) entered notes at stoplights while waiting for the light to change.
  • Evernote plays well with other programs.  It works particularly well with email. You get an email address for your account, and anything you send to that address becomes a note.  Articles I read in Instapaper that I want to keep?  Email full-text to evernote.  Schedules for church events that I get in my email?  Forward them to Evernote. But Evernote also works really well with Twitter. You can also send tweets to evernote via direct message. I do this most commonly with links other people post that I want to read later — I DM them straight to my own Evernote account.  I also love the webclipping tool — you can highlight something on a webpage, tap the web clipper, and it’s saved as a note — done.  If you don’t highlight anything, but tap the web clipper, the whole page is saved for you.  Given all the devices I can access Evernote with, and all the different ways I can create notes, it’s completely feasible for me to mind-dump everything. What surprises me about this is that with all these ways to create notes, it still feels effortless to me all the time. It’s not confusing to create notes all these different ways.
  • Tags. I have a love-hate relationship with tags.  I am a poor speller, so my tags often end up quite messy.  On the other hand, I’m also lazy, and tags are a fantastic short-cut for lazy organizers.  So I use them.  Evernote also allows you to create “notebooks” (which function like categories), but I find that it’s usually too much trouble to create notebooks for most things.  If I’m shopping for a new TV, I can dump a bunch of research notes into Evernote and tag them and retrieve them as needed. I don’t necessarily want a “TV” notebook taking up space in my Evernote menu, or in my head. The best thing about tags is that they get better the more I use Evernote.  As I find things and use my notes, I refine and add to my tags, which makes using and maintaining Evernote a self-reinforcing process.
  • Notebooks.  Like tags, I have a love-hate relationship with notebooks. I mostly use notebooks for very high-level organizing and processing.  Inspired by GTD, I have a default folder in Evernote called @Inbox. Everything I capture goes straight to @Inbox.  About once a day, I go through my @Inbox folder and process everything in it.  I edit the notes as needed (web clips in particular are messy), add tags, and file the notes into other folders.  My largest folder is called @None — it serves as a catch all for notes that don’t really belong in another notebook.  Since I rely more on tags to find my notes, this serves me well.  My other notebooks are for things that I want to have a visual reminder of, such as Work, Hobbies, Music, Vacation, Evernote (yes, I have an Evernote notebook about Evernote), Books to Read, and Books I’ve Read.  My favorite folder is called @Tickler.  I put notes in this folder that I want to see on a particular date, and I put the date in the title of the note.  For example, I want to remember to go to a particular Halloween Haunted House next year, so I created a note titled “2011-10-1 Haunted House” and put the Haunted House’s url in the note.  I stuck this in my @Tickler notebook.  I sort that notebook by title, which means that I will see that note next year in time to consider going to that haunted house.  Everything in @Tickler is dated for the future — once I’ve looked at it, I either change the date to another date in the future, or I change the title completely and move it to a different folder.
  • Sharing.  Aside from my @Inbox and @Tickler notebooks, the next most useful thing to me about a notebook is that it can be shared with others.  I share my vacation folder with my husband, and my Books I’ve Read folder with anyone who wants to read it. In the past, I’ve also shared other special-purpose folders with people.

I have forgotten so many things in my life.  I wish I could retrieve them.   I’m particularly sad about all the stuff I learned in graduate school that I’ve forgotten. Evernote won’t help me remember stuff. But it will help me recall it. Which is almost as important.

Posted on November 7th, 2010 by Katxena