Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

How to Capture Ideas Faster Using Evernote

From Jeff: This is a guest post from Ethan Waldman. Ethan helps people live and work in harmony with technology at Cloud Coach. Right now, many people are using his Inbox Zero Training Program to liberate themselves from email hell. You can follow him on Twitter @ethanwaldman.

I spend more time in my email inbox than I do pretty much anywhere else on my computer. It is the heart and soul of communications for my business. So, it should come as no surprise that I get great ideas while I’m reading, writing, and responding to email.

Since I use the Pomodoro Technique (where I only focus on one task at a time for 25 minutes each), I don’t want to break my concentration by switching to the Evernote app or website.

So, what’s a writer to do?

Capture Ideas Fast

Photo credit: Jason Mrachina (Creative Commons)

A few months ago, I explained how Evernote is a great tool for capturing your ideas in written, spoken or visual form from pretty much any platform.

And since that time, my blog has grown, I’ve developed a course, and have planned a large bicycle trip.

I have come to rely on Evernote even more to support all those activities. There’s one Evernote feature in particular that has been especially valuable. This is a feature that I didn’t mention in the last article that I’d like to share with you now.

Post by email

Did you know that you can get a secret email address from your Evernote account settings page, and that anything you send to it will become a new note?

Check out this video to learn how to find it:

Or, if you’re not a video person, here are the steps:

  1. Go to Evernote.com and login to your account.
  2. Choose settings from the top right corner.
  3. Scroll down; here you will find your private Evernote email address; copy it and add it to your email address book(s) as “Evernote.”
  4. Start sending email notes to Evernote. Your subject will become the subject of the note, and the body of your message will become the body of the note.

Even better, you can tell Evernote which notebook to put it in, and add tags right from the subject line.

  • Use @Notebook Name to specify which notebook your new emailed note goes to. If you don‚Äôt specify one, it will go to your default notebook.
  • Use #tag to tag your note with anything you like. I‚Äôm a fan of using #blogpost #idea for when I have an idea for a new post.

Creative ways to use this

  1. If I’m writing an email to someone that I think could be turned into a blog post, I BCC my evernote account on the email.
  2. When I’m on the go, I find it a lot easier to access evernote from my iPhone then it is to find messages in my Gmail. So, if I have some info in my email that I’ll need (like someone’s address if I’m going to the post office), I’ll just forward the email to my Evernote.
  3. Forwarding recipes, movie recommendations, and restaurant recommendations — all things that I keep in respective Evernote notebooks.
  4. Maintaining a list of people I’d like to network with. When I contact them, I simply BCC my Evernote notebook “@Networking” so I can keep a record of the conversation.
  5. I’ve been known to write full blog posts in an email when inspiration strikes. These get forwarded to my “@Cloud Coach” notebook with the tags #blogpost and #complete.

Getting things done is all about speed.

My Gmail is about the speediest thing around, so if I can quickly fire a note or two into Evernote straight from email, I can capture my great ideas when they strike without breaking my concentration or leaving what I’m doing.

What’s a creative way you capture ideas? Do you use Evernote by email?

I’d love to hear about some new ways you’ve put this to use. Share in the comments.

*Photo credit: Jason Mrachina (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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  • I’ve heard a lot about Evernote and put off trying it out, but I’m becoming more and more convinced that I might just like it more than I think. 

    So you win. it looks like a pretty valuable tool, especially since I do have an iPod Touch…I might just try it out. 

    • Great! Make sure to check out the first article in this “series”, where I explain some of the initial tips and setup. https://goinswriter.com/capture-ideas-evernote/

      • Sandramod48

        I have used Evernote for about six months now – do the emailing notes like you do.  One area to concentrate on is how you stack your folders – there are several good blogs on this if you google it.  Also, with my Iphone, it is easy to take a picture of just about anything – and get it to Evernote.   Also, if you go to Twitter,and sign up for the   @myEN – with Iphone, you can take a picture of anything, and instantly send it so it simultaneously posts at Evernote, twitter, and  Facebook.   I end up with three online streams of records of what I am seeing and doing.  Some public, some private – but it gets to be, with some work, a great way to cull everything that interests you.  Two other great things-  you can meld StumbleUpon into this – if you areent doing StumbleUpon, you  are mssing out, and you can meld delicsious bookmarks and Symbaloo too.  Have you tried Symbaloo?

    • It’s a great mobile app — I use it more than the desktop version.

  • I admit I’ve come to use the ever-long-in-existence actual notebook more these days. I don’t know why exactly, except that I can map things in circles and with lines and lots of scribbles. And this seems to shake things free.

    But I’ll take a look at EverNote in any case. Always up for a new trick. 🙂

    • Nice! What evernote lacks in being able to draw, it makes up with the ability to snap photos and record voice notes.

    • Love the analog approach.

  • Andrew Guy Jr.

