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The Busy Woman’s Guide to Using Evernote and Other Note-Keeping Apps

busy woman's guide to using evernoteI don’t know about you, but I’ve seen a zillion tips on how to use Evernote and other note-keeping apps — but all seem geared at freelancers or entrepreneurs.  So we thought we’d do a roundup of some top tips for busy working women, but we want to hear from you guys: DO you use Evernote or a similar system? HOW do you use it, and what are your favorite tips?

A bit of background: Evernote is a web/app-based program that is billed as being a digital brain. You can use it for almost anything: project planning; note-taking; storing and organizing things that can include to-do lists, travel details, grocery lists, and gift lists; and much more. You can organize your notes and other content into notebooks (with or without tags), clip content from ebooks and webpages, send designated types of emails to your account, create checklists and reminders, save images, save PDFs and other files (which become searchable), share content with other people, record audio, take photos and scan documents (e.g., business cards, whiteboard notes, takeout menus, product warranties, receipts), add hand-drawn pictures or handwritten notes, and sync across your devices. Evernote also works with many other applications, like Google Drive (beta), Scanner Pro, IFTTT, Pocket, and DocuSign. You can use Evernote for free (several features plus 60 MB new uploads each month) or choose one of the paid plans.

Of course, other programs are similar to Evernote — and considering the recently-announced price increase, if you want your info synced on more than two devices, now is a great time to be aware of Evernote alternatives as well, such as:

  • OneNote – Lifehacker just did a showdown comparing Evernote and OneNote.
  • Google Keep and Google Drive – Tech Republic recently discussed how to ditch Evernote in favor of Google apps.
  • Some of the functionality but not everything:
    • B-Folders – not very easy to save articles beyond copy/paste, but: very secure, includes contacts, syncs across desktops and Androids; Kat’s written of her love for it for keeping track of various lists.
    • Pinterest – nice way to save articles or recipes for later. Con: it often only works if there’s a picture in the article to pin (since it’s a graphic search engine). Also, you can’t make to-do lists or save things like emails.
    • To-do list apps like Remember the Milk, Wunderlist, Teuxdeux, Todoist, and more.
    • iPhone Notes app – allows you to make buying lists, recipes, and more; can access on your PC through iCloud.
    • Meal planning apps like Pepperplate or Cozi (family scheduling, grocery shopping, recipe keeper and more).

Here are some of our best tips for using Evernote and other similar apps — readers, what are yours?

Store interesting articles, emails, and newsletters more efficiently

Every so often I see an article or get an email newsletter that looks incredibly helpful for some topic of interest — that I just don’t have time to take action on it now, either because I’m too busy (such as easy ways to learn a new language), I’m not there yet (such as how to get on a board), or I’m just collecting ideas for some future project (like preparing my own city guides for business travel).  I may save them in my inbox or print them out, and may even label them — but ultimately I totally forget about them. But you can just send those on to your Evernote account to be clipped and filed.  Another tip: you can even sign up for newsletters using your Evernote or OneNote email address, meaning you can bypass your email account and receive the messages in the app instead (via michaelhyatt.com).

Use Evernote with Getting Things Done   

There are several methods out there for using Evernote in tandem with Getting Things Done, including the official one from GTD. Here’s one that claims to be quicker and simpler.

Combine Evernote or OneNote with IFTTT

These are just a few things you can do when you’re using Evernote in tandem with IFTTT: (1) have particular emails in Gmail, e.g., starred emails, or receipts, automatically forwarded to Evernote, (2) have Fitbit send your daily activity into a note in Evernote, (3) keep track of Craigslist searches, e.g., if you’re looking for a job or an apartment, have Craigslist send Evernote every new posting that matches your search options. (You can also connect IFTTT to OneNote.)

Keep track of your closet and clothes wishlist.

Keep photos of clothes and accessories you’ve bought recently (sizes too!) to keep a digital closet. (This is somewhat similar to Kat’s method for remembering what clothes she’s bought for her sons.) If you’re building a wardrobe or looking for things to replace, you can keep a very limited clothes shopping list in the app as well.

