Capturing Ideas with Drafts and Evernote

Like many of you reading this, I get a lot of my most inspirational ideas when I am away from my laptop. They could be thoughts about blog posts I want to write, maybe automation tasks I want to try out. There could be a gift idea for a loved one that I see, or maybe some vital information that I just have to capture at this moment, for fear of it leaving my head for ever. 

Fortunately, I am rarely away from my iPhone when these thoughts come to mind and I am able to capture of all this ‘stuff’ (thank you Mr Allen) into a trusted system. 

I use Drafts 4 so many times a day, I would not be able to keep count. It’s a superb application that is designed with one main aim in mind - to get those words out of your head and onto your screen. Once there, you are able to act on it with a plethora of compatible applications. If I need to remind myself to pick up milk on the way home, I open Drafts (it’s on my dock), type in my text and send it to Reminders. For more complicated and detailed tasks, they go to OmniFocus. General thoughts I have about my day can be sent straight to Day One. I can post to Byword, send text to DEVONThink Pro Office - the list of actions you can take is growing daily. 

This post will tell you how to send items directly to Evernote. My use case for this walkthrough is simple. When there is a book that I wish to buy, I will add it to an existing note I have in Evernote called Wishlist - Books. I want this note to have the text I input into Drafts append to the note and then I would very much like for the Draft note to delete itself once it has made it’s way to Evernote. 

NOTE - I should point out at this point that I have a very flat setup for Evernote. I have two persoal Notebooks - @Inbox and Cabinet. The reason for this is I work very heavily, by nature, with Tags and Searching. I don’t like browsing through multiple notebooks and stacks, I find it far quicker to utilise saved searches for common notes. The only exception to this is Shared Notebooks with the family. 

I am also going to be appending to an existing note, however it is entirely possible for new notes to be created using the method highlighted below. You merely need to change the post-action from Append to Create

Create The Action

The first task (when you have created the note in Evernote) is to create the action. Tap on the Actions button in the top right hand corner. 



Here you will find the pre-defined actions that are either pre-installed, or that you have created along the way. You can see that within my Ideas Capturegroup, I have one action which will send text to OmniFocus. Clicking the top right + button will present a submenu, allowing you to create an Action from scratch or Visit the Action Directory, which has a wealth of user-defined actions for you to search through. The Evernote ones are pre-installed here, so simply click Create Action


Time to define the action. 

Fill in the name you wish to identify the action with in the Name field (you can also choose a colour for the glyph). 


The Action Groups section will allow you to place a check mark next to the groups that you wish this action to be located in. I have a group called Idea Capture and this is fine for me at this stage of my workflow. 

Clicking Steps is where we need to go next to ascertain the actual processes that the action will work through. 


Click the + sign in the top right hand corner. 

We need to define the step type. Scrolling down will bring you to the screenshot that you can see below. As you can see, there are lots of built-in step types that we can choose from. From here, select Evernote


Now we start to get to some good stuff. If we look at the page as it is now, selecting the action will do the following. 


The title of the note you create will be the exact time that the note was created. It will go to your Default Notebook and will not have any tags assigned. 

Well, I want to append to an existing note in a separate Notebook, so I have made the changes below:


At this point, click Save in the top right hand corner and, on the following screen, click Action. 


Now, I want to add just a couple of configuration items to the Action. Scrolling down, we can decide what happens with the text when the action has been completed. You can go with the Default settings for the app (mine is set to Delete, so this is fine) or if you wish for this action to be unique in the way it manages the text post-action, then you can set it Do NothingArchive or Deleteas appropriate. 

I don’t check the Confirm Before Running slider - it’s just one more button to push that I don’t need. 


When you now run the action, if everything has been configured as it should have been then you will see a lovely green box appear at the top of your screen, indicating that the action has been successful. 


One quick sync of Evernote later and sure enough, I’ve got a new book added to my reading list (The Martian by Andy Weir if anyone cares. Got to beat the film). 

I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you the scope of things you can now use Drafts/Evernote actions for. I’ve got wishlists for Books, Games, Clothes, Watch Straps (yes, my guilty pleasure), Tech as well as ideas lists for my business and my writing. 

There is no excuse for my head to be full of cruft while I have these two apps living in harmony together.