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Using Evernote to Save Your Schooling


As students, we accumulate a ton of stuff. Papers, handouts, syllabi, class notes, tests, and a whole variety of other things cross our desks during the course of a semester.

This semester, I’ve resolved to do a better job of handling it all. I need a better way to collect and process all the things I get for school, and then use them over the course of the semester. Not to mention, I don’t want to lose things anymore- like paper assignments. Hmm…

My solution has been to use Evernote, the note-taking program that’s increasingly gaining popularity. With a little bit of tweaking, Evernote’s a killer way to manage everything (and I mean everything) you deal with this semester.

Before we get going, there are a few background things to do: first, create a free Evernote account. Second, download the desktop managers (having offline access is key). Those done, we’re ready to go!

Here’s how I started, the basic set-up: In Evernote, create a Notebook called “School.” Then, under “Tags,” create one for each class- something like “History” or “BIO252.” Then create tags for each type of media you’ll get- “class notes,” “handouts,” “tests,” and the like. Also, create and make default a Notebook called “Inbox.”



Now here’s how the system works: in class, take notes in Evernote. If you’re not wild about that, take them in Word and copy them into Evernote. At the end of every class period, make sure everything you’ve written ends up in Evernote. Date the note something like “090121 Class Notes”- the format is useful for sorting notes by date. Then, tag it with “class notes” and the class title, and put in the “School” notebook.

For every handout you get (this is the time-intensive part, but is hugely worth it), scan it or take a picture of it and put it into Evernote. Tag it with the classs and the type, date it and put it into the “School Notebook.” You can either scan the page, or take a picture of it and move it into Evernote that way. Backing up your handouts is good practice anyway, but Evernote offers the ability to search the text of an image, which means you can search through handouts for the information you want instead of having to flip through every piece of paper you get.

Evernote isn’t designed to manage tasks and calendars, but can do so pretty easily. I created a Notebook called “Tickler,” and everything with date-specific information goes in there. Whether it’s “Paper due 080213″ or “08308 HIUS Test 8am”, I’m able to open up the Tickler and see what’s coming up for me. I can either do a search for a particular date to see everything for and from that day, or just open up the Tickler and see what’s coming.

There are a number of advantages to this system. First, you’re able to see everything for a class in one place, instead of having to go through all your notes in one file, your handouts in another, and the random things you balled up into your backpack in another. Second, searchability is awesome. If you’re looking for an ID or a quote, instead of looking through all of your notes one by one, you can search them in, like, five seconds. The time saved by that alone makes it worth it. Third, it’s just cleaner. I find I’m much less stressed when I’m neat, and when I know where everything is. With tons of papers everywhere, I inevitably lose things, or take forever to find them. With Evernote, everything’s easy to find and manage.

Though Evernote can’t do much for my epically impressive procrastination skills, it does a wonderful job of making me more productive when I want to be. All the information I need is either one click or one search away, and getting things done and studied is much easier and more connected in Evernote than it would be with any other application I’ve found.

This is just a basic look into how Evernote can help you as a student. What ideas do you have? Are there ways Evernote, or other applications, can help aspects of your school life?

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19 Responses to “Using Evernote to Save Your Schooling”

  1. Brandon says:

    Last semester I started using Evernote in a similar fashion. It kept my notebook cleared out, and helped me review after each class. (Some of the ideas here are borrowed from previous articles on this site as well)

    I own a laptop, but I usually find that it is easier for me to take notes with good ol’ pen and paper. So I would just run them through our scanner and copy and paste the .jpg images into Evernote (one entry / class period / class). Then in the text at the top of each entry, I would type in some notes on what was covered – this was my quick review. For example: Statics Class – trusses, moment arms; Calculus Class: Integrals, double integrals.
    These text notes at the top made my notes searchable, and helped me refresh my memory about the major concepts covered in each class.

    The last part of my system (the most helpful part) was as I reviewed my notes to make sure that I typed in all of the major concepts covered, I would write down any formulas, or critical notes on a 3×5 notecard. This became my review card and reference card as I did homework and studied for tests.

    I hope this helps – it is working great again for me this semester.

  2. Carlos says:

    Oh lord, her desk looks like my bedroom.

