Evernote Contact Manager

How to Use Evernote as a Contact Manager

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The One Minute Takeaway

  • Evernote is a software application. It comes in Mac, Windows, iPhone, Android and Blackberry flavors
  • As a tool, it has multiple uses, but its primary function is to capture information (web pages, articles, photos, chunks of text, contact information, graphics, etc.), store it in the cloud, index it to make it keyword and tag-searchable (findable) and then sync the cloud version with your laptop and mobile versions of Evernote
  • If you don’t already use it, you should. It will literally change your life
  • If you do use it, take the time to learn more about it
  • Over the next few weeks and months I’ll be featuring a few ways  that I use Evernote personally here
  • This post shows step-by-step how to use Evernote as not just a Contact Manager, but a Relationship Manager, and why you should try it right now
  • Evernote is free, but I recommend buying or upgrading to a Premium account, both to support future development of the application and because it provides for more storage
  • Transparency Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with the company other than being a customer, and none of the links provided below are affiliate-related

Evernote Contact Manager

The primary purpose of a Contact Management Program has always been to store and retrieve contact information (phone, email, address etc.).  In fact, you’re likely using the Contacts section of Outlook right now for this purpose. You may or may not be connecting a mobile device to your laptop via a sync cable and software program.

If this is you, I’ve got a bottle of Tylenol I can sell you, because there is a better way to do things and I’m about to show you something that will rock your world.

I’m writing this post because at the time of this writing there are no articles or tips for how to use Evernote as a Contact Manager, other than the suggestion that one can take photos of people you meet at a conference and use them to remember what they look like. There’s also the obvious use of Evernote as a Contact Manager by taking photos of business cards with your smartphone and storing them in Evernote.

The Missing Piece: How to Use Evernote as a Relationship Management Tool

What we have here is a fundamental misunderstanding. You see, when I think of managing my contacts, I think of deleting phone numbers, updating Outlook and other painful things. But what I really want to think about, what’s really (literally) as valuable as gold, is Relationship Management.

Any smartphone or email program can give you an Address Book or list of Contact Information. Evernote can even be used for that if you wish, but Contact Management is such a very small part of Relationship Management that it’s worth clarifying the difference in mindset before I show you something new.

Contact Management = Me being able to locate & retrieve your phone number and email address

Relationship Management = Me using that information and more to, over a period of months, get to know you as a person and establish either a relatively shallow relationship (think: Twitter or Facebook) or a deeper relationship (think: in-person, phone, dinners, lunches, coffees, dates, marriage, life, etc.) with you.

You see the difference? It’s important. Because while I hate “managing contacts”, I absolutely love meeting new people and establishing relationships. I’m  going show you to use Evernote to effectively manage relationships, but if you insist on simply wanting a Contact Manager, the same strategy here can be used for that too.

Step 1: Stop Looking for the Tool that Does Everything Really Well. It does not exist.

You’re chasing a Pink Unicorn; and it is laughing at you, the way Pink Unicorns tend to do.

Step 2: Separate Your Contact Manager from Your Relationship Manager

NOTE: Below I’m going to briefly tell you about my current setup. When I write here, the strategies I write about can be applied to anything, because my objective is not to find ways to make things work for only specific devices or platforms on the market. My objective is to develop and share platform-agnostic techniques and strategies that work to solve a problem for many people. In English, this means that, while I am telling you what I use below and why I use that setup, if you’re reading this and your preference is for say, the Blackberry or iPhone, keep reading. I’m just sharing what I have found to work best for me. For now.

I currently use the Droid X on Verizon as my mobile device. I use Google Business Apps, which provides me with a premium version of Gmail, Calendar, Docs and the rest of the product suite.

Gmail is my Contact Manager. In other words, when I need a phone number, or need to send an email or on the rare occasions when I need to locate an address, I click the Contacts link in my Gmail account.

This works nicely for me because when I change a phone number or email or create a contact in my Gmail account in a web browser, it is instantly available and updated on my smartphone. No cable. No syncing. No software. No headache. No Tylenol. My Contacts are in the cloud and I access them from multiple devices, including my smartphone.

Step 3: Use Evernote as a Relationship Manager, NOT a Contact Manager

Once you start using Evernote, you’ll quickly discover many uses for it. Their site has video tutorials, a tips blog and many great ideas. If you click on the image below to view it full size, you’ll see how I use Evernote as a Relationship Manager. I’ll explain a bit more about it below the visual, but look at the image in its full size so you can get a sense for my setup. Click on it and if you’re using a browser like Chrome you may also see a plus sign if you still need to click again to view it full size.

Take a couple minutes to look at the image. I’m going to go grab a cup of coffee and come back.

"evernote contact manager"

Okay. I’m back.

On Notebooks

On the left side of the image are my Notebooks. I’ll do some short posts in the future on what they are and how I use them, but for now I’m just going to focus on the CONTACTS notebook (selected in the image).

Step 4: Create a Notebook for Relationship Management

Now here’s a decision point for you that is your own personal preference. I do NOT use Evernote for Contact Management, meaning that I do NOT store phone numbers or email addresses. Why? Because I choose not to. The wonderful thing about Evernote is that you can customize your version the way you like it, even down to including contact information and/or photos of your contacts if you wish.

So create a new Notebook, and call it CONTACTS or RELATIONSHIPS or whatever you wish, so long as it means something to you and you know where to find it. If you put a character like a $ before the name, as you can see in the screenshot above, you can reorder your Notebooks however you prefer. It’s also worth noting that you should explore further Evernote’s ability to create “Stacks” of Notebooks, as I’ve done in the screenshot for the Notebook labeled “$ 20% SPOKES”. Stacks are basically Notebooks that are organized under the same theme, so you may want to create a Stack called “PROJECTS” and within that might be a Notebook for each Project. There are a million ways to use this program, so test a few and use what works best for you. I’ll tell you about my PROJECTS Notebook in another post.

