Posted 12.10.2014

Posted 12.10.2014

How I Use Evernote to Get the Most Out of It

Every person should have a system to keep track of information because there’s too much to keep track of in your mind.


“What we’re learning is that your mind is not for holding ideas, it’s for having ideas. People are still trying to use their psyche as their office and their reminder system, and it doesn’t work–it’s not designed for that. In an evolutionary way, your brain is brilliant at being able to look at things and recognize patterns and tie that into long-term memory, but it can’t remember worth a hoot.”

Interview with David Allen, A Life of Productivity.

Evernote is one of the tools in my toolbox that I could not live without. I use it every day to do just that: hold ideas.

Inspiration before Pinterest

Evernote Screenshot

I started using Evernote in 2008. It was essentially my personal Pinterest board of inspiration before Pinterest existed. I’ve tried other services over the years (ember, DevonThink, VooDoo Pad, and Yojimbo). But, at the end of the day, I can’t get past Evernote’s integration across multiple devices, image support, and easy import.

Support Across Multiple Devices

Evernote on Multiple Devices

Evernote has a web app and dedicated apps beautifully designed for the Mac, iPad, iPhone, and Droid. This means that regardless of where I’m at or what I’m doing, I have access to my stuff. When you’re talking about a product being an extension of your brain, this is a must.

I love being able to sit in a brainstorming meeting about design and be able to quickly locate a piece for visual reference.


There are a few ways you can get content into Evernote:

  • Email You can send an email to a unique address (provided by Evernote). Practically applied: I have a separate notebook for every client. When a client emails me with content for their project, I’ll forward their email to Evernote, labeled appropriately (#CLIENTNAME) and tagged with @content. This makes it very easy to keep everything together, especially when they send me content in multiple emails from different people.

  • Web Clipper & Clearly Evernote has a browser extension that makes it simple to clip full web pages or parts of a page.

    Check the settings for this plugin, too. You can set it so that when you Google something, results from your Evernote account are listed to the right.

    Evernote in Google Results

    If you end up doing this a lot, check out Evernote Clearly. You can highlight and annotate before clipping.

  • Hazel script I have a folder on my desktop called “SENDTOEVERNOTE” Anything that I drop in that folder, automatically gets sent to Evernote and then deleted from the folder.

    Here’s a look at the Hazel script that running:

    Evernote and Hazel

    As you can see, it’s running an AppleScript. Included below:

    Where you see “!! INBOX” — that’s the name of my Evernote notebook that it puts everything in. On a good day, I’ll go back through to sort and tag.

Coding Snippets

  • Programming notebook: I’ll also keep a lot of coding snippets within Evernote. This makes it really easy if I encounter the same problem, but can’t remember the solution or how I set things up.

    All programming (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, MySQL) snippets go into a programming notebook. Same deal.

  • WordPress notebook: I have so many WordPress snippets that I’ve given WordPress it’s own notebook. You can also limit your search within Evernote to a specific notebook. Actually, you can do quite a bit with Evernote’s search…


Check out the Evernote post over on Tuts+. I pulled this off their site. It’s a list of some of the keyword searches you can run:

  • Notebooks: Enter notebook:[notebook name] to search for notes stored in a specific notebook. For example, notebook:apple will display all research related to my aforementioned article about Apple.
  • Tags: Enter tag:[tag] to search for notes tagged with a specific keyword. For example, tag:history will display every note I have created that is tagged History. Entering -tag:[tag], however, will search for all notes nottagged with that specific tag.
  • Dates and Time: If you would like to find every note created in the last day, enter created:day-1 in the search box. Alternatively, type created:day-30to view every note created in the last 30 days, or created:[YYYYMMDD] to view notes created on a day of your choice. For example, created:20140210will show every note created on 10th February 2014.
  • Files and More: Finally, enter resource:image/* to view every note containing an image or resource:audio/* for audio.


A little hidden gem that not everyone knows about is stacking your notebooks (kind of like nesting). Simply drag one on top of the other.

Here’s a list of some of the main notebooks I use, to get you started:

