Evernote for CPAs: Developing a Super Power

Here's how you can use Evernote to make yourself more productive

Evernote is a game-changer for CPAs.

What is Evernote?

Think of it as your personal digital library. 

Evernote is a cloud-based storage system which allows you to capture and file voice recordings, documents (including Word, Excel, PDFs), pictures, and videos. Once information is placed in Evernote, it is searchable in a Google-like fashion. Even hand-written notes are searchable.

Evernote for CPAs

Picture is from AdobeStock.com

Things CPAs Can Do with Evernote

Here are examples of what you can do with Evernote:

  • Create a personal digital library (e.g., use an Evernote digital notebook to store Journal of Accountancy articles, CPE material, and videos of class instruction)
  • Share individual files or notebooks (a compilation of files) with others (with the premium version you can collaborate with others, allowing them to change Excel or Word files)
  • Capture meeting conversations with your smartphone and save them to Evernote
  • Use your smartphone to take a picture of meeting notes on a whiteboard (remember manually written words are searchable in Evernote)
  • Encrypt selected text within an Evernote note (password protected); it can’t be viewed without the password
  • Add selected web information to Evernote using an Evernote clipper 
  • Email any document directly to your private Evernote email address (which adds the emailed information to a “to be filed” folder in Evernote)
  • Create a local Evernote notebook for sensitive information (the notebook resides on your local computer and does not synchronize to your Evernote cloud account)

The Skeletal Framework: Notes, Notebooks, and Tags 

Evernote for CPAs

1. The primary element of Evernote is a note.

Think of a note as a blank piece of paper on which you can type. You can also attach other files to the note (e.g., an Excel spreadsheet or a picture taken with your cell phone or a voice message recorded with your cell phone).

2. Notes are placed in notebooks.

Think of a notebook as a three-ring binder.

For example, if I want to create a note about comprehensive income, I can do so. Then I can attach related files (e.g., PDFs) to the note. Next, I might add a note about other comprehensive income and another about reclassifications from other comprehensive income. The separate notes can be–for example–a text file, an Excel file, and a voice message.

All three notes can be added to a notebook titled Comprehensive Income.

3. You may also tag each note.

Alternatively, I can place the comprehensive income notes in a notebook titled accounting (a more generic category) and tag each note as comprehensive income. Then I can search and find all comprehensive income notes by using the comprehensive income tag. When I type tag:”comprehensive income” in the Evernote search bar, all such notes appear.

Getting Information Into Evernote

Feed your Evernote account in multiple ways.

You can use Evernote apps or programs on your iPad, PC, and smartphone to add information to your account. 

I use this smartphone app to make and save pictures, notes, and voice messages to my Evernote account.

Evernote also provides you with a unique email address that can be used to feed information into your personal cloud. When you find something you want to store, you can email it to your Evernote account.

Also, you can use the Evernote clipper to capture information on the fly, such as when you are browsing the Internet. Just download the Clipper program from the Evernote website. 

Another neat way to get information into Evernote is with your scanner. I use a Fujitsu ScanSnap to feed scanned pages directly into Evernote.

Using Evernote on an iPhone – An Example

In this two minute video, I demonstrate the use of notebooks and notes inside of my Evernote account.

To Create Your Account

To create your account, go to the Evernote website and follow the directions. There is a free version if you desire to try it out. The premium version is $70 per year.

Recommended Books

Here are two recommended books if you desire to learn more about Evernote:

  1. Evernote Essentials 
  2. Evernote For Dummies 

Tips on Searching Your Evernote Account

Evernote accounts can have thousands of notes, but then how to you find particular information?

Are you looking for tips on searching your Evernote account?

Today I was working on a fair value note disclosure and needed to find information about the reconciliation required for level 3 changes. I knew I had, several weeks ago, fed my Evernote account with an example fair value disclosure. So I typed “fair value” “level 3” in my Evernote search box. Presto, there it was, and it took me about ten seconds.

Once you add hundreds and, yes, thousands of notes to your Evernote account, you need to know how to find the needle in the haystack.

Searching your Evernote account

Searching Your Evernote Account

Back in the 60s, when I was a mere child, I could call the operator if I needed help locating someone. While you can’t call Evernote operators, they are just as helpful in finding, not people, but information.

