Using Evernote to stay organized (and to lessen the chance of losing art ideas)

I used to write down art ideas on various scraps of paper, in random notebooks, on to do lists, in my journal, in emails to myself, in lists of reminders on my phone, basically anywhere that was convenient to me at the moment the idea came into existence. As you can imagine, it was hell to try to make use of them since they were scattered all over the place. And, of course, they often got lost. So last year I got the smart idea to spend hours transcribing them all to a single notebook. I got a nice Moleskine and completed that fairly large task, then patted myself on the back for being uber-organized. About 6 month later, I somehow lost that notebook and no amount of digging through my studio, car, and house have unearthed it (I still go on rampages looking for it sometimes).

At that point, I decided to start experimenting with using the Evernote application as a way to not only compile my ideas but also as a way to manage my slowly growing art business. Evernote is free with limited functionality so I started there but now have a premium subscription so I can use it on my laptop, iPad, and phone - they all link to the same account. There’s also a basic subscription that allows you to use the app on up to two devices.

my evernote notebooks

In addition to Evernote, I have a couple of Rocketbook Everlast notebooks where I can sketch and handwrite notes that then get sent, via the free Rocketbook phone app, to Evernote. Rocketbook Everlasts are like having a set of small portable whiteboards with you because you can wipe the pages clean and re-use them. The have another type of notebook that you can microwave to erase every page. The Rocketbook app can send what you put on the pages to email, text, etc.

It took several months to figure out the best way to use Evernote and my method may not work well for you so be prepared to spend time experimenting. Evernote allows you to create a library of notebooks containing notes. Notes consist of text, images, videos, etc.. You can use whatever kind of organization system you like on top of that. I started out creating several different notebooks for my art notes, one for each category like “Art Planning,” “Art Ideas,” “Art Inventory,” etc. That quickly proved to not be good when I was trying to locate a note. It also created conflicts like where do I put this thing that is an idea about my art business? In Art Planning? Art Ideas? Art Business?

So I scrapped that organization scheme and decided to keep the number of notebooks very small. I currently have only two art-relate notebooks: “Art” and “Art Planning 2019.” I’ll create a new notebook for each subsequent year and hope that they will be useful to comb back through in the many years ahead. There’s also a third notebook that I use for completed tasks across all of my notebooks. I now use Evernote for more than just art-related content. You can see my notebooks in the image above (as well as a sneak peek into potential future blog post topics).

evernote tags

I can get away with only having two art notebooks because I have many tags. Tags make my inner librarian so happy. Yay controlled vocabulary!

First I made a list of tags that were succinct with little chance of cross-over in meaning so that it would be easy to apply the tags to each note. I also wanted to track my pending tasks vs my completed tasks so two tags “pending” and “completed” were necessary. Once I complete a task, I move it into the “z_archive: completed tasks” notebook so it keeps the active notebooks a bit neater. I need to track dates at a high level on some things so “2019” became a tag. And so forth. It took a while to work out the kinks in my tag list but I now only have to make a new one when I add inspiration or tips from a particular artist and want to tag the content with their name.

As I mentioned before and as you can see in my tag list, I now use Evernote for more than just art notes. It’s been of great help with tracking and managing house remodeling projects, gardening plans, my health & fitness, and other areas of life. I use a free version of Evernote for my UX consulting business (not shown here) because I strive to keep that content completely separate from my art and personal life.

One thing that I haven’t mentioned is that you can install a free browser plugin for Evernote so that capturing content from the web is quick and easy right from your browser. There are also plugins for several email applications although I haven’t tried any of them.

I can’t think of any negatives to using Evernote other than the ramp up time it will take for you to learn how to best organize your content. Feel free to use my method and let me know if it works for you or if you make tweaks to that method to improve it.