How to (finally) get organized and work smarter with Evernote

Updated to Habits, Productivity on December 27, 2022.

I was in a car the other day with a radiologist and a neurosurgeon talking about hypertension. 

This conversation is actually not as unusual as it might sound. I volunteer for a local society that does trail clearing in a popular hiking and mountain bike park and many of the volunteers happen to be recently retired doctors. 

Back in the car, one of the doctors happened to mention that recently his medical partner, who is in his early 60’s, had a mild stroke. As we wound our way further up the dirt road to our work site my education continued. 

I learned that strokes are the second biggest cause of mortality worldwide and the third most common cause of disability. The scary statistics get worse. As you age your chance of a stroke doubles every 10 years after 55

There’s a checklist of health conditions that make you more susceptible to a stroke, like obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes. But the biggest culprit – six times out of ten – is hypertension or high blood pressure. In my books, that’s worth paying attention to.

What’s interesting is that stress, in itself, is not the direct cause of high blood pressure. It’s what we do when under stress that leads to nasty results. We eat too much, drink too much, and move too little. Basically, we deal with stress by making unhealthy choices.

For me, stress starts with worry.

Ngoc Son Temple, Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam

I’ve had a lot of worries

There is a world of problems you can worry about – take your pick. You can worry that Ukraine will be pummeled into a tiny province of rubble, or that we’ve passed the tipping point with global warming, or the tiny spot on your chin is cancer. 

Or not.

“I’ve had a lot of worries,” quipped Mark Twain “most of which never happened.” Our mind loves a good worry. Like a dog chewing a bone, we want to turn our worry around, looking from all angles, poking and prodding until it swells up into something bigger than it really is.

I used to worry incessantly before every keynote speech. I’d worry I’d miss my flight or wasn’t prepared enough, or I would be greeted by the “audience from hell.” Trust me, when you have 60 minutes to educate, entertain, inspire, motivate, and get laughs from an audience you’ve never met before, any sane person would invent a long list of worries.

It was at one of those events when a fellow speaker opened an exit door for my worries. He suggested that audiences don’t want you to fail – in fact, they want you to succeed. “They want to see you having fun—enjoying yourself. That way,” he explained, “they can enjoy the ride with you.”

When I accepted the long list of what I could never control – my flights, the audience, the speaker before me going overtime – I was free to focus on what I could control.

Enjoying the moment. 

What your life will have been

In her book, Comfortable with Uncertainty, Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön tells the story of delighting in the preciousness of every single moment.

A woman is running from lions. She runs and she runs, and the lions are getting closer. She comes to the edge of a cliff. She sees a vine there, so she climbs down and holds onto it. Then she looks down and sees that there are lions below her as well. At the same time, she notices a little mouse gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries emerging from a nearby clump of grass. She looks up, she looks down, and she looks a the mouse. Then she picks a strawberry, pops it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.

Learning what to focus on, and what to ignore, seems to be the ultimate secret to living a healthy, stress-free life. “Whatever compelled your attention from moment to moment,” writes Oliver Burkeman in Four Thousand Weeks (a must-read for anyone over 50), “is simply what your life will have been.”

So, what are you focussing on?

What to focus on

You can learn a lot when you’re the dumbest one in a car full of doctors. I learned that strokes are a silent pandemic. And that hypertension is the leading cause of that pandemic. And I learned the leading cause of hypertension is stress. 

I was also reminded that stress is a choice.

We all have lions and tigers in our life. Maybe even a mouse or two gnawing away at something we value. Meanwhile, we have the moment.

Choosing what to focus on (and what not to) might just be the healthiest choice you can make.

Got this far? You might also like these posts:

Photo of eggs by Nik on Unsplash
Photo of Ngoc Son Temple by author
Photo of tigers by author

This article was originally published in June 2015 and has been re-loved and republished just for you.

Every once in a while you come across a solution that is so elegant and seamless to use that you simply love it. That’s what it was like 10 years ago when I switched back to using a MAC, learned how to Plan like a Pilot, outsourced many parts of my business and discovered Evernote.

A lot has been written about the amazingly useful Evernote app. Leadership expert Michael Hyatt calls it his “digital brain”, best-selling author Tim Ferriss says it “gives him peace of mind.”

I call if friggin beautiful.

Imagine a tool that can clip websites, track your random thoughts, record your daughter’s university class schedule (and tuition receipts) and pull up a recipe for Thai Crunch Salad with Peanut Dressing at 5:30 PM when you have 20 minutes to shop, get home, and start dinner. In fact, here’s a list of 38 things you can save in Evernote.

That’s Evernote.

This free tool (the Premium version allows you unlimited uploads and access off-line) is super easy to learn, use, and integrate into your daily online work. But you have to use it to get the full value from it.

