How to Use Evernote to Organize Your Life

Evernote is a syncing app and program that lets you organize information, keep things handy, and reduce the number of post-it notes filled with scrawled reminders littering your desk. Evernote can be used as a personal organization tool as well as a business tool.

To get Evernote:  download the app from the Google Play store on your Android phone or tablet. Evernote is also available for iPhone/iPad/iPod and Apple OS. The app is free for Android phones and tablets. I have it on both by Samsung Galaxy III Android phone and my Nexus 7 Tablet. Once you have downloaded and installed the app, download the PC version (or Apple version for Mac). If you download the app version first, the PC Windows version is free.

One of the neatest things about Evernote is that it syncs automatically. You can create a new note on your phone, and later find that note on your desktop PC version or on your tablet. This works for all notes where ever you compose them, and whatever device you compose them on. As long as you have recorded the information, it is there for you. However, Evernote does not need to be on-line to work. I’ve written notes when I had no internet access at all – next time I have access, the notes sync.

The first step in Evernote is to create notebooks. I suggest creating these in broad categories. I have a general notebook, a notebook for finances, a notebook for recipes, a notebook of favorite blog posts, a notebook for pictures, etc. It’s always easy to add new notebooks. A few months ago, I created a finance notebook and moved all my finance-related notes from my general notebook to that notebook, such as .pdfs of bills, on-line payment confirmations, and other financial information.

The next step is to create notes in your notebooks. There are several different ways to create notes in Evernote. You can simply click new note (location will vary depending on your device) and type in the note. If the note is time-sensitive, such as a reminder about an appointment – you can set an alarm with the note at the same time. You can take a picture with your phone (or tablet) and upload that as a note into Evernote. You can create the bare bones of a typed note, such as a title, then upload a Word or .pdf document – such as a bill, payment confirmation, or order confirmation. You can also type a note as a checklist, then optionally check off steps as they are completed. And if you’ve installed the Evernote Web Clipper to your browser, you can use that to download a “Simplified Article” version of a blog post or on-line article (this will give you the text of a post without any ads, banners, or side-bars – the way you want to read it). You can also use the Web Clipper to clip sections of web pages as an image. Personally, if I want record a section of a webpage as a separate image I use the Windows Utility “Snipping Tool”, which I call “Snippy”, and save it as a .jpg. But having an alternative available is always useful.

One of the best uses for Evernote is lists. I like to make my grocery shopping list in Evernote. I actually walk around, in my kitchen, opening the pantry, fridge, freezer, etc., and record what I need on my tablet. When I sync the app – everything I’ve written is on my phone in Evernote, and I can check it when I’m in the supermarket. I also sometimes start the process on my PC by looking through recipes, and adding ingredients I know I’ll need to my grocery list on my PC, then go to the kitchen, and pick-up the list on my tablet. Because it’s a computerized app, I can delete items that I actually have and add ones I need. In the store, I check the boxes next to the items I buy as I buy them. If I can’t find something, I can leave the item unchecked – and buy it at another store later. It’s a much more organized way to shop.

It is possible to keep any number or type of lists in Evernote. You can also add tags to any note, which makes it searchable, and helps your notebooks stay organized.

Evernote is also great for organizing recipes – because of the ability to add tags to your notes, and the multiple ways of adding information to Evernote. I’ve downloaded recipes from various websites, then added the recipe as an attachment to a note in Evernote. I then title the note with the name of the recipe, or if the recipe has a bland or common title, I’ll add a bit to the title of the note or in the text of the note to set it apart. I also add notes about recipes after I’ve tried them. And I classify my recipes not only by food/meal type (chicken/beef, etc, dinner/potluck, etc) but by level (dead easy, easy, medium, etc.) I have my system. But I also use Evernote to help me find recipes in my cookbooks. Rather than scanning a recipe page and uploading it – I note the recipe title, tag it, and in the body of note list the cookbook, page number, and any other notes. This reduces the, “which cookbook is that Lemon Cookie recipe in?”, time. I can’t tell you how many times I’m spent 30 minutes to an hour trying to find a recipe – only to spend so much time looking that I either no longer want to cook, no longer have time to cook, or I end-up deciding to make something else. And of course, when I come up with a new recipe myself, I can also add it as a new note in my recipes notebook. And you can also take a picture with your phone (or tablet) of a back-of-the-box recipe and add that as a note as well.

In short, Evernote is a great organization tool. I find that the web clipper, upload capability, tagging, and ability to create multiple themed notebooks, are all great ways to organize information. And it’s all searchable. Try it – I think you’ll find it as indispensable as I do.