How I Use Evernote

I mentioned on twitter the other day that I love Evernote and use it to keep my daily to-do list and keep track of what I work on. A couple people said I should write a blog post about it. Since I’m just waiting for my Tylenol PM to kick in, I figured… why not.

If you’ve never heard of it, Evernote is a note-taking app that is accessible from anywhere. They have desktop applications for OS X, Windows and the iPhone and a really nice web interface too. I clip things I’m reading to it all the time to either save for later or because I know I’m going to want to send it to people and might not be able to find it again. I put quotes in it I want to save, put URLs to things, and even jot notes down on the iPhone if I come up with an idea while I’m out. It’s fine for that, but I didn’t become a heavy user of it until I started keeping track of my to-do list. I’d tried implementing GTD (Getting Things Done) several times before, but it never stuck, until now.

Evernote has the idea of notebooks and notes. I have notebooks called Stuff – for everything not work-related that’s not a to-do list, Journal – for all my daily to-do lists, and Work – for work stuff I want to remember.

Here’s how I use it for keeping track of my daily to-do list:

  • I have the desktop application open all the time. It’s never closed unless I’m rebooting, so my to-do list is only ever a couple keystrokes away.
  • Either at night before I leave work, or first thing in the morning, I create a new note in my Journal notebook with the date as the title.
  • Then, I just start creating a list of to-do items I want to get done that day. They’re usually always work-related, but sometimes they’re not (lthis week, one was: “Call doctor about the whole not-being-able-to-breathe thing” – and I did… check!).
  • Then, as I go through the day, I’ll either just check them off if they’re simple, or add details about exactly what I did and approximately how long it took. The details are the important thing, since I can now remember the steps I went through to do something and have much better recall when I need them again.

This sounds really anal, I know, but it’s really helped me concentrate on my productivity, and how much time I spend doing things other than the stuff I really need to get done that day. I also remember more of what I do during the day just by writing it down.
The to-do items in Evernote are still a little buggy. For example, until recently, you could only add them in the desktop application and you couldn’t mark them complete in the web if iPhone apps. I just checked and you can’t mark them done in the web interface… oh well, nothing’s perfect (and it’s still in beta).

There are some great web apps out there that are all about to-do lists, and I’ve tried most of them (I got the farthest with Remember The Milk). I think Evernote is sticking because I use it for more than just the to-do list, and I can get to it wherever I am.