How to Capture Your Ideas Using Evernote

From Jeff: Today, Ethan Waldman is guest-posting on how to use Evernote to capture your ideas. Ethan helps offline business owners create an online presence. To connect with Ethan, you can visit his website and follow him on Twitter.

When I first became interested in songwriting, it quickly became apparent that I needed to capture any ideas that I received immediately, or risk losing them forever.

Capturing Ideas
Photo from Flickr (Creative Commons)

At first, I maintained a precarious system consisting of a battery-operated voice recorder, pocket notebook, and a bunch of text and audio files on my computer.

Now that I’ve launched my technology coaching business, I find myself writing more than I ever have. Blog posts, email newsletters and random ideas pop into my mind at inopportune moments, just like songs once did.

Enter Evernote.

Evernote is a great tool for capturing ideas.

I’ve replaced my clunky system with Evernote, an online note-taking tool, which I now consider to be my external brain. Evernote is ideal for capturing ideas for three  reasons:

1. Evernote offers support for numerous devices

You can post to Evernote through their website, desktop clients for Mac and Windows, iPhone, Android, Email, and even Text Message.

2. Evernote supports multimedia

Your notes can be in text, audio, image, or any combination of the three. You can even record audio notes with your smart phone!

3. Evernote is synchronized

If you post something to Evernote on your mobile device, it is instantly and magically available everywhere you use service.

This combination of features gives you a system for writing down ideas that you can post to from pretty much any device, anywhere.

Since there is only one repository, you never have to worry about where you wrote something down. You don’t even need an Internet connection; if you don’t have one, your notes are synced the next time you connect.

So how do you get started?

Class is officially in session. Here’s your first course:

Evernote 101

  1. Head over to and sign up for an account.
  2. Make sure you visit their downloads page, and install the client on whatever devices you have.
  3. Create some notebooks. You can think of notebooks as the top-level folders. I have one set up for my business, one for music, and some other miscellaneous notebooks.
  4. Post to Evernote whenever you have a good idea, wherever you are. (I love the audio notes, because I can often speak faster than I can type.)

Evernote 201

Now that you’re all set up, let's talk about how to make using Evernote more powerful.

  1. Set up an “inbox” notebook and make it the default. That way, when you are adding notes on the go, you don’t have to worry about filing them in their proper notebooks.
  2. Use tags. These are like extra subjects you can apply to your notes.  For instance, when I write a blog post, I tag it as “blogpost”. Why? Well, now I can quickly use the Evernote search function to find any notes tagged as “blogpost” across all my notebooks.
  3. Collaborate. Are you working on a writing project with someone else? Try sharing that project’s notebook with them, and you’ll enjoy all of the same features with other people!

Extra Credit

As an added bonus tip, try the Evernote web clipper for your browser. This allows you to “clip” links or whole webpages into Evernote.

Try clipping a picture of someone’s business card into Evernote. Now, search for one of the words on that business card. Evernote has image-to-text recognition, so you can still find your notes even if you didn’t type them in.

Amazing, right?


Now for the best news: Evernote is free. There are paid plans that give you more bandwith per month, but I’ve never come close to exceeding the free limit.

This post just scratches the surface of what’s possible. There is no right or wrong. Since the system is so flexible, you use Evernote as you see fit. Finally, be careful, because once you start using Evernote, you won’t be able to live without it!

Additional reading: Evernote 201: Posting by Email

How do you capture ideas? Do you use Evernote or another system? Feel free to share in the comments.

*Photo credit: Flickr (Creative Commons)