How Evernote Made Me a Better Blogger

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.

Evernote

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.

Article Written by

  • http://twitter.com/BewitchedSalem bewitched in salem

    Congratulations on you anniversary!

    • http://www.kelly-clay.com Kelly Clay

      Thank you!!

  • http://twitter.com/DashBurst DASHBURST

    Evernote is a great note taking tool that comfortably reduces your overload of Chrome tabs when browsing through lots of pages. 

  • Rr_goleman

    Thanks.  It was helpful.  I had looked at purchasing Evernote before, but now I just might get it.

  • Mefance

    Now I’m curious: I’ll try Evernote and hope to get some order in my chaos ;)

  • John Sullivan

    I do useEvernote but sadly just for notes great for helping me remember where and when and extend a topic later . Thanks to you Chris , I will now look at ever note in a Different way , By Topicand Research for a presentation 

  • Omar Habayeb

    Always Good Stuff Chris!

  • Heidi Caswell

    I’ll have to try it, been meaning to.  I’ve been adding notes to drafts, but my blogs aren’t always open, and I have other stuff to keep track of

  • Rob Lee

    Wicked Awesome Article!

  • http://www.digitalfilipino.com Janette Toral

    Your post made want to check out my EverNote again and give it a shot.

  • http://twitter.com/lindyireland Lindy Ireland

    I use EverNote – but not enough.  Now inspired to do more with it!

  • http://xeeme.com/SallyKWitt/ Sally K Witt

    Great!

  • http://twitter.com/Zimbandrew Just Andrew

    Chris… thanks… Evernote just didn’t click with me in the Tropics of Africa, but I’ll pop in and look again…

    • http://www.kelly-clay.com Kelly Clay

      It’s definitely worth another shot – especially if you need a way to save & capture ideas via mobile, too.

  • http://twitter.com/confluencemedia Elza van Swieten

    will try it

  • Anonymous

    I used it… I’ll check out once more. Thanks Chris

  • http://twitter.com/mirco_mirco Mirco Marcato

    Great app

  • Anonymous

    Will try it again. (from a different perspective now). Thanks for the article.

  • Daniel Gartin

    Cool app

  • http://twitter.com/TheaBredie Theodora Bredie

    I’ve given it a half-hearted try so far. I’ll put some more energy into exploring it. Thanks Chris:)

  • http://twitter.com/voice_compass Detlev Artelt

    great idea – and yes, it get weird. 

  • http://www.mightycasey.com MightyCasey

    I’ve just started using Evernote, and I’m seeing the same potential that Kelly found in organizing content threads for in-depth coverage of an issue. Since I write for my own blogs, as well as manage content creation/curation for several clients, the note-taking/bookmarking/wtf-is-that-story-I-read-last-week thing was greased-pig-ing like … well, like a grease pig.

    • http://www.kelly-clay.com Kelly Clay

      Yep – that’s pretty much I how felt. Evernote has so much potential! Good luck :)

  • http://jeffhurtblog.com Anonymous

    Ok i am sold!

  • http://jeffhurtblog.com Anonymous

    PS why no share buttons here so I can share via my iPad?

  • http://twitter.com/wastedinc Gremlin

    I use Evernote all the time. It solves a problem I’d identified within seconds of going all cloudy in the first place: that, out in the world, anything short of a laptop proves less than perfectly useful to me. Before Evernote showed up, I was limping along, doing roughly the same thing by accessing a secured MediaWiki site from different devices.

    My most common use for Evernote is writing up quick little filmscripts wherever I am, then copypasting out the dialogue when I get back to a real computer; add some quick artwork [such as it is], and I’ve got the daily webcomic done for another twenty-four hours. Or longer, depending how many separate filmscripts I’d written out on my phone from Starbucks.

    It’s also proved essential for getting 8MP shots from my phone to my computer. If I don’t want to upload a shot directly to facebook.com, or whatever, I’ll just share it into Evernote from the Gallery, sync, rightclick once I’ve got a mouse again, and open with Photoshop.

    And, in a couple cases, I’ve written out a couple thousand words for my site. The advantage then is that Evernote is more responsive to scrolling on a smartphone than WordPress tends to be. Once I’ve got an entry looking right in Evernote, I can copypaste the whole thing over and preview it without wondering how I’ll talk the backend into letting me fix a line beneath the visible textfield; I can just go back and fix it in Evernote and recopy the whole thing.

