Thursday, February 5, 2015

Favorite Online Planning Tool: Evernote

Last week I talked in this post about my planning and how and why I am currently using electronic planning more than paper planning, despite my predilection for the paper experience.* Today I thought I'd talk about one of the other tools I use on a regular basis in addition to my Google calendar that is making a difference in how I manage my time. That tool is Evernote.

Evernote has been around for quite a few years now, since 2008 in beta according to the Wikipedia page. I think I heard about it in 2009 when Amy Cowen of the former Creative Mom Podcast mentioned it as a note taking tool she was enamored with. At the time, I couldn't imagine using it, but then again, I didn't even have a cell phone then!

Note taking software is what Evernote is though, and I think I got a web account in the fall of 2013, though I don't think I used it much until the now defunct Springpad (kind of a mix between Pinterest and Evernote) folded and offered to automatically migrate all the info I had there over to Evernote. I also have downloaded the desktop version of Evernote, but have not used it yet.

Initially, I was kind of intimidated by Evernote, because so much of it is just text. I thought I wouldn't use it much and that it would be hard to find things. I liked Springpad because it was more visual and Evernote's "plainness" was just unappealing to me.

Now that I use it more often, though, I find that I use it more and more, practically daily even. And I know that I'm not even using all the features it offers. In fact, if you're perusing this post looking, perhaps, to find new or clever ways to use Evernote, you can probably stop reading now! I've only scratched the surface, I know. I learn more how to use it all the time.

If you are familiar with Evernote you know that it allows you to make notebooks, just like you would have files on your hard drive. And you can store notebooks within a notebook too, again, similar to folders in folders. But, because it is in the cloud I can access my notebooks wherever I go and, like so many productivity apps, it syncs across all my devices.

Some of the things I use Evernote for are:

  • My regular grocery lists. I have a list of items I regularly purchase at the various stores where I shop. I have made a master list in the order in which I move through the store. Evernote will format check boxes for you, so before I go shopping I actually just check everything I need. When I go shopping, I UNcheck the items as I go. I used to use a paper master shopping list that I kept posted on my refrigerator and I would check things as we needed them. Now I do the same thing on my phone whenever I think of something or whenever we run out. Then, before I head out to shop, I look over the list one more time, as it helps jog my memory of other things we need. I can add and subtract items easily as needed and the list is just always there, ready to go. I don't have to re-print copies or make new lists for each shopping trip. I have a list for Trader Joe's, Aldi's, Cub, Costco, and Mississippi Market (our health food co-op).
  • My random shopping lists. I make notes of things I want to pick up at Target the next time I go. I also have a list for the home improvement store or any other place I may be stopping at in the near future that I don't want to forget particular items.
  • Recipes! Yes, I use Pinterest for recipes too and I don't think I'll be transferring them all over to Evernote, but the thing I like about Evernote over Pinterest for recipes is that you can clip the recipe right into Evernote. You don't have to take the extra step of leaving the pin on Pinterest to go to the original website for the recipe. This feature is not just for recipes, obviously. Evernote can clip any kind of page or article you want to save for later reading. So, now I have a new notebook, for example, called, "Happiness/Inspiration" where I am clipping favorite online articles with information that I may want to refer to again. Additionally, this is where you can start to make Evernote look a bit prettier too, for all the visual folks out there. My recipe collection is growing more delicious by the day and I have them with me wherever I go. Plus, I can share them across all kinds of social media too; I have shared many recipes this way without needing to copy a recipe or find a link.
  • I can put photos, audio, or even handwriting into Evernote. I've only used the voice feature once when I was reading some homework while sitting in a parking lot waiting for my daughter. I wanted to take some notes on what I was reading, but I didn't want to key it all in on my little phone keyboard, so I made an audio file for later. Nice! :)
  • I make lists of books when I'm in the bookstore to add to my Goodreads "to-read" queue later.
  • I have blog topic ideas listed in another notebook with other blogging articles, etc.
  • I have school notebooks for my classes. I kind of go back and forth saving things for school in here and in Google Docs. I don't really have a preference in regard to this yet.
  • I have all my cleaning zone notes here as well in a notebook labeled, "Projects Around the House." These are my master lists for each zone and I transfer the tasks over various days of the cleaning week using my Ultimate To-Do List task manager.
  • I have gift list ideas in another notebook.
  • Some of my other notebooks are: EduTech, Explore Minnesota (with fun ideas for local trips), Holiday Plans, Job Search, Menus, Travel, and Vegetarian Hit List, where I have links to favorite vegetarian/vegan restaurants (and their menus) where we have been or those we want to try around the Twin Cities.
  • And, of course, I just use it for random notes.
As I look over the notebooks I have listed here, I realize that I am using Evernote in a similar way that others are using paper life planners. I just have online notebooks where others have tabs in their paper planners.

I'm sure there are SO many more ways people use Evernote. And there are other note taking apps that people really like too. I watched a few YouTube videos that helped get me started and generated some ideas for me. Most of those videos, though, are often business related. I'm not yet back out into the working world and so I wonder how other SAHM's or homeschooling parents might use this tool? Or even if you do work outside of the home, do you use Evernote? What are your favorite features?

*I do still have a Susan Branch 2015 paper wall calendar (I was going to link you directly to the calendar on Susan's site, but they are all sold out there, so here is the link on Amazon) in my kitchen. I adore pretty much everything Susan Branch does and my kitchen would not be the same without it! I don't really use it for planning though. It is there to let everyone in the family know what is going on; to make sure we are all on the same page.

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