I’m baaaaaaaaaaack! Quick sidenote: I haven’t blogged in 101 days. It was a test as well as a way for us to grow our business. More on both in future posts.
We spent the last 3 months figuring out ways to improve our business for both us and our clients. One of the most important things we do every day is share helpful information about SEO, social media, blogging, analytics, web design and such on our Twitter and Facebook streams. Also, we believe that reading a lot is essential to our ability to help our clients rank, grow their traffic and gain new revenues. We follow over 400 blogs and learn a lot every day from professionals in all sorts of niches.
One of the toughest challenges when you do the majority of your learning, sharing and networking online is tracking, organizing and note-taking. When you were in school you may have taken notes on paper, on a laptop or even in the margins of your college texts. You could refer back to the things you read and if you forgot how something worked, simply find it again and just quickly “re-learn it.”
As we get older, we read business books, SEO blogs, or social media commentary. Maybe you’ve started an Evernote file. Maybe you keep paper notes still. Either way, finding that note you wanted can be a challenge.
How does this “save time” when I have to do all this organizing work?
Let’s say you have an Evernote file with 1000 notes and you reference it semi-regularly. You may spend 3-5 minutes if you can’t find it with simple keywords or you didn’t tag it well initially. The process of creating the category structure and organizing going forward may take you an hour. So after 12 fruitless searches, you start saving time. Forever. That’s the key – once you’re organized in this way, you’re organized for good.
The downside? If you don’t organize now, you’ll be 500 notes behind later. Or 1500, or 5000 notes. Then what? ”Oh no, we need to organize these notes!” I just finished organizing 2000 Evernotes and 400 blogs. Trust me, it takes more than an hour.
Professional photographers use file naming systems that keep their work organized. Amateurs do not. Ask a pro to find a photo and it takes them seconds. Ask the amateur and call them back tomorrow to see if they managed to find it. Our file structure in photography was simple:
- Year > Month > Day > Shoot type > Client name > Original Images
- Year > Month > Day > Shoot type > Client name > Edited Images
Professionals organize what is important to them. If you are not learning, someone else is and you’re falling behind. If you’re not saving what you learn, you either implement it immediately or you will likely forget. 30 minutes to an hour of setup time will save you hundreds of hours of work down the line.
Using Evernote to Save Notes
Evernote is excellent for note-taking because it’s simple, searchable and integrates well with your browser.
Sign up for Evernote at https://www.evernote.com if you haven’t.
Once you’ve signed up, go to evernote.com/evernote and choose the products you need – iPad, Windows desktop, etc. I would suggest installing it on every device you use regularly. Mine is setup on iPhone, iPad, my desktop and my laptop. Make sure you install the web clipper – that’s important!
We aren’t going to get deep into how to use Evernote. This quick video teaches you how to use Evernote.
Organizing Your Notes: Structure
One of the major problems Evernote users run into is collecting hundreds of notes with no organizational system. Sure, Evernote is searchable but if you clip 50 or 100 videos, it may not do you much good to search “Youtube” or Evernote Youtube video.
So how should you organize when you only have the default notebooks? Think about your niche – is it dominated by a few important sites? Is there a news aggregator for all the blogs you read? Are there forums that discuss your interests in detail? Use that!
Our main business is SEO, social media, web analytics and strategy, and in general, digital marketing. One site that aggregates this information for us is Inbound.org
Inbound is an aggregator for digital marketers. They allow you to submit new articles by category. Let’s check Inbound’s categories list:
These are the subjects I want to learn more about every day. It makes sense to create notes based on these categories. But what about your actual reading material? Wouldn’t you like to read the best sources for these subjects every day?
Organizing Your Knowledge Sources
So you have a list of the topics you would like to learn more about. Let’s assume you want to remove a few categories, add your own, etc. Keep a list handy so you know these categories.
Your knowledge will come from somewhere (Source) and go somewhere (Notes – hopefully evernote.) So let’s focus on your sources. With Google Reader going away soon, most blog readers have started moving their subscriptions to either Feedly, NewsBlur or one of the other replacements. For the sake of this article we’re going to talk about Feedly but this would work with any reader that lets you create categories.
How do you want to organize the blogs you read? Use the exact same category structure as above! You’ve found a good structure, you know it works for your niche, and organizing helps you figure out where your education may lack substance (for instance, of the 400 blogs we follow, over 100 were mostly about SEO and only 2 are written for community managers. We care greatly about community management so we’ve addressed this deficiency.)
Once you have organized your Feedly (Sources) and your Evernote (Notes), your menus should look like this:
Staying Organized, Saving Time
Now that your categories are setup on both your sources and your notes, you can easily save notes into the right place, distribute your learning materials where you feel you need the most help, find things you’ve previously read, and implement all the great ideas you had when you read those articles in the first place.
Keep in mind that these same principles can be applied to other areas of your work and life. If you notice above, my Evernote file has more than just marketing materials so these are subfolders of Marketing. I have a Personal folder with “Recipes to try” and “Places to visit” etc. So you can take these same ideas and put them on goals: fitness weight loss tips, entrepreneurship and business, and even “organizational tips.”
Now what? Setup your blog reader and your Evernote files and share this post with those you value most.