Organize your job search

You can keep a running list of positions you’ve applied for (and add updates such as “followed up 7/7,” “interview scheduled for 7/18”), add new job postings as you find them (using text and hyperlinks and/or the Web Clipper tool), use tip #6 above for Craigslist job ads, and much more. Here are several more ideas from About.com.

Keep price lists, shopping lists, and specialized product info

Whether it’s keeping a comparison price list so you can take advantage of bulk pricing, a specialized shopping list (everything you need for a house renovation, for example), or specialized product info (such as taking snaps of your printer cartridge or refrigerator filter info), you can keep everything on hand with a digital app.

Digitize your collection of business cards

Using your iPhone/iPad or Android device (with the Premium Plan), you get rid of that stack of business cards you’ve collected by scanning and storing them. Evernote will automatically use the information from each business card to create a contact note with the person’s name, title, company, and contact info; an image of the card; and even a photo and LinkedIn profile info. Evernote can even add the person to your device’s Contacts (either automatically or manually, depending on which device you’re using and which setting you choose). You can keep track of who you’ve met, what you’ve talked about, use checklists to keep track of action items, and even clip articles on various contacts (such as clipping someone’s recently published article or paper to remember the next time you talk to them).

Keep business or personal travel information handy

I’ve found that using Evernote is very helpful for keeping all your travel information, documents, and receipts in one place. For a recent trip with my husband, I created an Evernote notebook and added the following: hotel information (text details I typed in, plus the emailed reservation confirmation), rental car and flight information (ditto), a chart from the airport website showing parking options (we weren’t flying out of our regular airport), links to local restaurants, links and PDFs with details about the event we were attending, event ticket receipts/confirmations, and more. I currently have a packing list in Word that I print out each time I travel, but I’m going to keep it as a checklist in Evernote from now on.

Create a portfolio and share it

Here’s an example I found online at alliworthington.com: This author/coach used the Web Clipper tool to grab articles she’s written for the web (you can save a whole webpage, part of it, or just the URL) in order to add them to an Evernote notebook that she made public/shareable.

Keep track of travel expenses

When you’re on a business trip, use your phone to take photos of your receipts and store them in Evernote. Once you’re back at work, they’ll all be accessible in one place, and even if you lose one or two of the hard-copy versions (it happens to the best of us), you’ll be able to submit all your receipts nonetheless.

Save and organize excerpts from Kindle books and ebooks

It’s very simple, as the Evernote blog explains: Just log in to your account to access your Kindle (I just discovered you can still do this if you only have the Kindle app but not a Kindle device) and then use the Web Clipper tool, which will send your highlighted excerpts to Evernote.

Organize with tags

Some people prefer to use tags as the primary organizing method for their Evernote notes rather than notebooks (as Lifehacker explains). I haven’t tried this yet, but it sounds like it can be more efficient and more versatile. The Evernote blog gives some other examples of what you can do with tags, e.g., for project management (“Add a tag to identify the project state (active, next, completed) or to the spec number or feature”) or task management (“Add a priority label to notes (p1, p2, p3)”).

Readers: Do you like using Evernote for work, grad school, or personal use? What are your favorite tips and hacks for using Evernote? Do you prefer other applications such as Microsoft OneNote, Google Keep, or Google Drive? 

Pictured: Pixabay.

busy woman's guide to using evernote

Comments

  1. Meg Murry :

    When I was job searching/on unemployment, I used Evernote to keep track of what I had applied to, and my forms I had to fill out for benefits. I had to fill out a form online every week (if I wanted to be paid weekly, otherwise at least every 2 weeks) where I had to put in at least a certain number of “job search activities” (applications, interviews, etc). I was warned that I could be audited on what I had submitted and had to keep a log (and also that the system would occasionally screw up so I needed the confirmation number it gave me after I filled out the online form, which of course only showed up on the screen, it wasn’t emailed to me) – so every week after I filled in the log I took a screenshot of it and put it in a new note that I tagged with “unemployment log” and that I titled the date and the confirmation number.

