I used to jot down the most random things in order to get them out of my brain - a song that I heard and liked, a book someone recommended, a gig in town 3 months from now, a bit of code, idea for a blog post, what I need to tell my mum the next time call her… This resulted in dozens and dozens of random pieces of papers lurking around my desk. Getting lost. Making mess. Not being there where I needed them for reference.
Notebooks sorted this problem to an extend, but still left a lot to be desired - every single time I left the notebook at work I needed to check something while I was at home. Every time I visited someone the notebook wasn't there. When I went to visit my parents (which requires a plane trip) I had to pick and choose what I can take with me.
You get the idea.
I have had an Evernote account for a while, but I never really got into it. People would rave about it and I just couldn't make it work.
I like to keep organised and I was getting annoyed at not having an efficient way of dealing with bit and piece of information. Since PhD would involve more information that I have ever had to deal with (or at least so I suspect!) I thought it's time for a change.
I decided to go all in and really give it a shot. I think that one way to make it work might be to put everything into it. All the information, so that it becomes the default place to go for inputting new information, but also for looking for things.
I like to keep information categorised and so I quickly set up some folders. I then equally quickly found out that folders can be nested within stacks, but that's it. Organisation with folders is only one level deep in Evernote and that's not enough for me. Or at least, it's not enough to work the way I worked before.
I never got the idea of tags in general and I tried to avoid them in Evernote, till I realised that I could use them the way I wanted to use folders. Now I have a mix of folders and tags. I have a rule though - I created both notebooks and tags at the beginning and I will not create any more ad hoc ones. This is to avoid having a folder with just one thing in it or a tag that only refers to one note (rendering them pointless).
Every time I feel like reaching for a piece of paper to note something down I make a note in the Evernote. I use it to store notes on various events, to keep links and blog posts that I want to have access to. I sent itineraries there. I can get access to it on any of my devices, so I can use it on the go, but I can also make sure I keep my desks clutter free (or at least random-pieces-of-paper free!).
If you'd like to know how I organised my Evernote for (mainly) academic use you can read about it in separate blog posts about my Notebooks and Tags.