  3. The use of tags and other descriptors for schoolwork in Evernote looks to be a fine way to connect technology with the information received. I like that you pointed out that it doesn’t change effects from procrastination, but that it speeds up the process when the user sets into a focused mode.

  4. David Pierce says:

    @Brandon- I love the idea of putting the key points at the top of each page. That’s a great way of studying as time goes on, and not having to read through every page to figure it out. The only thing I’m not wild about is the shift from paper, to Web, back to paper. I wonder if there’s a way to use Evernote, or something like it, instead of the notecards? But hey, if it works for you, more power to ya! Thanks for the ideas.

    @Carlos- I hear THAT. That might as well be a 6-months ago self-portrait.

    @Armen- Thanks! For me, the best I can do is to make it easy to be productive when I want to be. That way, procrastination’s not so killer. Let me know what your experience is with it, if and when you try it.

  5. Daryl Tay says:

    With regards to the removal of notecards and going digital, how about the Evernote app for iPhone/ipod Touch or windows mobile instead?

  6. David Pierce says:

    @Daryl- Using the Windows Mobile and iPhone apps (both of which I do use) are critical for the implementation of this system, as they make it a truly ubiquitous capture tool. I didn’t mention it in the article because for most of your school capturing, you’re going to be at your computer, and dealing with a high volume of text- thus, using the Web and desktop clients is useful. Do you use the iPhone or WM versions? How?

  7. Daryl Tay says:

    @David: I’ve found the app for the iPod Touch to be very useful for me. For example I’d be traveling to school on the train and suddenly remember an assignment I need to get working on, and whip out Evernote, key it in, and tag it as todo, then sync up once I get to a place with wifi. I’d imagine this would be much, much easier with a 3G iPhone though.

    Also, I was replying specifically in response to Brandon’s post where he said he was carrying 3×5 cards around to refresh his memory. My alternative would be to create a note with a “refresh” tag, and then read that on the train instead of using the 3×5, therefore cutting down any need to duplicate data from paper to digital.

  8. Dicki says:

    Really a creative approach to the academic proccess,the time is not wasted in vain but for good.

  9. @Dicki, it’s really a creative approach. I’ve been a happy Google Notebook user for a long time but when I got an iPhone a few weeks ago began using Evernote on the recommendation of the folks at Lifehacker. I’ve been very happy with what I’ve used it for so far.

    When the news came down about Google discontinuing Notebook, I planned on pulling everything into Evernote piece by piece. This is much better. Which of my other thoughts are you planning on reading?

  10. it’s a good approach to have a better result

  11. Student says:

    hello mate,
    maybe you should try to fix this post on the homepage, it is still displaying post body tag.

    as for the evernote, this is a handy tool indeed, but i am still having the old way, placing it on a paper.

  12. David Pierce says:

    @Daryl- Thanks for the update. That’s a great addition to the system. I have a Touch too, and definitely wish for an iPhone sometimes. Just waiting on the day Evernote gives full offline sync…

    @Current Account- Have you seen Evernote’s recently-released Google Notebook importer? Should make the conversion process a whole lot easier.

    @Student- I know, thanks for the heads up. Unfortunately, I don’t get to control that stuff. Will report to the powers that be.

    Out of curiosity, what is it that keeps you stuck to pen and paper?

  13. James says:

    That girls office looks like my workplace!

  14. Susan says:

    Great post! We have Microsoft OneNote at work (an international school) and it has become a killer app for many staff members. However, my home computer is a Mac and their is no Mac version. I recently began using Evernote for my life outside of work and it is great! Now I will apply some of your tips in this article to my notes for a class I’ll be taking.Very helpful to read about someone else’s workflow.

  15. A8 says:

    Evernote looks to be a fine way to connect technology with the information received.

  16. That ladies desk comes close to a co workers, how on earth could any one work in such a mess really gets me, I know that I would not be able too, things need to be in their place. :)

  17. I first time visit this site. This is really helpful for me and now i’ll create notes in Evernote. Thanks.

  18. Evernote is helpful for manage my work. I will download it. Thanks.

  19. Aaron says:

    @David I know this post has been up for a while, but I just found it after reading your article on Digitizd. This was such a great help! I have been finding more and more ways to use Evernote. I love the concept of getting so detailed with all the information in one place. Excellent post!