Here are the reasons why I DON’T use Evernote as a Contact Manager:

  1. Because I use Gmail for my Contacts, there is no need to use Evernote to store my Contact Information
  2. When I email someone, I email them using the web version of Gmail because I have a searchable archive going back five years that is valuable to me. No other email client, PC or Mac can handle that large of an archive and still offer efficient and functional search capabilities to the degree that Gmail can. However, if you do make the choice to include the Contact Information in Evernote, the Link Field (in the image above it says “Virgin Galactic”) can be used for the contact’s email address by using “mailto:jane@acme.com” instead of http:// for a web link and it should launch your default email client with a new message pre-addressed.
  3. When I call someone, I call them from my mobile phone. Although in the Evernote app for Android, phone numbers in Notes can be touched on and it will dial the contact, I choose not to do this because it creates unnecessary dual updating of Contact Information for me – I’d have to update both Evernote as well as Gmail Contacts. Whenever possible I opt for Less, rather than More, particularly when I have a choice.

Step 5: Create Your First Contact or Relationship

Click to select the CONTACTS Notebook (or whatever you chose to call it).

Click the New Note icon and in the Note Title, put the person’s name. Doesn’t matter if you put last name first or first name last because we’re not going to sort by name. The true power of Evernote is its ability to allow you to search specific Notebooks or All Notebooks by Tag or keyword or name or even the area code of a phone number, name of a book etc. – all from either your laptop or your smartphone. That’s power under the hood.

In the example screenshot above I highlighted Richard Branson and listed his title, opting to create a “Tag” for his company name. Why? Because I wanted to be able to click that Tag or search on that Tag and have all contacts display from that company. An alternative option for you would be to title the note: “Richard Branson / Virgin Galactic”.

Step 6: Use It

Here are some great usage tips if you choose to deploy this strategy:

Get a Text Expander

PC peeps: Comment below and tell me what the best text expander for Windows users is. I’m on a Mac. I’ll update this article with a PC equivalent.

If you’re on a Mac, you’re just going to have to trust me on this tip. Go download and install Typinator (not an affiliate link). This software will allow you to create keystroke shortcuts for frequently used text. I’ll do a post specifically on text-expansion software apps in the future, because they can really save you time in replying to email. But for now you’re going to use it to create a single shortcut. The shortcut keystroke combination is going to be the letters DTS followed by a space. I don’t provide tech support, so you’re going to have to RTFM (read the manual) for Typinator, but it’s pretty easy.

You’re going to set that keystroke combination, Date/Time Stamp, such that every time you type that combination of keys, this happens:

Tuesday, 22-February-2011 – 9:13 PM:

Now you’ve got something you can work with to document phone conversations. Until you get a text expander you’re going to have to manually just enter the date/time. Why take notes with Date and Time Stamps?

Two reasons:

#1. Because it makes you look really smart even if you’re not. If something goes sour on a real estate deal you’re doing, imagine the look on the face of the other agent when you are able to recite literally verbatim what they said or what you discussed over coffee or on the phone THREE MONTHS AGO!

And B, because it creates a chronological history of the Relationship, how frequently you meet, perhaps the last time you had coffee with this person they told you they needed help with finding a nice dog. After you had coffee and before you forgot, you booted up Evernote – either on your smartphone or your laptop, and you inserted the Date/Time Stamp, and put: “Met for coffee. She’s looking for a dog. Prefers Rottweillers, not poodles. Would like it to be a shelter dog rather than from a breeder.”

Four months after having coffee with her, you get a call from your friend who runs the Dog Rescue Center in Montana. Turns out she’s looking to place a Rottweiller who is going to be put to sleep in 2 days if they can’t find a home for her. Something clicks in your mind. One of your 500 friends you met with or spoke with or emailed with some months ago was looking for one, wasn’t she? But who?

While you’re still on the phone, you boot up your laptop and Evernote, click on the CONTACTS Notebook and search “dog” and “rottweiller”. Immediately the friend you had coffee with four months ago comes up. Whether you chose to include contact information at the top of the notes or not, you now know immediately who your next call is going to be to. And you’ve helped someone. Two really – You helped the dog and you helped your friends.

Helping people and Paying It Forward is Powerful. As Scott Stratten says, it’s “AwesomeSauce”.

Less is More, Where Relationships are Concerned

As Peter Shankman says, “Follower Count is the new Penis Envy.” And he’s right. In Relationship Management, it’s NOT about Quantity, it’s about Quality.

It is physically impossible for you to maintain deep relationships with 1000 people and still be employed. Really. It’s an easy time-based equation. Goes something like this: Hours you have available per month / # Relationships you want to grow or maintain = Time that you have for each person.

Or, said another way, “The bigger your CONTACTS Notebook, the shallower your relationships are.”

You’re giving them a fraction of a fraction of your attention, or, if you’re like me, you wake up one day and have an epiphany. Suddenly you see why it’s actually NOT better to have  1,000 or 5,000 “Friends” on Facebook; and you go through and pare your list down significantly so you can put more time and attention into fewer relationships. I have less than 250 Friends on Facebook, and I enjoy it far more than when I accepted every friend request that came in.

Don’t Just Add Existing Contacts. Create Notes for People You’d Like to Meet

Relationship Management is not just about maintaining relationships. It’s about adding new ones. So you should be creating Notes for people you’d LIKE to have a relationship with as well as those who you already know. For example, do you want to have a relationship with me? If so, create a Note with my name on it in the title (Adam Boettiger), drop my site link into the URL box (http://digitalminimalism.com/), follow me on Twitter to learn more about me and what I might need help with, and one day introduce yourself. But keep in mind that my philosophy is that Less is More, so it may not be possible right now for me to have a deep relationship with you. You may have to be satisfied with just following me on Twitter and engaging me there in 140-character chunks of text. Trust me. It’s nothing personal. Like you, my Time and Attention are finite.

How to Remember to Stay in Touch in a World of Noise

Relationships – good ones – take work as well as an investment in time. With this Evernote Relationship Management System, there are two ways you can remember to stay in touch regularly with your Contacts:

The first way is to click the top of the column that has your Notes in it and choose to Filter the list of contacts by “Last Date Updated”. What this will automatically do is, by month, allow you to see how long it has been since you changed or added something to a Contact’s Note. In other words, if you haven’t spoken to Mom in four months, it’s probably time to give her a call.

