#3 become proficient with evernote

Task #3 of 101.1001 is to become proficient in evernote.

As a nano winner, I got 3 months of evernote premium, which just ended. I’ve been using EN for a while, and now have over 250 notes. I know, I know, proficiency isn’t measured by quantity. However I think that I can claim to have at least basic proficiency. Like many tech services, I signed up for an account ages ago but never got round to using it until later. When I did get started it was just playing around with to-do lists. I read up on how other people use it and I really appreciated its power and functionality when i started using it to organise travel. And then I started using it more. The rest of this post is how I currently use EN. Warning: may be boring for some, not everyone is into organising their lives in such detail.

travel planning and research

I started using EN to plan the cruise to eastern Mediterranean. There were too many new places and too many important places to see on that trip that organised research was necessary. The 201302 cruise notebook has 6 notes: 1 for itinerary, maps and general information, and then one for each stop. Each one had information about docking and all-aboard times, sights to see, transportation, places to eat and anything else interesting. The whole notebook printed out to a 9-page doc which proved invaluable during the trip.


I have similar notebooks for the alaskan cruise and trips to hokkaido, tokyo and seoul. A simple illustration is my tokyo notebook with 4 notes: hotel, things to do, day trips, food&drink. What I like is how I can keep the notebook and pdf in my files for another time. I didn’t do one for the big US trip last summer, mainly because it was too long, and we weren’t really planning a particular route.


Here is where EN is so easy to use, especially cross platform. I keep all sorts of lists: grocery shopping list, presents for people, wishlists, important information like phone numbers and scanned copies of documents. I also have my running PR (although I haven’t transferred the master running spreadsheet from google docs yet), my whisky inventory, restaurants worth remembering as well as other random lists I keep for myself.

goal setting / challenges


I keep track of challenges in EN. For example I can know with one click that I’m 65 tasks into 101.10001, with 36 left. I can keep track of my progress for tasks that are cumulative, like walking to mordor, or reading 101 books. If I’m doing a 30 day challenge, I’m constantly referring to the list throughout the month. Each completed task has a link to the writeup.

creative projects

Whilst I don’t think EN is a good writing tool because its text editing functionality is poor, it combines well with scrivener. Do the research and store information on EN, then do the writing itself in scrivener. It’s also a depository for my list of ideas, random writing and other useful links. I started to use EN more when I was writing PP for nano.

EN is also useful to store photography too, even though obviously the main bulk of my photography is at flickr. I have a scanned copy of the Oldie magazine article, the one where I got £60 for my picture of Wheelers in Whitstable.

reading: combining feedly, instapaper, evernote

It took a while, but I finally transferred all my instapaper and pocket links to evernote.

Way back when, at the beginning of the internet, when we found a page we were interested in, we bookmarked it. Those of us who were a little more OCD organised our bookmarks in folders. But the web grew and amount of content grew. It wasn’t just blindly clicking on links to search for stuff to read. Blogging became popular and the de rigeur thing to do. With blogging software came RSS feeds. Enter bloglines.

Google entered the fray and gave us the wonderful google reader. It killed bloglines but was then killed off a couple of years ago for no good reason. I moved to feedly.

There is now so much content that if I don’t look at my feedly for a few days, thousands of posts accumulate. Feedly isn’t my only source of discovery, I use digg, flipboard, reddit, metafilter, twitter and others. As a result of this huge volume, read later apps were developed to let us clip pages we want to read later. Pocket (which used to be called, literally, readitlater), instapaper, readability, tumblr and pinterest can be used to store and sort posts.


Even though EN developed a web clipper for reading later, like others I don’t use it as my read later app. I’ve settled on a workflow that works for me, h/t to jamie todd rubin for diagram format.

I use instapaper as triage. Once in a while I review instapaper and move articles to EN using clearly. Yes, it’s time consuming and I could use an IFTTT recipe to save directly to EN. I do this because: a) if an article is still interesting after a couple of reviews, then it’s worth keeping and b) I sometimes want to save the full post rather than just a link.

clearlybefore clearlyafter

An aside about EN Clearly. With just one click it converts a page to a clutterfree format for easy reading. No ads, no headers & footers, no sidebars. The example above, of a random guardian article. The one on the left is the regular page—I have ABP, otherwise there would have been ads too; the one on the left is on Clearly. It’s clearly spectacular, pun intended.

tags vs notebooks

Initially I only used the notebook filing system. 3-tiers that went from stacks to notebooks to notes, examples:

travel > 201408 tokyo > things to do
food&drink > whisky > whisky tasted

Then I read Michael Hyatt’s article that advocated using both notebook filing and tagging to make cross-referencing better. I started tagging, blatantly coping his nested tag scheme. It seems to work fine.

unused functionality

There are other functionalities I don’t use. I don’t use scheduling because I don’t keep a diary. When I was at work, I just used Outlook (or Lotus Notes, ugh) to keep calendar invites. I hardly blocked off timeslots or budget my time. I remember personal schedules in my head, or write them on my trusty wall calendar.

I don’t use contacts either, so EN’s OCR ability to store business cards is wasted on me. This is related to my not being very contactable and not having a wide network.

For the same reason I’ve always been inbox zero (even at work when I get hundreds of email), I don’t need the integration with email.

I wish I’m one of those talented people who can sketch on their cool moleskin notebook and transfer to EN. But alas I can’t draw. I ogle at the pics on the moleskin fb page though. Anyway, moleskines are expensive.

get even better

Yes, I have a 4 drawer filing cabinet at home that is very full. I have been quite good at going paperless though, switching to e-statements whenever possible. I’d like to scan more physical documents and EN seems to be a natural repository. May be not super confidential documents but definitely receipts, instructions and bits of paper. I was excited when EN released its own scanning app, and was disappointed when I saw that it’s ios 8 and above. I’ll keep with scanner pro for the time being.

I’m continually trying to streamline my workflow. Getting feedly, instapaper/pocket and EN to work together is an achievement. There are other IFTTT EN recipes to explore, like saving tweets, crossposting from instagram, iphone camera integration, even fb status integration. Not that I’m that keen to store my fb statuses, although twitter integration will be useful—instead of saving to google docs like right now, tweets can go to EN. Then again, its text and table handling need to get better first. We all have room for improvement, EN included.

My nano-sponsored premium account just expired. Will I start paying for a premium account? Right now the answer is no. The feature I appreciated most was additional bandwidth, I barely used the other premium features. I don’t use EN so much that I’m in danger of exceeding my quota, I’ll continue with the free account and monitor my usage.