13 Ways I Use Evernote for Business (Mostly)

Evernote is a free application for Mac, PC, and mobile devices that allows you to quickly save “notes,” such as text, images, web pages, audio and handwritten communication. These items are then stored in “notebooks,” which are folders that allow for organization by topic and tag. The software then saves your notes and notebooks, syncing them with all your platforms.

I downloaded Evernote a year or so ago, but hadn’t used it very much. Then a colleague of mine showed me how he uses it, and the lights went on. Since that time I’ve become a raving Evernote fan. Here are 13 ways I use this app:

1. Blog ideas

As you know, I write a weekly business blog for busy entrepreneurs, and I’m always on the prowl for new ideas and provocative content. When I find something that arouses my imagination, I save it to Evernote via the handy clip tool. Re-reading a clipped note never fails to spark a new way of looking at the world.

2. Books to read

What goes for my blog, goes for the books I want to buy. A quick picture from my iPhone or a clip from a web site, and it’s saved for future reference. Evernote’s annotation capability even allows me to quickly summarize and review the book right in a clipped note, perfect fodder for a top ten book list blog post

3. Receipts

Speaking of buying things, whenever I purchase something online, I never know what to do with the receipt. I don’t want it cluttering up my email inbox, but I don’t want to lose it either. This is especially true when I’m told to print a receipt and keep it in a safe place when I’m nowhere near a printer. With every Evernote account comes a personal Evernote email address to which you can forward your receipts and print if you want (but why bother?). Don’t worry, Evernote’s security encryption is the best in the business, so your secrets are safe.

MORE: How to Get Your Email Inbox to Zero: 7 Powerful Practices

4. Travel itineraries

For those of us who travel for business, keeping track of all the details related to a trip can be a nightmare. Not with Evernote. I create a notebook for each trip and collect my airplane tickets, boarding passes, hotel and car reservations, schedules, maps, and contact information in it. And because Evernote syncs with all my devices, I have this critical information at my fingertips whenever I travel.

5. Articles

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been reading something riveting, but couldn’t finish the article or wanted to refer to it later. Just send it to Evernote. This works really well with my favorite online article app, Zite. Upgrade from the free version of Evernote for $5 a month and these articles (and everything else on Evernote) will be available for offline viewing as well so you can even read them while you’re in the air on your next business trip.

6. The view from 30,000 feet

I’m a big believer in having all the details of one’s day in a central location, and there are plenty of terrific task management systems available to do that. My absolute favorite is Things by Cultured Code. All of these systems, however, have one major flaw: the big picture. What’s the point of greater efficiency if you’re headed in the wrong direction? Enter Evernote. In it I’ve placed my long term vision, annual goals, and quarterly milestones, reviewing them regularly before making weekly plans. I can even place goal deadline dates from Evernote into iCal and check-off items in Evernote as progress is made achieving them.

7. Client files

A great feature of Evernote is its ability to share notes and notebooks with other Evernote users. I get my coaching and consulting clients set up in the system, and, instead of sending them email with attachments that get lost, I place documents in our shared Evernote notebook. Not only does this give them quick, easy access to these tools, but they also get an historical record of our work together. For me it eliminates the frantic email request late at night for the worksheet a client has to have immediately but can’t find anywhere.

8. Going social

Not only can you save things on Evernote, you can send them as well. Providing great content to your community is critical for building your brand. Evernote allows you to quickly post a note on Facebook or tweet it on Twitter. There’s also a outbound email feature to send the less social media savvy your latest discoveries.

9. Checklists

Evernote is great for creating a series of tasks that you check off as you do them. I use this feature to remember the things I need to pack for a business trip or for keeping track of the details of hosting a marketing breakfast. It also works for shopping lists (see below), all of these syncing well with both my iPad and my iPhone so they’re readily available.

10. Key word search

Perhaps one of the most useful features of Evernote is its ability to search all of the content you’ve placed in it, even your pictures, PDF’s, and handwritten notes. Just enter a key word or phrase in the search bar and you’ll get the notes with that word or phrase in it highlighted in yellow. If you need to perform the same search over and over again, just save that search for future reference.

11. Meeting management

Have you ever written something down in an important meeting and later couldn’t read what you wrote or couldn’t remember where you put what you wrote (or both?). Evernote is a great place to jot down important points from a meeting. And, unlike handwritten notes, you can read them later and search for key words in them as outlined above. I also use Evernote to store meeting minutes and agendas for the boards I serve on, taking my notes from these meetings in Evernote and bringing only my iPad to the meeting instead of a bulky binder or tattered folder.

12. Epicurean delights

Foodies love Evernote because you can take pictures of your latest feast, savor it later electronically (or brag about it to jealous friends), and pin it on a Google map. You can also create pictorial shopping lists and write colorful restaurant reviews, pinning them, too, on a Google map. Or you can clip a recipe that arouses your imagination, shop for its ingredients, make it, take a picture of what you made, include your personal adjustments to the recipe, and share it with other foodies, all through Evernote. There’s even a special add-on for Evernote called Evernote Food.

13. Vacation Planning

I’m the planner in our family. So when it comes to vacation, there’s always some crazy trip I’m trying to get my wife to go on with me. I have a vacation notebook in Evernote where I save hotel and sightseeing options, complete with a budget created using an Evernote table. When the moment is right, often involving a nice bottle of wine, I’ll pull out my iPad and make the case for our next trip. And then there’s the plans for the backyard fire pit I want to build that I’ve saved in Evernote, but, alas, that might involve two bottles of wine.