It began with one idea in mind. Saving Information. Back in 2014 I downloaded and installed Evernote. Followed by the Evernote Webinar Clipper Chrome plugin and clipped every web page that was important to me.
I extensively researched how to use Evernote so that I could increase my productivity. This led me to Brett Kelly's Evernote Essentials. You can check out the sales page in the wayback machine. Brett sold over 75,000 copies. $29 would get you the basic ebook while you could upgrade to the premium deal for $99 which included bonus chapters, online video tutorials and Facebook group.
Another author at the time was S.J Scott with his book Master Evernote. I went on to purchase many of Scott's books, including How to write a nonfiction ebook in 21 Days that Readers Love (No longer Available). This book inspired me to write 4 books over the next 12 months.
The first book I wrote was Evernote Wow. My goal was to answer many questions that people had about Evernote. Writing this book served me to understand Evernote and to get the most out of it.
Over time things change and so has Evernote, so has the world. When Evernote started the mantra of Remember Everything it was exciting. This really appealed to me as I could save all the tid-bits of information from all over the web and keep it together, organised.
Evernote eventually became stagnate. They tried to scale to different platforms however the UI was inconstant and buggy. It wasn't until the last few years that they rewrote the software. Now it was scalable and began adding new features that users wanted. If you would like to dig deep into the History of Evernote, check out this article by Hiten Shah - Ahead of Its Time, Behind the Curve: Why Evernote Failed to Realize Its Potential
So what have I learned?
The main reason Evernote survived for me was I used it daily, weekly and some times monthly. It became a habit. In the beginning I put every receipt, every idea, every recipe, every contact, every bookmark, every pdf document, every screenshot into Evernote and because of that became a library of knowledge I could lean on.
The secret was consistency.
Most days I would browse the Internet, find some piece of knowledge and web clip it for later. Bookmarks, articles, images, pdfs.
Consistently adding information to Evernote over time made it more valuable.
Upgrading to premium was a no-brainer. The ability to search within a pdf was a key feature for me upgrading as well as multiple devices and higher limits.
Fast forward a week or a month and I would need to find that information again.
Retrieving the info can be achieved by using notebooks, tags and keyword search.
Tags were useful if you remember the tag name.
Notebooks were useful if you organised you notes into notebook.
Notes tended to stay in my !Inbox and finally progressed to the Archive. Some habits die hard.
Search was hit or miss. Not like Google.
Most times I would find myself scrolling thru the notes looking for the information. Stumble upon something else, bring back memories, keep searching.
Currently if you search for a keyword the results will be notes Evernote thinks are relevant.
I found filtering by tags was the most optimal way to find notes.
Of course you have to tag the note first, which requires additional effort.
Tagging notes could be done at the time of saving the note, or latter when moving the note from the !Inbox to other notebooks or the archive notebook.
For extremely important notes I used regularly, the shortcut feature was invaluable.
Being consistent kept Evernote alive and allowed me to reference material from the past. Much better than the old documents in folders on your hard drive trick.
Tagging is your friend
Without tags Evernote would be dull. There is a balance between too many tags and not enough tags. Tagging takes time. Generally one to three tags per note work for me.
My Stats: 20,802 notes, bucket load of tags and 66 notebooks.
Tagging is made easier by adding prefixes to the tag. Tags related to people start with a colon. e.g. :fred-blogs (I don't use the @ symbol which is the convention in most software)
That would mean that the first tags in the list would always be contacts followed by normal tags.
Sometimes I would tag the note when it was created or come back to it at a later date and apply a tag.
The question I ask is "What word will I be thinking of when I am looking for this in the future?"
After a while you you may discover that you are using the same tags to categorise notes and thats ok. Life has a lot of routine.
Make friends with tagging. This relationship will bring you joy.
There is value in reviewing your notes on a regular basis. This can help you recall important information and make connections between other knowledge.
When reviewing notes, ask yourself questions and attempt to answer them.
Questions you can ask:
- What are the key ideas?
- What did you understand?
- What didn’t you understand?
- What knowledge or experience does it remind you of?
- How does this relate to what I already know?
- What could I have done differently to get a better result?
Reviewing your notes helps with self development. You can see the chronological order of ideas that you document over time. It acts like a diary of thoughts and knowledge. You can revisit these thoughts, ideas and knowledge and reflect on them to further improve self.
To Sum Up:
- Tagging is your friend
You need to be consistent at adding information into Evernote over the long term. Get used to tagging notes so that you can find them latter. Reflect on your notes regularly, improving your understanding make new connections between ideas.