If you are a writer or blogger (and since you’re reading ChurchMag, you likely are), you have probably struggled with organizing all your content.
Where do you store ideas and research, and how can you retrieve it quickly?
The best answer I’ve found is the Evernote app. It’s the best tool for gathering ideas for writing and blogging because all of your content is one place and accessible. You can consolidate many types of content into your Evernote notebooks.
In this post I’ll share a number of ways that Evernote can help organize your writing, whether it’s for a book, blog, or other type of written content.
DISCLAIMER: Evernote is primarily an organizational tool, not a composition tool. This means that Evernote is a great tool to help you capture, consolidate and organize snippets, notes, ideas and bits of information. However, it’s not meant to be a tool for long-form writing. Evernote is very “bare bones” as far as word processing features. There are much better tools for pure writing, such as Scrivener or MS Word. But Evernote is the best place to dump all your ideas and sort them out.
That said, here is a brief guide to begin using Evernote to practically help your writing process.
How to Set Up Your Notebooks
All of your content in Evernote is contained within “notes,” which are like digital sheets of paper. These notes are organized into notebooks (and if you wish, notebook “stacks,” which are groups of notebooks).
There are an endless number of ways to organize your Evernote writing notebooks, but here’s how I organize mine. Feel free to steal or modify my system.
I have one notebook “stack” called “Writing.” Within the “Writing” stack I have a number of notebooks:
- One for each book project I am working on (or at least might work on).
- Several notebooks related to various topics related to writing. There’s one called “Kindle,” one called “Gen Writing” where I store general info about writing, one called “Launch” with info about book launches, one called “Scrivener” with training info about that writing tool, and a few others.
- One called “Guest Posts” that contains ideas for topics and a list of websites or blogs where I’d like to guest post.
- One called “Book Ideas” that’s a general catch-all for any book idea.
- One called “Post Ideas” where I put any ideas for blog posts.
- There’s even a notebook labeled “EN Book” where I stored ideas related to my new ChurchMag Press book, 30 Days of Evernote for Churches.
This may sound overwhelming to you, but I’ve been using Evernote for several years, and I didn’t start with all of these notebooks. This developed organically as I began to put more ideas, articles and notes into my writing notebooks. I then divided them into separate notebooks as I needed.
The key point is this: Set up a few notebooks, or even just one, for writing ideas. Call it “Writing Ideas” or whatever you like. But you must start putting your ideas in that notebook so you can begin taking advantage of the organizational awesomeness of Evernote.
One more thing: Set up your notebooks in a way that reflects how you think about your life and work. Don’t copy someone else’s system unless it works for you. Evernote is there to serve you, not the other way around.
How to Capture and Consolidate Your Ideas
For writers, the single greatest benefit of using Evernote is having one central place to store all your ideas, no matter their original form. Let’s look at a number of ways to get your writing ideas into Evernote.
- Use the mobile app. I frequently use the Evernote mobile app to capture ideas for books and blog posts. Sometimes I use the text-to speech feature on my iPhone, and other times I’ll use the keyboard.
- Transfer content from Word documents. I used to have a long Word document called “Blog Post Ideas” where I would record any ideas for blog posts. The problem with this system is that it’s unwieldy to search through one long document for ideas, and it’s also hard to deal with documents on your phone. I took all the content from the Word document and gave each post idea its own note in my “Post Ideas” notebook. This is also the notebook where I record any new ideas for blog posts.
- Use Evernote to store illustrations and quotations. I used to have a Word document called “Quotes and Illustrations” where I kept any interesting jokes, illustrations, or quotes I might use in a class, speech, book, or blog post. I transferred all of this content to one note in Evernote. Now I can just search this note for any key words or topics I might be looking for when I need a good quote or story.
- Transfer your ideas from paper. I still use paper to scratch out ideas for blog posts and books. I like the tactile nature of paper and find that it sparks my creativity. I am notorious in my house for writing on the back of envelopes, worship bulletins from church, or just about any scrap of paper I can find when an ideas strikes. However, it’s important to transfer these ideas to Evernote. Sometimes I scan in the paper, sometimes I take a picture of it, and sometimes I type the content into a note. Evernote can search all of these formats.
- Forward email newsletters to Evernote. I subscribe to a number of great email newsletters for writers, and I forward the best ones to my Evernote email address. (You can find your Evernote email address by viewing your account info.) At the end of the email subject line I will then add the @ symbol, followed by the notebook where I want to send it. Evernote then magically places it in the appropriate notebook and it’s synced to all my devices.
- Use the Web Clipper. The Evernote Web Clipper is a browser extension that lets you clip text, images, or screenshots from websites. You can also annotate and highlight the clipping, choose the notebook where you want it to be saved, and share the note on social media or email if you wish. The Web Clipper is an amazing little tool and I use it almost every day.
- Create a table of contents. One of the Evernote features that comes in handy for writers is the ability to create a table of contents from the contents of a notebook. For instance, if you have 45 ideas for blog posts in a notebook, you can select all the notes at once by hitting Command+A (on Mac), then clicking “Create a Table of Contents Note” in the main note window. This new note will have links to all the other notes in the notebook. This way you can quickly scan the contents of the notebook without having to read through all of the notes individually.
This post is adapted from my new book 30 Days of Evernote for Churches. If you want to harness the incredible organizational power of Evernote in your church and your life, this is the best place to start. For the past several years I’ve been helping students, leaders and pastors learn how to use Evernote, and I’ve condensed everything I know into this guide.
I’ve also included two special bonuses for everyone who purchases 30 Days of Evernote for Churches:
- A complete Evernote video course. This course covers all of the concepts in Part 1-3 of this book.
- Interviews of church leaders. I’ve interviewed three church leaders, each in different positions, about how they use Evernote in their ministries.
Whether you are a beginner or advanced user, 30 Days of Evernote for Churches will offer practical and detailed tips and strategies you won’t find anywhere else.
If you have any questions about the book, or about Evernote in general, I would love to help. Just leave a comment here or send me a message on Twitter @kentsanders.