This week marks my one-year anniversary of working with LockerGnome. (Cue the champagne and confetti.) When I first started, I had ample experience blogging and also working with other bloggers, as I trained lawyers from AmLaw 200 firms on the “best practices” of blogging and also discovered how social media can be a successful strategy for customer service on both the consumer and corporate end. When I started blogging about these aspects of new media at LockerGnome, rather than just living it, it was trial by error from the first day. I knew better than to draft my blog posts in the backend of WordPress, but didn’t know whether to use TextEdit, Google Docs, or Word. How did I did I save little ideas I had while at the gym? And how did certain writers from Mashable and TechCrunch always end up on Techmeme everyday?
Luckily, the cold shower that was CES in early January removed any stardust from my eyes and quickly taught me a rough system of organization, as well as how to secure interviews with CEOs by forcing my smartphone in their face to record a quick interview while they exited the stage after a keynote speech. This rough system, though, was primarily using Notepad to both transcribe interviews and add my thoughts, constantly saving files while praying my battery didn’t die before I saved again. After the conference, I continued using NotePad (or TextEdit when I switched to a MacBook Air later in the year). Throughout the next few months, I found myself overwriting files, using a combination of paper and the computer, and relying on email threads to find what I needed. And let’s not talk about bookmarks, which I have never actually used to successfully find stats or a quote for an article when I need the reference. The process was likely detrimental, at least in part, not to my success, but my growth.
Everything changed at SXSW in March when Tim Ferriss mentioned during a session that he used Evernote to help compile his book, the 4-Hour Body. Evernote was a solution to scanning things, eliminating paper methods of taking notes, and also being able to read online articles when offline, while also eliminating dozens of tabs. While this didn’t immediately click, the concept resonated for months as I found myself having to completely restart my computer when I was overloaded with interesting articles, blog posts, research, and dozens of social media conversations. My blog posts for LockerGnome were doing well, though they were rarely profound. I would break some news, perhaps write about a few startups, and found myself on Techmeme often enough to stay motivated by what I was doing. But I was also finding that my lack of an organizational system was getting chaotic — I was missing emails, losing notes, and missing stories because my incoming social media streams were sheerly overwhelming. I wasn’t necessarily doing things the best way — and I was wondering how I could be better.
It was thankfully around this time in October that we held both Gnomedex and an all-hands LockerGnome team meeting — a rarity considering we all work from home. The meeting shifted some strategy (you may notice fewer, though longer blog posts here on LockerGnome), but I also got a glimpse at how another team member uses Evernote. It reminded me of when Tim Ferriss talked about using Evernote for his epic 4 Hour-Body book, which resolved the need for using local folders and sub-folders, paper (and other forms of physical notes), bookmarks, and archived emails. With Evernote, all your notes about a single article or topic can be in one place. And since Evernote is based in the cloud, everything is saved automatically, and can by synced to other devices connected to your account.
In my life, this has translated to the development of a notebook devoted specifically to LockerGnome blog posts, where I now create notes for any possible idea for a LockerGnome blog, whether this happens in my home office, at happy hour with friends, waiting for the bus, or anywhere else I have either Wi-Fi or 3G access. (Since Evernote is also on my iPhone, I can access and edit my blog post ideas anytime, anywhere.) I can drag and drop in links to references or research, quotes, pictures, or related thoughts I may have to build out the article over the course of a few days, and features like the Evernote extension for Chrome and my personal Evernote email make it easy to add (or add to) notes in just a few clicks or taps.
Previously I cranked out a blog post in just a few minutes (usually under 20), mostly because I didn’t have a system to organize resources related to a topic that was worthy of both explanation and analysis. There is something to be said for breaking news, but several other blogs have that beat covered. Evernote has allowed me to take time to develop stories over the course of the day, gathering resources and quotes and building upon ideas without feeling rushed that I need that space — that .txt doc or real estate on my screen — for another article. And with the ability to easily create a new note that doesn’t overwrite any prior notes, there is a lack of guilt for moving on to a new topic, as my hard work on the previous will still be there. I can go back to it in a few hours, or a few days. Or never. I can use the delete button to get it out of my sight should I decide I hate the idea — or create a notebook dedicated to archiving ideas in the event I can’t part with these ideas permanently. (It’s important to note that this is where the use of tags is crucial, or else the clutter can quickly accrue.)
Has Evernote made me a better blogger? Engagement on my posts is higher, and there have been a few notable retweets of articles I’ve written using Evernote (which didn’t happen prior to using Evernote). I’m also enjoying the process more than before, and find that I actually care about the end result. Sure, Evernote has a better UI than TextEdit (as does, well, most anything) but even in comparison to something like Word, it is intuitive and not only easy to organize your thoughts and resources, but reorganize them in just one click. And as any writer knows, it’s not about the words, but about the ideas.
And while I had the ideas before, I can now organize these ideas (and their supportive references) in a way that I understand better — so that, it is hoped, you can understand them better, too. Which is what makes anyone not only a better blogger, but also a better writer.
Do you use Evernote? Do you think it’s a helpful way to organize your life? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.