Digital project management toolkit series: Evernote

by Jayne Hetherington

When we begin a project here at Fresh Tilled Soil, we fire up an arsenal of digital tools to help us keep the trains running on time. Although our project management process is flexible enough to adapt to the communication style of each of our partners, we’ve landed on a core suite of applications that has streamlined our daily work flow and maximized efficiencies.

This is the fourth in a series of posts outlining the Digital Project Management Toolkit.

What it is:

Evernote is a multi-platform note-taking and organization application that allows users to compose (and/or upload), store, and manage documents.

Internal or external communication?

Internal only. Unlike the other tools in this series, Evernote is an app that I use individually, not in collaboration with the Fresh team. I rarely take advantage of its sharing features, for reasons I’ll get into below.

How I use it:

Evernote has been criticized for being an “everything bucket,” i.e. a place files go to get lost and eventually die. The flipside of this argument is that Evernote provides a blank slate and open repository for just about anything, organized as you choose. This is the key reason Evernote is appealing to me.

Because Fresh uses our suite of digital tools, in part, as a way to encourage collaboration, it means that we must use them in a very structured, team-centric way.  For example, Fresh project managers keep all of our meeting notes as google docs in a client-specific Drive folders, formatted using a standard, agreed-upon method. While this is great for team and client distribution, it makes Drive a more public, and thus more ‘formal,’ note-taking arena.

Evernote is my private, work-it-out note-taking space. In line with the criticism cited above, this does mean that sometimes it serves as a garbage pail for notes, files, ideas; but it’s _my_ garbage pail, organized in a way that makes sense to me. Even as someone whose job is focused around (and loves!) digital collaboration, sometimes it’s a relief to be able to jot things down without framing things for others. Sure, I could do that in private Drive folders, but I like a digital space that looks and feels a little different for things that are ‘mine.’

Although Evernote has a wide range of use cases, features, and corollary/helper apps and integrations (lots of which are considered by many to be distractions), simple note-taking and to-do lists are the core features I use. Drive and Dropbox integrations are straightforward, and I’ll use both of those occasionally.

Evernote project screenshot

Easy Drive integration, if you’re into that. Source:

How I want to use it but can’t because it’s too buggy:

Sorry, Evernote, you’re the one digital tool that gets this extra explainer. The Evernote Web Clipper extension is an easy way to grab full screenshots, highlight/save text within an article, and catalog web snippets. However, the login modal is ultra-buggy on both the Chrome and Safari extension, and even once logged in, I’ve had continual trouble getting either extension to function as promised.

Evernote content clipper

The Evernote browser extension allows you to ‘clip’ content and store/manage within Evernote.

Evernote web clipper login screen

That is, if I could log in successfully more than 50% of the time. Problem documented regularly on the Evernote forums.

Why I use it:

Evernote is like my work ‘diary,’ the place I document my project thoughts in an informal, braindump kind of way.  By no means am I using Evernote to the greatest reaches of its functionality (not even close), but utilizing its core competencies (and little else) has been a huge productivity booster for me. Personally, I find that I think and write more clearly and quickly in a private space and then translate these quick thoughts into ‘shared’ content. As I mentioned above, there are countless tools that do the exact same thing (including Drive and Dropbox, which I’m already using), though the simple, icon-based interface is very pleasing to me, which is enough to sway me in my particular use case.

I’m simplifying Evernote drastically to explain my personal usage and for the sake of this post. I encourage you to explore its many other features and functionality.

About Jayne Hetherington

Jayne started her career as an adjunct professor teaching mass media, digital studies, and media theory classes while also working as a project manager at...