How to Use Evernote to Optimize Your Writing Workflow – Process Street

How to Use Evernote to Optimize Your Writing Workflow

Life before Evernote

When my husband told me I should use Evernote (for the millionth time), I stubbornly refused and argued that it’s confusing and wouldn’t help one bit.

Why would it? How can doing extra tasks improve my writing workflow?

And, to be fair – English isn’t my first language, nor is tech talk. I was scared I wouldn’t understand what it tells me to do, I would probably end up breaking the internet and using Word again.

The last push was joining Process Street. Compared to my fast, techy co-workers I was the slowest. So, once again, I was advised to give Evernote a try. Who am I to argue? … Right?

Gathering Research in Word

Here’s my research process before Evernote: with 15 tabs opened on Chrome I was waiting for Word to open so I can copy in the links and info and make some sense of all the information I’d gathered. It looked something like this:

Word Writing Workflow

Then I would save the file (we all know what happens when Microsoft intrusively updates your laptop to “improve your work”) to look at it once I start the project. Then I’d open every single link and copy the relevant paragraphs (again, in the same Word document) and use it to write the article / template I’m working on.

What could ever be wrong with this system? All the info is in one place and if I save it constantly I can be sure all the info will be in one place. That’s what I used to think, anyway.

Screenshots in Paint

As we know, all good media material comes with images to engage the reader. Just like any other enthusiastic blogger, I have always been a big fan of nice images and screenshots to show my readers how things run.

Downloading images was easy. Screenshots, however… I had to follow this formula:

FN+PRTSC, go to the desktop, right click -> Bitmap Image, right click that -> open with… -> Paint (wait for it to open),  CTRL+V, move it to the right corner, crop it, File -> save as -> JPEG (on my desktop), go to the desktop, find it-> image(17) and put it in the right folder (New Folder (3))

Paint Writing Workflow

Smooth sailing. And next time I need it all I have to do is go through the folders, find the right Image(17) and ‘simply’ add it to where it needs to be.

My Awful Folder Structure

I already mentioned the folder system I had in place (New Folder, New Folder (1), New Folder (2) etc), and somewhere in there I might have saved New Rich Text Document with all the links to support my research.

Folder Structure Writing Workflow

If I, being the smart, modern, laptop-using woman who I am, saved the documents and pictures for the same article in the same place all I had to do was put it together for the template I’m working on.  If, however, some of the images had been saved in Downloads and some of the text in New Folder (215) I would begin a frantic search through the entire computer whilst quietly sobbing.

Most of the times I would end up just downloading the same picture again, named Image (18) and using that as drag-and-drop from the Chrome downloads bar. What a time-saver!

Learning Evernote

By now you must realize how having this perfectly worked out system in place I would be reluctant to use a nonsense app to do exactly the same thing. I guess it was peer-pressure (or the fact I wanted to keep my job) that silenced the little voice in my head saying – you don’t need this, your system is great!

So I decided to put my worries and suspicion aside and get myself one of those Evernote things. That was way easier than I thought it would be. All I had to do was Google “download Evernote”, click the first result and it did the work for me. The rest of the downloading process was pretty self-explanatory and, to my surprise, didn’t involve me asking how it’s done.

Once I had signed up it was time to see what secrets I will find in this green Pandora’s box with an elephant picture on it.

Notebooks

Evernote has a user-friendly onboarding system where it gives you a step-by-step guide with tick-able options introducing you to its features. I will not get into details, but you can read more about it in this blog post about their user onboarding process.

What I will tell you about is how I organize my notebooks. First of all, I can create a fresh one for each project I am working on. Yes, I had the same opportunity with New Folders but to be fair, I never looked at them, they were just somewhere on my desktop (and I never had to admit to myself what mess I had created).

When working with Evernote it’s right there, you see all of your notes and having the messy, unorganized sidebar just compels you to sort it out. A great Evernote feature is Notebook stacks. That means I can organize content according to projects and progress status.

