The Best Productivity App, Hands Down (and 12 Insider Tricks on How to Get the Best Out of It)
As a business coach, I’m always looking for new strategies to help people and businesses become more effective and more efficient. Usually, I focus on things like leadership and marketing tactics. But, in this article, I want to tell you about a productivity app called Evernote that’s helped me radically reinvent the way I work. To be clear, I have no connection with Evernote, other than I’m a customer of theirs.
Evernote syncs notes and manages your info load across all of your devices — from your cellphone to your tablet to your laptop to your desktop. It’s built on the principle that effective note taking and filing is critical for success. Referring back to your notes puts you in a strong position during follow-up conversations and ensures that you never miss important items.
That’s why I used to keep my office buried under dozens of business journals. I went through another spiral-bound notebook every month. And I kept every single notebook so that I could always look back at how my negotiations went with vendors, what agreements I’d made with clients, and so on.
This practice was cumbersome and geographically limiting. My notes and documents took up a huge amount of space and I could only take advantage of them when I was in the office.
Evernote solves those problems by shrinking everything down so that it fits in your pocket. It centralizes all of your most important notes and documents and syncs them across your devices. Plus, it’s super-searchable.
Over the years, I’ve gotten to know the app inside and out. Here are my 12 favorite tricks to leverage it.
1. Take a picture and tag/store your notes electronically.
I’m a paper guy. I like to handwrite my notes.
If you’re like me, do what I do: rather than filling a business journal just to store it on a shelf, take pictures of your notes after every conversation, meeting, and workshop. Then just tag them for future searches.
And if you get the pro edition of the app, you won’t be limited to searching tags; you’ll be able to search your handwriting too (although it struggles with my scrawl, but then so do I).
2. Put A Face To A Note
From conferences to calls, whenever you meet a business contact for the first time and or have an important conversation, you can put a photo of that person and their contact information in your notes about them.
This is a great way to give yourself a visual cue that will help you remember that conversation better.
And remember: you don’t have to be with them to get their picture. You can just grab their headshot off of LinkedIn or Facebook.
3. Snap A Pic, Then Recycle
I used to come back from conferences and workshops with notebooks full of handouts. But now, with Evernote, I can just photograph handouts as I get them, the the pages that most interest me. If the notebook is big, I bring it home and have my assistant scan it to a pdf which I then store in as a “note”.
Today, I carry ten years worth of searchable event manuals with me everywhere I go and they don’t weigh even an ounce.
4. Never Lose Your Inspiration
About ten years ago, my friend, Jeff Hoffman, a founding team member of Priceline.com, told me about a powerful practice that he calls “reading the world.” He said that by reading voraciously, you can absorb inputs that you normally wouldn’t come in contact with. And those inputs can spark all kinds of innovative ideas.
So I started reading as many magazines as I could. I used to tear out inspiring articles as I found them. Then I’d have to hold onto them to make sure they got filed away properly. Now I just take a photo. And, when I’m on my iPad, I’ll use my Apple Pencil to handwrite notes directly onto that image.
Then I’ll put that photo in Evernote and tag it so that I can find instant inspiration anywhere.
5. Save Every Receipt
Of course you should always save your receipts in a box just in case the IRS ever comes knocking. But receipts are cumbersome, easy to lose, and they fade quickly.
That’s why I stopped keeping receipts: now at the end of a meal or after a purchase at a store, I take a picture of the receipt instead. I keep one note for all my receipts for the year in one place (versus having each receipt be a separate note.) You will only need to access the receipt if you get audited or the product breaks so I’d rather the small chance of needing to scroll through a lot of pics, versus the time consuming task of individually storing and tagging each receipt.
If you do this, your wallet will thank you — and so will your bookkeeper.
6. Digitize Your Paper Planner
Looking back at old day planners can help you recall key information and determine what action steps you planned and took. And, in the unfortunate event of a lawsuit, it can help you recreate a timeline of events.
So, if you, like me, keep a paper planner or to-do list, consider photographing it at the end of each week or month. If you put those photos in Evernote and tag them, you’ll be able to take searchable copies of your old planners with you everywhere you go.
7. Another Alternative To Typing
You can also record audio notes in Evernote. Then just tag them so you can find them later.
This is great to do immediately after important conversations. For example, if a key vendor gives you two specific concessions during a phone call, you shouldn’t trust you’ll find time to write out a confirming email or letter (which is still really best practice). Instead, make a moment-after voice memo. That way nothing gets missed. Then later you can send the confirming email!
8. The Outlook Plugin
If you’re like me, you get twenty to thirty thousand emails every year. So, while Outlook does have a robust search tool, it can still be hard to find things.
With Outlook’s Evernote plugin, you can copy any email and any of its attachments into Evernote with a single click. Then you can tag and file that note. That way critical emails become easy to find no matter what device you’re on.
9. Browser Plugins
All of the major browsers have Evernote plugins too. These plugins enable you to copy webpages into Evernote and take those critical and inspirational resources offline with you.
10. Cut the Tether
Part of what makes Evernote such a powerful tool is that it syncs across your devices. You don’t need to be on a desktop or even a laptop to upload a new note. In fact, I’d say that about 90% of the time, I send content to Evernote from my phone or tablet.
So remember that you can use whatever device is handy. It all goes to the same place.
11. Memorized Searches
Evernote has a feature called “memorized searches.” Use it.
If you work out the perfect, detailed search to find a particular grouping of documents or notes, you can actually save those search terms. That way you don’t have to reverse engineer or reinvent the search ever again.
12. Store Documents of All Sorts
I’m constantly creating and handling different types of content-heavy documents — from my kids’ school calendar to my syndicated articles. And while it’s certainly important to keep them all on my computer and backed up in two different locations, it can often be difficult to find what I need on my desktop.
So what I’ll do is I drag PDFs and Word docs into Evernote, making them available and searchable on all of my devices.
I hope that these simple hacks will help you manage your info load in a much more elegant fashion so that you can stop wading through notes and focus on what matters: building your business.
And if you enjoyed the ideas I shared, then I encourage you to download a free copy of my newest book, Build a Business, Not a Job. Click here for full details and to get your complimentary copy.