I didn't use the bit.ly sidebar for ages - I thought, how much better can it be if I already use the bit.ly website whenever I need to? Then I installed it and found out the answer - it's actually much quicker to be able to shorten the URL of any page you're on, rather than copying and pasting that URL into bit.ly's homepage, plus you get useful statistics. With that in mind, I started to look for other 'how much better can it be?' scenarios to see if they too could make my life that bit simpler or more efficient.
I'd heard people raving about how good Evernote was, but I'd never used it. My rationale was similar to the bit.ly thing - I can make notes in Word on my PC, or my laptop, and I've got a note-pad app thing on my iPhone; how much more useful can a specialist note-thingy be? The answer is much, much more useful - go and download Evernote now. It's free.
The point of this blog post is to catch people like me who've never bothered to investigate Evernote and tempt them into taking the plunge - I'm not going to tell you much you won't know if you use it already.
- Create ONE TO-DO LIST TO RULE THEM ALL For me the main reason Evernote is so instantly useful is that it syncs between all devices. So if you have it on your Work PC and make a note there, then press 'sync', the note will appear on anything else you have Evernote installed on - home PC, laptop, phone etc. This really appeals to me for various reasons - mainly the idea of always being able to access key information where-ever I am, and whatever I've forgotten to bring with me... Also, not having to faff about when I think of something important at home, remembering to then write it onto my paper to do list when I get to work etc. I have several to-do lists in Evernote now - work stuff, home stuff, blog stuff, LISNPN stuff, career stuff, plus a self-explanatory one called 'Today'. The fact that all these things are no longer fragmentary and I always know where they are, all in one place, and how to get to them, soothes me to my very soul.
- Take notes at events Why take notes in Word or whatever, which involves later emailing them to other devices / accounts or saving them onto a stick, when you can just use Evernote? No more getting home from a conference and calibrating all your notes into the right place - if you use the basic word-processor-esque note-taking functionality in the Evernote on your laptop, then press 'sync', it'll appear on your Desktop, your work PC and your phone, instantly. If you don't have your laptop with you, use your phone to take notes and hit sync and it'll be on there anyway. And so on. (As an aside, I also take notes of things I see which I think may suitable for future birthday / Christmas / anniverary gifts for my wife - I use the notepad functionality on my phone, but I'll start using Evernote now because I can discreetly photograph stuff she says she likes without it being obvious I'm filing it away for future giftage... the point being, you can take notes about LIFE, not just work.)
- Photograph cool stuff You can use the camera on your smart-phone to take a picture in Evernote - this then appears as a note. Similarly, once you have Evernote installed, your Print Screen button works in the same way (and you can choose which parts of the screen to 'print' too). Examples Evernote use are of taking pictures of wine-bottles, or business cards, when you're out and about. You could also take pictures of slides if the presenter you're watching hasn't provided paper copies, or a printed schedule at a conference, or building or room plans, and a whole host of other stuff which may violate intellectual property rights and should therefore not be attempted by anyone. The great thing is turns any writing in your photos into searchable text, so you can easily locate what you're looking for later. (This also means you could do really ace stuff like, someone leaves a post-it note stuck to your monitor with "Phone John Smith, British Library, 01482378" written on it, and you don't have time to phone them right away, so you take a picture of the post-it note, then when you get a chance later on you type 'British Library' into the search box and it finds John and his number.)
- Combine it with Twitter If you allow Evernote to access your Twitter account, you can then create notes in Evernote by putting @MyEn in a tweet, or DM'ing @MyEn. So if you want to check a link when you get home or read an article later, or simultaneously tweet about an event and make notes on it, or just write yourself a to-do list on the move, you can do so using Twitter and the relevant info will appear as a note. (A note on your desktop PC, your work PC - etc etc, you get the idea...)
- Put everything on it for conferences In 2008 I wrote all my travel info down on a piece of paper (stuff like reservation numbers for train tickets, departure times, hotel references etc); in 2009 I began writing them down in Word and printing them out; in 2010 I've added them to my Outlook Diary which I can then check on my phone, at the station/hotel/etc. From now on I'll put them into Evernote - they will be on all my devices, they're accessible on the move, and I can get at them even with no reception and my phone in airplane mode. If I'm speaking I'll put a copy of my notes on it, a link to the Prezi / Slideshare etc - even if my USB stick with all that stuff on is stolen I can still access the necessary info from my phone, and even if THAT is also stolen I can just download Evernote onto a PC at the venue and get what I need that way. I may also put a CV on it, with a list of all the trainings I've attended etc, because I have to have that stuff somewhere so why not have it easily findable and auto-synced across all the IT stations in my world? And who knows who you might meet on the move, who might be interested in your work history... - thewikiman
NB: See the comments section for a sixth thing to do with it - tracking online reputation.