The App that I Use the Most

There are a few tools that I use on a daily basis. Evernote is the tool I use the most. I can’t imagine my life without it. It’s like a second brain to me. It’s almost as important as Google in my life. I have two Evernote accounts. One is for private purposes and the other one is for my work.

When you first download and install Evernote, it looks like a simple note taking software. You just take notes and Evernote stacks them on each other. You might wonder what the buzz is about.

When you dive into different functionalities of Evernote, you realize that you can customize Evernote in various ways according to your own wants and needs. If you read different articles by different Evernote enthusiasts, you will come across different usages of Evernote.

When you look at how different people use Evernote, you might think that they are using different software. That’s the advantage of Evernote. It’s a simple software that can be customized the way you want.

In this post, I’m going to explain the way I use Evernote. It doesn’t mean my way is the best way. This is what works the best for me.  I will introduce you the functionalities that I use. Feel free to use as much or as less as I explain here.

What do I use Evernote for?

I use my private account to

  • Capture ideas,
  • Organize ideas,
  • Use it as a combination of an agenda and a to do list,
  • Take notes.

I use the work account to

  • Maintain a knowledge base,
  • Use it as a notepad.

Here are the Evernote features I use the most.

  • Synchronization between laptop and smartphone
  • Linking notes to each other
  • Duplicating notes
  • Tagging notes
  • Searching notes
  • Shortcuts

Capture Ideas

As I have mentioned in a previous post, I write down around ten ideas a day that pop up in my mind in Evernote. This is what I call capturing ideas. It is rather an easy process.

This is where the synchronization comes handy. I can take notes whenever I want, wherever I want with my smartphone. Then those notes are synchronized to my laptop and I can work on them at home with my laptop.

Organize Ideas

Capturing ideas is the easy part. Organizing them are the harder part, but it’s necessary to be able to use them, for example when writing blog posts.

Once a week, I go over these ideas and process them. I put the similar ones together. If there are sufficient ideas around a certain topic, I create a separate note for them. For example, I have separate notes for business, writing, productivity, and so on.

When you use Evernote for a long time, you end up with thousands of notes. They need to be organized to be useful. In the past, I used the shortcut functionality for that purpose.

Unfortunately, the shortcut functionality hasn’t been stable recently when synchronizing notes. Old versions of shortcuts started to override new versions. That meant I lost my work. So, I stopped relying on them.

I create a few index notes, which contain links to other notes. Index notes are more flexible and stable than shortcuts. Now, I use a few shortcuts on my sidebar. They point to my index notes. Even if those shortcuts are lost due to synchronization errors, I can easily find my index notes via the search box.

Use It as a Combination of an Agenda and a To Do List

When I got my first smartphone, I experimented with a lot of calendar and to do list apps. Calendar apps are great for keeping track of appointments. To do list apps are great for keeping track of your tasks. However, I wanted to have a combination of both.

I couldn’t find an app that combined the both, an agenda and a to do list. I created a system on Evernote instead. Setting it up and optimizing it took a while, but now, it doesn’t take more than fifteen minutes a week to maintain it.

I have separate notes for yearly, monthly, and weekly templates. Those notes contain the tasks that need to be completed every year, month, and week.

If a task requires several steps to complete, I create a separate note for it and add a link to it in the relevant template. For example, collecting the documents for tax returns is a separate note that is linked in the yearly template.

Besides the templates, I have separate notes for the current week, current month, current year, and longer term. I organize them in an index note using the structure below. Each line is a link to the corresponding note.

  • 2019 – 2021
  • 2018
    • 2018 March
      • 20180305 – 11
      • 20180226 – 0304
    • 2018 February
      • 20180219 – 25
      • 20180212 – 18
      • 20180205 – 11
      • 20180129 – 0204

It is really easy to create these notes, because I have the templates in place. All I have to do is to create a new note by duplicating the template note. Every year, I duplicate the yearly template, every month, the monthly template, and every week, the weekly template.

After duplicating the template, I update the dates and add the extra tasks for the related period, which doesn’t take more than fifteen minutes a week.

This system is the backbone of how I organize my life, including the administrative tasks such as company taxes, personal taxes, or birthdays, appointments, repetitive tasks, and so on.

Take Notes

This is an obvious use of Evernote, but this shouldn’t be underestimated. Especially, the search functionality plays an important role here once you have thousands of notes in your account.

Sometimes, I write down some notes or copy and paste something from the Internet when I’m at home using my laptop. Then, I can easily find that information back when I’m outside using my smartphone.

That’s a lifesaver, especially when you’re traveling. You can write down as many details as you want and plan your travel in advance. When you’re traveling, you don’t need to hold anything in your mind. All you have to do is to refer to your notes.

Maintain a Knowledge Base

A knowledge base is a lifesaver at work. A lot of public information can be found via Google, but I regularly need private information as well.

There are some procedures that I have to go through every once in a while. They have to be done every year or every quarter. Since they are so infrequent, I don’t know every detail of them by heart. If I saved those procedures in a document somewhere in my computer, it would get lost and not be well-organized.

Evernote is the perfect tool for maintaining a knowledge base. I create separate notes for each procedure. Then, I tag those notes with the name of a customer or a technology. Then, I can access notes related to that customer or technology easily by filtering the notes according to those tags.

Use It as a Notepad

When I start a complex task, I come up with an execution plan first. I write down that execution plan in a separate note in Evernote.

I can add as many details as I want to those notes, including screenshots, which are very handy when developing software. I keep an index of all of those tasks in a separate note.

Sometimes, I come up with an idea that is not urgent. Or I come across a bug or a point of improvement. I write them down in separate notes. I keep those notes indexed in a separate backlog index note.

Conclusion

As you can see, I use Evernote heavily in my private and professional life on a daily basis. It made a huge difference in my life and in the way I organize my work and private life.

I didn’t go too much into detail in this post. I just wanted to mention the possibilities. You can easily google the details of each feature.

You can customize Evernote according to your own wants and needs. It takes some time and experimentation. If you stick with it, you’ll find a way to make it work for you. If you get stuck, you can find a lot of documentation online using Google or ask your questions on their forum.

Burak Bilgin
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.

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