Where You’re Going Wrong, and How to Fix It

6 min read

by EMILY HOAPILI

Disclaimer:  Evernote did not ask me to write this post nor are they paying me to rave about it.  

Evernote, in its simplest form, is a note taking platform.  But to describe Evernote as “only” a way to take notes is a lot like describing Jay Z as “only” a rapper.  That may be true in that Evernote does indeed have notes (and Jay Z does indeed rap), but it does so, so much more.

Whenever Evernote comes up in a conversation, there are two groups Evernote people fall into:

  1. Signed up.  Kinda sorta used it, but didn’t stick with it for whatever reason.  Still don’t get the hype.
  2. Use it.  Love it.  Will fight you if you say its anything but fantastic.

If you’re reading this, I assume you fall into the first group.

With its cult-like following, Evernote does generate a lot of hype.  As a newbie to Evernote, you may wonder  what all the fuss is about. The people raving about Evernote all over the Internet (*raises hand*) have spent considerable time and effort developing their own system and learning what Evernote can do.  Sometimes, when we try to explain it to others, we forget what it was like when we first started, just “taking notes.”

Let’s talk about what can hold people back.

It can feel overwhelming.

Within Evernote, you have notes.  Those notes are filed into notebooks.  Notebooks can be “stacked.”  Notes can capture text, files, pictures, audio files, tables, etc.  You can also annotate .pdfs, draw, add reminders, and present notes.  Notes can be tagged, shared, and formatted.  You can use syntax and create searches to quickly find notes.  You can email things into it or use a browser extension to save stuff off the Internet.  It integrates with other services.  You can scan paper.  You can draft whole documents as notes.  You can add dates and reminders.  Oh, and there are mobile apps.

Holy cow, right?

A lot of people feel inundated with all the features, and give up.  Others will dive right in and may get frustrated trying to learn all those features at once.  Still others are just here for the notes, and believe they don’t need all the bells and whistles.

Here’s the thing:  You don’t HAVE to use all of those features.  Me, I rarely record audio with it.  I don’t think I’ve ever presented a note.  It took me a while to save searches.  And I always forget I can email things into it.

You can still get major benefit from using Evernote, even if you only use it for notes.  You can grow into it.  The features are there if and when you decide you to use them.  You can wade into it (or dive headfirst), and you can do so without totally having to re-invent the wheel.

It’s hard to use.

I say Evernote is user-friendly.  But the user does have to spend some time poking around to acclimate themselves to using it.  That can feel like a roadblock when you’re looking for a solution in a hurry.  Patience, grasshopper.  Take your time.  It’s not hard, but it does require some exploration.

ALSO – do download it to your computer. The web platform is fine in a pinch, but I’ve found the people I work with who think Evernote is not user friendly are using the web version.  And while the web version isn’t bad, its harder to use and not as feature-packed.

Why bother with Evernote when there’s a note app on my phone?

And that may work just fine.  But here’s how I look at it:  Apple Notes or Google Keep are like the post-its on your desk.  They work well for a quick note, jotting down an email address or someone’s birthday.  Evernote, however, is like the binder or notebook you take class or meeting notes.  You need more space for those notes.  You can also stick your post-it notes in there.  Evernote gives you binder functionality at post-it size and portability.

You don’t have a system.

The beauty of Evernote is you can design an entire system to work for you.  The tricky part in the beginning is you really need to have some kind of system.  This can feel like overload.

There are countless resources out there to explore when you get started:  eBooks, blog posts, Pinterest boards, etc.  In the beginning, and until you’re more comfortable with using it, go with a simple set-up.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, my friend.

This is a simple start that works for everyone, regardless of how you intend to use Evernote. Note – by default, Evernote alphabetizes notebooks.  I number them so they stay in the order I need (#Inbox, 1 – Active, 2 – Tickler, and so on).

  • 1 – INBOX:  This is your default notebook, and where every note will start.  Nothing lives in this notebook.
  • 2 – ACTIVE: This is for notes that are in progress.  Maybe a current blog post.  A recipe you’re making for dinner this week. An upcoming meeting.
  • 3 – TICKLER:  Otherwise known as “I don’t need this yet.”  Say your annual review is scheduled for August and includes the dreaded self-review. It’s March.  Make an ANNUAL REVIEW note and move it to this notebook.  As you think of things you want to include, add it to the note.  When it comes time to actually write the review, move the note into your Active notebook.
  • 4 – REFERENCE:  This can hold anything from body measurements to your niece’s favorite colors and clothing sizes to a website you clipped with keyboard shortcuts.  You can even have an “idea” note for, well, ideas (add this to your Shortcuts for easy adding later on).  I also like to save quotes and other “keepers.”
  • 5 – ARCHIVE: Everything that doesn’t live in Reference ends up here.  

It’s too expensive.

Don’t freak when you see the pricing for the premium plans.  The free version is more than enough for getting started.  You can live a long and full life using the Free version.  As you use (and eventually love, I’m assuming) Evernote, you can decide if the premium features are worth it to you.

Forum

If you’re looking for more ideas, I would encourage you to check out the Evernote Forum.  One of the (many) things I like about Evernote is the Evernote community.  It’s a great place to get advice from people who are way smarter than me.  Many of my own workflow set-up inspirations came from this forum, as well as some occasional troubleshooting tips.

Like I said, Evernote is so much more than notes.  With a little time and patience, you too can join the legions of users who won’t shut up about it.

Or, at the least, become a lot more organized.