Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

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 Evernote.com 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)

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • Ethan

    Jeff- This is so exciting! Thanks so much for the opportunity to post and I look forward to hearing how people are able to put this into practice!

    • Thanks, Ethan. You taught me several new things.

  • I have been using Evernote for a while now and do not know what I would do without it. I use it daily for capturing idea, drafting blog posts, lists, and other odds and ends.

    • Thanks for sharing, Adam! One of the reasons that I featured this guest post was that I wanted to learn how to use Evernote more. I’m finding that it can be a really great tool – for more than just note-taking (which is what I’ve been using for for about a year now).

  • Earlier this week I decided to give Evernote another shot and started a notebook called “logo inspiration.” It’s pretty much the traditional morgue file, but instead of dumping it all in a folder like I’ve done forever, it lives in Evernote. The nice thing is that I can tag everything. I may sort by color or font or whatever. A few items have notes, such as “nice use of gradients.”

    • I like the tagging feature, as well, Brad.

  • Aka Mommy Anderson

    I am SO happy to have this post available to tutor me on Evernote!! Jeff thanks for being an amazing Tweeter and Blogger, and “creative geek”. You rock!! Kudos for macking to the max by bringing in guest bloggers to add to the awesomeness that is THIS blogsite!

    • Thanks, Amber. This is a great geeky tool that is actually easy and intuitive to use! I love it, because it works for me, not vice versa. Ethan did a great job, explaining the benefits of using Evernote. My friend Randy also has a whole series of posts on https://randyelrod.com/ about “how to Evernote your life.”

  • Aka Mommy Anderson

    I am SO happy to have this post available to tutor me on Evernote!! Jeff thanks for being an amazing Tweeter and Blogger, and “creative geek”. You rock!! Kudos for macking to the max by bringing in guest bloggers to add to the awesomeness that is THIS blogsite!

  • Ronald Toledo

    Hi Jeff. This is Ron from Evernote. Thanks so much for putting this post together and sharing it with your readers. We’re glad to hear it’s working out for capturing your ideas. One of our main goals is to make it extremely simple to quickly capture the idea no matter where you are or what device you are using. Thanks again for all of the support. Let me know if you have any questions or feedback.

    • Wow – Thanks for the comment, Ron! Love your product. Just now realizing how robust it is.

    • Ron- So glad you enjoyed the article! Evernote is definitely my go-to for idea capturing.

  • I’m a huge fan of Evernote. I probably wouldn’t be able to blog daily w/out it. Thanks for sharing.

    • I’m a huge fan of using Evernote for blogging. After reading some posts on @MichaelHyatt:twitter ‘s & @RandyElrod:twitter’s blogs, I’m switching over to it completely for all of my writing and idea-capturing.

      • Those look like great blogs! Thanks for the recommendation.

  • I just recently discovered Evernote. I absolutely love it. I’m an organization freak, and so I use more folders, stacks, and nested tags than most, but it helps free my mind up of so much so that I can focus on what I need to focus on.

    Thanks for the concise description! I’ll be passing this URL around to friend to let them know just what Evernote is and how to get started.

    • I wish I had your organization, Jeff. But at least we both love Evernote.

      • Ha! You mean my lack of organization… I mentioned that I’m an organization freak. I love for things to be in their place. But I’m terrible at doing it. Evernote has helped tremendously!

        I told a friend about Evernote the other day. I mentioned that it might, possibly, be the best piece of software I’ve ever used. By far. Love it!

        • And it’s free!

          • The fact that evernote is free still blows my mind. Do you ever come anywhere near the monthly limit?

            • Never. Pro version is also free.

            • Oops I meant pro version is AD FREE.

            • I haven’t hit the monthly limit yet, but I suspect I’ll make a good try as I start converting all my stuff over to it.

              • Are you saving everything on Evernote, Jeff?

                • Mostly. I use EN for my blog posts, and other blog stuff, my lessons/sermons for my youth ministry, receipts and bills (but not credit card or bank statements… it’s too much work right now to go through and make sure there isn’t any account numbers visible. Still not convinced it’s hack proof for that kind of data).

                  I also store notes and scans from meetings, projects, etc. Some of those are shared with other youth ministers in the area, ie camp files. And since the premium version can save any file type, layered photoshop files can be shared, viewed and edited by anyone.

                  The possibilities are really endless with this software!

                • wow. i feel like i have just seen the tip of an iceberg.

                • It truly is amazing stuff!

          • The draw back to the free version is the limit on file types that you can save. I upgraded to the premium version for the flexibility to save anything.

  • Pingback: Evernote 201: Posting By Email | Cloud Coach()

  • Anonymous

    Great idea! Just updated and organized!

  • What an awesome tool! Just downloaded it! Thanks Ethan. This is going to be of tremendous help. My mother used to joke I was born with a notepad in my hand. Now its my iphone.

  • Jamesnot23

    nicely written and very detailed.  surely many evernote users will find your article very informative and helpful.  I also wish to share something I learned from a fellow evernote
    and Kindle user.  There is a free online
    tool – https://clippingsconverter.com,
    which you can use to upload your Kindle “my clippings” directly to
    evernote.  You can also convert your
    clippings to other s word or pdf, just in case you prefer those format
    more.  Hope you can find this tip
    useful.  🙂

  • Thanks for highlighting how Evernote has helped you. I think I’m going to download it from app store and give it a try.

  • Thanks so much for all of these tips on how to use evernote. This application is extremely helpful and more people should know hoe to use it correctly. 
    Steve @ Computer Service Denver

  • I’ve actually devised a set of practices so that I can use Evernote to manage the entire creative process – from accurately defining the challenge and brainstorming divergent ideas to evaluation and implementation. Details here: http://chuckfrey.com/eureka

  • Don Joseph Chikeleze

    Good one.. I will install the Evernote app now.

    I blogs at http://bloggingpie.com