Operators

You can use operators in an Evernote search box to locate particular information. Some of the more commonly used operators are:

1. And
2. Any
3. Tag
4. Notebook
5. Intitle
6. Created

And – Normally you will not type the word “and” as an operator; it’s implied. So if you type: comprehensive income in the search box, Evernote will locate all notes with the words comprehensive and income. If you want to see all notes with the phrase “comprehensive income,” then type: “comprehensive income”–using quotation marks.

Any – Typing the words “any: compilation review” will provide all notes with either the word “compilation” or the word “review.” If a note has the word “compilation” (and not “review”), then it will appear in your search list. If a note has the word “review” (and not “compilation”), then it will also appear in the list.

Tag – By typing “tag:Bank” into the search box, you’re telling Evernote that you want to see all notes tagged “Bank.” (You can tag each note regardless of which notebook it is in; for example, you might have four different notes in four different notebooks, but each tagged “Bank.”)

Notebook – Let’s say you have a notebook titled: Auditing (along with 70 other notebooks). You can type: “notebook:Auditing” in the search box and Evernote will locate your auditing notebook.

Intitle – Typing “intitle:derivative” will yield all notes with the word “derivative” in the title. So if you have one note titled “Mitigating Risk with Derivatives” and another note titled “Derivative Disclosures,” both notes will appear in your search list.

Created – “created:day-1” will provide you with a list of all notes created yesterday and today. You can substitute “day” with “week,” “month,” or “year”. If you want to see all the notes created in the last two weeks, issue a search with “created:week-1.”

Combining Operators

Searching becomes even more powerful when you combine operators.

For example, typing:

Intitle:derivative swap “cash flow hedge”

will provide you with all notes that have the word “derivative” in the title and the words (1) “swap” and (2) “cash flow hedge” as a phrase.

Another example, typing:

Notebook:Accounting any:swap “cash flow hedge”

will provide you with a list of all notes from your accounting notebook that have either the word “swap” or the words “cash flow hedge” as a phrase.

Finally, typing:

Notebook:Bank tag:Deposits FDIC “Due to Due from”

will provide you with notes from your Bank notebook that have a “Deposits” tag and that contain the words FDIC and “Due to Due from” as a phrase.

Give It a Try

Go ahead, try some of these tips with your Evernote account. You’ll soon be sifting through your notes with ease.

Evernote offers a free version, so if you haven’t tried it, give it a test drive.

You’ll find more information about Evernote in the following posts:

An Auditor’s Cell Phone

How I use my cell phone as an auditor

A cell phone is an auditor’s Swiss knife. And with all the options, I am constantly looking for another way to use mine. So I’m sharing my ideas with the hope that you will likewise share yours. While I use an iPhone, I realize there are plenty of other nifty cell phones; my comments below are directed not at a particular phone but how I use mine as an auditor.

Below you will see a screenshot of my cell phone home screen and then information concerning how I use various apps.

Auditor's Cell Phone

An Auditor’s Cell Phone

 

Camera

I use this iPhone app to capture pictures of documents as I perform internal control walkthroughs. I embed these pictures in my walkthrough documentation. A picture says a thousand words. If the person explaining the accounting system creates pictures on a whiteboard, I take pictures of the drawings.

Sometimes I need a copy of a page from a hardback book (e.g., research); rather than using the copy machine, I take a picture of the page and email it.

Keynote

Keynote is Apple’s version of Powerpoint. I build the Keynote slide deck for presentations and use my phone to present. If you use iCloud, the slide deck you build on your iPad will automatically appear on your iPhone (if your settings are right).

You can also present a Keynote slide deck using your iPad as the presentation device and your iPhone as a remote. Your iPhone moves the slides of the iPad slide deck as you stand at a distance. Both devices (iPad and iPhone) must be on the same wifi for the remote feature to work.

Kindle

I buy most of my books using the one-click option in Amazon. Most books are 50% less in price (or more) than physical books. You can highlight books you read and then create a summary of those highlights (which I then place in my searchable Evernote account–see below); you can copy and paste these highlights to Word or other software.

