I spend my days coaching college students, many with ADHD who feel overwhelmed and disorganized, so I’m always looking for ways to make school—especially organization, studying, and note-taking—more manageable for them. I’m not a huge fan of most apps. I find them distracting, clumsy to use, or time-consuming (as do many of my students). So, if I recommend one, know it’s been thoroughly vetted and is intuitive and user-friendly. And I do recommend Evernote. It’s one of the best note-taking apps for organizing schoolwork and, in all my years of coaching, it’s the only tool my students universally love.
Help for the ADHD Brain
Following are five key features of this cloud-based app, that once you learn how to use them, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without them.
- How to Organize Class Materials. Using Evernote to organize notes, slides, and other course materials is like hitting the mother lode! Evernote lets students create an electronic “notebook” for each class, where they can save scanned notes and documents for that class. It’s like having electronic binders without all the excess weight. Each semester’s notebooks create a stack for easy reference. This makes everything super easy to find, which means it’s super easy to use.
- How to Integrate Experiential Experiences. I advise my students to use different modalities to learn new information. I want students to pick study tools that allow them to see it, say it, hear it, and do it. Students can add website links, or download videos, pictures, audio snippets, and music to a notebook in Evernote. This provides them with a variety of study tools at their fingertips.
- How to Customize Study Strategies. Students like to have choices and control when it comes to homework and studying in college. With Evernote, they can take notes in many different formats, such as text, photos, audio, videos, and more. Evernote also allows students to customize titles, add emojis, and change colors.
- How to Find the Exact Right Resource. Everything in Evernote is searchable, including the contents of notes, notebooks, tags, and attachments. Evernote’s search lets students get very granular by using keywords and tags, helping them find exactly what they need when they need it.
- How to Collaborate. Most of my students have group projects where they must share materials and their works in progress. Students can share documents and PDFs in Evernote, without losing hard copies or forgetting important documents.
My students say that the ability to sync notes across all their devices no matter where they are on campus is another key feature of Evernote that helps them manage their homework and studying. So, if a student starts working on a history paper on their laptop in the library and later switches to a desktop computer in their dorm room, they don’t lose a thing. It truly takes “remembering” out of the equation.
Plus, allowing students to review notes on their smartphones before a major exam as they walk to class is a major win!
Prime Your Brain for Learning
I saved the best for last: My favorite Evernote feature is the ability to download professors’ slide decks as notes. This feature is a major game-changer. You wouldn’t take a run or play a soccer game without warming up your body. Similarly, students need to warm up their brains, so they’re ready to receive the information presented. The best way to do this is to read over and familiarize themselves with the slides for an upcoming lecture before class. By doing so, they’re not going in stone cold.
Having the slides downloaded and ready to review, students can preview them before class, annotate, take notes, jot down questions, and add images—right on the slide. Everything is connected in one place.
Evernote also allows you to set reminders for yourself. And who doesn’t need that help? Now if the app could only do my students’ laundry and get them to call home occasionally, it would be pretty much perfect.
Leslie Josel is the Principal of Order Out of Chaos, an organizing consulting firm specializing in student organizing. She is the author of several books, including How to Do It Now…Because It’s Not Going Away, as well as the creator of the award-winning Academic Planner: A Tool for Time Management.