How To Take Notes With A Smartphone And Gain Zen Master-Level Focus

Classes are back, and they’re bringing with them a slew of information that you may be accustomed to keeping in the form of notes. You may even, if you’re generally awesome at things, be keeping these notes in Evernote, taking advantage of the many beauties of searchable data.

Perhaps, though, you’re not. Why is this? Maybe:

  • You don’t have a laptop
  • You’re not comfortable taking your precious laptop to class
  • You’re already carrying around 5,000 books and don’t want to destroy your spine

I happen to fall under the last two. I use my laptop to record my music, and risking my ability to record music every day isn’t exactly enticing. It’s also extra weight I certainly don’t need on my back, with the amount of coursework I’m taking this semester.

Luckily, there is an easier solution for note-taking that adds almost no weight, is much more replaceable, and brings a few other benefits your laptop wouldn’t have. 

Your smartphone.

“But wait,” you might say, “I can’t type nearly fast enough to get all of these notes down, and I can’t do fancy text-formatting!”

Well, here’s another solution: a wireless keyboard and Evernote. Keep in mind you’ll need a Bluetooth-friendly device to do this.

Right now, I’m sitting comfortably on a bench in the shade, typing this on my iPod touch with a wireless Apple keyboard. You can also use this one, if you’re not into Apple products.Now what makes this great, again?

  • I always have my iPod touch on me anyway
  • Both the iPod and this keyboard are easier to replace than my laptop
  • My iPod is silent at all times, unlike my laptop’s aging fan
  • I can only have one app open at a time

Wait, what was that last one?

Smartphones and the like are designed to have one program running at a time. If I want to distract myself with Facebook, I have to take my hands from the keyboard, pick up my iPod, exit Evernote, and open Facebook. This is much more of a deterrent than simply having two windows open and slowly forgetting the notes window exists.

“Taking notes with a smartphone makes it way harder to switch to distracting apps like Facebook, and thus you’ll be more focused.” Tweet This

What about the rich text? Well, the Evernote mobile app gives you the ability to do most of the important text-formatting you would be doing on a laptop.

On the iOS version, you get to this by tapping the ‘A’ at the bottom right of the screen. Without the need for an on-screen keyboard, you can simply leave the rich text pane open at all times as you type. My notes are the best they’ve ever looked, and best of all, they’re all easily accessible through tags and searches.

Maybe that’s not enough, though. Maybe your professor doesn’t allow electronics in class, or you need to draw a lot of diagrams. Maybe you just need to have certain things written out by hand in order to make them more understandable.

If you chose to use Evernote, you’re still in good shape. Simply using the Evernote app to take a picture of your notebook page is enough to marry the beauties of the digital and the physical. Your handwriting will be processed and searchable, just like what you’ve typed; your diagrams will rest right next to your typed notes, where they belong.

Evernote recently released an update to the iOS version that makes taking pictures of your notebook pages even better through filtering out shadows and the like to make your picture more readable. I have no doubt the Android version will receive a similar update soon.

Moral of the story: if you don’t have a laptop you’re willing to carry around everywhere, or you simply want a more distraction-free note-taking experience, check your pockets. With or without a wireless keyboard, your smartphone might be just what you need.

Martin Boehme is a web developer, language nerd, and Nintendo fanboy. Talk to him in English, Spanish, French, or very basic Japanese on Twitter.

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