    It’s also good for that electronic “notebook” that writers need to keep around. I was in the barbershop recently and heard some diagloue that I just had to capture. When I was done, I left the chair, paid the barber, and went outside and took my phone out, pulled up the app on my phone, and wrote the dialogue before i forgot it. I then merely dumped it into my evernote files. It’s there for when I need to remember it.

    • Nice. I’d definitely recommend creating a notebook or tag for dialogue. That way you’ll know exactly where to find it when you need it.

    • I do that all the time. Love this function.

  • Capturing ideas is critical. They can come quickly and go just as fast. I use evernote to help with that. One of my favorite things I do with evernote, though, is file keeping. It has become my “filing cabinet.” I scan everything and put it in a folder in evernote. I love not using paper for this, plus I have all my records with me all the time. 

    I also use it to remind myself to not drink Bud Light.

  • Mbetters

    My dad is a minister, and he uses Evernote a lot.  Anyone who wants to capture worthwhile material and give themselves a great tool in life should that program.  Work, school, life, etc.

    Anytime I hear something even remotely interesting, I put it in Evernote and save it for later (“later” being those times when I’m feeling uninspired).

    • So, I guess, what you’re saying is that God endorses Evernote? Because that’s what I heard… 😉

  • Farmnwife

    Do I add the @ and the# in the subject line? thanks for the great ideas

    • Yes, the @notebook and or #tag goes in the subject line of the email.

  • I’ve been using this for a few months and I love it. I don’t use the email function as much, but I have started to more lately. I am to the point where pretty much everything I do is done in Evernote. I journal there. Blog there. Blog ideas. Saved websites. Etc. 

    It certainly makes for a more productive life. 

    • Funny how@evernote:twitter sort of takes over and becomes more and more useful for every aspect of our online lives.

  • I’ve used Evernote via email a few times…but I hadn’t thought about Bcc-ing myself to keep a record of a conversation for networking or with people’s address/info for easier access.  That’s really smart, Jeff.  Thanks for sharing.

    I use Evernote for idea capture, and lately I’ve started using it for when I travel.  I create a new folder for the event, and put all of my flight/car rental/hotel/conference ticket/itinerary details in the folder.  I’ve found that this is the easiest way to keep all of my travel docs together without having to print everything out and dig through a folder.

    • That’s all Ethan, the guest blogger. He’s legit.

    • Thanks Ben! Evernote for travel does rock.

  • I’ve just recently begun experimenting with Evernote and find it a handy place to plop notes of all kinds. Glad to have a new idea to try with the e-mail option. Thanks for taking time to share your organizing solutions with us!

    • You’re welcome, Ann! Ethan’s a pro at this sort of thing.

  • Ronald Toledo

    Hi Jeff this is Ron from Evernote. Thanks so much for putting this post and video together and spreading the word about Evernote. We really appreciate all the support, and I’m glad that it’s working out so well for you. Let me know if you have any feedback or questions that I can help with. 
    Also this bike trip you mentioned sounds interesting, I’d like to here more if you have the chance. rtoledo (at) evernote.com. Thanks again

  • Antresol Cafe

    Great post and I use the email “secret” Evernote address on my blackberry to send messages I want to throw into a notebook to do something with later. I also use it to write in gmail my stories and off they go to evernote for rewrites. I even have the app on my Blackberry so all I need is my journal and a magazine or book and an Evernote account.

    • Nice! I hadn’t even thought of texting stuff to it. That’s even faster than email! 

  • I am always a little slower when it comes to technology and apps, however, I have been using the online version of Evernote to organize my post ideas and my recipes. I did not know about the email option and I constantly come up with ideas on the fly. Emailing from my phone would be much easier than the droid phone version of evernote. Will definitely be checking it out!
    Thanks for sharing!
    So you want to write an ebook? Where to begin

  • I’m definitely an @Evernote:twitter fanboy, but was curious about the features of emailing. I use it, but was a little iffy on how to use the @ and #. Thank you for sharing.

  • I’ve been wanting to make the jump to Evernote for a while now. Didn’t know about this email feature which will totally suit the way I do things. Thanks for the great tips guys.

  • That’s so helpful! I’ve recently gotten into the habit of using project-specific email addresses in my clientspot.com account to add new tasks and comments. So having a similar habit to add to Evernote should work really well for me. Thanks!

  • I’m not sure why, but I really need to start using Evernote. Sounds like Evernote = ever organized. Downloading app tonight. Thanks for the insight.

  • Honeybee

    Hi Jeff. I’m not very tech savvy, so help me out here. How does using Evernote to capture writing ideas you’d like to develop later compare to just creating text documents (using Microsoft Word), giving each document a nametag to identify the subject or content, and then filing all these documents into a desktop folder? The ability to bcc your Evernote folder with an email you’re sending is a cool idea, but suppose you’re just recording snippets or ideas that pop into your head so you can develop or add to them later and eventually turn said ideas into a finished book/poem/song/etc.? How can Evernote be used to improve upon that method?