If I am waiting on a plane, taxi, a friend, a doctor, etc., I have all my books handy for reading. You can even purchase my fraud prevention or SSARS 21 books (shameless advertising, yes I’m guilty).

Evernote

I love Evernote! It is my personal cloud storage, and at $70 per year for the premium version, it provides me with tremendous power. All the research I have performed and stored is available everywhere I go. All the articles I have stored are at my fingertips. (And it is so easy to store information in this application.) At present, I have thousands of screenshots, websites, articles, presentations, conversations, books, pictures, and answered research issues. It’s my personal knowledge library.

You can use this app to record conversations that are automatically loaded into Evernote.

Dropbox

I also use Dropbox to store some documents. There are many apps that connect well with this cloud storage space. I find Dropbox somewhat easier to use than Evernote since it has fewer features. I like the simplicity.

Stitcher

If you listen to podcasts, check out the Stitcher app. You can even hear me talk about accounting issues.

1Password

I store all my passwords in 1Password. No more wondering how I’m going to get into my own computer with a password I’ve forgotten–again (I know this never happens to you).

Messages

I text my audit team members to see how things are going. Messaging is much more efficient than calling if the communication is short. (You can also take a picture of anything with Camera and message the picture. If your audit team member needs to see something on your computer screen, take a picture of it and message the shot to them with comments.)

Don’t want to type the message? Just say it out loud and the app will record your words for sending.

Maps

I use Google maps to get to new audit locations.

Weather

I use the Weather Channel’s app to check the weather before I leave for trips so I can dress appropriately.

Pandora

Mozart or U2 makes my audit day go by much better. If you prefer music without ads, you can pay Pandora $3.99 a month. I love the variety.

Sharefile

Sharefile is my go-to app for sending sensitive client data. With hackers everywhere, I don’t risk sending sensitive client data in emails.

Digits

Looking for a nice easy-to-use calculator. I recommend Digits. You can add numbers, make notations beside particular numbers, and email the calculator tape with a couple of clicks.

Fantastical

My Fantastical calendar app syncs with my Outlook calendar, so regardless of where I am, I can check my appointments and schedule the same. I can also add reminders in Fantastical, so I don’t forget the milk.

ToDoist

Do I keep a to-do list? Yes, in my ToDoist app. This app integrates with Outlook.

Audible

When I am driving I listen to books using Audible. If you’re on the road a lot, this is a great way to redeem your time.

WSJ

I read the Wall Street Journal to keep abreast of current events. This WSJ app provides me access to one of the best newspapers in America (and there aren’t many these days).

Siri

While not an app, I push the button on my iPhone and Siri asks me what I want to do. This is how I make phone calls by simply saying, “call my wife,” for example. I also send texts (or emails) the same way by saying “send text to C.S. Lewis”; then I tell Siri what I want to say–works amazingly well; she even understands my southern accent (and that, my friends, is truly amazing).

What About You?

How do you use your cell phone at work? I would love to hear from you.

Four Steps to Making Memorable Presentations

How to leave a lasting impression

If you’ve read the book Presentation Zen, you know that many speakers–without intending to–hide their message. In watching CPE presentations and board presentations, I have noticed that (we) CPAs unwittingly hide our messages. How? We present slide decks that look like intermediate accounting textbooks–chock full of facts, but too much to digest. And do we really believe that those attending will take those slides back to the office and study them?

Probably not.

My experience has been those slides end up in the office dungeon, never to be seen again. We have one chance to communicate–in the session.

iStock_000016828736XSmall

Courtesy of iStockphoto.com

It is the presenter’s duty to cause learningSo how can we  engage our audience (even those sitting on the back row reading the newspaper)? Let’s start with the slide deck.

1. Make Simple Slides

I try to have no more than two points per slide, and I leave out references to professional standards (at least on the slides).

What happens when you see a slide that looks like it contains the whole of War and Peace? You may think, “Are you kidding? You want me to consume all of that in the next three minutes. Forget it. I will not even try.” And then you begin to think about your golf game or your next vacation. So how much information should you include on a slide?

Nancy Duarte recommends the glance test for each slide. “People should be able to comprehend it in three seconds.”

