I have been using Evernote for a couple of years now. I use it to manage meeting notes, store blogging ideas, and file interesting articles I read on the Web. It has basically become my electronic brain. However, unlike my aging brain, Evernote provides near-instant recall.
Recently, I started using it to manage the raw components of my speeches. I have seen a lot of different systems for this. One of my authors, who is also a popular public speaker, once showed me his system. It contained literally thousands of 4″ x 6″ cards, arranged alphabetically by topic.
I decided to use Evernote for this and am loving it. It works beautifully. I don’t have everything converted yet, but enough to make it an indispensable tool. This database will only become more valuable over time.
I have set up four separate notebooks in Evernote:
I am now in the process of adding my content to this database of speaking resources. Specially, I am including the following:
- Blog posts. I am going back through my 900-plus blog posts and extracting the various components. When I find a personal illustration or a historical anecdote, I copy and paste it into my Illustrations notebook. The same is true for quotes and jokes.
- Web articles. When I am reading on the Web, I do the same. If I stumble across something I think I might want to use later, I copy and paste it into the appropriate notebook. This can include everything from other bloggers’ posts to news articles.
- Digital books. This is also a big advantage of using Kindle for my reading. Anything I highlight in a Kindle book is automatically extracted to my personal Highlights page on Amazon. I can copy and paste these directly into Evernote from there. This is a huge productivity boost.
- Traditional books. One of the great things about Evernote is that you can share individual notebooks with others. For example, I am still reading several print books and highlighting them as usual. In the margin, I put an “I” with a square around it to indicate to my assistant that I want her to key the highlighted content into Evernote. I use a “J” for Jokes, a “Q” for Quotes, and a “S” for Statistics. Like this:
Evernote Marks and Highlighted Text in The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns
The key with all of this is to add the appropriate meta tags, so that you can search the content later. I try to add every tag I can think of—usually 6–8 per entry—so I can find the relevant information quickly. Evernote also allows me to add a URL for each entry, so that I can get back to the original source if I need to.
I am going to do my very best to add to this database every day. I think this will become hugely valuable to me as I prepare speeches and even write books in the future.