How I use Evernote to Keep More Organised

Since I stumbled across Evernote a couple of years ago it has literally transformed the way I deal with my notes and paperwork. To put it bluntly, my organisation sucked and often I would have to spend hours digging through bags of paperwork to look for a passcode I filed somewhere or for a P45 ready for my tax return. These days, I have it all stored online and can quickly search through everything to find what I need, usually within seconds.

I first came across Evernote when I got an iPhone 3GS. I don’t exactly remember how I found the app, but I suspect it was either sitting at the top of the productivity charts while I was browsing through various apps in the App Store, or perhaps I saw another blogger write about it. After installing it, I quickly found that a desktop version was available and perhaps a couple of months later, an iPad version launched the day the original iPad launched. I was hooked because things I noted on my iPhone or iPad were made instantly available on my desktop and laptop and vice-versa.

In the first year or so of using Evernote, I stored notes, ideas and perhaps some emails that I forwarded to my Evernote account. The system I used to get information in to Evernote worked well. Yes, my organisational skills still suck and I have plenty of unorganised folders and tags, but as search works well in Evernote, that doesn’t really matter to me as I always quickly find anything I need. Everything is always found in there.

A few months later (mid to early 2011) I started finding blog posts about various Fujitsu ScanSnap scanners as well as other models such as the Doxie (amongst others), and noticed that people were using document scanners to scan direct in to Evernote. At this point I realised that my usage was going to really go through the roof as I had a lot of messy documents stored in various bags all unorganised around the house. At that point in my life, I had spent the last 10 or so years supporting scanning equipment such as large Kodak document scanners and various scanners from Canon. I hadn’t put two and two together until I saw a video on how a document scanner can scan in to Evernote.

How I get scanned documents in to Evernote

The scanners I have used are large Kodak 3500 models which scan duplex (both sides of the page) at about 60 pages per minute. Overkill at about $15,000 each when launched 10 – 12 years ago, but as there were several in the office at work I took my paperwork in there and began scanning in bulk stacks of paperwork, perhaps over 2000 pages if I remember correctly. The software I used was supplied by Kodak and deskewed the pages, removed blank pages and converted to PDF format easily. I seperated multi-page and single page documents and scanned single pages in large batches which were split in to individual PDF files. I then scanned multi page documents in single batches and stored multiple pages in a single PDF for each document. When scanned, I simply set up an import folder on the Windows version of Evernote and all of them were sucked in to the service and then uploaded.

By default, the free Evernote accounts come with 40MB (might be 60MB) of uploads per month which I quickly exhausted. For a reasonable $45 I upgraded to an Evernote Premium account which allows for 1GB of uploads per month and the rest were transferred. As the Premium service gets a priority OCR (optical character recognition) service, within a short period of time (perhaps 30 minutes), all of my documents were searchable. All my messy bags of paper that had been untouched for years were suddenly searchable. It’s incredible to see all the mess suddenly become organised and even crinkly pages were transformed in to amazing looking and clean documents thanks to the Kodak scanning software processing the images as they are scanned.

But, as most people do not have access to a $15,000 scanner, what I do recommend is that you look at scanners such as the Fujitsu ScanSnap and Doxie scanners. The ideal type of scanner is a duplex colour. Duplex means it scans both sides of the paper as it feeds through. The alternative is simplex which is a pain to use when you want to scan both sides of the paper.

At the moment I am using a Kodak i30 as I use it to test with at home for support purposes but I don’t recommend it for Evernote as it only scans the front side which is a pain when having to run multiple pages that are printed front and back. The i40 is an option although it’s a large scanner when compared to the ScanSnap models from Fujitsu (tiny compared to the $15k Kodak 3500s which are not made anymore). Also, if you configure Evernote correctly and the scanner settings, you can simply drop your post in the scanner as it comes through the door, let it scan and have it immediately and automatically imported in to Evernote.

Here is a quick video demonstration on how a document scanner can be used to get paperwork in to Evernote.

By default, I now put all scans in to my Inbox folder which includes all items I forward through email, or clip from the web. I then spend time each week going through the folder and moving in to other folders as needed. I can then also make sure I action my post that needs to be actioned.

Should you use Evernote in your daily life?

I personally use Evernote to store all items that get delivered through my door (except for junk mail of course). I also use it for storing notes from meetings as well as ideas and various other things. I can highly recommend it although some might feel uncomfortable storing such items within an online service. Looking over the technical specs of Evernote and how they encrypt data, I feel safe with it. For highly sensitive data I also encrypt the text within the individual notes and provide a strong password. It might be possible for someone to access if they get my password and get my second password for the sensitive data, but they might also get something out of my trash if I forget to shred a document. So, I’ll let you make your own decision for that.

For me, the Evernote service and everything in the cloud has made me far more effective and efficient at what I do and I highly recommend you check it out now… considering it’s free to use then you only waste a bit of time should you not like or trust it.