We don’t talk a whole lot about the specific tools of modern productivity here at AoM. We’re generally more interested in principles, skills, mindsets, etc. Every once in a while, though, we come across something so useful, we just have to share it.
Enter Evernote. It’s an app for your smartphone, tablet, computer, and even your Moleskine notebook. It’s just what the name implies: an application that serves as your notetaker, PDA, pocket notebook, to-do list, etc. The beauty of Evernote is that it syncs automatically across all your devices, and across all your operating systems. Never lose another post-it note, scrap piece of paper, or notebook that has important information on it. You’ll also streamline your desk from a jumble of notes and folders into a single digital storehouse.
The app is roughly organized into notebooks and notes. Just like in real life. You create a notebook for a particular subject/topic, then fill that notebook with notes. Besides syncing across devices and operating systems, there are some features that make Evernote really stand out:
- The ability to share notes and whole notebooks with classmates, coworkers, family, etc.
- The ability to take and attach pictures to a note right from within the app.
- The ability to take and attach voice memos and audio to a note right from within the app.
- The ability to attach files (spreadsheets, images, docs) to any note.
- The ability to scan text in a photo using Optical Character Recognition technology.
- The ability to set reminders for yourself for various tasks, goals, and projects from within the app.
- The ability to create checkboxes that serve as virtual to-dos.
- The ability to sync automatically between all devices, meaning you can access your notes even when offline. (This feature is somewhat limited in the free version.)
- Best of all – it’s FREE! There’s a premium version that offers a few bonus features, but the freebie offers all of the above.
Evernote has been around for nearly five years now, and although the AoM team has dabbled with the app before, Brett and I have finally become full-blown evangelists for it. Before we get too far in, we should say upfront that this is not a sponsored post; we have no affiliation with Evernote whatsoever. We just really love the app and we think that every man could benefit from using it.
We don’t get into the specifics of how to set up Evernote or how to use its basic features in this post. For that, we highly recommend the book Evernote Essentials by Brett Kelly.
Utilizing even just a few of the ideas below will make you a more productive man. And please, add your own ideas of how to use Evernote in the comments!
1. Track your time. One of the most effective productivity systems out there is the relatively simple (but not necessarily easy) task of recording how you spend your time. Checking email, working on the spreadsheet, attending your sales meeting, even the 15 minutes you wasted on Facebook. At the end of the day, you’ll often realize just how much time you wasted. There are computer programs that will track time for you, but in our experience they just aren’t effective in tracking it specifically enough to mean anything. Use Evernote to track your productivity by stopping and making a note of what you’ve just been doing every 15 or 30 minutes. It may seem like a lot of work, but after a week, you’ll have a clear understanding of how you spend your time.
2. Write a note to your significant other. Many a husband and wife like to trade instant messages, texts, or emails with each other while they’re apart. Using Evernote is another option for sending your missives. Create a shared note between you, and send notes back and forth throughout the day. It’s less interrupting than a text, and more private than an email (especially if it’s a work email address).
3. Journaling. Did you participate in our our 31-day challenge and decide that you wanted to continue this journaling habit? If so, maybe Evernote could be a good digital option for making your entries. Create a notebook for your journaling, and a new note for each day (or entry). You can even create a template (here’s the one Michael Hyatt uses) so that you can use the same daily prompt and not have to come up with new journaling ideas every day.
4. Book notes. Use Evernote to take down your favorite quotes and jot down comments and questions while doing your reading for the AoM Book Club (and for your other reading as well of course!). Create a notebook for your book notes, and use tagging to categorize between fiction, non-fiction, business, classics, hobbies, etc.
We’ve also come across a brilliant little trick for saving and cataloging any highlights you make through the Amazon Kindle devices or apps. When logged in on kindle.amazon.com, you can click “Your Highlights” at the top of the page and view any highlighted passage you’ve made in any book you’ve read on any Kindle device or app. You can click a specific book title, view all the highlights and notes you made in that book, and either copy/paste them into Evernote, or even use the web clipper and do it automatically. This feature is especially handy for doing research for college papers or work projects, and even allows you to use lengthy quotes without the hassle of transcribing. You can thank us later.