The second way – the one that I use, is to use an email reminder service called FollowUpThen. It’s free as of this writing. I have no affiliation with them other than using them for some time quite effectively. In this article, I go into great detail on how I use the service for those interested.

In general though, just understand that you need to have regular contact with people for a relationship to happen, so an example of how I might remember to do this might be to send email to: 3weeks@followupthen.com with the Subject Line: TICKLE: Gail Goodwin and I’d send it with nothing in the Body of the message, unless there was something specific I needed to discuss with her. It just needs to be a nudge for me to open the Evernote app on my smartphone, look her up, read about what we discussed last and pick up the phone or email her.

On Karma

Generally when I meet someone new, after I get to know them I always end up asking the same thing: “If there was one thing that I could help you with this week or this month or this year, what would it be?”

Now, those who know me, know that’s who I am. I know that at some point, if I help enough people, it generally comes back to me in some way. But our society has focused on “Me Me Me Me Me Me” for so long that it’s quite funny the looks I get when I say this to a person I met in a coffee shop. They assume that you have to have an ulterior motive – selling or otherwise – if you’re wanting to help them. And I think that’s sad.

So for me, what Evernote allows me to do is help people. And look really smart to the people I choose to have relationships with. It allows me to ask about their spouse’s broken ankle and refer to her by name – the “right” name this time.

I use Evernote for many, many things. It is a truly critical part of my life and I’ll share more about how I use it in future posts. If you’re interested and don’t want to miss them, get on the list or pick up the RSS feed for this blog.

One Final Thought

Evernote is a powerful tool. If they ever went out of business, I would immediately look very stupid to my spouse and to many others. It’s THAT important.

But helping other people is more important and more powerful than any product you can buy. So the one final thought I’d like to leave you with is this:

If you do decide to try Evernote and start adopting my philosophy of “Relationship Management” over “Contact Management”, do me a favor?

When you create your CONTACTS notebook, pick three people you don’t know well, create a Note for each of them, ask them how you can help them; and while you’re on the phone with them, be taking notes in Evernote on what they need help with. Use descriptive keywords or even assign a Tag to that contact so that they will come up on future searches.

Help three people you don’t know. Pay It Forward and it will come back to you a hundred-fold. I guarantee it.

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Recommended Next Reading: VIDEO: “How and Why to Make Time for Yourself

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About Adam Boettiger

Practicing digital minimalist living in Portland, Oregon. I have an ongoing love/hate relationship with email. I write as often as I can, enjoy reading and also love to scuba and skydive. Content on this site is opinion only and subject to this site's Terms & Conditions. Twitter: @minimalism and @adamboettiger

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  • http://InspireMeToday.com Info

    Adam, this is GREAT information! Thanks for sharing it. I can tell this would save me so much time! Thanks again for sharing your expertise. I’m off to tweet this link!

  • Adam Boettiger

    Thanks Gail!

  • http://twitter.com/cupoflizard Angela ‘Bobby’ White

    Excellent post. Thank you so much. I am a huge Evernote fan, but have not really found my perfect groove with it yet. And I have been on an endless search for The Perfect Contacts Management app. I think now, after hearing your ideas, I will stop looking. I use Gmail for my “personal” and “business” contacts but don’t track my relationships there. I use Evernote (poorly, I think) for my professional relationships but can’t contact them from that space. (I actually think since I haven’t created a way to contact them from Evernote, I don’t go there when I need to – during a meeting or phone conversation…) Since my life is blending together anyway – I love work so much I take it home and make friends with my professional contacts. And now Facebook and LinkedIn have nurtured professional connections with many of my friends. So, I think I need to give in and put everyone together. I need to put everyone in Gmail and have that be my managed database and then learn how to better manage my quality relationships in Evernote. I need to improve my tagging. Could I link to a specific Evernote note from Google Contacts? And vice-versa? That would be perfect.

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    Hi Angela – Thanks for your question. I don’t believe you can link from a Google Contact to a specific Evernote note, primarily because one is cloud-based and the other software-based.

    I can however, share with you what I do which I find works. Take what is useful and discard the rest:

    1. Google Business Apps, $50/year, my own domain. For many reasons, but for the time being my smart phone is a Droid X and when I add or mod a contact in Google Contacts on the web it is instantly available on my phone, no cable or syncing required. Realtime.

    2. I use Google Contacts purely for email and phone #s – anything I’d do from my phone or via email. And I use a web browser always to access email/Gmail, primarily because doing so allows me to use the keyboard shortcuts in Gmail, but also because it gives me the freedom to change machines at will, without having to screw around with export/import of email, hard drives etc. I also use the browser because it takes up far less RAM than something like Entourage or Outlook once the database gets large, and it gives me faster and superior searching capabilities. I have over 100,000 messages archived back four years. There’s just no way you can search something like that in Outlook without the file becoming corrupted or locking up the memory.

    3. In Evernote, I have two Notebooks, one is for “CONTACTS”, the other is for “RELATIONSHIPS”. I’m not trying to complicate things, but I honestly believe there’s a difference. I use RELATIONSHIPS to identify a small circle of people with whom I wish to either establish a new, or nurture an existing relationship with over time.

    Because this is very much a finite number – perhaps less than 100, I use CONTACTS for “Everyone Else”.

    You’ll find that if you click the URL spot in an Evernote note, you can drop in the person’s email address with mailto: in front of it and it becomes a clickable hyperlink that will allow you to open a new email message to them. Also in most smart phones, the Evernote app allows you to touch a phone number in a Note to dial it. At least on my Android phone it does.

    It may make sense for me to do a few 60-second videos of screencasts showing how I have Evernote set up. I’m quite busy, but if you and others would find that useful, let me know and I’ll make time for it.



  • Lee

    Excellent article Adam – thanks.

    Windows client users can simply use Crtl + ; to enter a date/time stamp.

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    Thanks Lee!

    On Mar 15, 2011 8:21 PM, “Disqus”

  • http://47hats.com Bob Walsh

    Excellent post Adam: a couple of questions:

    - do you use TextExpander to have a template so you can quickly fill in what someone you know is looking for?

