Most productivity systems, like GTD and Inbox Zero, build from a universal collection point, task list or inbox where all different kinds of work is queued until you can get around to doing it. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to create a single universal inbox that can hold all of the things that fly across your desk.
Most of us have at least 4 inboxes:
- work email;
- personal email;
- physical mailbox; and/or
- a physical notepad or task list.
While there are many tools to combine all of our digital inboxes into a single universal inbox, rare is the person who goes to all the trouble. It is tedious and time consuming to move paper-bound items like invoices, receipt and hand-written notes into a digital inbox.
At least… it was before Evernote.
Evernote is a digital repository, a brain-replacement, a true universal inbox. All of the things that run through your brain, from fleeting ideas to passwords to everyday tasks, can move quickly from your mind into Evernote.
- For a crash course, check out Lifehacker’s post “What’s All the Fuss about Evernote“.
- For a more detailed explanation of how to use it, pick up a copy of The Evernote Bible.
Evernote can be organized in a number of different ways. Individual pieces of data, called notes, are filed into notebooks and simultaneously tagged with keywords and information like the time and location where they were created and last edited.
Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing, has written extensively about Evernote. He recommends creating a notebook titled “!Inbox” to act as the default entry point. Notes can later be filed, but that’s for another post. The exclamation point ensures that this notebook will always sit at the top of the alphabetized list.
Most of your tasks probably come to you in the form of digitized text via email or some other form of electronic communication. Evernote accepts text input easily across all of its platforms. Typing into the Evernote smartphone app may or may not be the quickest way to get random ideas from your head into Evernote. It’s fast, but you might prefer the voice recorder instead.
Evernote has also created a browser extension, called web clipper, which can save anything you see only including text, images and links with a single click. This streamlines research, and allows you to quickly collect sources and review them later on any devices.
If that weren’t enough, WindowsKey + S allows you to capture anything that you see on your monitor as a screen clip.
Where Evernote really shines is in its ability to transform physical tasks into digital items without friction. It plays nicely with a scanner, if you already have one, but if you don’t your smartphone’s camera will accomplish the same thing. Use the Evernote app to take a picture of whiteboards, receipts or hand-written meeting notes, and here comes the mind-blowing part… Evernote will read that text as if it were typed and index it for search ability. I have some of the worst handwriting known to man, and Evernote can read my furiously whiteboarded ideas with ease.
Many people use iPad handwriting apps, but there are a few holdouts still clinging to their legal pad or moleskine. Evernote’s Penultimate, just might be the app that pushes you over the edge.
Short of paying an administrative assistant, Evernote is the only truly ubiquitous capture solution that I’ve ever found. While it has a lot of other superpowers, the magic of Evernote starts with the “!Inbox”.
by Ray Deck