Thursday, December 11, 2014

Evernote as a PhD's Best Friend for Improving Your Daily Writing Habit

evernoteby E. Alana James, Doctoral Net: 

I'm finding the challenges I face as I settle into a new practice differ dramatically from those I faced in my first week.

At least this is proving to be true in the 30 day challenge I took on to write 500 words a day.

At first it was great just to do it, and when I didn't do it to make it up the next day. Now, one week into it, I have written my 3500 words and when I look at it that way I am pleased with my progress. 

The next challenge then is to ensure that the 500 words advance other aspects of my life.

How can my 500 words support that effort and how do I capture my ideas that so my writing is efficient and serves the greater good of advancing PhD work through the site? How do I organize becomes the new challenge so that my ideas and notes serve my writing?

Evernote is my friend in this endeavor and likely it can be your friend too as you organize to write 15 minutes a day on your thesis. Here are the steps that worked for me:

  1. It starts with notebooks - for example I have one for DoctoralNet and, if you are a PhD student you would have one for your thesis.
  2. Then within that are what I call folders but they continue to call notebooks - you create them by right clicking if you use a PC and creating another notebook within the first one. These will be sorted alpha-numerically so if you want your chapters in order as sub-notebooks, then title them like this: 1. Introduction. You may also want !Ideas or !ToDo - both of which will be sorted first because of the !.
  3. Then, you simply put the notes you have in your head into these notebooks. Evernote is great because you can pull in documents you have in other folders or on the web.
  4. What to do with "to write" or "to do"? Depending on how you work, you can make them their own notebooks within the outer notebook that is the task - OR you can start new notes with the title: "todo: write....." etc. and sort them into the general topic they fall under. Either way, I still find tasks, once complete, litter up the rest of the work, so it's good (and I have trouble remembering this) to have a completed folder as well as a place you move ideas into. Of course, you can delete them, but you get lots of room in Evernote, so I keep them in case they have some gem I need later.
  5. A final level of organization is available in the tags - and I tag when I use the clipper that runs in all my web browsers. Sometimes I don't remember a title, but I remember it was a .pdf, as an example, so all my .pdfs are tagged as such when I download them. Again, there is lots of room so clip away and tag them as you go - it saves time if you can easily search and find all the web pages and .pdfs you need in one place.
  6. You can also make snag or tasks lists easily with a check-box that actually checks. This is very handy at the end of your work, when there are a lot of little things you come across but you don't want to interrupt the flow you are on to attend to them right now.
  7. Do you use an IPad or tablet that takes handwritten notes? No problem - there are Evernote integrations that allow those to be put in Evernote and it will search your handwritten work as well - maybe not as accurately, but they are improving.
  8. Translation services and dictating also exist through this tool - really it does everything an academic needs to move their writing ahead easily. I have used Evernote for years and this company continues to improve, so soon we expect to see complete integration between voice, handwritten and typed. With all the ways to organize and its complete integration of types of note-taking, they are living up to their mission of helping us all have what we need when we need it - as a tool to increase our potential memory.
Finally students ask should they become a paid member of Evernote? I am and I recommend it - why? Because the search becomes stronger as it searches within your notes. That alone is worth all the extras that also come with the small yearly premium.

To wrap up by going back to where I started ... why did Evernote come up for me today? Because I had just gone to my "to write" folder and started three notes - I need to upgrade the content on the site as to the purpose of the various chapters in the thesis. You can be assured those articles will be there when the website rolls out in January.

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