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Life is complex. Staying on track for a productive day can be a challenge, even for the most diligent workers.

First, our days are made of thousands of decisions. From the moment you open your eyes, it begins. According to an article published by Psychology Today, the average person makes about 35,000 decisions per day. That number may seem ridiculously high but consider it:

  • Get out of bed or press snooze (just one more time)
  • Which clothes to wear
  • What to eat for breakfast
  • Read the news or scroll social media (or ignore your phone completely)
  • For your coffee, Tall or Grande?… and would you like whip cream with that?

Second, there are an ever-increasing amount of demands placed on your time and attention. Maybe some days, you feel that you are getting pushed around by your inbox and notifications instead of doing what you want to do. Fortunately, there are some very effective ways to push back and find your focus.

Find Your Focus

Dr. Tim Elmore, Founder and CEO of Growing Leaders, uses the illustration of a river and a flood to communicate the importance of focus and clarity. He says:

Floods are water going in every direction all at once, often murky and muddy, often shallow, and often doing lots of damage. Rivers on the other hand, are water flowing in a single direction, because they have banks to them and even if it’s a wide river, it’s still flowing in one direction.

The river represents someone is productive because they have implemented the right systems and use the right tools to help them rise above the challenges to do their best work. One of the best systems you can use to achieve your productivity goals is a an application called Evernote.

What is Evernote?

The core function of Evernote is a note-taking app, but it is much more than that. It is a tool to organize your digital life in a way that produces clarity and leads to focus.

A Company With a Vision

Evernote was launched in 2007 with a mission to help you “remember everything.” The intention was to be “an extension of the human brain, a place to store things and then retrieve them in the moments that mattered.” In that sense, it is the forerunner to what many people today call a “second brain.” According to Phil Libin (who joined Evernote as CEO in 2007), Evernote is the app for people who want to build smarter, more productive lives.

In 2015, Chris O’Neill became Evernote’s third CEO. He refined the company’s vision even more. He recognized that Evernote is more than a note-taking app. It is a tool to help people find their focus on what matters the most in their personal and professional lives.

In this article, we are going to share with you three ways you can leverage the power of Evernote to increase your focus and multiply your productivity.

Three ways that you can leverage the power of Evernote to increase your focus and multiply your productivity

1. Eliminate Mental Clutter

Clutter is a condition of disorder. I have a friend who owns a treadmill. He purchased it intending to improve his fitness through regular exercise, but it never happened. Instead, the treadmill collects dirty clothes, boxes of junk, and other miscellaneous items with no place to go (i.e., clutter). The clutter replaced the purpose of the treadmill.

What if your mind is full of clutter?

I went to a restaurant recently with a few friends. There were five of us. The waiter who took our orders listened very closely as we told him our choices. He even repeated it aloud to confirm he understood what each person said. However, he did not write anything down. He was relying entirely on his memory. I knew that he was serving other tables, having conversations, answering questions, and responding to requests, so I expected him to miss something. His mind was full of activity. When our order arrived, there were some mistakes. We were not offended, and he happily corrected the errors. All the same, it was a reminder that our brain’s capacity to retain information is limited.

Your best thinking

Your best thinking, and by extension, your best work occurs when your mind is free to focus. Evernote optimizes your focus by eliminating clutter from your mind. It gives you the ability to off-load your brain and know that your vital information is safe and secure.

You handle a lot of information. All the inputs combine to be too much to remember and process. Instead of trying to make a mental map of everything you know, put it into Evernote. EN can tame all of your mental clutter by serving as your digital filing system.

4 Reasons Why Evernote is the Best Digital Filing System

  1. Flexible A note inside Evernote is a very powerful container. Of course, a note can be as simple as plain text, but that is just the beginning. You can attach PDFs, documents, images, videos, audio files, and more.
  2. Cross-platform Evernote is available everywhere. It works on Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and in your browser. Evernote has a unified code base, so no matter where you use Evernote, you will have the same look, same function, and same quality of experience.
  3. Amazing search The search inside Evernote is speedy and reliable. You can even search the text inside photos, PDFs, and documents. With Evernote, you can find what you are looking for in seconds, not minutes or hours.
  4. Fast capture There is almost no friction to capture something into Evernote. On the Evernote blog, the company reports that there are eleven different ways to save information into the application. The Evernote web-clipper is especially notable because very few applications can replicate its power.

