Get started using Evernote effectively with just a few small changes. These work for new or advanced users.
If you'd like more detail on any of these steps feel free to reach out or comment below.
1. Create your first notebook
* If you don't do any of the other four steps, be sure to check this one off the list. You'll be glad when you have bunch of notes.
Evernote comes with an default notebook called "My First Notebook". Go ahead and delete it or rename it to "Inbox".
The goal of this notebook is to give you a spot to capture all of your notes quickly then you can do the organizing in the future.
Once you've created your Inbox notebook, navigate to your preferences and set it as your default notebook. Here's Evernote's instructions on how to do that.
You can think of this notebook just like your email inbox—you want to keep it as close to zero notes as possible. Since I capture a ton of notes in Evernote, I have time scheduled every Friday morning to move notes from my inbox into their more fitting notebooks.
2. Create your first tag
Tags can get out of hand really quickly. To give some context, I've found it's helpful to think about tags by asking yourself these two questions.
- Will this tag be usable in many different notebooks? If not, the tag should probably be a notebook instead.
- What's my future self's use of this tag?
For the sake of a clear introduction, we'll just be creating one tag for now.
Create a new tag called "Action".
I use this tag so I can quickly remind myself when I need to do something with a note. It's universal, so it can be applied to a client note like a to-do list for example. It could also be applied to something personal like a reminder to get my oil changed, redeem a coupon online or a list for the next trip to the grocery store.
When I open Evernote, I can say "Show me all notes tagged with Action" and I'll see notes from within hundreds of different notebooks and stacks. One I complete a task, I just remove the Action tag from that note and move on.
3. Declutter the UI
The factory settings for the toolbar and sidebar aren't always useful the most beneficial. Take a couple minutes to see what options can be added and removed. Personally, I prefer a minimal approach. To edit either section, just right click.
Here's what my sidebar looks like
- Recent notes (5 most recent notes for quick access)
- Notes (can't remove this one)
- Notebooks (shows a list of all my notebooks)
- Recent Chats
Here's what my toolbar looks like
It's pretty straight forward, just removed a few items and moved my Account/Profile info to the far right—the most common location for account settings these days.
4. Check out IFTTT
IFTTT is a free web-based service that allows users to create chains of simple conditional statements, called "recipes", which are triggered based on changes to other web services such as Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. IFTTT is an abbreviation of "If This Then That".
— Thanks, Wikipedia
To summarize, IFTTT let's you automate stuff all over the internet. So you can make things happen in Evernote automatically without even opening Evernote.
A quick example: I use IFTTT + IFTTT's "Do Button" to save business receipts inside an Evernote notebook.
IFTTT deserves it's own (lengthy) article. I'm working on it and I'll share it soon. For now, I'd encourage you to create a free account and poke around a bit.
5. Get mobile
This one's easy, just download the mobile app for iOS or Android and take your notes everywhere you go. Besides being accessible everywhere, this is where Evernote really becomes powerful. When you snap a photo, your location will be stored and sortable later. "Show me all notes I took on vacation" will remind you about that big idea you had while hanging out on the beach.
Additionally, using your phone's camera to snap documents will create searchable text! So in six months when you get pulled over and need to show your insurance card—just search your Evernote for "insurance". <— actual use case from a few weeks ago