Any entrepreneur will tell you that a great idea goes nowhere without great execution. Great execution, in turn, requires good time management and organization. But if you’re one for jotting down every great idea on a piece of paper, and you’ve asked yourself, “How did all these little scraps of paper get here?” then you know that time management and organization isn’t always easy.
Luckily, there are a number of time-management and organization tools to help you out, but few are better than Evernote. Evernote is a program that works on your laptop, phone, tablet or other device to help you organize information and stay on track. Evernote’s strength is its tagging feature. By assigning tags, you can group different kinds of information together and easily find that information later. After all, information is more than just documents, which is why the app lets you convert all types of content (e.g. photos, audio, website clips, articles, drawings, documents, etc.) into “notes” and organize them the same way you would organize file folders or notebooks.
Let’s say, hypothetically, that you make and sell salsa, and you’re thinking of launching a new flavor. Here’s how Evernote could help you.
1. Storing Research
Evernote is great for organizing all the little pieces of information you come across in various forms throughout the day. One of the most popular parts of Evernote is its Web Clipper, which allows you to, for example, capture data from an industry website so you can use it in your next investor presentation. Also, if you see an article online that you want to read later, the handy extension for Google Chrome will put the article right into your Evernote account.
The site clip and URL, which you could tag as “presentation data,” could go into a “Salsa Convention” notebook in Evernote. You could then store that information alongside audio or video from the last salsa convention’s keynote speaker, who spoke about innovation in the business and mentioned your company. You could even add your own comments to each of those files.
Don’t feel like typing? Evernote also stores handwritten notes. And if you want to save something from an email, just forward it to your Evernote email address, and it will pop up inside your account dashboard.
2. Capturing Sudden Ideas in Odd Places
If you wake up in the middle of the night with an amazing thought about using Anasazi beans instead of black beans, you could use Evernote to make a quick voice recording that can be stored in your notebook.
If you happen to be at the grocery store and see a new competitor on the shelf, Evernote’s camera function lets you take pictures or videos and save them in your notebook. This way, you don’t have to hunt for them later in your phone’s photo gallery. If you happen to come across an interesting advertisement, vendor contract or any other printed document, you can use Evernote’s Page Camera function to scan documents (you center the page in the frame and take a photo). Once you’ve got the shot, you can mark it up, add notes to it or edit out the stuff you don’t need.
3. Organizing Your Imagination
Let’s say you hire a graphic designer to come up with a few ideas for the label on your jars of a new salsa flavor. With Evernote’s Skitch function, you don’t need to know how to use complicated design software; instead, you can easily mark up the image to tell your designer exactly what to change. You could even use it to mark up a photo of a competitor’s label or even to mark up a clip of one you took off a retailer’s website. If you’re feeling really creative, you can even draw an original idea and share it with your designer via a shared Evernote notebook.
4. Collaboration and Delegation
Delegation can be difficult for some entrepreneurs, but ideas aren’t worth much unless you can translate them into actionable steps. That’s why Evernote lets you create shared notebooks: so your team can use the same resources for a single project. For example, if you’re developing an advertising campaign for your new salsa flavor, you can easily make a to-do list that can be shared with the rest of your team. Sure, you could do that in an email, but Evernote lets you add checkboxes and reminders to the list. Plus, your team doesn’t have to deal with an endless stream of reply-all emails. This is especially helpful for teams working remotely.
Entrepreneurs travel a lot, and that means carrying around lots of receipts for hotels, rental cars, food, airlines, etc. If you don’t maintain your records, you could lose out on a reimbursement or a tax deduction. Luckily, Evernote’s camera or document-scanner function can take pictures of the receipts and tag each one with the name of your trip. When you get back, everything is organized in one place. You can also email the receipts to your assistant to make your job a bit easier. If you meet a lot of people on the road or at home, you can also take photos of their business cards and search for their information when you need it later.
Speaking of travel, taking your files everywhere with you—or the computer that holds all your files—can be cumbersome. That’s why most people use the online version of Evernote. Evernote Online is tremendously helpful because you can access your information from any device. If you decide to become an Evernote Power User, you can open a premium account that offers more storage space. If you’re not excited about putting your information onto an unknown server, you can also download standalone Evernote software that will still allow you to organize your work.
When you’re pulled in every direction, great execution is an incredible challenge if you don’t stay organized. You may accumulate a lot of information, but you can’t monetize that information if it ends up as a million little scraps of paper all over your office. Evernote is one way to keep your thoughts and data organized, so that you can turn an incredible idea into an incredible product.