    - For people you’d like to meet, do you link to their social info? (if so, manually or do you have a script?)

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    Hi Bob -

    I use Typinator (text expander for Mac users) for many things. I generally don’t have a template for needs. Often I just do whatever is fastest and that is usually to just copy/paste their tweet or jot a couple of sentences down while chatting on the phone.

    For folks I’d like to meet, I do start building links to their blog and social profiles, yes.



  • Nate

    Fantastic – I really enjoyed this.  Charlotte NC here – you should work for Evernote (sales man… sales) :-)  

  • Maripat Voellmecke

    Thanks for such valuable information, Adam. I am transitioning to an online invoicing program for my sole proprietorship and I’m looking to integrate CRM. I have started emailing the invoices to Evernote so I can attach them to my client, via tags. Too early to tell if it will work, but I’ll use some of your ideas as well.

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    Maripat – You may want to also look at http://getharvest.com/ or http://freshbooks.com/ or http://invoicemachine.com/ for online invoicing and use Evernote for CRM.

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    Thanks Nate!

  • http://dangoldesq.com Daniel Gold

    Nate – Kudos on a really fantastic and substantive post. I hope I can add some more value to this post and all the great comments above.  I’m the author of the eBook in the Evernote Trunk called, “Evernote: The unofficial guide to capturing everything and getting things done.”  One of the things I love about Evernote so much, and wrote about in the eBook is the power of note linking.  I see so much tremendous power in note linking for GTD – and now, thanks to you, I see the power of note linking for Evernote as a Relationship Manager.

    How would I do this?  Well, let’s say you’ve got a master note on Company XYZ.  This note would talk just about the details of the company and why you’re prospecting them and maybe your main contacts.  You can then copy note link – basically creating a hyperlink to this master note – to a new note on one of those main contacts such as Joe Shmo.  When you click on Joe’s name in this note, it opens up the note on Joe.  You can put in all the relevant info on Joe, and then by date, start listing like you do, major activities, likes, interests, etc.  You can then create note links to other notes within Evernote about Joe such as an email you saved, project related notes, receipts from a lunch, or whatever it might be.  Basically, taking your idea & adding note links, you’ve created an incredible master note that centralizes all the critical information on Joe.

    I hope this adds some value, and if you like, you can check out the Trunk for links to my site & my eBook. 

    Cheers and thanks again for a really tremendous and valuable post!

  • Mick

    For text expansion on Windows you could try Texter (http://lifehacker.com/238306/lifehacker-code-texter-windows) from one of the guys at Lifehacker. There’s also Phrase Express (http://www.phraseexpress.com/) although I had issues with this making my text strings all upper case until I restarted the app.

    Personally I use AutoHotKey (http://www.autohotkey.com/) for text expansion, inserting dates etc. Bit  more geeky as you edit a text (.ahk) file but there’s so much you can do with it

  • http://simplecuriosity.com Brandon

    Just found you via Google+…great post. I do something very similar. I use Gmail for contact management and Evernote to keep track of all my close relationships. I primarily use it to keep track of info about my closest friends. For example, what are the names/jobs/etc of their significant others, family members, kids, friends. Hopefully my relationship management continues to grow as I build more business connections in the future. 

    As @0c55a0a1e1a3e8f6826c384f75ded3ca:disqus mentioned, Ctrl +; will add a date/time stamp in Evernote for Windows. I also use AutoHotKey. Add the following to your AHK script to get a date/time stamp in any program:

    :*:]d::  ; This hotstring replaces “]d” with the current date and time via the commands belowFormatTime, CurrentDateTime,, M/d/yyyy h:mm tt  ; It will look like 9/1/2005 3:53 PMSendInput %CurrentDateTime%return

  • Brandon

    Sorry, the format of the AHK script messed up a bit…try this instead:

    FormatTime, CurrentDateTime,, M/d/yyyy h:mm tt
    SendInput %CurrentDateTime%

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    Daniel – My name is Adam, not Nate. I am about to revamp my Evernote Contact Management Post with new information. Please send me your ebook and I may link to it as reference. Thank you for your input!  Adam

  • http://dangoldesq.com Daniel Gold

    Adam – Many thanks and deepest apologies. I just edited my comment because I have no idea why I wrote that – especially considering I just talked you up to my Google+ circles and on Twitter (properly citing to your name)!  Mildly embarrassing! :)  In any event, I’ll follow-up with you directly over e-mail.  Thanks again, Adam!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1036083870 Warren Thrush

    Hi Adam,

    This is a great post! Thanks for taking the time to put this together. I’ve started using this approach with managing my business relationships and it is working well. I was wondering though, do you list the most recent note on a contact at the top or the bottom of each note? For example, if you made new entries for each contact at the top of each note, you’d likely see the last thing you wrote about them when scanning and clicking through each note in a notebook.

    I know it probably doesn’t matter and it is probably up to personal preference, but I was wondering what choice you made here after using this approach for a while. 

    Hope my question makes sense!


  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Natural-Ponds/100000885234720 Natural Ponds

    Adam, you just brought me out of the Stone Age.  Thanks! 

    I  don’t manage a zillion contacts, but I do try to keep up with that many thoughts/ideas in a very unorganized fashion.  I  think I can use your suggestions to manage/map my  mind. 

    Yes, I will be sharing this with all I know who do manage tons of contacts. Thank you for helping me help them.

    btw,  Cheers from Bend.

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    @Natural Ponds: Thanks! Next post on Evernote will be on how to use it for Sales, per special request from a reader. We all have many things we want to do. Life gets in the way. LOL  I might suggest to you that there is a new app out for iPhone, iPad and Mac called FireTask that has helped me tremendously as well. That and many of the mind-mapping programs. I have ADHD and find that visual mapping of ideas and concepts helps me tremendously, as does the occasional stack of index cards and paper! Thanks for writing!