  • !! INBOX: This is my default notebook. Everything goes here, first, before it’s sorted.
  • APARTMENT: Notes related to our apartment. For example, we have custom light bulbs for our track lighting system. I have a note about what kind of bulb it is, so when I’m out and about shopping, there it is.
  • BLOG Stack: This contains a separate notebook for drafts and published posts. As the name suggests, drafts contain ideas and posts I’m working on. Once the post is published, it gets moved to the “PUBLISHED” notebook.
  • BUSINESS Stack: This notebook contains business ideas, services, processes, etc.
  • INSPIRATION: This notebook contains all the graphic design images I find online and use for visual research. I use tags for more granular categorization (print, identity, script, color, etc). Reason being: sometimes an image/note will fall into more than one category and you can easily apply more than one tag to an element, but you can only place that note within one notebook.
  • FINANCE: I went thorough a brief stint where I scanned receipts and bills directly into Evernote. Recently, I’ve kept them out of Evernote and in a folder structure on my hard drive. Honestly, I’m not sure which method is better, but I like keeping receipts out of my Evernote results.
  • HELLO: Evernote has a few applications that help extend its functionality, Evernote Hello being one of them. This particular app helps keep track of the people you meet, where you meet them, and their contact information.
  • MENUS: This is a great place for keeping menus for local restaurants.
  • PROGRAMMING Stack: I went into some detail about this above. This stack essentially contains code snippets that I use over and over again or snippets I’ve discovered when troubleshooting.
  • PROJECTS (CURRENT) Stack: These are current projects that I’m actively working on.
  • PROJECTS (FINISHED) Stack: These are essentially archives for projects that I’ve finished.
  • PROJECTS (POSSIBILITIES) Stack: Projects that I’ve submitted estimates on, but haven’t been approved yet.
  • RECIPES: As the name suggests, recipes. I just clip recipes I find online. However, Evernote also has an extension for recipes: Evernote Food. I haven’t looked into it, but it may be worth checking out.
  • REFERENCE: This is essentially my miscellaneous stack:

    • GIFT IDEAS: When a see something online that would make a good gift, I’ll use the Web Clipper to make a note of it. This helps when birthdays and Christmas roll around.
    • MOLESKINE SCANS: Even though I use Evernote, nothing can beat the old fashioned pen and pencil. I have years worth of moleskines filled. If I have pages that I want to go back and reference frequently, I’ll scan them in and save them to this notebook. Through OCR technology, Evernote has the ability to read your handwriting, so these are easily searchable.
    • TEMPLATES: These are note templates that I can easily right click and “Copy to Notebook…” I have items like Client Needs Analysis Template, Client Profile Template, Meeting Notes Template, Phone Call Template, etc. They all provide a great starting point.
    • REFERENCE: These are items that I want to refer back to later. For example, a trigger list for running a GTD review, User manuals for products I own, cheat sheets, etc.
    • TO READ: These are articles or email newsletters that I want to read later, when I have more time. Similar to Instapaper or Pocket.
    • WISH LIST: This is similar to the gift ideas notebook, except this one is just for me and products I have my eye on.
  • Skitch: I use Skitch to quickly annotate screenshots. Skitch will automatically upload those screenshots to Evernote where I can save them and share them.
  • TRAVEL Stack: I’ll create a notebook for every trip I go on. I’ll forward airline, hotel, and rental car confirmations. This makes it really easy when I’m at the airport trying to find confirmation numbers. Plus, it keeps me from having to search through months worth of emails. I’ll also create a note that contains every address that I might need on a particular trip. Evernote will automatically turn addresses into links so when I pull up that note on my phone, tap on the address, Maps will automatically launch with that address pre-filled. Nice!

Additional Resources

Still looking for more? Check out these resources:


Needless to say, Evernote is robust. —And just in case you were wondering exactly how robust it is, I have over 21,000 notes!These days, information is not the problem, but keeping track of it is. You need a system in place to help you keep track of everything, otherwise you’ll make yourself go crazy, trying to keep of it all.

Are there any tips and tricks you have for using Evernote? How do you have your notes organized?

Updated 02.21.2015

Accounting for Freelancers (Part 1)

I’ve been doing freelance full time for 2 years now. It’s been a lot of fun, but I’ve quickly discovered that there are certain things they don’t teach you in design school. Accounting sheets, for example. It’s no wonder, most creative type, run the opposite direction when it comes to math. In fact, I have one designer friend that chose art, simply because it was the major that required the least amount of math credits!

I’ve quickly learned, though, that accounting is essential to what I do and helps guarantee that my business stays healthy and afloat.

First things first. I keep all my business money in a separate banking account. In fact, I even keep it at a separate bank to make sure there’s absolutely no confusion. This makes it so much easier when I’m trying to keep track of business income and expenses.

I have two batches of spreadsheets. The first batch, guarantees I’m recording all the information that the IRS needs, come April. The second batch (for another day), helps me forecast business and predict how long I can keep keeping on.

NOTE: You can access my Google Spreadsheet here. In fact, if you have a Google account, you can go to File > Make a Copy and it will save a version that you can edit in your Google Drive.


My expenses sheet tracks all the purchases that I make. I use a professional accountant to prepare my taxes. Each year, he asks me to breakdown my expenses by category. On the spreadsheet, I’ve created a drop down on my options. This is far from an exhaustive list, but this list covers all of expenses.

Mileage Log

On this sheet, I track my mileage. This can be everything from visits to a clients office to picking up office supplies, as long as it’s purely a business trip. It’s important that you fill out the purpose of the trip. It doesn’t have to be detailed, but it’s something the IRS will want to know, if you’re ever audited.


