Evernote is one of those game-changer applications – your life simply will not be the same once you start using it, and you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it. And since there are millions of users, there are probably hundreds of thousands of blog posts about it – how to get started, how to organize it, what to use it for, etc. etc.
Heck, I’ve written about it a few times too – most recently 8 Useful Keyboard Shortcuts and Goldilocks uses Notebooks and Tags. And our friend Dean Oullette recently published an all-encompassing book on using Evernote for Real Estate over at Productivity Agent.
Today I wanted to share some tips that are a little harder to find. This post could also be titled “8 things I wish somebody had told me when I started using Evernote.”
1.) Naming Conventions. When you’re scrolling through a long list of items, either looking for a specific note or simply brainstorming / reviewing your older notes, this will make your life a lot easier. The exact convention doesn’t matter. I use a category-subject-date title, but I suppose you could use any variety or combination – the key is to use it as consistently as possible. Here are examples:
- type of note (client or content) – subject line ”“ date
- Warner – showings – 10.0328
- Goldschmidt – BINSR – 12.0629
- Nash – phone notes – 11.1228
- Upton – HUD1 – 12.0701
- or, for your non-real estate notes
- San Diego – maps & notes – 12.0701
- Denver – hotel – 11.0822
2.) Dating Conventions. As you may have noticed above, I highly recommend using a date-stamp which shows the year first. While it may take a little getting used to, this makes a big difference when you’re working with notes from the fall of one year and the spring of the next, or when you’re looking at notes from multiple years of “Aprils”, for example.
3.) Changing Views. I don’t use the views in a “set it and forget it” fashion – I change my views regularly depending on what I’m doing and what I’m looking for. And since it only takes a fraction of a second to switch (Ctrl + F5 brings up List View, and Ctrl + F6 brings up Snippet View), there’s very little time cost to do it.
- With good naming conventions, so that you don’t have to open and look at every note, you can scroll through a long list of notes rather quickly to find the one you’re looking for.
- Bonus Hint – since the reading pane isn’t very useful in this view (it only shows the first couple lines of the note), you can use Ctrl + F11 to toggle the reading pane on or off. And without the reading pane, you can view a lot of notes on the screen at once!
- Better for scrolling through notes that don’t have a good naming convention.
- Reading pane shifts to the right, allowing you to quickly skim the notes’ content.
- Great for finding a note with an image, since the images are shown as thumbnails in the notes’ snippets.
- Useful for finding notes with a specific color font. (see #7 below for more on this.)
4.) Sorting. I sort my notes by Date Updated in Reverse Order. This sorts my most recently worked-on notes to the top of the list, regardless of which list I’m looking at – All Notes, Inbox, Real Estate Clients, etc. Whatever group of notes I’m viewing, my most recent activity will be on the top.
I find it easier to find what I’m looking for, and easier to make sense of my notes, when I scroll through a time line, rather than an alphabetical list.
5.) Date Updated Field. Although I use this as my primary sorting option, I don’t rely on this field as my source of information for “the last time I worked on this note.” Over the years, Evernote has changed the way they handle this field in different version updates. Sometimes the date only changes if you make a change to the note’s contents; other versions change the date if you move the note to a different notebook.
In the short term, this can be problematic if you move a group of notes to a new notebook, and suddenly they float to the top of your list, even though you haven’t worked on them in months. In the long term, this “noise” tends to go away, as your more recent notes stack on top of those notes you had moved.
This is another reason to use a good naming and dating convention, since you can’t always control the Date Updated field.
6.) Major Structure Changes can Cause Syncing Errors.
Twice in the past I’ve made major changes to my Evernote structure, which entailed moving hundreds, no – thousands, of notes into different notebooks. Each time I’ve done this, my Evernote account syncing got “off”, with different numbers of notes appearing on different computers. The fix is simple, although it may take a few hours to run a full sync once you do it. (And credit to the Evernote tech support team, who helped me fix this within a couple hours of my email request to them!)
The remedy is to delete (or move to a different location) the Evernote database file on your computer, and let Evernote re-sync from the web.
- Tools => Options => General Tab => Evernote Local Files section => click “open database folder” to see where your file is located. Click “change” if you want to move your database file to a different location.
My notes re-sync’d perfectly both times I’ve had to use this remedy.
7.) Colored Fonts. I sometimes use a different colored font when I’m working on a note that’s a little longer or broader in scope than a quick “remember me” note. This helps me later, when I’m scrolling through a list of notes (in snippet view). My mind’s eye knows I’m looking for a certain color font, which makes that note particularly easy to pick from a list.
8.) Searching. The search function is extremely powerful, fast, and effective. Most of the time I type a couple words into the search bar and a handful of notes fill the screen, making it very easy to open the note I want. However, sometimes I can’t remember a specific word, or it’s a very common subject, or I’m searching for “ing” when my note says “ed” – whatever the case, it happens more often than I’d like. This is why the rest of these tips are useful – I’ve gotten to the point where I can find any single note in my entire account, within a few seconds, and without even using the search function. Not bad, considering I have 3,914 notes as of this writing!
Hopefully you’re able to pick a couple-few things from here to increase your productivity using Evernote. It’s also possible, no, probable that you have a few tips and tricks you’d be willing to share with me – what nuances have you discovered that make Evernote work a little better? Please share in the comments..
Editors Note: Thanks to Chris for these great tips. Make sure you check out Chris’ blog over at Fintess Gazette