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    Hi Warren – No your question makes perfect sense. I list the most recent contact notes on top and use “dts[space]” to drop in the date time stamp before taking notes on a call. To me this makes sense because on the next call I can quickly refer to the last time we spoke. It makes me sound like I have the memory of an elephant. You can drop names, reiterate what they last said, ask about their wife’s trip, etc. – so most recent on top makes sense to me. When I want to review the relationship, I read from bottom up. Thanks for reading! And please – if you find this useful, consider subscribing via the button navigation at top or sharing with others.

    Two reasons why:

    1. The more input I get, the more motivated I am to finish my book I’m working on.

    2. When you subscribe you’re notified when something new is posted but you’re also afforded the opportunity to tell me what topic you would find most useful for me to write about next.



  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    Brandon – Thanks for this for PC users. I’m all Mac now, so it’s good to have PC input. Thanks for reading!

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    Hey Mick – Thanks for commenting! Text expanders are a huge time saver. I use them for email signatures and auto-replies for common responses and more. Thanks for contributing.

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    Daniel – Note Linking in Evernote is new. I’ll have to explore it more in depth in a future post. I have many post topics queued up to publish here that I’m working on. In fact I use Evernote to write these blog posts and have many going at once! LOL

    As I understand Note Linking, it seems it would be ideal for using Evernote from a Sales Perspective. I have a post I’m working on in the queue on how to use Evernote if you’re a Regional Sales Manager. Seems that would be ideal. I’ll have to explore that feature more.

    The ONLY fault I’ve found with Evernote is the same one that one finds with Search in general, which is that the larger your database gets, the harder it is to locate relevant things quickly, even with the use of Tags.

    Other than that, I’m a huge fan of Evernote and am just waiting for the job offer to come in the mail…

    (Just joking…I have no affiliation with them… but they are changing peoples’ lives and I like that.)



  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    Bob – More on this question:

    Lately I’ve been working on deliberately eliminating streams of information from my life. So to your question: I don’t necessarily have links to targets’ social media accounts or subscribe to them. I have in the past few months trimmed my Facebook Friends and Twitter streams considerably. This is a process I call “Deliberate Simplification”, which allows me to focus more time on what matters most to me and really allows me to get things done.

    In terms of Text Expander, all I really have is a date time stamp. I just take notes as to what they are looking for because my default question that I always ask anyone I speak with is, “How can I help you?”. When you ask that question, you don’t need a template.

    Another post in my Queue is about limiting the number of social contacts one has. Less is more.



  • Guest

    Lee is right, and you can also use SHIFT+ALT+D as an alternative!

  • Carol Deckert

    Thanks for some great information. I would never have thought of using Evernote as a contact relationship manager.  I just subscribed to your blog so I can continue to get your great info.  I would like to know how I can help you in return!  Have a prosperous New Year.

    Carol Deckert, Networking Expert/Coach

  • Karl

    Adam, very interesting article on using Evernote as a Relationship Manager.  Before I can move forward with increasing Evernotes integration into my life I have to figure out how to fix a major problem that I am having with the program.  I use Evernote when I take notes at a class that I take and also at business meetings. The problem that I am having is that the program freezes up on me when I am in the middle of the meeting.  When I say that the program freezes up  I mean that in the middle of a sentence I will be typing away and nothing will be added on my IPad, then if I stop typing and wait a minute or longer what I had typed will start to appear.  This gets worse and worse as the session continues until I am waiting for almost 5 minutes before anything appears.  I have contacted Evernote and have not received any kind of real support on this.  At this point I am using a small fraction of the Cloud space my free usage permits me.  I am at a lose as to how to fix this problem.  I use a MacBook Pro as my base and an IPad 1 as my remote for note taking.  Any ideas???  Help!!!  Thanks

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    Hi Karl – Yep. Go to Google and search “iPad typing delay”. What likely happened is that you upgraded your iPad 1 to iOS5 and this is a known issue. I doubt it is Evernote’s fault, so ergo their non-response to you. And it would happen only with some apps and not others. The solution is going to be to take meeting notes with your laptop, wipe and downgrade your iPad OS or upgrade your iPad to the iPad 2. If you’re a student, you can get around $100 off at the Apple Store by showing your student ID or if buying online by using a .edu email address. Alternatively, the iPad 3 is slated to come out in the next 10 months. My gut tells me June because the iPhone 4G will come out in October. Just before Apple refreshes their product line – if you can predict it – is an excellent time to SELL your product on Craigslist; and the month that the new version becomes available for purchase is the best time to BUY the older model from all the early adopters who want to take your cash and put it toward the newest model. Ideally? You want to look for an iPad 2 that is still under Applecare. Hope this helps.


  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    Hi Bob – I just did a couple of new pieces on Dunbar’s Law with regard to Social Media and Relationships. You can read them here and here if interested:



  • Karl

    Thanks Adam,  looked up the link and in a year or so I might consider upgrading to an IPAD 2 or perhaps even the IPAD 3, who knows, but first I need to make my IPAD 1 back into a useful tool or I am just throwing money away, right.  In any case I read the link and as a result I have made an appointment with the SOHO Genius Bar for tomorrow morning and maybe they can fix the problem or give me a new IPAD or upgrade me to an IPAD 2, if i pay the difference….or perhaps they will banish me from Apple altogether, who knows.  There is supposedly a way to have the unit revert back to “factory settings” what ever that means and then I will have to get the stuff stored in my IPAD back into my IPAD, thats where the Genius Bar comes into the picture. The other stuff I can sync my self when I get home. Wish me luck. 

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    I’d wipe it and revert back to the OS that that model shipped with originally but only as the last step if all else failed. Say for example if you happen to use a Bluetooth wireless keyboard to take notes with, could be a Bluetooth issue. Maybe your batteries need changing. Could be a lot of things. Don’t wipe the iPad first. Explore the other options. But as a general rule of thumb, most computers and device hardware function at their peak performance with the operating system that they ship with. Each major upgrade (and iOS5 is a major upgrade) requires more resources so it can do funky things if it’s on older machines. Good luck.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve used Evernote for quite some time, have read lots of ‘tips’ (all of which have been good, and I appreciate that people take the time to share them), but this is an EXCELLENT use of Evernote! I’ve always been decent at remembering relational things but inevitably, things fall the cracks. This will really be helpful! I’m going to use this model for important twitter contact/management. Thanks much for sharing. :-) Karen

  • Bill

    Hi Adam,
    Awesome article. 
    This might not work for Mac users, but on my PC for the date and time stamp I use ALT + SHIFT + D. 
    It only seems to work on the desktop version though, not on the web based version.

