19 Reasons I Love Evernote

Many people have asked me how I get so much done.

I just submitted my third book (with co-author @AndreaPHowe) to the publisher. I write a fair amount of blogs, articles, and presentations. I tweet. Plus the usual complement of email and other correspondence.

I’m not a super-technoid, though I do all right for someone who graduated high school in 1968.

I haven’t solved procrastination. But what I do, I do efficiently. Here’s how.

My Hardware/Software Setup

Hardware: an iMac at home, a MacBook Air (latest generation), most recent iPhone. I own an iPad but use it mainly for reading. (One tip: I buy multiple earbud pairs and power plugs, and leave them several places: briefcase, office, car, basement).

Software: My Big Four:

  • Voice-to-text programs
  • DropBox
  • Kindle on Mac/iPhone/iPad
  • Evernote

Today I want to tell you about Evernote.

Evernote: Not Your Father’s Memory Storage

Evernote saves files. Similarly, a Maserati is an automobile.

I could try and categorize for you what it does, but sometimes a straight-ahead list of features does best. So here are 19 Things I Love About Evernote.

  1. 1-2 click storage. At worst, it’s one click to open the program, and one more click to open a new folder—which saves automatically. At best, one click on a browser button, and the window is saved.
  2. Instant cloud. Everything I put into Evernote on my iPhone, iMac, iPad or MacBook Air is instantly available on Evernote in every other platform. Everything. Like instantly. This is how a cloud should work. (And yes, Evernote does Windows).
  3. Wanna save that browser page? Click the clipper icon in Firefox, Safari, Chrome—done.
  4. Wanna save that article? That .pdf? That selected section of text? Click.
  5. How do you take notes for your phone calls? I never had a great solution before Evernote. Now, before I pick up the ringing phone, I click Evernote. Boom, I’ve got a clean file ready to type notes. I label them “Notes, person-name.” That’s all I need, because it’s date-stamped, and I can search on anything.
  6. Search and retrieval is extremely fast.
  7. You can organize information by tags, or by folders you create. And you can create stacks of folders.
  8. Or–you don’t even have to organize information at all; Evernote searches on text within all files.
  9. You can forward, or send directly, email or email attachments to Evernote; it comes with a unique-to-you email address.
  10. Save photos and audio files—Evernote is Not Just About Text.
  11. Send scanned documents and faxes to be saved to Evernote. (I love using iPhone scanning software like JotNot Scanner Pro for receipts and contracts, then sending them directly as a .pdf to my Evernote email address).
  12. When I go to the airport, I no longer write down the floor/section where I left the car; I snapshot/Evernote it.
  13. Inventory all your personal belongings for insurance purposes.
  14. Dictate notes to Evernote—and have them not only saved as audio, but transcribed as well (this is an enormous timesaver, by the way).
  15. Dictate notes through a dedicated phone number; auto-saves and transcribes into Evernote.
  16. Send tweets direct to your Evernote account.
  17. Don’t have a smartphone? Any phone with a browser can use it.
  18. You can share on Facebook. If you do such things.
  19. It is free. Up to some pretty high level of storage and usage. Above which you can pay, and the rate is not at all unreasonable.

I’m cutting back on Delicious and Instapaper, because Evernote seems to have it covered.

If you’re not satisfied with my 19 reasons, check out Andrew Maxwell’s blogpost 100 Different Evernote Uses.

By the way, my take on Evernote is far from comprehensive, or even organized. You’ll find a far deeper example of how to use Evernote by @MichaelHyatt in his post How to Use Evernote as a Blogger. Pretty powerful example. And in turn, Hyatt recommends Brett Kelly’s Evernote Essentials–which looks pretty interesting too.

(For the record, I have absolutely no relationship with Evernote whatsoever, beyond being yet another satisfied customer).

Software Programming and the Economics of Trust vs. Transactions

In a charming blogpost, Paul Duval says that developers should “Fire your best people and reward the lazy ones.”

As he explains, developer shops often consider “troubleshooters” to be among the best employees. They know where all the hard-coded quick fixes are, and they can spot them like lightning. Trouble is—those hard-coded fixes are impenetrable to other programmers.

Troubleshooters perpetuate impenetrable coding—because it’s faster, and perhaps because they are the beneficiaries of continued arcane language.
“Lazy” developers, by contrast, are those who can’t stand repetition. Every time they encounter a hard-coded arcane fix, they take the time to craft a generic solution that any future developer can understand.

One key fact: Duvals says that for every time a method is written, it’s read (and maintained) ten times—a 10:1 ratio. Suddenly, the “lazy” developer is the one reaping relationship-based economics for the employer; and it’s the “troubleshooter” who is perpetuating a repetitive, transaction-based high cost structure.

