DAILY INSIGHT: The key to getting—and staying—organized

By Steve Young, CIO Advisor

Sometimes, I feel like I'm very organized, then other days I feel as if I am anything but organized. But generally I feel I do a good job utilizing task lists, to-do lists, documenting ideas, mileage, meeting notes, instructions, web pages, tips, etc. ver the years I have used many techniques to record this info, from paper and 3M sticky notes to notes in Outlook. But hands down, the best tool I have ever used for this is Evernote. A tool like Evernote can prove indispensable to maintaining organized information in a hectic work world of information overload.

Evernote is a free productivity tool that I feel basically acts as my second brain many days, allowing me to easily find chunks of information that I probably would have otherwise forgotten or lost. Evernote is available on the following platforms:
• iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch
• Android
• Windows Phone
• Blackberry
• WebOS (via App Catalog)
• Mac OS X
• Windows Desktop

• Windows 8 (Touch)

And even without a software or app install, Evernote is always available just through a web browser. So as long as you carry a smart device, you will have Evernote at your side, ready to record info you do not want to forget.

There are a million ways to use Evernote, or maybe more, judging from all the blog posts and lists of uses you will find from a quick perusal of Google search results, from a query such as this.

I keep all sorts of information in Evernote, which allows you to store related information in notebooks, which are pretty much what they sound like. You could have one giant notebook, or organize notes into a notebook for every subject. I am not a big filer—I use about five main notebooks for a majority of what I file. I keep the following notebooks in Evernote: Systems, Work, Personal, Recipes to Try, and Best Recipes. A way I find useful that allows you to further make notes searchable, and findable, is by adding tags to notes in Evernote. As many tags can be added to a note as you want, allowing you to quickly find the note at a later time, but if you don’t tag notes, Evernote still has a robust search system built in to help you find your notes.

And this is where Evernote really shines and ends up being what I call my second brain. I have Evernote on at least three computers, three tablets, and my phone. What is great is that all of these devices keep their notes in sync, such that I can save a note on my phone during the busy work day, then fire up my tablet in the evening and find the note waiting for me. So I may clip a web page in my web browser, using the Evernote Web Clipper Extension, which I can then later access on any of my devices when I need it. The web page is fully indexed, so I can search for a word or subject that was on the page without having to remember what website I found the info on.

I also file lots of emails into Evernote. If I receive an email that has information I need to keep, then I forward it to an email address that Evernote has attached to my account. I think this is one of Evernote’s most powerful and often overlooked features. To find out the email address to send notes to for your account, in the software, go to the Tools menu and choose Account Info. On a mobile device or tablet, click on your name to see Account Info. You will see an address to email notes to, which will then be automatically placed into your notebook. This is fabulous and makes retaining a few really important emails all the easier. I often send receipts, software licenses, and other things I need to keep to my Evernote email address so I can find them easily later.

If you have not joined the Evernote revolution, and you are looking to start the New Year out better organized, then I highly recommend you try Evernote and see how it works for you. Do you have an Evernote super tip? Then feel free to leave a comment below and share it with the world at CTO Technotes.

Steve Young is CTO of Judson ISD in Texas and founder of the San Antonio Area Technology Directors group. He blogs at CTO Technotes, where this is cross posted. Follow him on Twitter as @atemyshorts.