Tips to organise your chaotic life with Evernote

Tips to Organise your Life with EvernoteI can be extremely chaotic in my head. It just never stops. Which is why I have this constant need to structure and organise my life or I will never get anything done. Everybody has their own way of doing this, but my way is Evernote. I think it’s an amazing tool, but lately I’ve had so many people telling me that they don’t really know how to use it. So today no food, coffee or travel stories, but my tips for how to organise your life with Evernote.

If you don’t know what Evernote is, here’s a little video to start with:

Installing the basics
First, since Evernote is sort of my external brain I need to be able to access it everywhere. So install the app on your phone, tablet and on your computer. You can also access your documents via their website, but the apps are easier. Next, download the Web Clipper. This will add a button to your web browser so you can easily add articles you found online or make screenshots.

Create a system that works for you
What I love about Evernote is that it has this amazing search function. It’s like googling your brain. (How cool would that be!) So in theory you could dump everything in one folder, but since we’re trying to organise here, let’s not do that.

You need to create Notebooks. Notebooks in Evernote are like the binders with administrative paperwork you probably have at home or a folder with documents on your computer. A Notebook will combine several individual Notes that belong together. A Note can be a copy of a receipt, a screenshot of a website, a recipe etc. Think of it as a single page in your binder, or a single document on your computer. There’s also an option to combine Notebooks in a Stack. This would be like a separate shelf in a cabinet where you keep all your work related binders and another shelf (stack) for your binders with personal stuff.

When I started using Evernote, I was really interested to see how others were organizing their notes, so I thought I would share the way I do it.

My main structure consists of 7 stacks, which then have several notebooks, containing numerous notes.

  1. Administration (with notebooks: Finance, Insurance, Receipts, Electrical/Water/TV bills etc)
  2. Food (with recipe notebooks per course: Starters, Main, Side, Desserts etc, and one for Restaurants)
  3. Personal (with notebooks for Personal development and personal/ private stuff in general)
  4. Reference (with notebooks: Manuals, Accounts, Books, Music, Photography)
  5. Travel (with notebooks per destination and one for Travel documents like a copy of my passport)
  6. Urban Pixxels (with notebooks: Blog ideas, Design, Content, etc)
  7. Work (with notebooks per employer and one for general marketing/ communication stuff)

Plus I have one notebook called @Inbox. I added the @ so it would always be the top folder. Everything I add to Evernote first goes into the @Inbox notebook before I file it in one of the other notebooks. Or I’ll delete it if I don’t need it anymore like a to-do list or shopping list. You can change the standard notebook you want to use for this in Preferences.

To tag or not to tag
That’s the question right? You can add tags (labels) to every note to add even more structure. You can then click on a tag and see all related notes. I personally almost never use tags. Ever since I started using the structure above in combination with the excellent search function (it even searches for words in images and pdf’s), I don’t really need it anymore. But it’s up to you. Especially if you’re using only a few notebooks with too many different notes it might be useful.

Going paperless
I’ve been using Evernote for a while now and I’ve almost achieved a paperless home office. It doesn’t work 100% since there will always be some documents where you need to keep the originals (like diplomas), but I’ve managed to significantly declutter my cabinets. Plus I can always find documents very easily wherever I am. So this is what I do:

Scan! Buy a scanner and scan all those administrative letters and documents you receive in the mail. Also, when you buy something of value, scan the receipt and throw away the original. Just start today and whenever you have a moment work your way through your shelves with binders. I also scan magazine stories or recipes that I want to keep. And instead of keeping all those sweet cards or letters I received from friends and family over the years, I decided to scan these as well.

Add Evernote to your address book. Evernote gives you a unique email address that links to your account. Just add a new contact named Evernote to your address book with this email address. Every time you now receive a confirmation or invoice per email you forward the email to Mr Evernote and it will end up in your @Inbox notebook automatically.

Use the Web Clipper. When I see something online that I find interesting I’ll use the Web Clipper. Click the Evernote button in your browser and it will open a menu where you can choose to clip the article, the entire page or make a screenshot. Evernote will add the URL of the page to the note so you’ll always be able to go back online for more. This is perfect when I’m planning a trip and want to find tips online. Here’s a little video about how the Web Clipper works:

Replace paper with an online version. I used to keep all those thick paper manuals. But most of the time you can find a digital (pdf) manual on the company’s website. If it’s in different languages I delete the pages that aren’t English or Dutch and save a smaller pdf document. If it’s a small manual of only a few pages I will scan it.

Search and Find!
And now the best part. Every time you’re looking for something you know you can find it in Evernote, whether you’re at home, at work or on holiday. Nicely organized in a notebook. And if you can’t find it, just type in the keyword and there it is.

And that’s it! Well, not really. I could go on and on about all the extra features, apps and tools that I use in combination with Evernote, but I don’t want to scare you off :-). I hope this long (!) post was helpful and if you want to know more, let me know!