Dec 23

As a freelance worker, all my work and instructions come in by email. If you’ve ever had to act upon instructions in email you’ve probably noticed it can be difficult to extract just what you have to do from a long email thread. Typically in my case as an editor and proofreader, authors will communicate back and forth with the book editor who then emails these instructions to the publisher. I then eventually receive a copy of the email thread and have to take on board the authors’, editor’s and publisher’s decisions for editing. There may also be lengthy disclaimers at the end of individual emails in the thread. And someone along the line may just start a new thread rather than reply using the old one.

The point I’m trying to make here is that just copying the email threads into Evernote is all very well for archiving the conversations, but what I actually have to act upon can easily get lost in the threads. I’m sure you’ve been there too. You know you’ve read some work instruction somewhere but can’t remember exactly what or where! So here’s how I get round that in Evernote with some tips along the way. I’ll assume a basic understanding of Evernote.

I use Evernote to store Personal and Work notes. I have a stack of notebooks under a stack called 1. Work and I open a new notebook in this stack for a new freelance work project.

Tip: If you’ve named your stack of work notebooks Work, it’s obviously going to be near the bottom of your alphabetical list of notebooks/stacks in the left pane. I find myself in the Work stack quite a lot so I found it useful to call the work stack 1. Work. This brings it up directly under !Inbox so I have my two frequently used locations right at the top of the notebooks/stacks list on the left.

In the project notebook, I open a new note called Project name To Do. It’s useful to keep this note at the top of your list of project notes.

Tip: You can keep the To-Do note at the top of your list of notes by setting a reminder (you don’t have to actually set a date or time if there’s no strict deadline). To do this, click Reminder on the bar above your note. This pins a reminder to the top of your notes in the left pane. Alternatively, you can edit the note creation date to some time in the future and this will have the same effect of bringing it to the top of the list of notes for that project. To change the note creation date, click on Info on the bar at the top, then click on the created date and change the year to something like 2020 for example.

Now when a new email comes in, I read through it and copy and paste only the important decisions I have have to act upon into the project To-Do note in Evernote. Additionally, you could put the email sender name and date information at the top of that particular to-do item should you ever wish to trace the instructions back to the source email.  I put a check box next to each instruction and check each when complete. It’s a little clunky as noted in the Evernote subreddit but works okay.

Tip: To insert a check box at the end of your to-do item, just click the ticked box on the bar above the note. Or click Ctrl-Shift-C. You can also group check or uncheck items on the project to-do list. In the Windows Evernote client, just right click on your note and mouse over To-do. Then click Check All or Uncheck All.

Now you should have a quick itemised reference to all your project instructions with check boxes in this one project to-do note  – far better than ploughing through individual email threads trying to remember just what you read where.

Do you have any tips for working with emailed work instructions? Drop a comment below.

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