It’s a common affliction for entrepreneurs and small business owners – the never-ending flow of ideas, the sparks of brilliance that strike and hijack your attention from your current priorities.
I call it the “Entrepreneurial Budgie Syndrome” – constantly being distracted by the next bright, shiny thing, pulling us off track and leaking our creative energy as we contemplate too many opportunities at once.
But with more and more studies showing us that multi-tasking and lack of attention are stopping us from achieving all we can achieve, we need to focus on the present priority without losing those great ideas.
So how can we capture these “sparks” – these seedlings of creativity that might one day sprout into that next big idea?
Many of us are drowning in an ocean of paper. Notebooks, post-it notes, hastily scribbled ideas on the back of envelopes or scrap paper. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve scribbled down an idea that’s come to me on the road, during the night or in the middle of a meeting, only to lose my piece of paper, my notebook, MY MIND, with hours spent flipping through notebooks or folders trying to find that prized gem.
So now, my go-to tool is Evernote. Like a giant digital filing cabinet, Evernote can capture any kind of idea and store it away for when the time is right.
And because you can categorise the ideas into Notebooks, tag them with keywords and search them, they’ll never get lost.
Evernote “notes” can be made up of text, images, links, voice messages or video. These notes can then be filed into “Notebooks” so you can collate related notes together for easy access. And the notebooks can be grouped under “Stacks” for even more effective organising. So if you have a Stack dedicated to your own business, you can have notebooks under that stack such as Ideas, Content, Finances, People.
And even if you’re more of a pen-and-paper person, you can still sketch out your ideas or chart out your mind maps – then take a photo and store that in an Evernote note.
So my process flow goes something like this…
I have a Stack for all notebooks and notes relating to my business.
Under that Stack I have a Notebook called Ideas.
When I have an idea, or learn something I would like to try in my business, I create a new note in the Ideas Folder.
This is like an incubator for all sorts of ideas and gems that are waiting for their time in the spotlight. I review this folder once a month to check whether any of the ideas should be promoted, or deleted.
When it’s time to focus on one of the ideas, it becomes a Project and I create a new Notebook for that. (e.g. Instagram Workshop).
This becomes the hold-all for all planning, meeting notes, research notes, case studies, recorded information and anything that will be useful in bringing that project to life. (While I use a different tool, Asana, to create my task lists, you could also create task lists within Evernote if you wanted to).
It’s like an old school filing folder – but the beauty is that if you sync Evernote across your devices (computer / tablet / phone) you will always have that file with you to flick through or add to when inspiration strikes.
Once you’re using Evernote to capture the basics, here are some power tips.
Get your team collaborating by sharing the folder.
You can share Notes and Notebooks with people in your team to allow collaboration and centralisation of information.
Clip information straight to your Evernote folder using the Web Clipper.
Install the Evernote Web Clipper in your internet browser, and you can clip website pages straight to your Evernote folder.
This is a golden tool. As I’m browsing social media or working online, if I come across a website that is relevant to one of my projects – or even one that sparks a great idea and I want to save for later – with a click of a button I can save it to my Evernote, even choosing which folder to send it to. Trust me, when you start using the clipper you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.
Send emails to your Evernote folder to keep track of conversations and information in one place (and keep your inbox empty at the same time).
You can forward any email straight into Evernote. When you sign up you will receive an Evernote email address.
You can find it clicking on your username and then Account Info. Save it in your contact list as Evernote so it’s easy to find. Then any email you receive, you can email to that address.
The subject line will be the title of the note. By adding @Notebook (replacing notebook with the actual notebook title) you can make sure it goes directly to the right folder. (If you leave the Subject line blank, it will just go to your default folder).
You can also add tags by adding #Tag to the Subject line (replacing Tag with the tag you’re wanting to use). You can even set a reminder for the note, by adding an exclamation point to the subject line. So if you wanted to be reminded on May 20, 2015, you would add !2015/05/20 to the subject line.
So as an example, if I wanted a note about my Instagram Workshop to go to my Ideas folder, tagged as an Event, with a reminder on May 30th, the subject line would look like this:
Subject: Instagram Workshop @Ideas #event !2015/05/30
Examples of Notebooks you might want to create:
- If you’re working on a variety of partnerships, you could create a Notebook for each Partner, and combine them to create a Stack called Partnerships.
- I have a stack called Clients, and each of my current clients has their own Notebook within that stack.
- I also have a stack called Archive_Clients, where I keep the notebooks of past clients.
- I have a notebook for Recipes, Kids Ideas, Ideas!, Design Inspiration and on and on and on.
So get all of that information out of your head, remove the clutter and pieces of paper from your desk and feel confident that all the information you need is at your fingertips.
Action: Set up (or revisit) your Evernote account, and create at least 3 folders. Install the Evernote Clipper on your desktop and start saving any relevant information to Evernote.