How can you use your external brain efficiently?

A few tips to make you love using note taking software even more.

external brain

The external brain referred to in this article is not a think tank of consulting experts, but rather note taking software available to everyone.

Why use an outside brain? Because there's not enough brain.

We always have the illusion that humans are smart and good at remembering things. Cognitive scientists are not as optimistic as you are. They propose that the human brain has a small working memory capacity of just 7±2 blocks.

This is still the traditional way of saying that more and more cognitive scientists have recently felt that this number is a bit much, and that most people can afford to have a working memory capacity of only four blocks.

Why do leaders always say, "I'm going to talk about three issues" in their speeches? Why is there an idiom that says, "Things can't be done more than three times"? This is all backed by science.

Never mind which one of them is right, the things you can remember are in single digits anyway.

The GTD theory tells you to empty your working memory precisely because space is too valuable. Once occupied, you'll have a hard time doing meaningful work behind you.

I did a survey when I gave a class to graduate students in the letter management program and asked them what note taking software they used. The answer surprised me - half of the students use the sticky notes that come with their phones. They don't understand the benefits of notes app syncing, and sticky notes never have more than 100 entries stored inside.

The other half? they are needless Notes software.

So the topic had to be talked about.


There are many note taking software, I recommend Evernote. Because it has two "black technologies" that are common in other note taking apps on the market today Not both Offer.

The first hack is note smart recommendations.

Yang Zhiping believes that a good writer must be able to telepresence . On the knowledge map, two different concepts may be far apart, but the connection between them is important. Linking these concepts together will give us inspiration or help solve important problems.

Why was Darwin able to come up with the theory of evolution? Because as a young man he had the opportunity to travel around the world on the Beagle, recording the flora and fauna of different continents and islands, from which he grasped the mysteries of nature.

We often have a vague recollection of seeing certain information somewhere, but we can't remember how. If you're using Evernote, things will be much better. The app will automatically recommend related notes based on the content of this note. The app remembers exactly what you stored years ago that you forgot about yourself.

I'm writing a draft of this article in Evernote. It saw me talking about the notes and immediately took heart and recommended the relevant entry to me.

Evernote intelligently finds text and images that are similar to the topic of this article and ranks them based on relevance. When we write or record, we can use it to create links between the present moment and distant memories.


external brainrejuvenate, Also need to maintain a clear input and output path, To get the most out of it.。Evernote The second black technology that helps us widen the input path is the—— pictures Internal text search。

The phone has long been an external human organ, it is our vital sensory device. Every time I lecture, there are a bunch of phones at the bottom taking pictures of the big screen.

Do you shoot slides in class? Do you take pictures when you see golden quotes in books and magazines? There are some apps on your phone where the text can't be copied out and you see the point do you take a screenshot? If your answer is yes, then there will be many pictures in your phone soon. Can you remember which one it was when you needed them? Any idea where to find them?

Diligent people titled, wrote notes, and tagged these images. This job is annoying. Your brain. highly objectionable This simple repetition of labor. The result is that the vast majority of people can't stick with it all the way through.

I've got a solution! pictures Internal text search function, Not so much.。

In one class, a student made a slide presentation about other note taking applications.

I took the slides on the spot., Without any markings, Then show students the instant search function。 Enter the name of this note, this one pictures The first one showed up。

I've saved it. pictures, It's easy to find., Well, that's good.。 But save the photo toEvernote Are the steps easy enough??

The classic operating procedure is.

  1. Taking photographs or screenshots.
  2. Switching to Evernote.
  3. Creation of a new note.
  4. Clicking on the photo button.
  5. Selection of albums.
  6. Selection of photographs.
  7. Acknowledgement.
  8. Back to the original app.

For each image, you will need to repeat the above steps. Our work is often interrupted by such repetitive operations, which are tedious to do and attention-draining to revert to the original workflow.

I recently improved this process with workflow. You just need to build blocks and drag and drop a few components to make them work in sequential order.

The workflow I made contains only 2 actions.

  1. Obtain 1 of the most recent photos (or screenshots).
  2. Throw in Evernote. Automatically named according to the current date and stored to the specified notebook.

The first time you use the Evernote component, the system will ask you to set up your login account information. Don't worry, it's only going to be a hassle this once. After that you send the image to Evernote and the steps become.

  1. Taking photographs or screenshots.
  2. drop-down menu and select the "Album latest to evernote" icon.
  3. The pull-up menu continues the original work.

You don't need to mark up images or organize your notes anymore. All the dirty work is done by the app in the background. Would you still resent note-taking after enjoying the fruits of such technological advances?


Some were not convinced. From time to time they need to use words to communicate with others. Exchanging notes is inappropriate, they communicate in the form of a book or article, and editing features are essential.

Evernote's editor isn't hard to use. You can drag and drop directly into the image, and you can set the font size, title, etc. However, professional writers may prefer Markdown formatting. Unfortunately, Evernote has never supported Markdown.

Some heavy users have abandoned Evernote because of this shortcoming and switched to a Markdown-enabled note-taking app. It's a bit of a loss for a small reason. We can totally separate the notes and edit ribbons. Record and write knowledge chunks in Evernote, then export to a good Markdown editor to do post-revision, assembly and editing.

As an example, we select several notes that are relevant to this paper.

Export notes asenex format, Drag and drop toUlysses icon。5 Then the notes becomeUlysses inner5 The manuscript is up.。

The original title and tags are correctly retained, and even the illustrations are displayed properly.

After that, you can add a new line to theUlysses The editor cheerfully assembles the contents of the notes in a flexible combination, with the help ofMarkdown The magic output of format Beautifully long article too。


Using Evernote as an external brain, we can easily record content, extract memories, and inspire. Other than that, what other tips do you know about using note taking software? Feel free to leave a comment and we'll discuss and share.

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