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Evernote for Project Management

Article Date: Thursday, December 22, 2011

Written By: Erik Mazzone

I've been an Evernote premium user for a couple of years now. I've loved Evernote since I first started messing around with it and month over month, year over year, it just continues to improve. The one problem I've had with Evernote - and this is really more of a problem with my disorganized mind than the tool itself - is that it does so many things, I've had a hard time figuring out the best practices for how to use it for myself.

Ask any 10 Evernote users and you are likely to get ten different ideas on how to best use the tool. I have friends who use it for nothing but meeting notes and at least one friend who uses it as his locker to store everything. (Music to the Evernote's ears, I'm sure.) One user told me he doesn't use Evernote for storing Word and Excel files, but uses it for most other things. To my chagrin, there is not a single, agreed upon, perfect way to use it.

For my part, I've never been happy in particular with deciding what goes in Evernote versus what goes in Dropbox. I really like using both of these tools and was bedeviled by trying to figure out where one should end and the other begin. (Inasmuch as one can be bedeviled by something bordering on the totally inconsequential.) As a result, I've often ended up with information strewn haphazardly across both Evernote and Dropbox, with nary a reason for where they lay.

Until recently, that is. Things started to improve when I realized that if I stopped thinking about file types and started thinking about workflow, it all fell into place.

One of the great things about Evernote is that it can handle virtually any file type, which is why distinguishing its use based on file type proved fruitless for me. Evernote is, essentially, a great big bucket for your digital information. I needed to figure out first where I could use a bucket.
It turns out I needed a bucket in my project management set up. Specifically, I needed a place to keep all of my information related to a given project (project support material, as David Allen's GTD nerds call it (www.davidco.com)).

For example, let's imagine that a project you are working on is to overhaul your firm's IT set up. You will probably read a variety of articles, bookmark some sites on the net, receive some quotes from vendors, take photos of setups that you admire, and have many meetings which in turn produce many meeting notes. Now, you could keep your articles in a folder on your desktop, your bookmarks in your browser, your quotes in your email inbox, your photos on your iPhone, and your meeting notes in your Moleskin (hey, even tech geeks have to go analog once in a while). Or you could put all of that right in an Evernote folder, where it is accessible on your smart phone, Mac, PC, and right on the web.

It's a no-brainer, once you think about the diversity of information and file types most of our projects consist of these days. Evernote, for me anyway, is the perfect solution for keeping all that stuff organized and in one place.

I've been using Evernote for project management this way for a while and it is working like a charm. I finally have "hard edges" (as the GTD'ers would say) about what to put where and how to find it when I need it. All of my project management information goes into Evernote for as long as the project is open. Anything I want to keep for the long haul, once the project is closed, goes into my reference file in Dropbox.

That's what's working for me. Hopefully you can find some uses for Evernote in your workflow, too.  •

Erik Mazzone is the Director of the Center for Practice Management for the North Carolina Bar Association, where he provides advice on technology, marketing, management and finance. He is the Associate Editor of Law Practice Today, a web-based magazine published by the ABA Law Practice Management Section and a member of the Program Committee of the National Association of Bar Executives. He is a graduate of Boston College and Boston College Law School and speaks frequently on law practice management.

Views and opinions expressed in articles published herein are the authors' only and are not to be attributed to this newsletter, the section, or the NCBA unless expressly stated. Authors are responsible for the accuracy of all citations and quotations.