Evernote Writing Workflow

Having this system in place means I can easily jump between project without losing material. I know that the next time I need to work on a project all the images, content and research will be there. No more frantic searching — no more sobbing.

Screenshots/Annotations

Another feature which has saved my precious time is screenshots and annotations. If I find a perfect screenshot opportunity, I won’t miss it because of the laborious process of saving it or bookmark it to find it later (read: never open it again). All I have to do is hit the hotkey and it’s saved in my notes.

When working on a project it will save it in the project folder that’s open. However, if I find a good image for a different project I simply go in notes, it will show as the newest note and all I have to do is drag and drop it in the folder I need it in. Simple as that!

Work Chat

Spending a big chunk of my day proofing templates and blog posts I was trying to find ways to speed up the process of communication. My first thought (of course!) was to write notes in a Word document and attach it to an email. The next step was Skype chat, which is not a bad one, but is not the most efficient way of doing it, since Skype saves screenshots in some weird Skype download folder and please, do not make me find it, because I won’t.

The last logical step (before Evernote) was Slack. Oh, Slack, you with your wonderful Giphy integration. I am not entirely sure why I thought communicating serious proofreading via Slack would be a good idea in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, I love Slack, but I am too weak!

Slack Writing Workflow

Evernote offers you the dry version of a simple chat platform. It’s very plain, has no distractions and all you need to know is the other person’s email address. On top of that, you can send an entire folder (e.g. Content to Proof)  including screenshots, notes with comments, even attached information grabbed from the magical Internet, highlighted and ready to be used.

Life After Evernote: My Brand New Writing Workflow

I’m going to be honest here – for an app to increase productivity it really does keep you away from real work duties for good thirty minutes as soon as you learn how to use it.

All the features it offers for screen-shots and the variety of nasty remarks I can make on a single picture with a grammar mistake are endless. But once I got over it my the efficiency levels increased by over 9000% (this statistic may or may not have been made up, I refuse to comment).

Let me give you a short run-down of life after Evernote.

Keeping Track of Research

As I mentioned already, I don’t have to search through folders to find the saved information. I go to the right folder and get to work.

All the material is easily accessible and based on the folder content Evernote offers related articles found on the Internet. If I ever get stuck and feel like my work needs more research I can rely that Evernote will help with it.

It’s also helpful to keep track of images I have. I don’t have to go through folders looking for the right images and checking if I have it saved. I just skim through the folder, without saving my work twenty times just to be sure it won’t disappear in case of a dreaded Windows update.

Research writing workflow

With the Evernote Web Clipper‘s bookmarking function I don’t have to guess or wait for the link to open to find out what it will be about. Evernote saves links with short summaries, so instead of going through all of them to find the one I need, I just check for the most relevant one before opening it.

Efficient Proofing

Proofing work becomes much more efficient using work chat. I can make notes, screenshots and comments, add more information and add research, without having to use 3 different platforms to do it.

I can also chat about the blog post I’m reviewing with the author of the post and see what material they have put in.

Work Chat writing workflow

I can track the progress of each new blog post in Notebooks. That way, if I know that a blog post about, let’s say the client onboarding process is currently being written, I can add information or images that I think are useful. Instead of sending information to the person’s email, Skype, Slack (and a printed out version over the mail) I just screenshot it and *zap*, saved.

Writing Notes

I overlooked text notes at first because it’s not as fun as putting stamps on images or sending snide remarks over work chat.

The first thing that I love about it is that I don’t need to save anything. It saves it for me. I can jump from note to note, from notebook to notebook and return to the same content with not a single word missing.

Another benefit is never needing to switch between the document, Chrome or folders. It’s similar to keeping track of research – it’s all in one place, only this feature also means that with two quick clicks I can get the information I need and be back to writing without any interruptions (read: Microsoft’s feature-length splash screens).

