3 Easy Steps to Get Rid of Paper Clutter

Stop the chaos!

Where is that piece of paper where I wrote down the name of that book my friend recommended? Where is Cynthia and Matt’s wedding invitation? Where is the list of mom’s meds? What was the name of that really good wine we had at the party the other night? Where did I put that business card? Shoot, she told me she is looking for someone with my skills and to send her my resume. Aaaahhhhh.

I used to write on my hand, on little pieces of paper, or sticky notes. Now I use Evernote. I have the app on all my devices, including my phone, my iPad and my laptop. The beauty of Evernote is that the information I input syncs with all my devices. I create a grocery list on my computer or iPad, and later when I go to the store, I simply open Evernote on my phone, and there is my grocery list.

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Have you ever felt like this? Overwhelmed and lost amongst the chaos? I have felt this way and I work at reducing the chaos everyday. For me, lots of paper clutter reflects the clutter in my mind. It’s difficult to focus and be productive, especially when I cannot find what I’m looking for. Having to stop what I’m doing to look for information kills my productivity.

With Evernote, you can create order out of chaos. Because of Evernote’s very powerful search feature, you can search on any word in any note, or on “tags” that you create an assign to notes. Simply type the word in the search field, and poof, any note with that word in it appears in thumbnail view.

If you want to reduce the paper clutter, and the clutter in your mind, follow these 3 easy steps to start using Evernote.

Create notes for anything you want to recall later, rather than write on paper. Once you start doing this and you see how useful it is, you’ll change the way you take notes. Use it for simple everyday things like:

  • Grocery lists – You can also share notes with your family, so that if one person goes to the store they simply open Evernote and look at the shared note to see what’s needed.
  • Books you want to read – This is really handy when you’re chatting with people and someone recommends a book. I pull out my phone, open Evernote and add the book title and author to the “books to read” note. Next time I go to the library or book store, I simply open Evernote do a quick search of “book” and there’s the note. No more trying to remember!
  • Ideas and random thoughts – While you’re out and about, you can type a note or record an audio note.
  • Reference information – I use this feature almost daily. I keep a list of medications and doses for my parents, my library card number, airline mileage card number, etc.

Take photos of receipts, hand-written notes, business cards, white board information, or anything you don’t want to re-write. Each photo will be its own note. Evernote has OCR (optical character recognition), which means you can take a photo of something with words in it and you will be able to search on the words inside the photo. Examples of things that I take photo notes are:

  • Labels of beer or wine – When I’m at a party and that I like what I’m drinking, I’ll take a photo of the label in case I want to buy it in the future.
  • Business cards – Evernote has a feature for taking photos of business cards. It auto-populates the contact fields and you can save the information in your contacts list. This feature is really handy for networking, especially because you can add notes immediately about where you met people and something about them that will trigger your memory later.
  • Recipes – I use this all the time. Sometimes I’ll go to the grocery store and I think about what I want to cook that night. I’ll just open up Evernote, do a quick search, and there is the recipe with the list of ingredients.

Tag your “notes,” whether they are text notes or photo notes. Think of tags like you would an index in a book. Pick keywords that will help you find the notes later. Believe me, you can use easily use Evernote without using tags, because you can search on any word that is in the note and Evernote will find it. However, tags makes Evernote even more powerful. For example, if you’re at the store and you’re trying to decide what wine to buy, the label that you took a photo of at the party may not have the word “wine” in it. So, you can create a tag called “wine” and add that tag to the photo notess you took of wine labels. When you’re at the store you open Evernote, simply type in “wine” in the search field and Evernote displays thumbnails of the notes with the word or tag “wine” in it. It’s easy to identify the photo from the thumbnail. If using tags seem too much for now, hold off on step 3 until you feel more comfortable.

There are many other useful features of Evernote, such as notebooks that may help organize your notes. But, organizing your notes is less important at this point. Just start by creating notes first, both text and photo notes, and then add tags along the way.

In a very short time, you will see the “Power of Evernote,” and you will be well on your way of going paperless.