Friday, 7 June 2013

Thing 12: Organising with Evernote

We're now into Part 4 of the programme - Time-Management Tools. (For reasons I won't bore you with, we're going to go back to Google+ Hangouts in a couple of weeks, so a few other tools have shifted forward.)

Both of the things in this section are essentially list-making tools, and you may be wondering if you really need a separate tool to make lists with... Personally I think it's worth it, for reasons which I hope will become clear as you read on. The first tool we'll look at is Evernote.

What is it? 

Evernote is a productivity app - it attempts to help you remember and act on important information. I'd heard people raving about how good it was, but I’d never used it. My rationale was: I can make notes in Word on my PC, or my laptop, and I’ve got a note-pad app thing on my iPhone; how much more useful can a specialist note-thingy be? The answer, it turns out, is much, much more useful.

This is an app which needs to be installed on your PC - so you may need admin permissions to get it on there, just to warn you early on! 

Why use it? 

The primary reason to use Evernote for to-do lists and for note-taking is that it 'syncs' between all your devices. So let's say you have it on your work PC - you can also have it on your home PC, your smartphone, your tablet, your laptop, wherever you like - and because they synchronise, the same information will appear on all of them. 

You never have to remember to bring your to-do list with you, you can access it wherever. You can take notes at a meeting on your laptop or phone and they're already waiting on your PC by the time you get back to your desk. There's no more getting home from a conference and calibrating all your notes into the right place – if you use the basic word-processor-esque note-taking functionality in the Evernote on your laptop, then press ‘sync’, it’ll appear on your Desktop, your work PC and your phone, instantly. If you don’t have your laptop with you, use your phone to take notes and hit sync and it’ll be on there anyway. And so on.

I also use it to store every piece of information I ever need for events. Start time, location, train ticket reservation number, travel times, named contact, etc etc. I'm not very organised, so I find it reassuring that I don't have to actually remember to bring that info with me - I know it'll be waiting on my phone when I need it. 

Activity: sign for an Evernote account 

This should take 5 to 10 minutes. If you don't work at the same desk every day (so you don't have a work PC you consider 'your' PC) AND you don't have a smartphone, it may not be worth your time to sign up for this - feel free to skip the activity if this is the case (you can always come back to it later). 

Go to Evernote and click the Sign up for an account button in the top-right hand corner. Once you have the account you'll need to download it on each device you use regularly - so search the appstore on your smartphone / tablet and download the app version, and go to on your PC / Laptop and press the big Download Everenote, it's free button on the homepage. I'm hoping you'll be able to download it onto your work PC without any problems as it's such a small and basic programme, but it may need 'administrator privileges'.

Once you've put it on the relevant devices, try it out and see what you think. Create a to-do list, make some notes in a meeting, and if you're using it on a phone, keep in mind you can use the camera on your smart-phone to take a picture in Evernote – this then appears as a note. At events you could also take pictures of slides if the presenter you’re watching hasn't provided paper copies, or a printed schedule at a conference, or building or room plans. If people write stuff on a white-board, just take a photo rather than copying it down.

The great thing is turns any writing in your photos into searchable text, so you can easily locate what you’re looking for later. This also means that if someone leaves a post-it note stuck to your monitor with “Phone John Smith, external user, 01482378″ written on it, and you don’t have time to phone them right away, so you take a picture of the post-it note, then when you get a chance later on you type ‘John Smith’ into the search box and it finds John and his number.

Have a play around, and see if Evernote can make your life easier. Next up, another app called Toodledo. 

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