And with all the efficiency it offers, it still has the same features a Word document would, including different fonts, alignments and letter colors (awesome for vicious proofreading, just paint it all red and put three question marks next to the sentence, like in University).

Conclusion

Writing this blog post would probably take me 2-3 times longer without using Evernote. Jumping from a Word document to a folder, accidentally opening the wrong folder containing games (it happens!) and distracting myself with unrelated things would have gotten the better of me.

Evernote offers the distraction free, organized environment any writer needs — for university, a blog post or in-depth research of any number of topics. It has improved my writing workflow on group tasks, and proven to be the best way to store information for later use (that actually gets opened!).

What are your thoughts on Evernote? Let me know in the comments below.

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Kate Brandall

Katrina is project manager at Process Street. She covers the day to day tasks in the team and loves ruthlessly editing other people's work. Katrina has previously worked in journalism and for an SEO agency. Find her on Twitter at @katrinabrandall.


9 Comments

This was THE most interesting article I have ever read about any application. And I read articles all day for work. So bravo!
Also, it was nice to learn about the significance of screenshotting. I use evernote for blog posts and research projects but was still doing the screenshot thing old school. Which means I would have to open a special tool. Screenshot the thing. Mess up and have to do it again, and then save it to a place I wouldn’t remember. I understand your previous woes entirely too well!
Thank you!

Hi Andrea,

Thank you so much for your feedback! I’m pleased I could share some tricks on increasing writing workflow with others. I was worried that my old-school Word and Paint techniques might not be easy to relate to. But here we are, both finding our lives easier with Evernote!

What were your previous techniques for screenshots? 🙂

Great article. I have shiny object syndrome so am constantly trying out new things which is completely unproductive. However, I have always gone back to Evernote as being the only one that clearly does the job. Your post clarified a few things and added some new insights so I’ll ditch Trello – my latest shiny object and spend some time organising on Evernote today. Thank you for helping clear my head.

Hi Heather,

I personally have been staying away from any new non-Word and Paint things for way too long, but now with Evernote I have realized that there’s lots of apps out there to help us and they can be used together.

Not being a techy kind of gal, I’d still keep Trello, I use it together with Evernote. We’re actually having a blog post coming out soon about the combination of apps to use for the best writing workflow, so maybe that will be helpful? 🙂

Evernote indeed is a very powerfull tool. Somewhat overwhelming since you can do so much with it. I really learned a lot from Brett Kelly who wrote a nice eBook: Evernote Essentials eBook. You might have a look here: http://goo.gl/AUb8b (affiliate link) where you see a use of Evernote for lending things to friends….:-)

My GTD setup in Evernote based on Evernote Essentials eBook

Hi Dominique,

I’ll definitely check out the eBook given that Evernote is my new favourite tool and I sure would like to know more about it. Thank you for recommending it 🙂

As regards to the video – I love how simply it explains the workings of Evernote. Simply collect, process and do! All resulting in great research and awesome content!

Thank you for sharing your material 🙂

Great post Kate and welcome to the world of Evernote, may your days be super productive from now on.
I also use Evernote for keeping all my collected resources for blog writing. Whenever I find a great resource that I think I might like to blog about later, I save the page using the Evernote web clipper and save it into the relevant notebook. It’s a good idea to have these notebooks already in place, I usually name them with the topic such as “Blogs Business Systemisation “. For screen shots, Skitch is great and saves automatically to Evernote.
So when I need inspiration for a topic, I just go to my notebook and all my resources are there, it’s a great time saver.

Hi Wendy,

Evernote really is awesome for keeping track of research and organizing material. I’m still in the learning process so I have been using Evernote screen shot system, but I’ll look into Skitch 🙂 Always happy to find out more about new ways to optimize my workflow (now that I’ve started, right?).

I already mentioned – we’re having a blog post coming out soon looking at various apps to use together for better writing workflow, maybe it will be interesting for you to have a look at 🙂


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