2. Organize your work

One of the most popular genres of reality television is cooking shows. There are entire networks devoted to this type of programming, and the chefs have become celebrities. They make preparing a gourmet meal seem effortless. One reason is that all of the ingredients are organized, available, and within arm’s reach at any moment. You never see the chefs searching for what they need to do their job. Sometimes I jokingly say to myself, “anyone could cook in that kitchen.” Your best work follows strong organization and preparation.

Organization is more than a good idea. It is a key to productivity. When things are organized, you get more done faster. Organizing your work means that you always have what you need when you need it. You don’t spend time searching for lost items or waste time re-creating them.

Evernote provides three levels of organization:

  • Stacks
  • Notebooks
  • Notes

A stack is a collection of notebooks, and a notebook is a collection of notes. This hierarchal structure, combined with Evernote’s superior search capabilities, means that nothing will ever be lost.

The organizational paradigms using this structure are almost limitless. If you want to learn some best practices on how to set up and use the organizational structure of Evernote, we have a great resource for you.

Build a Trusted System

Regardless of what structure you choose, it will only work if you trust it.

Many people have at least one “junk drawer” in their home. It is the place where you toss random items. It is disorganized, and you are not sure if what you are looking for is really there. However, to be productive, everything important needs a home in a trusted system.

Where did I put that?

How many times per day, do you have to ask yourself, “Where did I put that?” It is a common problem that something is misplaced because there is no systematic way to store or search files. Notes and documents can be scattered across our “digital junk drawers” in multiple applications and cloud services. You might also have important information in desk drawers, physical inboxes, or post-it notes. Evernote solves this problem by keeping all your important information in one place and providing a way to organize it. With Evernote, you will always know the answer to the question, “Where did I put that?”

The gift of time

In an IDC white paper published in 2012, the authors share that a global survey of 1,200 information workers and IT professionals found that they spend an average of 4.5 hours a week looking for documents. In a very real sense, when all of your important information is organized and available from anywhere, you are giving yourself the gift of time. Imagine what you could do if your re-claimed 4.5 hours of your time each week.

3. Remember Everything

In any productivity system, there needs to be a connection between your goals, your priorities, and your daily tasks. Evernote provides an ideal environment for this because staying on top of your goals and priorities is easier when they are written down and easily accessible. When you are clear on your goals and priorities, then you are able to make a connection between them and your daily tasks.

Goals and priorities dashboard

A great feature of Evernote is that it allows you to create links between notes. You can use this technology to make a goals and priorities dashboard within Evernote. A dashboard is a master note that provides an overview of a topic and links to all supporting information.

You can create a master note with a list of your goals for the year. Each goal can be linked to another individual note with the details of your goal, including deadline, key motivations, next actions, and rewards. The master note might also link to a to-do list or other supporting documents, files, images, or videos that are in your Evernote database.

You can set a reminder for this note or add it to an external task manager to remind you to review your goals and priorities dashboard regularly.

How Evernote Increases Your Focus and Makes You More Productive

  1. Eliminate Mental Clutter When you eliminate mental clutter, you give yourself the freedom to focus on what is most important.
  2. Organize Your Work When your work is organized in a trusted system, you multiply your productivity and give yourself the gift of time. You are free to focus on what matters most.
  3. Remember Everything When you maintain a strong connection between your goals, priorities, and most important tasks, then you spend your time focused on doing your best work.

Next Steps

A great place to start is by off-loading the mental clutter. If you follow the GTD methodology, think of this as the “Capture” step.

  1. Create a note in your Evernote Inbox entitled “All the Things in My Head” or “Write it Down!”
  2. Make a list of all your thoughts, ideas, plans, and to-do’s
  3. If some of your “clutter” is scattered in other places on your computer, phone, or physical pieces of paper, then capture that information here as well.
  4. Once it is all out of your head and recorded in Evernote, you can begin to build your trusted system.

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Thanh Pham

Founder of Asian Efficiency where we help people become more productive at work and in life. I've been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, and The Globe & Mail as a productivity thought leader. At AE I'm responsible for leading teams and executing our vision to assist people all over the world live their best life possible.

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  1. When was this article written?! It is dated today (12/29/20). But it refers to the latest CEO in 2015 and does not mention the current CEO Ian Small. Nor does it mention all the concerns/ controversy around Evernote. As a very long time user of Evernote, I've stuck with them, but it is important to be up front about the well known issues with Evernote v10! I was hoping for an updated perspective from AE, but this seems like it was written years ago!

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