If you use a cross-platform organization app like Evernote, you’re likely well aware that it can be just as much of a curse as it is a blessing.
Evernote gurus rave that their account is their digital brain, replacing the need to ever buy pen and paper again. But for those who haven’t refined their strategy, the system can get unruly and overwhelming. Some users simply give up before they reach the digital Promised Land.
Take a look at some tips to make sure you’re making the most of your Evernote account, without enduring any unnecessary hassles in the process.
1. Tags Over Notebooks
It seems logical: if you need to create a note, put it into a notebook… right? While the system works, blogger and Evernote evangelist Michael Hyatt points out that there are some flaws in relying too heavily on the notebook’s functionality. In many cases, tags are the solution.
He makes three key arguments for opting for tags over notebooks:
- You can have 100,000 tags per account, but only 250 notebooks in each personal account. Business accounts can have 5,000, but Hyatt insists the tag system is better anyway.
- A note can have multiple tags, but it can only exist in one notebook at a time. If you want a note to appear in more than one notebook, you’ll need to duplicate and copy the note to include it in any others… and that’s just a waste of time.
- You can nest your tags into hierarchies, but you can’t nest notebooks. When Evernote is truly your digital brain, this proves limiting.
2. Use Symbols and Special Characters in Your Tags
The nesting function is where tags can truly shine for keeping your life organized. You can further enhance these organizational capabilities with symbols and special characters like plus signs (+), hashtags (#), periods (.), tildes (~), and carets (^). These are useful because Evernote automatically alphabetizes tags, but these special characters allow you to bump more important tags to the top.
Here are Michael Hyatt’s top-level tags, the view he sees when he selects View | Tags:
The ones that start with the double-plus display first (++, not pictured above), then periods, then carets, then tildes.
Let’s drill down a bit deeper to see his nesting in action. He advises that you can nest as many levels as you like, but there’s definitely such a thing as going overboard.
Under his “.who” tag, he uses carets before each team member’s name so that they all come up in the search bar.
3. Think Outside the Box for Organizing Your Life
Evernote is great for both professional and personal uses. While you might have a good system down, there are likely some creative uses that you may not have considered.
Hyatt lists 12 surprising Evernote uses you can reap the benefits of. Here are some top takeaways:
- Keeping and recording personal items like medical records, license plates, packing lists for trips, and even photos of your children’s art
- Subscribing to email newsletters with your Evernote email address so they populate into your database
- Creating a tag for upcoming work meetings and saving things like notes, to-dos, and emails
- Saving inspiring and helpful resources – Hyatt has a “Speaker Resources” shared notebook with anecdotes, case studies, jokes, stats, and quotes for when he has speaking engagements
4. Download the Evernote Web Clipper Chrome Extension
It happens almost daily: you see an interesting or helpful article, but it doesn’t take priority over your current to-do list. Instead of leaving it in the dust of your day, you can save and sort through these golden nuggets later using the Evernote Web Clipper extension.
You can add a “read later” tag and pull them up in a quick search. When you’re done, just remove the tag and be on your merry way.
You can even clip from Gmail, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Amazon – just snip the part you want and get rid of the rest of the clutter.
If you’re sharing with others, you can also use the app to highlight important parts or add visual callouts and text to elaborate on anything you think might need some clarification or insight.
5. Take Advantage of Evernote’s Advanced Search Functionality
It may look ordinary, but Evernote’s search abilities are powerful. You can search notes and tags by the date created, the types of media contained (like images and audio), and even the location where they were created, just to name a few options.
Here are some useful search operators, or special “codes” you can type into the search bar to perform customized searches. For the full list, be sure to visit Evernote’s advanced search syntax tutorial:
6. Manage Your Files with SaneAtachments
If you’ve ever tried to send large files via email, you’ve experienced a very special kind of pain: draining your email quota, adding time to your day with delayed downloading and forwarding, and the like. To alleviate this, you can use SaneAttachments to link with Evernote (in addition to other cloud storage services like Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, or IBM Smart Cloud).
To do this, just go to the Attachments in your SaneBox Dashboard, click the “Evernote” option, and authorize SaneBox to access that account.
If you’re not using SaneBox yet, check it out in Evernote’s App Center, along with some other great tools to help keep you as productive as possible with your Evernote endeavors. SaneBox also offers additional features like SaneBlackHole for unsubscribing from newsletters, SaneReminders to stay on top of emails, SaneSnooze for non-urgent emails, and SaneFwd to automatically forward certain emails to your Evernote account.
The Path to Perfection
From special characters to search operators, hopefully these tips have given you some new insights and inspiration into how you can get more out of your Evernote account.
As Hyatt notes, learning the level of detail that best works for you is something of a trial-and-error process. So take note of your pros and cons and tweak as much as you need until you find your perfect system.