Evernote can put you in the cloud today

Realtor Notebook

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The technology that matters the most to me is what I use every day to run my business and to stay organized. I like to keep it simple and inexpensive.

Evernote is one example of that kind of technology. It’s not just for real estate professionals, but has a huge user base of professionals and hobbyists because it’s flexible and easy to use. 

It’s so easy to use that it can be mastered without ever going to "Evernote school." There isn’t any right way or wrong way to integrate it into your business or your life.

Before Evernote I used to carry a notebook with me at all times. I have always been a note taker. I would start each day on a clean page and I would put the date at the top of the page. I could usually find my notes by date when I needed to use them.

The crude filing system served me well for decades, but had some limitations — like not being able to find something, or losing a notebook with hundreds of notes in it.

I replaced those notebooks with Evernote notebooks a few years ago. The electronic notebooks are safely stored in the cloud and much easier to search. Evernote is on my phone, tablet and computers. Notes are time-stamped so I don’t need to date them, and can be handwritten or typed — the handwritten notes are searchable, too. I can search by date, keyword, tag, or even printed and handwritten text inside of images.

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The Evernote trunk is the go-to place for finding apps that work with Evernote, for ideas on how to use it, and links to e-books for more ideas and instructions.

There’s an app for students to use when studying, and an app for audio notes. There’s even an app for "foodies" and a Web Clipper for mobile devices. There are digital scanners and "livescribesmart pens" and writing tablets that work with Evernote. There are also Web Clippers for the most common computer-based Web browsers.

The best way to get started with Evernote is to sign up for a free account and try it. I started out that way a few years ago, but quickly upgraded to a premium account, which costs about $45 a year.

Here are a few ways I use Evernote for taking notes, gathering information and some basic record-keeping and filing:

I can take a picture of a receipt for parking and put it in my 2012 taxes notebook and tag the note with the word "parking" so that I have copies of my receipts safety stored in the cloud. Once the pictures are in Evernote, the text becomes searchable. Sure there are other ways to digitize receipts, but this simple system works for me. I take the picture as soon as I get the receipt and seconds before I lose it.

One of my electronic notebooks is for a rental property that I manage. I have copies of receipts and notes about paint colors and the new tile and pictures of what the place looked like before the last tenant moved in. When I needed to buy a new dishwasher for it last winter, I did my comparison shopping and took some notes and clipped some information from websites. I have a copy of the warranty and the user’s manual all in my notebook for the property.

Handwritten notes can be photographed or written in an app like Penultimate or Skitch, and stored in Evernote. Once uploaded, they too can be searched like magic.

Evernote notes can be displayed on a map on Apple mobile devices. I have used the feature to map some local bike paths. It is like leaving digital bread crumbs along the trail as I take pictures with my phone and send them to my bike trail notebook. The pictures are geotagged and I can see them on a map on my iPad. I can add notes to the picture about the trail and maybe a reminder to watch for the wild turkeys.

I keep a notebook with ideas for blog posts and another with ideas about pictures I want to take and places I want to go. People sometimes use Evernote to organize a vacation or keep the details about a business trip or plan an event.

When I get a new client I start a notebook. I put notes in it about the home they want to buy or sell. I keep contracts in it and pictures for my own reference and the same types of notes that I used to put in paper files. I can share the notebooks with another agent, the office or with the client. One of my current clients is using Evernote in his home search and we are sharing a notebook.

There isn’t any reason why you cannot try Evernote today. Start with a free account and put the free app on your computer, smartphone and tablet. Or just use it on the Internet and visit the Evernote trunk and the blog to see how other people use Evernote. Then invent your own system that fits our own needs.

Start a notebook and try out all of the features — you won’t be sorry. If you need help with Evernote, you can find it on the Evernote website.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.

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