In this post, I’ll share some basics to get you walking with Evernote. If you want to start running I recommend Master Evernote by Steve Scott.


Evernote collects and organizes content into notebooks for quick retrieval. I use it for clipping articles and blog posts I want to refer back to for my own writing. The notes in my Evernote include packing lists (I’ll never forget my laptop power cord again), favourite quotations, my Flight Plan for the week, notes from conference calls and from client coaching sessions.

Evernote Tips - HOW IT WORKSYou can also store:

  • favourite recipes
  • how-to instructions for website changes
  • blog post ideas
  • image sizes for images on Facebook, blog, etc
  • goals for the year
  • stories and exercises for presentations
  • common responses to client inquiries
  • keep track of sizes (shirts, suits, a cartridge for printer, etc)
  • names of people you just met or only see infrequently, like some neighbours

Here’s a simple application of Evernote you might like:

I keep track of books I’ve read and books on my want list. Last year I tripped over a used copy of Jo Nesbo’s The Snowman (now a movie starring Michael Fassbender), loved the gritty writing style and over the course of the year read 4 more Nesbo’s.

The problem comes when, months later, I’m in my favourite used bookstore, see a Nesbo and can’t remember if I’ve read it, or not (imagine what happens after 17 Lee Child novels.) A quick list in Evernote and problem solved.


Quickly record you notes using the Evernote app on your phoneOne of my favourite applications in Evernote is using my phone’s camera to record my hand-written notes from meetings, coaching calls, seminars I attend, whiteboard brainstorming sessions, or flip charts after facilitating a planning session for clients. Within one minute all my scribbles are recorded, tagged, and the original is gone to paper recycling. Here’s how to do it (you’ll love this one).

First, install the free Evernote app on your phone. Next click on the “+” button on the home page, select the camera icon (you get to choose from Note, Audio, Camera, and Reminder) take a picture. Click “save” and you’re ready to name the note, add a tag and you’re off to recycling with the paper version. Go paperless!

I also use the reminder feature to pull up a note when I need to revisit it. This is awesome with coaching clients. After a coaching session I set a reminder for their next appointment and toss my notes into recycling. On the date of their next appointment, presto! my notes pop up on the screen and I’m ready to go!


Every day I’m using the Evernote extension on my browser to clip interesting websites for future reference (see below). If I read a blog about marketing I like, with two clicks I can have it stored and tagged.

Later, when I am working on a blog or other writing project I go to Evernote to discover what I have collected on that subject. Sure, I can “google” the topic, but then I’m swimming in a pool of unsorted videos, posts, book reviews, and who-knows-what. Meanwhile, I’ve been collecting relevant articles – that’s where I start.

Or if I’m trying to remember a routine, like how to download the videos from my camera to my MAC, or get the specifications for burning a movie in Screenflow, I go to Evernote.

The steps are:

  • install the Evernote web clipper (for Chrome) or for Firefox
  • to record a page you want to refer back to, click on the elephant head icon (this is the Evernote extension you installed in your browser).
  • Add a tag you will recognize (like leadership, personal, family, blog ideas, etc) and click “Save.”
  • That’s it! Your note, without the advertising (the clipping tool will default to “Article” which removes advertising), is automatically synced into your main notebook and on any synced device.


Just like with Google Docs, you can share Evernote Folders and notes. This is a super simple way for your team to be sharing and updating SOP’s (Standard Operating Procedures) – like the steps we use for publishing this blog.

There’s even a chat feature that allows you to update a colleague without leaving the Evernote platform. Pretty slick.


You can now merge notes into one “super note” in Evernote. This is great if you used the camera feature to take separate images of notes from a meeting or are collecting all the receipts from a trip. I also use this feature when I discover that, over time, I’ve started separate notes on the same topics (like gym exercises, willpower, or productivity).

It’s pretty simple, select all the notes you want merge while holding down the Shift key, right click to choose “Merge notes” and – presto! – you’re done.


Every day I have lots of Boulders (projects) banging against my legs looking for attention. In any one day, I might be working on a client for an upcoming speaking engagement, interviewing new clients for BlogWorks, dealing with contractors or researching a new webinar. Evernote keeps it all organized and cuts my production time dramatically. It’s like having an unpaid assistant constantly organizing my thoughts and records.

A simple example would be pulling together a custom speech. I’ll start by going to Evernote and pulling up my note with key points from an existing keynote. Then I’ll add my note of favourite quotations, one with my teaching models and one with research points on that topics. With all those pieces, I go to work to map out the new speech.

Sometimes I think my clients must think I have a whole team working with me in my office. I don’t—it’s just me on Evernote.

If you want even more tips and tricks you can do with Evernote head over this “7 smart ways to make Evernote your best buddy”