Evernote – a great small business IT productivity tool

As Lucidica is an IT support company focusing on small businesses in London, we get asked for a lot of advice on the best tools and equipment to increase team productivity. With the increasing marketshare of Apple devices in the workplace – and now the rise of the Android device – coupled with greater mobility by workers, a simple cross-platform application is needed. As we provide a lot of Apple Mac and iPhone support in London to small businesses, this tool is very handy for those clients mangling their platforms (e.g. have a Windows Phone or Android but use a Mac computer, or have an iPhone but need to work from a Windows PC).

Introducing the wonderful small business productivity tool – Evernote

Small business productivity tool EvernoteThe crux of this tool is it allows you to store notes, images, audio and video in the Cloud* effectively, across multiple devices. For example, you could sit in a meeting and add notes in Evernote on your iPhone or Android tablet and by the time you have returned to your desk, you can pick these notes and process them there.

Like many things in technology, the power of Evernote is in its simplicity. They haven’t tried to make it do too much, but stay true to the core purpose of helping a worker with keeping their notes and tasks in one central spot. The data synchronizes across the platforms with ease and no worry.

The platforms Evernote is available includes iOS (Apple kit), Microsoft Windows, Chrome OS, Android, BlackBerry OS & Tablet OS, WebOS, Windows Mobile and Windows Phone. We have tried the main competing products of Springboard and Microsoft’s OneNote but Evernote takes the cake for us. And we’re not the only fans. By January 2012, the 3.5 year start-up had 20 million users and had pumped in almost $100m in funding.

Some key features in the app include:

  • Supports touch and tablet screens with handwriting recognition
  • Web clipping plugins for the most popular internet browsers allow marked sections of web pages to be captured and clipped
  • Ability to email notes to the Evernote (you get your own unique email address at Evernite), allowing for automated note entry with email rules or filters
  • Automatically add geolocation tags (Where suitable hardware is available)
  • Selected files to be shared for viewing and editing by other users
  • Integration with Twitter for storing or forwarding “tweets” (you can also use Twitter to add notes remotely, by sending tweets from any Twitter-capable device)

Tips on getting the most from Evernote in small business, as a Worker Bee

We refer to a Worker Bee at Lucidica as anyone who works in the company. We all have things to do – of differing value to the company, depending on our role. But one thing that remains constant across us all is we have “stuff” to do.

So processing your notes and action items, without dropping any, is crucial – especially in a fast-growing company (which Lucidica is). A foundation to our Worker Bee ways is the principles laid down in the seminal book “Getting Things Done: How to Achieve Stress-free Productivity”, by David Allen.

Here is where we marry the valuable lessons from GTD with technology.

In the book he has a great little diagram which shows how to process your “stuff”. We won’t go into here except for one part of that, which is where he suggests you store your “projects” in one spot. That could be Manilla folders (sure, kill a tree or two), in a spreadsheet or document – he doesn’t really care.

We do.

We think one of the best places to store your “projects”, as Allen talks about in the book, is using Evernote. Here are some tips on how to use Evernote with the messages from the David Allen “Getting Things Done” book.

  1. Create some “notes” in Evernote that start with an underscore, so they are at the top. These are the ones we use a lot:
    1. _Calls to make – in here, list the people you want to call when you have some down time (in transit, waiting for someone etc)
    2. _Meeting notes and actions – when in a meeting, open this note up on your phone or tablet and add your key notes and especially any action items you are taking away. Then, when using the right device to process the action items and notes, process them. So, if you are in a meeting and on your tablet tap in some action items – instead of jotting those and your notes down on paper and processing them when back at your desk, simply open up Evernote and process them. Be sure to build the habit of post-meetings, clear this note so you don’t drop anything
  2. Use a note for each project. If a project gets too big, split your notes up. So for example, if you are running a large event and it has 3 distinct phases (say prep, during, and post event). You could store it in 3 notes like:
    1. Project – Widgets Ltd Xmas Party: prep
    2. Project – Widgets Ltd Xmas Party: during
    3. Project – Widgets Ltd Xmas Party: post
  3. If you want to add some personal notes in there, here are some ideas:
    1. Place – London (in there have bold headings for Eat, See, To Do, Drink etc)
    2. Company – ABC Widgets (if you work across many companies or clients and want to store notes by business)

And if any note is getting too large, split it in two. So for example, say marketing was a big part of your time at Lucidica you might have ‘Company – Lucidica’ as your main note and straight after it would appear/list ‘Company – Lucidica: marketing’. You would put all your marketing actions (To Do list) and notes in the latter.

Keep in mind, if you are running a large project – like building a house or some software -you of course want specialised project planning software, like Microsoft Project to create your GANTT charts and so on.

Lucidica provides IT Support, IT Consulting and IT Training to small businesses in London – those with less than 50 staff. Our CTO, Thomas Jeffs, shares handy tips and nuggets like the above each month in a small business technology seminar he runs at the British Library.

* Evernote is actually a peer-to-peer system. Your files and data are stored on your devices and shared across them (which is great back-up / redundancy), but you can opt to also have your data stored in ‘the Cloud’ on the Evernote servers, if you wanted some extra assurance your notes are safe.