[This is the first in a 4 part series of posts about “Getting Organized” , on track and my use of Evernote.]

Getting Organized Series Outline

Do you struggle with organization? Note taking? Note Finding? I do and I could have found the fix for me. Leave a comment for the contest at the bottom and I’ll give you a one year premium account to the tool I’m using. Details are at the bottom.

Maybe this blog post is too early. “They” say it takes 3 months of doing something for it to become a habit. Well, I am writing after experiencing something new that is still new to me and being tweaked but it is really helping.

Yeah - My notebooks

A mockup of a real notebook (even with the doodle)

The Problem Statement

“They” also say a picture is worth 1,000 words. In this case the picture probably represents hundreds of thousands of written words. The picture to the right is an example of what one of my (many) notebooks would look like. Chicken scratch writing, doodles from being on long calls and lost Action Items.

The Problem Statement here could be “I am wasting time writing notes I can’t find or use later, what should I do?”

I normally have a few notebooks in circulation at a time. Some for personal notes, some for blog ideas, some for client work. I have a general idea of where something is but sometimes I start a new one if it isn’t handy. I can’t understand the context sometimes. Maybe that was alright because my note taking used to be more just about writing it once to get it into memory and that worked most of the time. I still did a lot of mental gymnastics trying to recall what a note meant. I also lacked the discipline to go back through all the “Action Item” tags to bring them onto a list. I’ve used many systems (Outlook Tasks, Franklin Covey, Typed To Do Lists, etc.)

Another problem statement? I’m getting sick and tired of paper. I am finding myself hating paper’s clutter a little more each year. (In case my wife is reading – only a little more, that’s why I still have so much πŸ˜‰ but I am getting to where you are, quickly)

Other problems: The notebooks aren’t searchable and aren’t always there; the kids like to cut and draw when they find paper; I look like a fool fumbling through the notebooks; Can you read my writing? I can’t always either; It’s a pain to link thoughts and track them over time… I could keep going.

Yeah.. It's a mac - my first

The inspiration to get organized

An Answer?

No, it isn’t the Mac but the picture shows the simplicity of the solution. It doesn’t require a notebook at all. At work I show up with my Mac Book and phone. At a client I bring the home windows laptop (That over sized, noisy, ugly laptop πŸ˜‰ ) and phone. I always have the windows mobile phone (does that make up for the mac?). If I ever don’t have a device, I probably can get to the internet somehow.

All of these tools allow me to use a new tool in my arsenal: Evernote. They describe their product:

Use Evernote to save your ideas, things you see, and things you like. Then find them all on any computer, phone or device you use. For free.

That’s it. That’s what it does. So far I have used the tool to manage notes, whiteboard images, business cards and it has been enjoyable, usable and makes me want to keep using it. Some tasks I’ve performed:

  • Save notes from meetings
  • Create Action Items with priority and category (Where are they from? Which “Mike” has to worry about them?)
  • Track my spending and eating (why not, I need to be better at both)
  • Remember ideas for blog posts (like this series you are reading)
  • Do things at home that I normally would have “yes’d” and forgotten about (until gently reminded)
  • Started to store links and captures from websites of useful information about a topic of interest
  • Search for previous notes and quickly find them
  • Upload images (White Boards, Business Cards) and search them with decentΒ  (for OCR) results
  • Solve world peace and middle east hunger (Were you paying attention?)

How Have I Done This?

With some tags, folders and typing in Evernote. I keep saying that word, I’m not getting paid to talk about their tool, I just really like it so far. I’ve used the features available in the Mac Client (which is lacking a few things, in my opinion… We’ll get to that in part 2 or 3) during the day. I’ve even downloaded and used the features on the phone, like taking an audio note when I was in need of duct tape and a knife in my truck (it’s not what you think.. I didn’t need a cooler). Evernote is definitely not a task management tool by default and I started using it for searchable notes in “one” place that I won’t clutter my house with. Using the note capabilities, It is working out alright for task management.

I’ll go into more details in the next post where I give you the lowdown on the techniques I am using and some more details.Β  The plan I have for the next posts:

Part 2 – My Evernote Technique – How I use the product, the tags/folders I use and method. Works for me, maybe can help you design your own. Also how I plan on using it to both make my life more search-able and reduce the paper clutter.

Part 3 – Evernote Wish List – Evernote just unveiled a neat “trunk” of apps and there are a few apps I’d still like to see created with a few features I’d love to see in the Mac client. So a small wishlist.

A Contest

Evernote is free and the free features are probably fine for most casual uses, even serious uses in the free version. With a premium account you can get rid of the advertisements, get some neat features (ability to search PDFs, quicker OCR on the Mac client, import more file types, import more data to name a handful) and feel good about supporting a well done piece of software.

So… I want you to have a free upgrade to premium. I will select a name (based on some method I choose, inspire me with your story, I guess) if two conditions have happened: the comment is made before midnight EST on Friday, 7/23 and I have at least 10 comments by that time. Just tell me about your current system in the comments. How do you keep track of this all? How could a tool like Evernote help you? What is your biggest frustration with time and task management? Would you hire someone who essentially starts out a blog post with “I need to be better at time management, note taking and organization?” πŸ™‚

Subscribe to this blog’s feed to see the next posts and the contest winner when announced.

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