    I’ve considered [read: joked about] writing up an entire novel in Evernote, complete with the hypertext tags needed to format it for the Kindle. I haven’t actually tried testing Evernote’s limits with a hundred thousand words yet, but I’ve seen no reason to doubt that it would work.

  • Jcmoffitt

    I have been using Evernote for over a year and i love it. I subscribe to the pro version so i can save whatever i want with no restrictions. I have never thought of using it to develop a blog post. I think that is an excellent idea. thanks for the post.

  • http://twitter.com/tim_baran Tim Baran

    Great piece, Kelly. It totally resonates as I’ve followed the same path, using Google Docs, Notepad and TextEdit to compose before posting to WordPress. Since I discovered Evernote, it’s significantly ramped up my productivity around blogging — creating notes on the fly as I ideas occur, recording URLs and bits and pieces of relevant articles, and secure in the knowledge that my notes are saved as I type. No more losing stuff! I know this sounds like an ad for Evernote (as if they needed it) but great products promote evangelizers. Only one very minor complaint — the Mac desktop version doesn’t have word/character count like its PC counterpart. You compose posts in 20 mins? I’m VERY envious :-) 

    • http://www.kelly-clay.com Kelly Clay

      I didn’t say that were *good* posts ;)

  • http://twitter.com/_big_grizz Darrin G.

    “How did I did I save little ideas I had while at the gym?” I think you repeated did I by accident also congrats

  • http://twitter.com/thisisspain Steve Hall

    This needs more careful checking out by me. Thanks for highlighting.

  • http://twitter.com/hensel Marieke Hensel

    I am not using Evernote yet, but I am going to try it now thanks to your post! :-)

  • Magnus Engdahl

    I start all my blogs on Evernote. I did at first not get the value with the tool but gave it a second try and now use it for all my notes at work including the audio recording.

  • Stig Carlsson

    I am going to try it for my next blogposts, as working with Writer are a real pain at times. I just need to learn how to import the texts into Blogger and WordPress. Some posts need more time to develop and due to my wrists being bad at times i find it literally a pain to write and edit longer pieces…

  • http://www.twitter.com/itsDavidAbraham David Abraham

    Thanks for this. I’ll give Evernote another look. The last time I tried on iPad the GUI would slow down dramatically as I was typing.

  • Ravyn

    Ive never heard of it before…but I’ll have to try it out

  • http://www.michaelbednarsky.com Mike Bednarsky

    I’ve heard of Evernote here and there, tried it out a few times, but never really grasped the idea of why it was so great.  I think I’m going to now give it another try, thanks to this wonderful blog post.
    By the way, I’m not one for reading blog posts.  I’m more of a video person, so I wait until Chris makes a video about Lockergnome blog posts.  I saw this post on Google+ though and gave it a try.  Surprisingly, I made it through the entire post without getting bored.  Thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/nakeva Nakeva Corothers

    I used Evernote and found it useful. I currently prefer SpringPad which lets you bookmark, use bar codes, voice notes, shopping notes etc. The mobile app is what works best but then it syncs across web and phone. At the moment, there are no storage limitations as there are in Evernote.

  • http://twitter.com/danhedrick Daniel Hedrick

    Evernote is the one app I will preach to anyone who will listen. I use it daily for everything. Writing, photography notes, saving articles for later, recipes, receipts, etc. Great article!

  • Peter Kretzman

    I do all my blog posts in a combination of GoogleDocs and Evernote. Not that that makes sense, but I started with GoogleDocs before Evernote really existed, so it’s a long-standing habit. Evernote is stronger cross-platform, though, and keeps improving. Nice post with some great ideas and personal insight, Kelly.

  • http://SeeYourToes.com Dean Ouellette

    I use Evernote but not for blogging. But lets get your thoughts on this. What i do is when i get a thought i will log in to the editorial calendar, make a note in the calendar then later go back to the calendar and expand the thought. If i run across a link i want to include i will just throw it in the body of the post to refer to later. Is there a way that Evernote could do this more easily?