So it is that the world of software development is a microcosm of the broader world of business relationships—rewarding transactional behaviors in a non-transactional world.

We live in a world of incredible inter-dependence, connections, networks—and it’s moving ever-faster toward more, not less, of those connections. Yet we live by ideologies that focus on and reward transactions, not relationships.

• In software development, it’s a focus on how fast the problem can be solved—rather than on the systemic cost of solving the same problem over and over.

• In sales, it’s the dominance of linear “models” that begin with a lead and end with a close—rather than on lifetime and network-based models of business development in a sustained relationship environment.

• In investment banking, over the years it’s become about how to get the deal, rather than nurture the relationship.

• In commercial banking, it’s about transaction fees (e.g. overdraft charges), rather than about earnings based on assets under management.

• In mortgage banking and credit cards, it’s become about penalties charges (prepayment penalties and late penalties) rather than underlying economics.

• A major aspect of the subprime mortgage debacle has been the “transactionalization” of what used to be a relationship business. Mortgages have been on the ownership dimension—being sold repeatedly; on the risk dimension—stripping principle from interest; and on the time dimension—dealers in mortgage “products” increasingly get paid from transaction fees for moving on to the next step in the chain, rather than on the underlying interest paid.

• Private equity in its entirety is arguably an example of transactionalization of the corporation, though at the outset it introduced a needed jolt to stodgy bureaucracies. Of late, however, PE firms are increasingly finding earnings based on—you guessed it—transaction fees.

In all these arenas of business, we are seeing a structural challenge to trust. If you disrupt the relationship aspect of business in favor of approaches that are one-off, transactional, short-term in nature, you destroy the natural economics of trust.

Ironically, the long-term economics of trust far outweigh those of short-term transactionalism. But an ideology of get-in-get-out-fast has overwhelmed commonsense. The result is not only housing bubbles, but a paucity of social trust in business.

Beta Software You Can’t Trust

The other day I decided to offer credit card payment capability.  I quickly narrowed it down to two choices—JPMorgan Chase, and PayPal.

Chase was professional and comprehensive, but required me to fill out forms, fax them in, then phone someone a day later. Uh uh, not me.

PayPal offered a cool online menu for creating customized Outlook-generated email with embedded credit card payment links.

I went with PayPal. Then the fun started.

Let’s just say it didn’t work.  I called PayPal tech support.

“Oh yeah, I see. Hmm, you’re right, it doesn’t work. Well, that’s beta software, and we really don’t support it.”
“If you don’t support it—why do you offer it on your website?”
“Well, some people like it. But it’s beta, we really don’t support it.”

Now, I like PayPal.  It’s a business I’d like to see succeed.  Nice technology.  Nice people, good customer service manners, cool techies.

But the end result—in this case—is flakey. Doesn’t work. Undependable.  Can’t rely on it. Untrustworthy in that sense.

And the big sin?  They think it’s OK!  After all, it’s just beta!  What do you expect?

Increasingly, I expect it to work.

PayPal is not alone.  I remember discovering Plaxo, one of the early contact management software updating programs, and thinking, “what a great idea.”  It was being offered in beta test format.

I tried it.  Spent hours on it.  Pissed off several friends.  I called to complain, and the nice/service-oriented/tech-savvy person offered me a free year if I’d come back in a month and try their update.

I did.  It was not updated enough.  I left them, and now here I am saying bad things about them online.  They blew two chances with me, and thought it was OK!

I think it started with Netscape. In its early days, academics and gurus were raving about this new business model that allowed customers to actually contribute to the design. User-friendly! Cutting-edge!

True. But also flakey. Undependable. Untrustworthy.  But they thought it was OK!

I’d be interested in hearing from others, but for my money, the trend has gone way past the equilibrium point. 

I don’t want to help design some trivial widget—I just want the stupid thing to work.

And I certainly don’t want to contribute to testing something I’m going to be depending on—like payment systems, Outlook add-ins, printer driver updates, data converter programs.

The tweaks just ain’t worth it. Dependability is worth it.

We are well past the invention of major new categories. We are into the ability to trust things like we used to trust dial-tone. That is to say, we want 99.9% dependability.  But too many developers still think selling mediocrity-in-progress is OK!

The new killer app isn’t email.  It’s dependability.  Software producers, you’re on notice.  I’m quite happy to pay full retail for a working product; I’m not falling for anymore “get it first” or shareware-priced new software.

I want software I can trust. Software that works.  I’ll pay good money for it.

But I’m done paying you money for the privilege of debugging your marginally-interesting flakeware.

Do your own damn beta.  It’s not OK by me anymore.