How to Use Evernote to Organize Your Bible Study Notes
I only wish Evernote was around 10 years ago when I started pastoring.
Over the last decade I’ve acquired thousands upon thousands of Bible Study notes both from personal studies, to sermon preparations, to taking notes from conferences, retreats and podcasts.
The good news is all of my notes are somewhere, but the bad news is I don’t quite know where all that somewhere really is.
I’ve rocketed through several computers and have used multiple backup drives which now all hold fragments of each year I’ve studied the Bible.
But alas! -all of my notes are scattered across old computers like debris from a tornado.
But you don’t have to have my problem.
Recently I’ve started archiving all of my Bible Study notes of all shapes and sizes in Evernote.
I’ve found a method that I want to teach you, which will keep all of your notes organized and easy to find, no matter how many computers you go through in life. I also want to show you how you can make the best of your time archiving all of your past notes.
The best part -it’s all free.
In the end, I’m sure you’ll thank me (or Evernote, at least).
Step One: You need an Evernote Account
Chances are you have already signed up for an Evernote account, and perhaps you are already an avid user such as myself.
If that’s the case, you don’t need me to tell you what Evernote is.
But for those of us who need a little clarification, Evernote is an online web-application for organizing information of all sorts -from images, to links, to pictures, to ANYTHING you can think of.
Evernote sells itself as an app to help you remember everything -and by golly- it’s true and it works. If you really want to know, its does this by using a highly sophisticated search and tag system to help you easily find any note. You can now find a needle in a haystack in a matter of seconds.
Head over to evernote.com and start your free account.
If you already have an account, you can sign in or I would recommend creating a new account that is for Bible Study notes only.
It’s your choice.
When you get a chance, I recommend downloading the mobile app as well for your phone or tablet. There are many features we will be using that are only possible with the Evernote mobile app.
Quick Tip: You may also benefit from downloading Evernote’s browser extension which allows you to clip notes from the internet quickly and easily. You can download it by clicking here.
Step Two: Create a Tag System
After signing into your account, the first thing we are going to do is create a tag system.
This tag system will help you find your notes in a jiffy -even if you have thousands.
On the left hand side of your screen, click on the “tag” icon located on the bottom of the side navigation.
Then click on the “Create a Tag” icon located at the top right of the panel.
We’re going to create 3 types of tags.
3. Bible Books
Let’s begin by creating our Category tags.
A category tag should describe generalities about your notes, like the context or place they were taken.
I personally have 8 category tags at this moment.
2) Bible Studies
5) Word Studies
6) Online Articles
Come up with at least half a dozen for now. You can always add more later.
Quick Tip: If you have 10 years worth of notes to sift through like me, it might also help to add chunks of years as Category tags. (e.g. 2005–2007)
Next, create your Topic tags.
Topic tags describe what biblical topics are included in your note, such as “love” or “joy” or “faith”. This category of tags will constantly be building. Take some time to create at least 10 to 20 topic tags to start with.
Here is a list of only a handful of Topic tags I currently use often.
10) Church Life
We now want to create Bible Book tags. Create a new tag for each book of the Bible.
Quick Tip: To insert tags faster, simply create a new note and then in the tag insertion area start typing out new tags. Be sure to press ENTER after each new tag.
If you want, it may also help to create tags for large sections of the Bible as well. For instance, create a tag titled “The Torah” for notes ranging from Genesis-Deuteronomy, or a tag titled “The Gospels” for notes ranging from Matthew-John. You could also include “Old Testament” and “New Testament” as their own tags as well.
Step Three: Create Notebooks
Now that we have a tag system in place, let’s create a few of Notebooks.
Quick Tip: Notebooks work just like folders. The only difference is that in Evernote you cannot have Notebooks within Notebooks.
We’re going to create 3 Notebooks to organize our notes. Simply click on the “Notebooks” icon to get started.
Your 3 Notebooks will divide your notes between your own notes and someone else’s. I’ve titled mine like this:
1) My Notes (for notes when you are the author)
2) Resources (for notes when someone else is the author)
3) Miscellaneous (where to put notes you’re not sure how to define)
Step Four: Add Your Notes
Now that we’ve created a clean and systematic framework for organizing our notes, let’s add some.
Click on the “Note” icon to create a new note and choose a Notebook to put it in. (We’ll choose our tags when finished.)
From here there are a variety of ways for adding your notes.
1) Upload a File
This will probably be the most common method of storying your old notes. You can upload just about any file type and Evernote will store it as an attachment.
Pros: This method becomes particularly useful if you want to store multiple files from the same context in one note. For instance, you could store all your notes from a conference in one note.
Cons: Evernote will not be able to search the content of your attachments on the Basic plan, which means it will not be as searchable and easy to find once your swimming in hundreds of notes. If you upgrade to Plus, your attachments will be made searchable by Evernote.
2) Copy and Paste
Copying and pasting is almost as old as technology itself and it still proves to be a reliable method for transferring content. If you don’t like the idea of only storing attachments, then opening the original document and copying it into Evernote is definitely an option.
Pros: This method will ensure all of your content is searchable by Evernote, so that even if you forget which tags a certain note is associated with, you can search for keywords in the document and Evernote will pick it up.
Cons: Do I really have to say? This method can be ultra time consuming.
3) Use the Evernote App to Scan Documents and Take Pictures
I know, I know. You have binders and folders full of physical documents and notes before the digital age really took over. What can you do about those?
Well, for those of us who lived in a world where notes were primarily written and printed, use the Evernote mobile app to take a scan of your documents and notes. Believe it or not, this is a very impressive feature of the Evernote app and it makes all of your physical documents searchable by Evernote.
Quick Tip: If you have stock piles of physical documents then scanning them all with a mobile app will be almost a full time job in itself. You may benefit from Evernote’s ScanSnap scanner which will scan your physical documents and automatically upload them to Evernote. You can view this product here. Warning: It’s going to cost you a pretty penny.
4) Use the Evernote Browser Extension
If you have your notes stored on a server or a blog, but you’d like the reassurance of a backup or for easy access, simply go to those webpages and clip them to Evernote with your browser extension app. Once again, Evernote’s extension can be downloaded here.
Step Five: Tag Your Notes
This is the easiest, yet the most important part storing your notes in Evernote.
You must tag them!
Here is what I recommend. Use no less than 3 tags and no more than 5 tags for each note. In my experience, if you add less than 3 tags it can make a note harder to find, but if you add more than 5 than too many of your notes get generalized and it ruins the purpose of tagging.
Quick Tip: Be sure to include at least one tag from each type (Category, Topic, Bible Book). For example, let’s say you just added your notes from last week’s church service, and the message was on the love of God from 1 John. Your tags for this note might look like this: “Church, Love, 1 John, 2016”.