Using Evernote

Spring Cleaning Your Digital Spaces (the Evernote Way)

Spring is my favorite season. Forgotten flowers begin to wake from their deep winter sleep, the morning breeze is just the right temperature, and best of all, it’s the season for getting your life squeaky clean and organized.

I love to clean and organize my physical spaces. It takes my mind off of the not-so-fun things and seeing finished tasks puts a smile on my face. When spring comes around, I take my decluttering up a notch and feel like no one can stop me.

One space I used to neglect was my digital world, or what I used to call my digital no man’s land. My home and desk were clean, but my computer and phone were a cluttered mess. I had hundreds of flagged emails, a disorganized Evernote account, articles that I wanted to read saved on a bunch of different platforms, and a browser stuffed with bookmarks.

I manage social media accounts for a living and then go home and manage some more (my personal accounts)—I live and breathe social media notifications. I didn’t know how to handle it all so I ignored it… and the stress kept piling up. Finally, I reached a breaking point. I started to declutter my digital life and the stress began to melt away. Here’s how I did it.

1. Inbox Zero

Inbox zero is an email management approach that seriously works. The goal is to keep your email inbox clear, archiving or deleting anything you don’t need to act on, and putting everything that does need an action in its appropriate spot. My road to inbox zero was simple. I followed HubSpot’s step-by-step instructions and reached my goal in about an hour.

Then I took their instructions one step further and added an Evernote workflow. For important emails like travel itineraries, coupons, and information from the landlord that I’d like to store for later, I use the email into Evernote feature. With this feature, I’m able to send these emails directly into my notebooks titled “Upcoming Travel”, “Coupons”, and “Apartment Misc”.

Behold: My new, beautiful, and super-organized inbox.

Inbox Zero in Google Mail

2. Social Media

Social media is overwhelming. You simply have to recognize that you can’t keep up with the speed of information and messages that are being thrown at you. The best advice that I could ever give someone is that you don’t have to be on all of the platforms available to you. Personally, I think it’s best to be on the platforms that you find most entertaining and where you genuinely connect with friends and loved ones. Professionally, it’s important to understand that you should be on platforms where your community is most active, versus being on every social media platform out there.

Also, purging is your best friend.

Purge accounts:

  1. I wrote down a list of platforms I was using and how those platforms brought value to my life (for example, Facebook allows me to keep my family in other parts of the world up to date on my adventures).
  2. Then, I deactivated or deleted any platform that didn’t improve my life in some way.
  3. Finally, I concluded that fewer accounts = fewer things to feel like you “have to catch up on.”

Limit notifications:

Social media notifications are distracting and addictive. Here’s a few ways you can reduce them.

  • Turn off your social media email notifications. For Facebook, go to Settings > Notifications > Turn off the email notifications. While you’re here, turn off all of the other notifications that disrupt your day. If you’re receiving email notifications from other platforms, do a quick Google search on how to deactivate these.
  • Turn off social media notifications on your phone. Do you really need to be checking and replying to likes and comments from your friends all day long, especially while at work? Negative. Go into your device settings and turn off notifications for any app that isn’t truly essential.

Post less:

I know it’s tempting to post about every single thing that happens in your life, but you must resist. Compulsive posting leads to compulsive checking for responses, and more time staring at your phone and computer. This one is definitely the hardest for me. Mostly because I truly think everyone needs to know how much I either hate or love my cup of coffee at the moment (currently love it).

IFTTT ?’s Evernote:

Sometimes you ‘Like’ tweets that are just amazing and you never want to forget them. But when’s the last time you actually looked at your Twitter ‘Likes’ tab? Here’s where IFTTT comes to the rescue. IFTTT is a service that lets you create “recipes” to connect apps that are essential to your workflow. One of their Evernote recipes lets you save your favorite tweets into Evernote. Every time you ‘Like’ a tweet, the recipe will grab it and send it to an Evernote notebook titled “Fav’d Tweets.” Neat, right?

If Twitter then Evernote

3. All those browser bookmarks

Dreaming of a simple and clutter-free browser? So was I. The solution is to say no to browser bookmarks and say yes to Web Clipper. I removed all bookmarks for sites I don’t visit regularly and clipped the important stuff into my Evernote account. Web Clipper is like a save button for the web, allowing you to clip inspiring LinkedIn profiles, YouTube videos, research articles, you name it, right into designated notebooks.

Web Clipper instead of Browser Bookmarks

4. You can’t read all of the things on the Internet

The Internet is flooded with informative, educational, and entertaining pieces of content. Unfortunately, you can’t read them all. You can resolve to read only what matters (or at the very least, what will entertain you), but even this is difficult. For most of us, it takes a certain level of organization just to free up reading time.

I used to have articles saved in all sorts of platforms that I would never actually read because there was just so much to cover. Thankfully, I found a fix to this information overload dilemma in Jamie Todd Rubin’s Feedly > Pocket > Evernote reading and research process.

Pocket for subsequent reading

I now use Feedly as my RSS feed, with different feeds set up for personal interests and work inspiration. Every morning, I’ll give my feeds a quick scan. If I see something promising, I save it to Pocket to read later. Once I get some free time, I grab a big ol’ cup of coffee (and try not to tweet about how it tastes) and read away. Now, not every article that I read is really awesome, so after I’m done I’ll archive it (in Pocket). But every now and then, I’ll come across something so thought-provoking that it must live in my Evernote account so I can access it forever. The trick here is to be as selective as possible with your reading material.

5. Organizing your Evernote account

My Evernote account is a sacred place. It’s where I digitize everything that truly matters to me. But sometimes, I stick stuff in there when I’m in a rush, neglect to delete notes that are no longer relevant, or simply forget about notes that, if I saw them again, would fill me with joy.

With that in mind, I find that a regular Evernote clean-up is helpful to not only keep things up to date, but also to resurface inspiration and memories, like a screenshot of that first Facebook message my fiancé sent me.

Here are some suggestions for cleaning up your Evernote:

  • Shortcuts: Delete irrelevant shortcuts and replace with current ones.
  • Notebook stacks: Create an “Archive” stack for notebooks you want to keep, but don’t want to see every day.
  • Notebooks: Delete notebooks with only a couple of notes or combine notebooks that have only a few notes each if the theme is relevant.
  • “Untitled” notes: Search for “intitle:untitled” and title any notes that need one. Delete empty notes.
  • Notes: Do this when you have a bit of time and tackle notes by notebook. Each day, go through, say, 5 notebooks and rid of all the no longer relevant notes in there.
  • Trash: If you have organizational OCD-like tendencies, you’ll probably want to look through your Trash notebook to make sure that you didn’t accidently delete anything important. Then empty it. Frequently.

You have 1,440 minutes each day to split between resting, eating, working, family, personal time, errands, housework, and many other things. You don’t want to waste your limited minutes on being caught up in hundreds of daily notifications and unnecessary stress over digital clutter.

What steps have you taken to declutter your digital life?

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