  • Charlie

    Awesome post! I really respect your outlook on life. very inspiring. I’m definitely going to give the relationship management a shot.

    Charlie, lessonshark.com

  • Anonymous

    Adam, great post.  I was actually looking for an Evernote trunk app that would connect my contacts on my Mac to Evernote specifically for the purpose of keeping notes on people.  My initial interest is to help me with disciplining the youth that I work with at my church.  I was not aware of the note links within Evernote, so I have been able to use that to help.  After I create a note for a person in my address book, I go back and add the link url to a webpage field for the contact.  I can then click on that link to get to the note.  It also works within my iPhone as well.  So I can pull up a contact and get directly to the relationship note for them.  I will would like to find a way to go from Evernote to the contact information for that person.  Haven’t figured out how to create  link in Evernote to that contact.  But adding the date time stamp was helpful.  And I’ve actually had Typinator for quite some time, but never used it.  Now I have a reason. 

  • Nick Peters

    Thank you Adam!

    This post is almost 2 years old, but still very helpfull. I started using evernote because I neaded to get into CRM. I just googled ‘use evernote as CRM’ and ended up here, instead of the evernote website. Great input! Thanks a lot, let me know if I can help you in some way.

    Kind regards,

    Nick from the Netherlands.

  • http://twitter.com/robbin_g Vineyard Adventures

    Thanks for leaving this post up! I will implement this idea ASAP!!

  • T Dale Bagwell

    I was considering Typinator, but discovered the key stroke, cmd-shift-D for a date stamp & alt-cmd-shift-D for a time stamp in a note in Evernote.

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    Actually it’s funny you mention that. With the traffic that this article gets, you’d think that they would have contacted me by now, but oddly enough, not one person from the company has reached out to me for anything – even their PR team or PR agency and even when Moleskine launched their new Evernote Smart Notebooks that have scannable stickers. Like all of us, they must be very busy people. lol

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger


  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    You bet!

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    Thanks Nick! Yep. It’s a popular post and there are other Evernote articles in the Archives, top nav of this page. They’ve done a great job on the latest updates of Evernote and I’ll be doing more posts to share how I use it as I have time. Writing is not my day job, so I write when I can. Great to hear we have a reader in the Netherlands!

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    This doesn’t work on OS X from a browser. Perhaps you’re using Windows or Linux? I still prefer the Simplicity of just typing dts. Life is already too complicated and the text expander software programs are cross-platform solutions. Maybe Apple will build one into a future OS X update. Dunno.

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    2013 Mantra: Less is More. Pare down your commitments. Value your own time. Stop saying Yes to the wrong things. Start saying No. Pretend like you have six months to live and let that drive how you assign Value to where you invest your Time and Relationships.

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    Yeah doesn’t work on OS X 10.8 at least. Or doesn’t work in all apps, which defeats the purpose. Haven’t tried that combo in Linux but I dual-partitioned my MacBook Pro with Linux Mint 14.1 last week so will explore options in that OS. Thanks for the tip to PC users, Bill.

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    Thanks Karen! Yep. And I should add that it’s quite easy to export your Google Contacts or Apple Address Book or Outlook Contacts to a .csv file, open it in Excel, trim or clean it in Excel and THEN be selective about WHO you want to invest time into having relationships with. Many people ask “How can I export and import Contacts into Evernote?” Well, if you’ve read the article above, it’s not about “Contacts”. It’s about “Relationships”. This is particularly true if you work in Sales. So it would be a mistake, for example, to export contacts and import contacts into Evernote BEFORE you trim and clean them and pare down your list. It’s impossible to have and maintain relationships with thousands of people; therefore, you must Decide who matters and who does not matter. Assigning 1000 people the same level of Importance is WHY we experience information and email overload in the first place. Cheers, and Have a great New Year!

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    Also I can now add that if I were you, I might consider investing $199 into the ACER Chromebook or $249 into the Samsung Chromebook (has an SSD drive). The prices are so low on these laptops now that they are worth buying for what you want to do – basic note-taking. If you’re technical, you can (should) try putting Linux Ubuntu or Linux Mint on either of them and you’ll have a lightning speed laptop for a couple hundred bucks, which is less than you probably paid for your iPad.

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    Thanks Carol! Maybe sew on an extra pair of hands, legs or arms on me? lol Seriously though, thank you for asking that question. So few people these days ask it and it is the simplest and most effective way to network: “How can I help YOU?” The problem is that many people are so scattered and busy these days that just answering that question requires some quiet thought, time and meditation before responding. But here is my two-minute response: You can help me by sharing the link to this article with others via Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, email or jotting it down on a paper napkin with a pen and passing it to someone who can be helped: DigitalMinimalism.com Again, thanks!

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    UPDATE: Many of you will be tempted to ask, “How can I export my Contacts and import them into Evernote?” After reading the article above, you’ll see that it’s not about “Contacts”. It’s about “Relationships”. This is particularly true if you work in Sales. So if you want to learn how to export your Apple Address Book, Outlook Contacts or Google Contacts into a .csv file, I would suggest that you do that and TRIM your “Contacts” in Excel BEFORE you choose which ones to add to Evernote. You may even wish to assign a degree of importance to them. Google has a “Circles” feature in Google+. There’s no reason why you can’t adopt that into your own strategy and have a “Circle” of TEN people who are MOST IMPORTANT, a second circle of 50 who are second priority and a third circle of 100 who you engage with less frequently. Part of the reason why we all suffer from information overload is that we assign all email and all contacts and all relationships the same level of importance. You can’t do that. It just doesn’t work. It may work for a holiday card mailing list with sticker address labels, but that’s Broadcast. It’s NOT Engagement. it’s NOT quality relationships. So if you’re considering exporting your contacts and importing them into Evernote, the information on HOW to export your contacts into a .csv file and open it and edit it in Excel is publicly available on Google or in your user manual; however I would urge you to invest the time in using this as an opportunity to TRIM your list and assign a degree of importance BEFORE you incorporate them into Evernote, and let that degree of importance drive how much time you invest in those relationships. It’s physically impossible to maintain relationships with thousands of people unless you are unemployed or independently wealthy. Even then, it’s not cognitively healthy – you’re overloading your brain circuitry and creating stress which affects your health and lifespan. Simplify. Eliminate. Decide. As Seth Godin says, “You don’t need more choices. You need to Decide.”

