Technology should simplify your life, yet the sheer number of online and mobile tools out there can make running a business seem more complicated than ever. For starters, how the heck are you supposed to keep track of everything?
That’s where a software suite like Evernote can come in handy. Evernote is a note-taker, a daily planner, an organizer, a project manager, and a teamwork facilitator all rolled into one. The basic version is free; the premium version (which costs $5 per month or $45 per year) offers larger uploads, offline functionality, and other upgrades.
The Intuit Small Business Blog recently asked Nick Narodny, a co-founder and the senior VP of business training at Grovo, how small-business owners can use Evernote to stay organized. He offered these three smart, simple ideas:
1. Take meeting notes. “Note” is right there in the name, yet Narodny thinks too many Evernote users don’t take full advantage of its note-taking features. Narodny says he particularly likes the Notebooks feature, which forces him to organize his notes so that they make sense now and later.
“Before Evernote, I would use Google Docs for my meeting note-taking, but I found that the document would be lost forever because it is difficult to find if you can’t remember the name,” Narodny says. “It may sound simple, but the fact that Evernote forces you to choose a notebook before you write a note makes finding notes later much easier.”
With Evernote, you can clip and save web content; you can scan or print to Evernote from offline sources; and you can take photos with your smartphone and add them directly to a notebook. You can also share notes and collaborate with employees and partners. The search tool makes it easy to find what you’re looking for (it will even look for handwritten text in a scanned image).
2. Make it your virtual filing cabinet. “Every business owner’s worst nightmare is getting into a contract dispute and not being able to find the original paperwork,” Narodny says. “That’s why we have seen many small-business owners using Evernote as their virtual filing cabinet.”
To facilitate this, the Stacks feature lets you store related notebooks together, which adds another degree of order to information (instead of allowing everything pile up in an unproductive mess). Narodny offers specific examples of how small businesses can use Evernote as a filing cabinet:
- Create a “clients” stack and a notebook for each client name, then tag related documents (such as contracts and receipts) so that you can easily pull these up as needed.
- Create a “conferences” stack and a notebook for each event you attend. Include notes and photos or scans of business cards, then tag them so that you can quickly search and find them later.
- Create a “blog” stack and notebooks to track ideas for future posts. Tag them with keywords such as “tweet” or “long post” so that you can quickly recall the ideas when you’re ready to write.
3. Manage projects on the go. Narodny’s favorite Evernote feature is the ability to sync his account across various computers and devices. He can view and update content from his desktop, laptop, iPad, or smartphone. “This is a godsend for project management in any office, but especially for small-business owners who don’t sit behind a desk all day,” he says.
This applies not just to active projects, but also to “old” business. The power to recall prior work at a moment’s notice can save time and money while preventing duplicate efforts. “We have seen contractors and franchise owners create homes or restaurants using Evernote and then recall their notes months later while building a second, similar project,” Narodny says.