A New Way to Evernote

Many people in the Personal Knowledge Management field are getting excited by Maps of Content: a new way of organizing your notes.

A Map of Content is simply a note containing links to other notes. Now that Evernote has upped its linking capabilities, Maps of Content are now an option for Evernote users.

This post will help you get started

Begin by making a new note called the Home Note. You can star this or pin it to your dashboard.

In your home note start writing about yourself. Here’s an example

My name is Tony.  The main things in my life are my family, my job as teacher and playing the piano.

Now look at that sentence. There are three areas in my life, family, teaching and piano, so I now create three new notes: Family, Teaching and Piano

Go back to the Home note and add links to those notes.  It’s easy to do this on Evernote by hitting Ctrl + Alt + K on Windows or Cmd + Opt + K on Apple then using the Select a Note dialogue. Here I am selecting my newly created Teaching note.

Now my Home note is done I go to one of the linked notes and start filling it in. Here’s an example:

I already have notes for the classes I teach so it’s straightforward to add links to them.

Now I can go to each class and start adding links or thoughts directly there.

My Maps of Content are building into a web of notes. I can navigate forwards using my links and backwards using the new backlinks feature.

The beauty of making Maps of Content is that I’m planning what I’m doing at the same time as I’m structuring my notes.

Using Maps of Content is a great way to grow your notes organically.  Folders are no longer used for navigation, they’re there for housekeeping only.

The great thing about this system is that you can run Maps of Content alongside your existing system for organisation. You’re just adding a new way to find the right note at the right time

Here are screen shots of the process so far:

Why not give Maps of Content a try? They might just change your life…

Buying Time

Making a big purchase? Here’s a good Evernote habit to get into…

  1. Use Webclipper to capture the details of the item you’re buying. Save it in a note with the name of the item.
  2. Use webclipper to take a screenshot of the receipt or drag and drop the receipt into the note.
  3. If appropriate, download the manual and add it to the note.
  4. Finally, tag the note so you can find similar purchases later if necessary

And there you have it, everything you need all in one place

The above takes two minutes, it saves so much time in the future.

Go and capture that information!

Enjoy Your Sunday Evening

You’re a teacher: it’s Sunday evening and you can’t relax as you have work tomorrow. Why is that?

Partly it’s stage fright. Those outside the profession don’t understand the necessary performance that every teacher undertakes in the classroom.  Take a tip from professional musicians: they  know the best cure for performance anxiety is to be thoroughly prepared.

Lack of preparation is a big cause of stress: that nagging feeling that there’s something really important that you should be working on while you’re busy tackling day to day tasks.

Trust the System

Productivity Systems like GTD can help you tackle this stress: I talk about GTD here

GTD boils down to writing down every job, no matter how small. Once you’ve done that you just need to make sure the jobs turn up in the right order.  That way you can focus on the task in hand.

If you believe your system is working then you’ll trust that the right task will be presented to you when it needs to be done. Nothing will be forgotten.

Use the Calendar

Evernote offers a number of ways to ensure that you see the right task at the right time.  Every teacher should Connect Evernote to Google Calendar.  You may be lucky, your lessons may already be available on just such a calendar. If not, it’s worth the time spent inputting the lessons yourself.

Once you can see your lessons in the calendar, you can begin to add notes to the individual events. 

Each lesson can have its own note containing reminders on things such as students to chase and homework to set. Pro top: tag your notes with the name of the class. That way you can quickly filter to all notes relating to that class. 

One thing, don’t repeat yourself. If your teaching materials and marks are already in the school’s learning platform or MIS, leave them there. If you duplicate materials you won’t know which ones you last updated.

But teaching isn’t just about lessons. What about the other jobs that need to be done tomorrow?

That’s where tasks come in…

Five Tasks a Day

Tasks are your todo list. Add due dates to your tasks but be realistic: you can’t do everything tomorrow. The question you should ask yourself isn’t what COULD I do tomorrow but what HAS to be done tomorrow? Adding a due date to your tasks means you know that you won’t miss the tasks that HAVE to be done that day.

I aim to complete five tasks a day. Why five? Because five works for me. I look for a balance of bigger tasks such as marking a set of books and smaller tasks such as phoning a parent. Choosing a set number of tasks helps you to manage your expectations: you’re never going to complete everything that you want to do. Trying to do so leads to stress.

Your Day on a Page

Lastly, have your home page set up. Tasks and Calendar. Your day on a page. You can see tomorrow’s jobs at a glance.

Enjoy your Sunday Evening

Now that you know that tomorrow is sorted you can forget it. It’s time to unwind and enjoy your Sunday evening…

Hands off that Mouse!

Four keyboard shortcuts you shouldn’t be without (and one Evernote really should implement…)

Want to know the easiest way to improve your productivity?

Stop using the mouse.

Watch an IT professional and you’ll see that their hands never leave the keyboard. They know that it takes a couple of seconds to move your hand from the keyboard to the mouse, and then to move the mouse to the right position on the screen and click. They know that the bigger the screen, the further the you have to move the mouse and the longer it takes to click. 

Learning just a few simple keyboard shortcuts can really speed things up. Here are three shortcuts you can use with Evernote and one that works everywhere.

1: Tab Switch between Applications

The first shortcut is nothing to do with Evernote; it’s something built into Macs, Windows and most Linux desktops 

Just suppose you’re surfing the web with your favourite browser (Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Edge) and you want to switch to Evernote to check something. 

Don’t reach for the mouse. Hold the Alt key on Windows or the Command (⌘)   key on Apple and then press the tab key. 

As you press tab you’ll see your current open apps appear on the screen.

Repeatedly press tab until you have selected the app you want to switch to, and then let go.

Tab switching is clever. The apps rearrange themselves every time you tab switch so that the app you last used is only ever one tab away. Try it.