On this sheet, I track all my utilities. If you had your own office space, you can easily fill in the blanks. If you have a home office, like I do, I still fill in what all my bills are, but, I also include additional information. For example, how many square feet my home office is, the percentage of minutes I use are business calls, etc.

IRS Payments

On the IRS Payments sheet, I keep track of all the estimated quarterly payments I make to the IRS.

Whenever I make a deposit into the bank, I automatically move at least 30% from my checking account into my savings account for these quarterly payments. This way, when that time rolls around, I know the money is there.

You can go to the IRS website and print off the 1040-ES vouchers. When you submit your payment to the IRS, you’ll include the appropriate voucher. There’s also information in the packet about where payments should be mailed to.


On this sheet, I keep track of all the income that I make. This is an important reference when I get ready to write my IRS checks.

Part 2

You can read more on Accounting for Designers (Part 2), which focuses on the part of accounting that keeps your business afloat: business opportunities, cash flow, etc.

What are other things you keep track of? Do you use spreadsheets or QuickBooks to keep track of everything?

Posted 04.25.2013

How to Create Screencasts

One of the things that I’ve started doing recently for all my clients, when they get a WordPress site, is creating video screencasts for training. It’s so much easier than writing out documentation, submitting it as a PDF, and hoping they’ll be able to find it when they get ready to update their site.

Tools I’m Using


Screen Flow

This is probably the most expensive piece of the puzzle ($99). There are several different screencasting apps for you to choose from. I bought a license for Screenflow 2 years ago, so it was just one easy payment of $29.95 for the upgrade.

But, if you pay attention to a lot of the movers and shakers online, this is their weapon of choice.

Starting Screenflow
This software offers quite a bit of features. When you’re ready to go, just select “Record” from the menu and you’re off to the races. When you’re done, it launches an editing panel, where you edit your video. It makes it nice that it’s an all in one piece of software and I’m not having to switch to Premiere or Final Cut. Usually, I’ll just trim off the beginning and the end and export.


Mouse Pose

This is a little program that I found on the App Store ($4.99). I got purchased it when I was speaking at Women’s Forum last fall. For $5 the ladies there were just impressed with this program as they were with my talk…not sure what that’s saying…about me or about this program!

But, it allows me to spotlight my cursor, show red circles when I click on something, and then if I type, it shows an overlay of what keys I’m hitting. — Which is great, because I’m a huge fan of short cut keys. Most of the time, I don’t even think twice about it. So, at the very least, with this it helps the user follow what I’m doing.

Snowball Microphone


Snowball Microphone

I hate it when I go to websites, watch screencasts, and the speaker sounds like he’s coming through a tunnel. This might be a frivolous purchase to some, but IMHO for $68.99 dramatically increases the quality of production.

It was insanely easy to setup. I extended the legs on the stand and screwed on the snowball. Then, there’s a USB port on the back that plugs directly into my laptop. When I open up Screenflow, it automatically recognizes the microphone. I just make sure it’s selected in the dropdown. Done.

Vimeo Plus Account

I didn’t want to have to worry about compressing my videos, customizing a player, or storage. This was by far the easiest solution. It’s only $9.95, or I went ahead and paid $59.95 for the entire year.

Vimeo’s pretty slick. I knew I always preferred their video player to YouTube’s, but they’ve done an execellent job in refining their product. For example, I can connect my Dropbox account to Vimeo. When I export a video, I can simply drop it in Dropbox. Then, when I log into Vimeo, I can simply port it over. Of course, the upload button works too.

Vimeo Settings

Once I’ve uploaded each of the videos to Vimeo, I go into the Settings section. Under privacy, I changed the following settings:

  • Who can watch this video to “Hide this video from” only my clients need to be able to see this information. Besides, I don’t want to make it any easier for Joe Hacker.
  • Where can this video be embedded? to “Only on sites I choose.” Then, I’ll list my client’s URL and if the site is currently on a staging site, I’ll my staging server too.
  • Who can comment on this video? No one. Honestly, I’m not sure if this setting necessarily makes a difference because we already determined that we’re hiding it from Vimeo.
  • Additional Vimeo Settings

    At this point, I can grab the embed code. But, if you’re interested, there’s several other settings you can mess with, especially under the “Embed” tab. Like changing the color.

    WP Help

    WP Help PlugIn

    This is the last piece of the puzzle and argueably the most important. I install this plugin on my cleint’s site. It then provides a link in the left hand navigation that they can visit when they’re logged in. Then, I just add posts, similar to writing a standard WordPress blog post and copy and paste the embed code provided by Vimeo. That’s it.

    It’s pretty simple, but in a small way, I’m quickly adding a big value to the sites that I build for my clients.

    What other ways have you found that increase the value of your work? Do you make screencasts too? What’s been your experience? Do you use the same software?