    Happy New Year and Thanks for reading!

    adam at adamboettiger dot com

  • T Grant in Denver

    Alt-Shift-D for Evernote with windows 7 puts in the following date-time stamp “1/17/2013 10:07 AM”
    Great article! Just what I was looking for.

  • Margo Reveil

    I’m very new to Evernote, but I got it hoping to use it as a phone log (among many other things). Quick clarification question: When you use this technique, do you create a new evernote for each new conversation with each person (or each time you contact one of your contacts)? Or do you have one meganote per person, then just add text within that one note about each conversation? I’m leaning towards the first, so you could end up with multiple notes for one name. But thought I’d check.

  • Ben Niderberg

    I am following your model for job networking effort, and so far it works a charm. I use the list view to replicate the spreadsheet that I originally had created to track followup contacts, sorted by the “Updated” column. I have tags for firm and follow-up due date (e.g. ASAP, 1 day, 3 days, 1 week, etc.) This pretty much tells me at a glance who I need to contact and when–much more elegant and efficient than having a separate spreadsheet.

    My “innovation:” On the first line of each note I put a one-cell table containing hyperlinks to the person’s contact page in my Gmail, the recent email history search in Gmail, and any other related contacts, notes or URLs.

    The rest of the note is, of course, the relationship history, last contact on top.

  • Angela

    Good tips. You are certainly hit it right to separate out between contacts management, and relationship management. I never thought of using Evernote as a tool for relationship management. Will definitely give it a try. I am currently using Coconect, which takes care of my relationship management work (keeping in touch), and integrates well with my Google Contacts (my contacts management).

  • Sharon Kay

    Great post! I had been talking to a friend about how to capture and retrieve exactly that kind of detailed information. Evernote seemed like a good candidate because it’s so portable. I started researching, and you gave me exactly what I was looking for.

    I especially like your emphasis on relationship management vs. contact management. Giving out / scanning in hundreds of business cards doesn’t mean you’ve made connections. Helping people is what establishes connections. I love your example of placing the shelter dog. And your suggestion to include the contacts you WANT to have is brilliant.

  • http://vootatico.com.br/ PFF

    I think the Evernote Hello is a response to this post.

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    That would be flattering, but I tried that app and found it a bit creepy to take a photo of someone while I was meeting them face to face and then ask them for all their contact information to put into my database. The way I use it is different. I think smartphones should be turned off during face to face interactions. But that’s just me… I’m due to update this article but I’m still using the techniques here. Just created a “NOTEBOOK” in Evernote called “Outreach” or “OUTREACH” and put the individual’s name and company in the note title, then their title and contact info in the body – the phone and email are hyperlinked when viewed in a smartphone so you just touch to dial or email. Then I have chronological notes and information on how they prefer to be reached – everyone’s different. We’re all busy. But toward the top I always have the question: How can I help them? What do they need? And I take notes. Sometimes I even add keyword tags into the body so when I search the OUTREACH notebook and something they need help with comes up, their contact note pops up and I can make a direct introduction. Can I add a photo? Yeah, and I do, but I just copy it from LinkedIn usually. I just find it too inappropriate to pull out a smartphone and start taking photos of people I meet during face to face meetings. Most times I even purposely leave my phone in the car to give the person my full attention and just bring an index card or legal pad of paper and a pen. Maybe I’m the exception to the rule but I hate it when I’m talking to someone and they’re on their phone or being interrupted by it – sends the message that anything is more important than I am, even during a scheduled face to face coffee meeting, which is not the message I want to be sending to people I meet with. So Evernote Hello was a #Fail for me.

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    Thanks Sharon!

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    Thanks Angela. I need to write more about this because too many people make the mistake of trying to “integrate” when they should be working to “eliminate”. It’s physically impossible to maintain the same priority level and engagement level with an infinite number of people. As the number of “contacts” increases, the quality of the engagement disintegrates and becomes more infrequent until you’re left with 5000 Facebook “friends”…. ;) Best, Adam

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    Hi Ben – I might suggest actually NOT putting the link to your contacts page in Google Contacts but rather copy/pasting just the email and phone, both of which will appear as hyperlinks on a smartphone, so all you need do is touch your finger to dial it or send a short email rather than clicking a link and going to the contact page which is an extra step. Copy/pasting a photo from LinkedIn is also a nice touch as it helps when you’re looking for the person you’re meeting for coffee if you haven’t seen them before and you can walk up without having to ask “Are you Susan?” but rather, “Hi Susan, it’s nice to meet you!” Regarding followup for job search, regular touches and otherwise, look into using either Followupthen.com OR hard scheduling the person’s name on your Google Calendar with a repeating appointment and alert every N weeks to stay top of mind. But have a reason when you call or email. That’s where your notes in their Evernote Note about their kids’ names, trips, conversation notes etc. come in. It can really make you look quite smart, lol. Keeping all your outreaches in a single NOTEBOOK helps a lot as well. I just call it OUTREACH because that’s what it is. It’s pretty easy to just arrow down through the entries to see the last time I touched someone and who’s due for a call, email or snail mail card. Good luck with your job search. Tough market out there. I’m getting the “You’re overqualified” bit quite a lot, lol. You’ll get there. Just set a goal of ten outreaches per day and focus on THEM, not you.

