I have struggled with note-taking for my entire life. No matter how many techniques, programs, or apps I’ve tried, I have yet to find one that really “clicks” with me in every way. But I think the problem is probably me.
My problems with note-taking techniques and software is that they work for me while they are new, but over time, the novelty wears off and my usage habits trail off. Then, when I don’t have a completely reliable set of notes (because I stopped taking them reliably or stopped using the “system”), I consider that note-taking system a failure.
Recently, I read an article about Evernote that made me think that maybe I am the problem. For those of you that don’t know Evernote, it is a cloud-based note-taking app that claims you can “Remember Everything.” Evernote includes a web interface, Windows/Mac clients, and mobile apps for just about any device imaginable. That means you can capture (or recall) stuff just about anywhere. And because your “stuff” is kept on the cloud, the same set of stuff is available to you regardless of where you access it from (this is important).
Back to the article I read. In the article, the founder of Evernote pointed out that Evernote users are more likely to upgrade the service over time, and the reason is simple – Evernote is like an augmentation of your memory and your memories become more valuable over time as you collect more of them. Indeed.
OK, so now I’ve had a revelation about note-taking and the ways in which various techniques and tools have failed me in the past. I need something that is messy, that doesn’t require structure, and behaves more like my brain/memory. Evernote is helping me to see that. I’m learning that to get the most out of it, I need to keep exploring it, coming up with new uses for it, and ignore the “habits” and “procedures” that I used to think were critical about note-taking. Here is a brief list of the cool things that I have done with Evernote that have helped me “augment my brain”:
- Use my phone to take a picture of the model/serial numbers on something I need to fix so I can find a replacement on the internet when I am back in front of a computer (beats a paper and pencil)
- Ask the medical assistant to repeat the time and date of my next appointment while I record the audio into an Evernote note (beats fumbling with my schedule on my phone while I’m trying to get going)
- Take a picture of the sprinkler system in my yard and note the location of the valves I need to adjust when I winterize the system
- Take a picture of notes made on a whiteboard after an entire day of meetings at work (guess what, Evernote does text recognition on the handwriting and makes those notes searchable)
- Capture links of webpages that I want to read later (the Share button on my phone lets me send stuff right to Evernote)
Let me know if you’re using Evernote and you’ve found something cool to do with it.