Just as an arborist knows exactly what tools they need for success when shaping trees, we all work best when we have the right implements at our disposal. If you need a new roof or impact windows or shutters, you’d be rather surprised if the carpenter were to show up empty-handed. Yet often we neglect to use all of the incredible resources that are so readily available to us.
This is because few of us actually take the time to research the different tools we could incorporate into our lives. This may be due in part to the overabundance of options that are now available. With the technological revolution have come innumerable products with ambitious promises that may seem unrealistic. While there are certainly a fair share of products out there that are not worth investing in, there are also tools and techniques that can fundamentally change the way we work.
Using Technology as an Asset Rather Than a Distraction
It may sound obvious, but it is truly impossible to get any meaningful work done if your attention is being pulled in a number of directions at once. Cutting out any and all distractions is the singular most important step you can take toward improving your productivity. However, this is certainly easier said than done/
These days, it’s more difficult than ever to block out distractions in our lives. Technology has made us all more accessible than ever, so we are constantly bombarded with a steady stream of communication. The internet, with its limitless amounts of content, is another common source of distraction.
It is possible, however, to change our relationship with technology. With the right tools, habits, and mindset, anyone can learn to use technology to their advantage when it comes time to get things done. It’s just a matter of cutting out that which is a drain to our productivity — video games, social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc.), web content aggregators (such as Reddit or Pinterest), even sites which are informative and useful yet do not serve our immediate goals — and replacing them with tools that enable us to thrive.
When trying different things out, some may have a learning curve. Though you should take care not to let this discourage you, it’s important also to bear in mind that you shouldn’t have to force it. You want whatever you use to fit right into your workflow and allow you to seamlessly complete whatever tasks lay ahead of you. Finding the right tools is not always an easy process, but it is an immensely rewarding one. When done properly, the resources you use will start to feel like extensions of yourself.
As we said above, there are an overwhelming number of tools and techniques out there. To help cut through the noise, today we’re going to get into one tried and true application that is sure to make a meaningful impact on your productivity. Today we’re going to talk about Evernote.
Evernote, initially written as EverNote with a capital “N,” was initially founded in 2000. Its founder and CEO, Stephan Pachikov, first launched the application for Windows desktop computers and tablets. In 2008, the company’s leadership changed over to Phil Libin, who made the decision to focus on smartphones and products in the Apple ecosystem. Under his tutelage, the software was released for iPhone the day the app store launched in July of that year.
The application has come a long way from there. What was once a barebones note-taking app is now an organizational powerhouse with an incredibly versatile set of features. Let’s do a rundown of some of these features for readers who are new to Evernote.
Notebooks are essentially the folders of Evernote, and act as the most broad form of organization. Every note you create must be in a notebook, though if you have some notes that you don’t yet know where to file you can easily create an “uncategorized” or “miscellaneous” notebook to temporarily house them.
You can use notebooks for everything from gathering all of your favorite recipes, planning a vacation, working on a project, etc. Notebooks are particularly intuitive when it comes to using Evernote in an academic setting. The application is simple and intuitive enough for high school or even middle school students to use. By saving their files and scanning their notes and handouts in the cloud, students can drastically lighten the load that they have to carry around in their backpacks each day.
Many undergraduate and graduate students also find Evernote to be an immensely versatile and helpful tool. University students can easily create a notebook for each class that allows them to track assignments and notes, and effortlessly assemble relevant materials for a paper or project. Having everything you need in one place makes it far easier to keep track of all your assignments and complete them on time.
If you have several notebooks that closely relate to each other — all of your courses from one semester, for example, or all of your main projects from one fiscal quarter — you can utilize Evernote’s notebook stacking feature. When you add notebooks to a stack, they all bunch together into that one umbrella that can be activated as a drop-down menu.
This is perfect for freeing up visual space in a cluttered account. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed by the number of notebooks you have created, go through and think about which ones can logically be combined into a stack. You’ll find that your productivity increases when you don’t have dozens of notebooks taking up space on your screen and distracting you.
Tags are one of the key organizational features that makes Evernote so powerful. As mentioned above, notebooks and notebook stacks are the building blocks that form the basic structure of organization in Evernote. Tags add an extra layer to this structure. You can create as many tags as you like, as well as add multiple tags to a single note.
