While writing I don’t like being distracted or being disconnected from what I am trying to write, which tends to cause a lot of frustration when trying to finish a personal or work project. These days no matter where I write I am dependent on the tools I have placed in my workflow to handle the issues of being distracted and disconnected so that I can get back to doing what I want to do most. Write.
These days I still rely on my Moleskine notebooks to catch a few of my ramblings or thoughts. However, up until a few years ago the days of using my Moleskine notebook exclusively were starting to become cumbersome and hard to keep up my crazy writing schedule. If I went somewhere and forgot to take a notebook with me then I was left trying to remember an idea until I could get back home or attempting to scribble it on a napkin or scrap of paper. It was a bad process. Around the same time I discovered Dropbox, Google Drive, and a few others that shall remain nameless. They each had their perks and fallbacks, but where each one lacked was the ability to keep track of different file formats easily and make them searchable.
When I came across Evernote I had mixed results at first, but after using it for a month or so I started to like what I was seeing. There are two pricing models free and premium. Simple choices either you pay or you don’t. I’ve used the free account for years to keep track of everything without running over the limit they place on it, but recently I wanted to start moving my entire life into the digital space so I signed up for the premium account to see what the expansion of features could do for me.
For starters everything in Evernote is a note and all those notes are indexed so that they can later be searched. Your not restricted to titles, but rather you have full access to the content of your note the moment you start searching. Leaving all your notes in one place and running a search is not ideal at least not in my work environment, which is why I break out my writings or thoughts using some basic organization techniques.
First, I start with a basic notebook and put all associated notes in one notebook. When I’m writing a blog post a new post is put into a notebook labeled “Unpublished Posts” or if I’m writing a chapter of a book I have a notebook labeled with the title of the book and those chapters go in there for editing later. If by chance a group of my notebooks are based on a particular section of my life, for example, my work is all organized into one stacked notebook labeled “Work” and all the individual notebooks that I use at work are put inside for easy reference.
Even though I work as a web developer I have integrated Evernote into keeping track of meetings, tasks, useful libraries, coding best practices, training, and inspirational ideas about sites that have inventive designs. This is where a small application called Skitch enters the scene. Skitch is part of the Evernote family of apps and allows for a wide variety of usages. It allows you to first take screenshots of your desktop or website to take quick notes on top of the image and then stores it conveniently in an Evernote notebook for later tagging and movement into a note / notebook.
If you’re a visual person like I am then you will appreciate the ability to take a quick snapshot of a website takes some notes and then save the entire snippet for later use. My wife has used a website like Pinterest to store ideas that she has found via various blogs or sites, but trying to use those ideas can become a little hard because they are not available in the same place. So you spend most of your time searching one site to move them into another medium to start developing those ideas. Not a great workflow, unless you like extra work which I don’t.
There are a few other applications that Evernote provides for free such as Evernote Web Clipper, Evernote Hello, Evernote Food, and Evernote Clearly which are all useful under the free account and each have their own features. I suppose the one thing that I like most about the Evernote eco-system is not that they created on app that can do everything well, but that they built a system that can handle everything with accompanying apps that do one thing better than all the others. They took the time to develop a great system that is easy to get on board with and which is accessible from anywhere. Give them a try if you find yourself searching multiple mediums and accounts to collect your thoughts and ideas for a writer and developer like myself it makes perfect sense to have my time organized in one application. Gone are the days where I sit pondering, “Where did I put that image or blog post?”