People are beginning to think Evernote sucks because, frankly, it kind of does. And it pains me a bit to say that because I’ve been a HUGE Evernote fan for the better part of a decade. But over the last few years the elephant has lost it’s edge. It looks and feels outdated, it’s gotten bloated and the interface has become somewhat clunky. Still, it’s my goto app for remembering things, but it’s now just one of many productivity apps I rely on (not to say I haven’t looked for alternatives — I have and that list will be coming soon, though I do mention several below). But yesterday I did something that made using Evernote a LOT better. I simplified it.
I mentioned that Evernote has felt bloated lately. What I mean is that it’s trying to do too much — both as an app and as a company — and it’s harming the user experience. Evernote isn’t just about notes anymore: it tries to be about reminders, about annotations, about chatting and business functionality (which I get because the service needs to make money), about context, about sharing, about presenting and, strangely (as I mentioned in a quote in Bloomberg Business week a year or two ago), it’s about selling accessories like backpacks and scanners.
Many people are abandoning Evernote for simpler or better designed apps. Instead, I decided to simplify Evernote myself. I guess a better way to put it would be that I simplified the way that I use Evernote.
I don’t want to switch to another note-taking, idea-storing, memory-enhancing app. A bunch of my life is in Evernote and switching away would be a HUGE pain at this point (something I’m sure Evernote is counting on to help it retain many longtime users).
The 4 Notebook Evernote Hack
Instead I deleted nearly 30 notebooks and dumped all of their content into 4 newly created ones: Home, Work, Other and Inbox. That’s it.
Things had become too convoluted over the years. I had notebooks for everything; they were way to specific. I found myself adding content to Evernote but never being able to surface it again. It was, as my wife continuously told me, a black hole.
But now it is streamlined. It’s hard to imagine it being any simpler than I now have it arranged. Now I’m making better use of tags to help me sort things out if I really need to segment. Otherwise, if it’s work related I know where to put it (and find it). Same goes for personal stuff.
And I’ve setup the Inbox notebook as my default notebook. If I don’t have time to organize something, that’s where it goes. Then, later, I can easily plop it into the correct notebook.
I then setup shortcuts to each of my notebooks to make them even easier to access. And the long and the short of it is better productivity — an enhanced info storage process.
But, as I mentioned, Evernote is only for remembering stuff at this point. Whereas it was once my word processor (among other things), it’s not just a container. For writing I prefer iA Writer Pro (both on my Mac and iPhone). For todos I use several apps: Productive, Wunderlist, Due and Focus (yes, that many — I’ll do a post on that sometime soon as well).
I Don’t Like These Evernote Alternatives…
I hope Evernote finds it’s footing again. I don’t like the look of Microsoft’s OneNote (that tabbed interface drives me bonkers) and same goes for Google Keep (plus, Google and privacy just don’t mix). Together is just an expensive Evernote wannabe. There just aren’t any good Evernote alternatives out there; nothing makes me excited.
For the time being I’m sticking with Evernote — which just became a lot more useful again thanks to this simple hack. I still have faith that someone in the company will breathe new life (and the right kind of life) into this old staple. And it still plays the best with the most apps, which is important.