You can create a tag to link together all the sources you’re using for a single term paper. Or you can tag all the notes that inspire you for a piece of art you’re making. However you use them, tags make the organizational system in Evernote even more robust.
A powerful search feature
As we’ve discussed, notebooks, notebook stacks, and tags make it easy to keep track of all of your notes. However, sometimes you’re looking for a particular passage, image, or other resource and you just want to pull it up immediately. Evernote’s search feature is able to cull through all of your typed notes, uploaded PDFs and Word documents, and even handwritten notes that you’ve saved. This means that whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it fast.
Tasks and reminders
In both our professional and our personal lives, we all have a lot to do. Keeping track of it all can feel like a constant struggle. While physical to-do lists are an excellent tool (and very satisfying — who doesn’t love crossing things off!), we can easily misplace them or forget to take them with us.
Having all of your to-do’s saved in the cloud helps to ensure that you never miss another task again. You can also attach any relevant materials to your task so you have everything you need in one place. And the reminder feature allows you to set up Evernote to notify you when a certain task is due.
A document scanner
Gone are the days when we needed a scanning feature on our printers. Today, there are a diverse array of scanning apps that allow you to save physical documents using nothing but your phone or tablet. Evernote has scanning built into the app itself, as well as a dedicated scanning companion app called Scannable. Scannable allows you to save these scanned documents directly to the notebook of your choice so you can easily find them later.
Whether you’re compiling sources for a dissertation or you simply want to remember a site where you can order coffee online, the Evernote web clipper allows you to store and organize virtually anything you come across on the internet. Yes, most of us have gotten by thus far by using our web browsers’ built-in bookmark function. But the Evernote web clipper allows for a number of extra capabilities.
For one, the web clipper is able to save the page itself, rather than just the link to the page. This means that you can download the page for offline viewing. allowing you to access the information even when you don’t have any available WiFi. The web clipper also gives you a number of options for saving web pages: you can save the page as-is, save it in a simplified format with extraneous text and images removed, or screenshot a certain section of the page if the rest is irrelevant. Then, once the page has been saved as a note, you can put it in a notebook and add any tags you like, and its content will show up when you use the application’s search function.
While this is a paid feature of Evernote, one that requires a premium account, it is absolutely worth it. Having the ability to save your files offline is a huge asset when it comes to adding flexibility to your workflow. With this premium feature, you can pull up web pages that you’ve clipped, documents you have scanned, and notes that you have written from wherever you are — in a cafe, on a fishing boat, or at the top of a mountain. By downloading your files, you’re no longer tethered to a WiFi connection; the world becomes your office.
Syncing across all devices
While Microsoft’s OneDrive and Apple’s iCloud have made cloud storage far more common, these systems can at times be rather difficult to navigate. Evernote automatically syncs your notes frequently, regardless of whether you have a free or a paid account. It is also a multi-platform service that supports all manner of PCs, tablets, and phones with a variety of makes and operating systems. This means you can type up your notes on your laptop, and when you want to check them later simply pull them up on your phone.
Technology surrounds us in our daily lives. The workplace in particular has been transformed by emerging systems. Anyone familiar with more technical positions such as laboratory tech jobs and others in the in the medical or pharmaceutical fields will have a comprehensive understanding of these changes. Even the front end of these businesses has been changed by technology; receptionists in doctor’s offices and hospitals now use medical check-in software to track all of their patients and manage appointments.
Yet for all these changes in professional settings, it’s equally important to figure out the ways in which technology can improve our personal lives. We have made great strides in recent years when it comes to improvements in the home. smart home devices are becoming more and more common as people start to purchase compatible products. These days, it’s not at all unexpected to watch a friend change the lighting or music in their home using nothing but their voice or their phone.
Tools such as Evernote sit at the nexus of these two worlds. The application can be an incredibly powerful professional or academic asset, helping you to track and complete a multitude of assignments and projects. But at the same time, it can also be used to track your favorite recipes, organize family photos, plan a trip, complete a DIY home project, and much more. Give it a try, and see what you are able to accomplish.