I promised at least one more advanced article each month, and so I present the first of these today, although I’ve tried to keep it only moderate this first time around.
Evernote makes it very easy to collect notes, photos, and documents, which is great, but there is a downside: if you are not careful, Evernote can easily become cluttered with stuff that you really don’t need. As a freelance writer and technology blogger, one place where I’ve struggled with this in the past is stuff that I’ve clipped from the web. Over time, I’ve developed a process for keeping Evernote clutter-free, which means I only keep the stuff I think I’ll need in the long run. I thought I’d use today’s post to discuss this process and how it works for me.
Some background for context
First, let me describe how I used to do things:
- Browsing the web, if I saw something interesting, I’d clip it with Evernote’s web clipper.
- At some point, I would review the stuff I clipped in Evernote, tag and file the important stuff, and plan on deleting the stuff that wasn’t important.
Turns out there were 2 problems with this process:
- I clipped far more stuff than I ever actually wanted to keep. That made it difficult to sift through.
- While I would usually get around to sifting, I rarely got around to deleting notes and clipping–and the deletions represented the vast majority of what I clipped.
Evernote became cluttered, which doesn’t sound like a big deal when you have a monthly upload limit of 1 GB, but it had one significant result that I could not tolerate:
It cluttered my search results.
As I said, the vast majority of my clipping were things I really didn’t need. But Evernote doesn’t know that. When I’d do a search, Evernote would happily search all my notes including the clippings I planned to eventually discard. This skewed my search results.
I needed a better way of getting what I wanted to keep in Evernote, but at the same time, keep Evernote clutter-free. Eventually, I came up with a process that has been working very well for me. In involves using Pocket. Pocket is a “save for later” service like Instapaper for Readability. It allows you to grab links, images, videos, etc. and save them for later review. Pocket also strips out the clutter from the articles and presents them in an easy-to read fashion. Lots of applications integrate with Pocket, making it easy to send articles and other items. Best of all, Pocket integrates with Evernote, allowing you to send items from Pocket to Evernote.
I use Pocket as a kind of intermediary clearing house for web research and clippings. Illustrated, my process looks something like this:
Here is how the process works:
1. Save to Pocket
I do most of my reading and research online using one of three tools, Twitter, Feedly, or Chrome. I use Echofon as my Twitter client on my iPhone, which allows me to send Tweets containing links I’m interested in reading directly to pocket. Like this:
I can do the same from Feedly, where I have the ability to send articles in my RSS feed directly to Pocket on my iPhone:
I can do the same thing from Chrome in the browser version of Feedly:
2. Review (curate) articles in Pocket
I tend to review my articles in Pocket when I have small pockets of free time, which means I do this almost entirely on my iPhone. I’ll open up the Pocket app, skip some articles, read and read others in their entirety. Here is what Pocket looks like on my iPhone:
This is my “curation” phase of the process. I’ll read a lot of articles in pocket, archive many, delete other. But the ones I want to keep for the long term, I’ll send to Evernote.
3. Sending an item to Evernote
It’s very easy to send to Evernote from Pocket. You need to configure Pocket to send to your Evernote account, but that is a one-time process. Once you’ve done that. you click on the article, then click on the standard “Send To” button, after which you will see a list of options:
Next, I click the Evernote option and I’m prompted for some additional information about how I want to file the item in Evernote:
Here you can title your note, select a notebook, tag it, and even add some additional notes of your own. The resulting note ends up in Evernote.
This process allows for automation in the curation process. For example, I’m a big fan of Lifehacker’s How I Work series. I used to look for these articles in my RSS feed and then manually send them to Pocket. But because Pocket can be used as part of IFTTT, I have automated this process with a recipe I created. Now, every time a new How I Work article appears, the article gets sent to Pocket automatically via this IFTTT recipe. Then, when I am reviewing my items in Pocket, if I decide I want to keep the article for the long term, I can send it to Evernote.
There are plenty of other ways to automate, but the bulk of my curation process–deciding what to keep and what to throw away–is still based on manual determinations. Still, I imagine there are automation improvements that can be made here that I haven’t considered yet.
The bottom line is that this process helps keep Evernote clutter-free, makes my searches more accurate, and ensures that I do retain those articles, image, and videos that I think are important to have for the long haul within Evernote.
If you have a suggestion for a future Going Paperless post, let know me. Send it to me at feedback [at] jamietoddrubin.com. As always, this post and all of my Going Paperless posts is also available on Pinterest.
Last week’s post: Quick Tip: How to Search Evernote for Attached Documents.