5. Collaborate at work. This is how we use Evernote here at AoM. Since our team is based in two locations very far away from each other (Denver and Tulsa), we don’t have a physical whiteboard we can all see each day. That’s where Evernote comes in. We use shared notebooks primarily for blog ideas and research, but the possibilities are endless.
6. Gift ideas. If you’re like me, you’ll come up with a brilliant gift idea for a loved one, jot it down on a sticky note, and promptly lose said note less than a week later. Create a notebook, with a new note for each person in your family. Share notes for your kids with your wife, for your wife with your kids, etc. Bounce ideas off each other, and never lose a good gift idea again. As a bonus, create a list for yourself of stuff you’d like, share it with your family, and they’ll never run out of ideas for you.
7. Grocery list. Our household goes through endless scraps of paper for meal planning and grocery lists. They end up lost more often than not. Create your weekly list in Evernote, share it with your wife or roommates, and everyone will be on the same page. You can each add items to the list as you think of them instead of risking forgetting and needing to make a return trip to the market.
8. Save articles and other interesting things for later. Use the Evernote web clipper to save all the articles and fun links you want to read later, but can’t go through during the day. So you saw the latest article on AoM while at work, but don’t have the time to read it immediately? Hit a single button and save it to Evernote; you can enjoy it on your bus ride home, even when you don’t have an internet connection.
9. Keep your clothing sizes and measurements handy. I know many a man who can’t remember their clothing sizes, especially when it comes to dress clothes that have specific numbers. Get yourself properly measured, and keep the numbers in Evernote. When you’re shopping, you’ll know exactly what you need. When you find that certain brands fit your body differently, you can note that as well.
10. Track goals. Make a notebook for your 2014 goals (and beyond). Within that notebook, create a note for each goal, and use that note to create action items, next steps, and progress reports. Check it out every week (or even every day) and make sure you stay on track.
11. Digital rolodex. Take pictures of all the business cards you acquire. Evernote’s OCR (optical character recognition) will read the text of the cards, meaning you can search for names and titles when you’ve inevitably forgotten things.
12. Track finances. While other apps (like Mint or your banking app) will keep better track of the minutiae of your daily finances, you can use Evernote to take pictures of work receipts or large expenses, tag them appropriately, and not have to save shoeboxes of receipts anymore.
13. Master meal list and journal. This is a fairly creative idea, if I don’t say so myself. When my wife and I are trying to meal plan (we plan a week at a time), we often have a hard time even remembering what’s in our wheelhouse and what we like. What we need is a master list of meals we’ve made and enjoyed. Can you see where this is going? Create a master meals list in Evernote, take notes on what part of the meal went well and what didn’t, and never be stuck asking, “What should we have for dinner?” again.
14. Fitness/weight journal. Diet and exercise remain the number one New Year’s resolution year after year. And for good reason; our fair country needs a healthy dose of getting our butts off of the couch. Unfortunately, most people give up on their resolutions between 45 and 60 days from January 1 (that date is quickly approaching!). To help motivate you, keep a daily note of your weight, what you ate, and any exercise. There are numerous benefits, especially to keeping an eating journal; the first of which being that in studies on the subject, people who keep a journal lose nearly twice as much weight. And it’s free.
15. Write a book. Looking to bone up your wordsmithery by writing a book? Use Evernote! Every writer knows how the best inspiration often strikes at the most inconvenient times: in bed, on the train, while out on a run, etc. Instead of trying to remember these flashes of inspiration until you can conveniently write them down, do it instantly! While a pocket notebook can do the trick, you risk losing your notes. Also, with Evernote, you have your notes wherever you go no matter what — a definite bonus.