March 2014 archive

My New Brain

I’ve been searching for what feels like eons for a way to organize everything I want to remember and be able to search and find things again. I used to have the perfect system for this type of organization and retrieval of data.

It was my brain.

But, as time has slipped by and I get older, I find that my brain is no longer as reliable as it once was, so I went looking for a replacement.

I may have found it in the online service called Evernote.

Evernote is, essentially, a great big database that you can use to store just about anything. The motto of the service is Remember Everything.

  • Got paper you want to scan and store online? Evernote has your back.
  • Got web pages you want to keep as reference or inspiration? Evernote has a web clipping feature that lets you save entire or partial web pages.
  • Got email you want to keep and be able to organize and search? Forward it to Evernote.
  • Want to take a screenshot of something on your tablet and store it in Evernote? Can do!
  • Want to create a note to house an image? Evernote can handle it, PLUS it comes with a way to add annotations directly on the image. I’ve already annotated an image of a floor plan I created for a room in the basement and it was so easy!

These are just a small sample of the types of things Evernote and store and organize. Evernote lets you organize in two main ways… you can create digital Notebooks full of individual notes. You can create a master notebook, with lots of sub-notebooks, each filled with notes. You can also index the content you are storing with tags.

So, for example, say I have a notebook for Home Repair. I can have individual notebooks within for every room or system in the house. Inside the notebooks, notes on repair people, supplies, wish lists, etc. And each note can be indexed with tags. So if I know I’m going to do a bathroom remodel, I might have a note about tiling the floor, which I could tag with words such as bathroomtileflooring. I could go into Evernote at any time and search by tags to locate all notes in all notebooks with those tags. So if I search for bathroom, I’d get all notes I created with that tag, no matter what notebook they are stored inside.

I’m actually so impressed with tags, that I’m wondering if it’s even worthwhile to create notebooks to organize at all. Of course, planning your tag strategy is important, because you want to be consistent with the tags you add, so that you don’t end up with multiple tags that mean the same thing… you want to have tags, but not so many that you can’t remember them, or that you have to search for several tags to find all the information you need.

As you might imagine, it’s a big job to get all the information I have stored in various formats using various systems into Evernote. And it’s a big job to map out how to organize and tag the info. But once the main input/organization is completed, and the systems and habits are set up, my replacement brain will be so helpful.

Evernote can be used to set reminders in notes. It can be used on Windows or on Macs (although I believe it has more features for Apple users), and on some mobile devices.

I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more on how to use Evernote in the coming months, as I begin the task of transferring so much into it. I think the key is to commit to it as the one place to store everything.

I’ll let you all know how it goes!