Once you’ve got the hang of this you’ll wonder why you ever used the mouse.

2: Finding a Note in Evernote

You have two choices here:

Either jump to the search bar using Ctrl Command (⌃⌘)  E on Mac or Win Shift F on Windows

Or press Command (⌘) J on Mac or Ctrl Q on Windows to open the switcher.

The search bar remembers things like which notebook you’re in, the switcher does a fresh Evernote wide search with suggestions

Which is better? Why not try them both out and see which one you like?

If you want a new note: hit Command (⌘) N on Mac or Ctrl N on Windows

3: Finding something within a Note

Now that you’ve found your note, try and find a particular word within it.

First you have to jump to the note editor.   Hit tab repeatedly to get to it and then press enter.  (It has to be said, Evernote, you could come up with a better way)

After that it’s just Command (⌘) F on a Mac or Ctrl F on Windows to bring up the Find in Note dialog

4: A Bonus Shortcut

The previous shortcuts help you work in Evernote. But if all you want to do is jot down a quick note there is an even faster way: the helper.

The helper is one of the most underutilised features of the Evernote desktop

Ctrl Cmd (⌃⌘)  N on a Mac or Ctrl Alt H on Windows to bring it up. You can add a quick note here. You can even screenshot straight into Evernote

Test Yourself

Practicing the above shortcuts will help to get them into your muscle memory

Follow this link to see a copy of this page as a note. Save it Evernote.

Now, starting in another application see if you can find this elephant without using  the mouse

  1. Tab switch to Evernote (Cmd Tab or Alt Tab)
  2. Search for or switch to this note
  3. Search within the note for the word elephant

Your Day on a Page

For many people, going to College means freedom. Freedom to try new things, to do what you like, when you like.

Well, not quite.

You’re still going to have  lectures and tutorials to attend (that’s why you’re going, remember?)  You want to make sure that you know what you’re doing every day, so that you can really enjoy your free time without worrying that you’re behind on an assignment.

That’s where Evernote can help you.

Evernote Home gives you your day on a page. Front and center should be your calendar. Your calendar will tell you where you need to be and when. Lectures, tutorials, practicals…

Setting up a calendar with all those details can be tedious. The good news is that 99% of the time your college will have your timetable already prepared and will share it with you via Google Calendar or Outlook. 

You can view that calendar on your home page on Evernote.  Here’s how you can add a Google Calendar. Evernote doesn’t support Outlook Calendar integration yet, but you can subscribe to your Outlook Calendar from your Gmail account. Scroll to the bottom of the page to see how.

Add your college calendar and when you open up Evernote in the morning you’ll have your day on a page before you.

But there’s more.

Searching is easy on Evernote, but why search when you can have the right notes appear at the right time?

Here’s a tip: link your study notes to your individual events.

Just suppose you’ve created a note with the materials you need for tomorrow’s 9am tutorial.  Link that note to the tutorial on the calendar on your Home Page. Here’s how to add link notes to calendar events.  Now the note will be there, just when you need it.

You can even get Evernote to remind you to open the notes as the lecture begins. Just go to Calendar settings (click the dots on the top right of the calendar widget).

If I only had two pieces of advice for people heading of to college, the above would be one of them. Follow this link to see the other…

Using Outlook

Using Outlook?  You can subscribe to your Outlook Calendar from your Gmail account, if your college allows you to share calendars.

  1. Go to Outlook and click on Settings (the cogwheel in the top right hand corner)
  2. Click on View all Outlook settings at the bottom
  3. Choose Calendar
  4. Choose Shared Calendars, just below Events from email. If Shared Calendars doesn’t appear then bad news, you’re college won’t allow this.
  5. Go to Publish a calendar and choose the calendar you want to share. Hit publish and copy the ICS link.  You
  6. Now open your Google Calendar
  7. Click on Cogwheel and Settings in the top right
  8. Choose Add Calendar and then From URL
  9. Enter the ICS link you copied earlier

Live Notes and Archives

Suppose every year I plan a birthday party for my good friend, Jean Petite.

I have separate notes containing lists of presents, guests, food and drink, entertainment and so on.  I also have one master note named Project: Jean Petite Birthday 2022.  All the notes are tagged jpbirthday so I can find them quickly.

The party is a success. Even so, I create a new note outlining what went wells and even better ifs that I can refer to when planning next year’s party.

What happens when next year comes around?  Do I create new notes or use old ones? 

Some notes such as guests will just need to be modified, but others like food and drink may have to be done from scratch. I’ll probably want to create a new note for presents, but retain the old note so I don’t buy the same gift twice.

How do I stop the current notes getting mixed up with the old ones?

One way is to tag the notes by year: 2020, 2021, 2022 and then just filter to this year’s party.

Here’s a better way.

Create the following notebooks (the numbers are there so they appear in the correct order in the sidebar)

Put this year’s party notes in the In Progress Notebook. Put previous years’ notes in the Done Notebook.  Put reference notes, notes that don’t really change from year to year, in the cabinet.

Notebook View

That way if you want to see this years notes, just filter to In Progress and jpbirthday.  To see only reference notes, filter to Cabinet and jpbirthday.  To see everything, just filter to jpbirthday

The system makes use of the fact that a note can only be in one notebook at a time. Notes can be Todo or In Progress, but never both at the same time. 

A lot of people recommend using tags to represent these states, I think they’re wrong.  I’ve written about that here: You’re Using Folders and Tags the Wrong Way Round

Two more things about this system.

The filtered notes widget works really well with this system.  You can use them to see this year’s party notes at a glance.

And lastly, I used to have a separate Archive Notebook for old notes.  This is no longer needed, they all just go in the Cabinet

Stop tagging your notes with todo and done. Use notebooks.