I’m a scheduler and an organizer. I’m one of those people who has to have not just a Plan B, but Plans C through Z. They’re my security blanket. Once I know I have all my bases covered I’m willing to take all kinds of leaps of faith, including moving halfway across the world to place I can’t even find on the map.
I’m also a bit of a geek, and looking back I’m amazed at how I managed so many moves without the aid of the tools I take for granted today. One which I’ve fallen in love with over the past few months is Evernote. It’s cloud based (although you can download it to your computer if you have the paid, upgraded version) and is a way to store information so you can access it on any type of computer, tablet or smartphone.
I registered about a year ago, took a quick look, but couldn’t see an immediate use for it, so left it alone. Perhaps you did too. But recently I started using it at work and quickly realized that this could be a powerful tool for expats.
Evernote’s tagline is “Remember everthing” and that truly is what it’s about. It’s strengths are the many types of information you can store in it (text, emails, pdfs, photos, web pages, bits of web pages, photos, sound files, videos…) coupled with the ease of putting that information into Evernote and finding it again when you need it. Let me give you some examples.
I’m going to the Families in Global Transition Conference next month and no doubt will be meeting lots of new people and picking up a lot of business cards. As soon as I get home I throw them in a desk drawer, along with all the other cards I’ve been meaning to enter into my contact list. Three months later I’d like to contact someone. But what was her name? She worked for a relocation company in New York didn’t she? Where are those cards? Frantic rummaging ensues.
Using Evernote I just whip out my smartphone, open the Evernote app, take a quick photo of her card and hand it back to her. Three months later I open Evernote search for “New York” or “relocation” and Evernote searches for those key words – including the text on her card as well as anything I may have hand written on the card and I’ve found it. Instantly.
Another example. Imagine I’m apartment hunting in Dubai. I have 2 days of appointments set up with several different real estate agents. I set off in 450 heat, armed with a notebook and camera (I’m organized, remember). At the end of the second day I sit down with my damp and crumpled notebook, filled with notes like “#1505 blue, no “unreadable scribble”, laundry, Bella, 130K”. The photos would be helpful if only I knew which apartment was which. Did that great view go with the one with the hideous bathroom or the one with the dark kitchen? And who the hell was Bella? What did I do with her card?
Using Evernote I could leave the notebook and camera at home. All I need is my tablet or smartphone. My only preparation is to create a “notebook” (file folder) in Evernote for each property I plan to see. For each one I
- snap a photo of the agent’s card
- snap a photo of the building from the outside and the number on the apartment door
- take photos inside the unit and of the view
- make a short voice recording of my impressions of each property and the answers to any questions I ask the agent
At the end of the 2 days I’ve got all my information automatically organized into individual notebooks and am ready to make a decision. Better yet, I can instantly share those notebooks with my spouse who (of course) is out of the country on a business trip.
Imagine how great this would be for school visits. In addition to photos and audio notes, I could prepare by clipping bits of the school website and putting them straight into Evernote from my browser. The email they sent confirming my appointment I could forward straight into the relevant Evernote notebook. The pdf attachment? That’s there too. All in one spot, easy to access anywhere I’ve got internet access.
Copies of birth certificates, marriage certificates, academic certificates? Scanned and stored in Evernote, ready to print out or email whenever and wherever I need them.
Starting a shopping list for the next home visit? Photos, clipped web pages, or even just hand written notes, all stored in one “Home Visit” notebook and tagged (yes you can tag notes, just like blog posts) with, say “drug store” or “grocery store” for example. Everything will be there on your phone, just when you need it.
Now are you starting to see why I’m a fan? And no, I don’t work for Evernote or benefit from promoting it. I just think it’s really useful, particularly for expats.