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    Create a NOTEBOOK that you name something appropriate, because you may use another notebook for recipes and you don’t want to mix them up. Then within that NOTEBOOK, every INDIVIDUAL gets their own NOTE. Name and Company in the Subject or Title Area. You can add company in the body and it’ll be searchable but you can also if you wish create tags for all 50 states and companies. That way for example if you’re in sales and you know you’re going to California, just go to the OUTREACH notebook and filter on CA and all your relationships who live in California should show up. Or if you are looking to get a job at NIKE, click the NIKE tag and all your relationships at NIKE should show up. Doesn’t mean you’ll get the job, but it narrows who to engage with and/or form relationships with, which is a good start, especially if you can do it from a smartphone or tablet.

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    Hi Murphy, your mistake is that you’re trying to integrate. You see, all you really need to do is type the kids’ name and phone and email into the body of a note and it will be hyperlinked already. You may have 1000 “contacts” in Google Contacts, but you’re not going to form relationships with all of them. Evernote is a bit like a swiss army knife. You can use it for many things. It’s great for recipes too if you enjoy cooking. The relationship thing what it does most is gives you relevance when you engage. You can speak to what matters most to the other person what’s important to them, and in the process, they’ll naturally want to learn more about you because the trend lately has been for everyone to transmit and nobody to receive. I think more people need to learn how to practice active listening.

  • Murphybp2

    It’s a workflow issue, not a relationship management issue. I look up people on my iPhone using the search. So if I want to find a person I start by pulling up their contact information and then click on the link to pull up the note that has the relationship info. I don’t consider it a mistake, just my personal preference.

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    Yeah “mistake” was the wrong word. Everyone has individual needs. I met someone today who LIKED to get a lot of email… Each to their own.

  • http://www.philrichards.biz/ Phil Richards

    Hi Adam, Great article and most inspirational. Also saved me money on buying a CRM :) FYI I am testing using Reminders and the daily reminder email built into Evernote to keep in contact with the Relationships.

  • malna

    Fantastic article. Really enjoy the time you have put into this, and it has really helped me cement my processes with the tool.

    An overall entertaining read as well.

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    Thanks Phil!

  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    Thanks Malna!

  • Jeremiah

    This was a good read. Thanks for the help!

  • http://www.academiclifecoaching.com/ John Andrew Williams

    Adam, thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this article!

    I was in that boat of trying to find a CRM to manage my growing list of contacts and relationships and LOVE Evernote.

    The only thing lacking from Evernote, and it seems that they may be adding the integration with Evernote Hello, would be having a simple contact like Apple’s Contacts, hopefully seamlessly tied together.

    And I love thinking about systems. It’s my thing: http://www.academiclifecoaching.com/systems-and-organization


  • http://www.digitalminimalism.com/ Adam Boettiger

    Hi John, yeah as newer versions of Evernote come out they are adding some great features, like the ability now to set an alarm/reminder on Notes which makes Evernote easier to use as a task manager.

    I haven’t heard if they plan to add a simple contact like you mentioned, but when you stop and think about it, they really don’t need to unless they want to build in drag and drop exporting of .vcf files and syncing with an external contact address book like Gmail or Outlook or OS X.

    But when you think about what would happen if you did that, you’re now steering your ship more in the direction of managing phone numbers and email addresses rather than relationships. Data instead of true connections.

    Not only that but the moment you sync with an external address book you’re screwed because you just introduced hundreds of superfluous contacts that you either don’t have a relationship with or don’t want to / need to have a relationship with; and if that’s the case, they are NOISE and you’ve just made your relationship manager much noisier and more diluted.

    I think – and for each person it will be different – for me at least, I prefer the flexibility of creating my own fields and keeping it minimalistic with searchable text and tags if I want to go deeper. I don’t really “need” Evernote to build in a simple Contacts like OS X has. It would be detrimental to the minimalistic nature of this system – particularly if it synched with external address books and contact lists (and God forbid if it synched with social media accounts and my email address book).

    I often use fields that aren’t in any contacts field and the reality is that if the system becomes too cumbersome to manage, that’s a signal that you’ve reached the threshold of quantity versus quality.

    See my posts on Dunbar’s Number and How to Achieve Dunbar’s Number

    Thanks for stopping by!


  • Jeffrey Chadwell

    Hi Adam,

    As far as PC text expanders go, the one I use (and the one that seems to be mentioned a lot on Lifehacker) is AutoHotKey (http://www.autohotkey.com). I don’t know how it compares with Typinator, but it’s definitely able to create a timestamp like the one you mentioned in your post.

  • http://www.academiclifecoaching.com/ John Andrew Williams

    Hi Adam,

    I completely agree with the balance between noise and information. I’ve been struggling with using a simple contact management system for my business versus the ease of using apple’s contacts or a much more robust system.

    What I’ve turned to is something really similar to what you’ve described – using Evernote for relationships I want to develop, Contacts for data, and Gmail Contacts for searchable noise.

    Thanks for the response. It’s great to meet you virtually!


  • Robby Ibrahim

    As an Evernote user, this was an excruciatingly long post to simply say “hey start a notebook for contacts”. Was looking for a magical nugget but nope, that’s all it is.

    With that said, I’m probably gong to start using Evernote as a relationship manager aka CRM.

  • Shawn K. Rooker

    Need to resurrect this post! One thing I just suggested on the Evernote forum is the ability to integrate your contacts with Evernote so that you can tag a note using a contact record. Is this redundant, or does it seem a useful way to organize notes for relationship management?

  • Eric Lorenz

    Hi Adam,

    JUST happened to come across this post when searching through some notes in …well, Evernote and ended up subscribing to your blog. Read the full version of this and…WOW! I love finding new uses for Evernote- I am also helping my Pastor and his wife in using it as well. I plan on going back and trying this approach to relationship management. Thanks for the great ideas!

  • beingkarma

    Great article Adam, I used to use Evernote but got myself restricted now reading this I have seen how there is so much more. Imagination is the key it would seem, there appears no limit to what can be achevied with Evernote. Thank you I am now back in friends with Evernote and hope my relationship grows. KUDOS to you…

  • Sore Tooth

    Adam, Perhaps you know this by now. Press CTRL- ; (<- that's a semicolon with the control button pressed) and you'll get a DTS in evernote…even works with a mac.

  • flesler

    Great post, not sure when was it added but Evernote notes can have a reminder, it’s a good feature to keep in touch with contacts.