    Luckily, I was never audited, but some of my friends were – and they were treated really badly when the auditor tried to grill them about their job search and had their logs at home, not with them so they couldn’t answer the auditor’s very specific questions. Unfortunately, I live in a state where the assumption is that the applicant *must* be trying to cheat the system and employees have to do whatever they can to try to deny benefits, as opposed to the reality – that most people would much rather have jobs than job hunt/deal with unemployment, but they are using the safety net of unemployment when they fall on a hard time.

  2. jumpingjack :

    I use Evernote for recipes. An added bonus is that it’s tied to the NY Times’ recipe book, so if I save a recipe on the Times website it’s automatically saved into Evernote for me.

    • I have a note takeing app on my iPad that let’s me take notes, and then save them to file’s. I can then open the file’s and copy and paste them into MS Word. I do pretty much all of my note-takeing on my Ipad, as long as I am carrying it. My iphone is to small to take notes on, tho I use the VOICE RECOGNEATION feature which make’s it easier. Dad says these are Great Productivity enheancement’s and I agree! YAY for Apple and MS Word!

  3. I use Evernote for everything! Personal stuff- gift lists, to do lists (shared with husband), places I’d like to go, shopping lists, and recipes. Work stuff – to do lists, teaching notes (teach a class each year and I write what I’d like to include / change the following year), articles, and research data collection (although I’ve moved over to nvivo for this stuff). I wish I had separated out my accounts into work and personal stuff but otherwise, couldn’t live without it.

    I also use a tiny notebook as a bullet journal.

  4. I always feel like an idiot when these things come up. I don’t use technology as adeptly as many. I use a paper list for grocery shopping because I like actively crossing things off by hand. I use my work Outlook calendar and sometimes my iPhone calendar to keep track of events – also email. I have a book list in iNotes, which I never look at because I just grab whatever strikes me at the library that day. I don’t have many day-to-day list or note-taking requirements I guess?

    We use OneNote at work, or are supposed to. I’m trying to get better about using it, but none of my actual work can be on the Cloud so it’s all meeting notes. That too is awkward because I have the last year and half of notes in spirals. Plus, some of our subsidiary companies aren’t hooked in yet, so they don’t know WTH I am doing when I send them meeting notes or whatever via OneNote. Plus, my small contracts group doesn’t use it AT ALL. Nor does my boss’s boss or her boss.

    #techfail

    • thigh teeth :

      I’m pretty darn techy, but I still keep most of my to-do lists on paper, because I find the acts of writing them out and crossing off tasks unbeatably soothing to my anxiety.

      • Wildkitten :

        Same. I only write them electronically if they are far in advance, like next month or next year.

  5. AnonReader :

    Great post! I find apps like this help with my ADD because I can just save all the stuff I think is so important to read to read later and focus on what actually needs to get done in that moment.

  6. I think Workflowy deserves a mention here. It works for to-do lists, outlines, and certain kinds of project management.

    OneNote users should try out Microsoft’s OfficeLens app (I liked it better than GoogleKeep for recording documents via a phone camera).

    I don’t know what is says about my digital or non-digital brain that I can’t adapt to using one software (e.g., Evernote) for everything. I use Pocket to park reading material for later and Polyvore for bookmarking things I might want to buy. I use a personal Slack account (shared with my partner) to collect links and documents relevant to projects and goals.

    I’m still looking for a good grocery list app with price and sale information. I thought Out of Milk has promise, but it was awfully buggy for me!

  7. Jen_nifer :

    Pinterest recently updated and no longer requires a picture on the article to pin. It will create one based on text on the page.

  8. Ok, I AM really techie, but for grocery lists, I could not have lived without Grocery IQ for the past 8+ years. I am sure that there are more advanced apps now, but the ability to sync my desktop, iPad, and iPhone instantly makes shopping so much easier with G-IQ. (This is my honest review, no affiliation with the companies.)

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