I recently held another Evernote training session at my church, this time with the Volunteer Ministry staff. In listening to their desired outcomes, it became clear that they needed to consider using more than just Evernote.
I recommended that they adopt three powerful and simple tools to meet their needs: Evernote, Dropbox and Basecamp. Why these three? Because I’ve found that, between the three of them, greater than 80% of my work integrates seamlessly for both myself and my workplace teams/departments.
Evernote is an application that works on your computer, your phone and your tablet, allowing you to capture your ideas, notes, web pages, pictures and documents into an easily searchable interface. I like to think of Evernote as “my digital brain”, because I now use it dozens of times per day for almost everything. Searching my memory is hit-or-miss, but with Evernote, if I capture it, I can find it very easily. Evernote is perfect recall for my not-so-perfect brain.
How do you capture an idea? Action items from a hallway conversation? Due dates shared during a meeting? Chances are you either take a picture, voice record yourself on your phone or write stuff down (on paper or electronically). That’s exactly how Evernote works – for all of it.
But what happens when you want to remember that idea or try to remember what the action item was from that hallway conversation or recall the exact due dates from that meeting? If you’re carrying around a legal pad for notes, recording audio on your phone and then updating your work calendar on your computer, you must find where you captured the information and hope it’s accessible when you need it.
I don’t care how organized you are, if you’re using a bunch of systems and tools to keep track of notes, to-do’s and due dates, you’re still at the mercy of your memory and access to that information (wherever you last left it).
Evernote acts as your digital brain, allowing you to capture notes, record audio and drag pictures right into your notes. But it also lets you capture web pages, videos, documents, screen shots, PDF files – almost anything, really. Most importantly, Evernote makes it all searchable. Here’s my computer running Evernote (v 3.5) on my iMac. It also runs on my iPhone and my Macbook Pro laptop, so whatever I update on one device is auto-magically synced and available on my other devices.
Searching Evernote is more than easy, it’s powerfully easy. When I type in a search for the word “volunteer”, Evernote searches every note looking for the word “volunteer” and gives me all of the results and even highlights where in the note the word appears (see below).
Evernote will even search images that I’ve grabbed from a website, presentation, document, PDF file, camera (etc.) and look for the text in the image. In this case, I searched for “Evernote” and I was shown an image that includes the word “Evernote” in my search results (highlighted so I can see it easier, too).
There’s a good chance that you have access to a shared network folder for uploading and downloading files at work, so you may not think you need the file-sharing goodness offered by Dropbox. However, most of the time your work files are protected on a special server with special access for employees only, making it hard to share files outside of your team or department.
Like Evernote, Dropbox works on any computer, tablet or smartphone. Click and drag files or even folders containing files into your Dropbox. That’s it! All you need is an internet connection. Sharing is simple, too, as you can create a link to any file or folder in your personal Dropbox. These links can then be sent to anyone – even people who don’t use Dropbox. My own Dropbox shows up on my Mac as a destination, so it’s easily accessible.
When you need to organize files for your team and coordinate the progress of a project, Evernote and Dropbox are great assets but they lack the ability to, well, project manage. That’s where Basecamp comes in. Basecamp is an online service that uses your browser as the application interface with no software to install.
Most teams use calendar programs (iCal, Outlook and Google Calendar are most common) to keep track of deadlines, due dates and schedule team meetings. Where a calendar fails is in managing the actual project. Basecamp is a simple but powerful project management tool that gives team leaders the ability to track the tasks, to-do’s, discussions, due dates, documents and images associated with a particular project. It also allows team leaders and members to have multiple projects organized independently. Here’s a church website redesign project sample in Basecamp. It gives the project manager up-to-date information about the progress of the project.
Team members are held accountable through due dates that can be assigned by the project manager. Any updates to a Basecamp project can be automatically emailed to the appropriate people on the project, helping to ensure up-to-the-minute communication without the need to login to Basecamp to see updates, additions and changes.
You can manage up to 10 projects through Basecamp starting at $20 per month. Upgrades include more storage space for project files and management of more projects.
While these are three of my favorite tools, there’s no doubt that this is like most things: a compromise. You may not need Basecamp, but would do well to use both Evernote and Dropbox. There’s simply not an all-in-one über-tool that does everything as well as these three do their respective roles. It’s a small sacrifice, though, to modify your workflow to adjust for using the right tool for a particular situation.
What has your experience been with these three tools? What recommendations and tips would you add to this overview? Share your comment below or connect with the author on Facebook or Twitter with your ideas or questions.
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