2. Include a picture related to the topic

For example, if I am presenting to governmental auditors, I might create a slide that simply says Bribes with a picture of someone being bribed.

3. Tell a story (and ask questions)

People love stories. If your presentation is about bribes and you have not audited a bribery situation, Google bribes, and you will find all the fodder you need. If you can’t find a story, use a hypothetical. Why? You are trying to draw your audience in–then maybe they will put that newspaper down (your most triumphant moment as a speaker!).

Also engage your audience with questions. Stories get the juices going; questions make them dig. And, if the audience is with you at this point, you now have dialog. This is when it gets fun. Those talking learn, the audience learns, and, yes, you learn.

4. My last point: Move

Move. Not too much, but at least some.

A statue is not the desired effect. Michael Jackson is also not the desired effect (moonwalking was never in my repertoire anyway). But movement, yes. I like to walk slowly from side to side (without moonwalking) and will, at times, move toward the audience when I want to make an important point. And, no, I am not moving constantly.

Presentation Software and Handouts

Presentation Software

If you have an Apple computer, let me recommend Keynote as your presentation software. I do think PowerPoint (for you Windows users) has improved in the last two years, but I personally still prefer Keynote.

One More Point

If you need to provide detailed information, use handouts (I sometimes provide narrative summaries in addition to the slide deck). Then, if you like, refer your audience to the supporting material.

Your Presentation Tips

What do you do to make your presentations sizzle?

Seven Ways to Feed Evernote

How to store forms, research, articles, sample financial statements

Do you find yourself overwhelmed with information?

Picture is courtesy of AdobeStock.com

Picture is courtesy of AdobeStock.com

Maybe you spend several hours researching interest rate swaps and file the information away, but months later–at the very time you need it–the material vanishes. You spend 20 minutes searching through your computer folders, but you can’t find it.  (Where did you put it? You know you filed it away.) The result: You spend three more hours doing the same research–again. What a waste!

Wouldn’t it be nice to have your own personal electronic library? That way, all of your research, sample financial statements, forms, professional articles, expense reports, meeting notes, screenshots, etc. are all in one place–and accessible with search features. Such a place exists. It’s called Evernote. I previously provided an overview of Evernote that you can see here.

Today we’ll look at seven ways to feed Evernote.

First Set Up Your Default Evernote Notebook

Before sending information from one of your devices (e.g., smartphone) to Evernote, specify where it should go. My default landing area: To Be Filed notebook. (You will need to create the To Be Filed notebook in your Evernote account.)

Setting Default Folder

Since I send information from a variety of devices, I initially send information to the To Be Filed notebook; later, when I have time, I tag each note (e.g., Fair Value) and then move each to an appropriate notebook (e.g., Accounting).

Tip – If you put an asterisk in front of the folder name (e.g., *To Be Filed), Evernote will present it (the folder) at the top of your folder list. This will make it easier to locate your default folder.

In short, my standard operating procedure: (1) capture on the fly and (2) classify with a block of time (it usually takes me less than five minutes each day to tag and move the new notes).

Seven Ways to Feed Evernote

1. Smart Phones

You can use your smartphone to create and send pictures, text files, and voice messages to Evernote.

To download Evernote for an Android phone, click here.

iPhone users should download the Evernote app.

Here’s a screenshot of my iPhone Evernote app.

iPhone evernote

2. Scanners

I use a Fujitsu scanner (model iX500) to scan documents directly to Evernote. (The iX500 costs about $400 from Amazon.)

scanner

3. Web Clippers

Evernote provides web clippers for browsers including Safari, Explorer, Google Chrome, and Firefox. If you click this web clipper link, Evernote will automatically recognize your browser; then download the clipper software to your browser. While browsing, click the Elephant icon to clip a portion of the web page, the full page, or the full article.

Clippers

4. Hotkeys

Evernote allows you to use hotkeys to capture information from any program (as long as Evernote is running in the background). To activate screen clipping, use the key combination (e.g., for Windows: Win+PrintScreen). See Preferences to change your hotkeys.

So if you are working on an Excel spreadsheet, for example, and would like to capture the information into Evernote, use the hotkey combination and select the portion of the screen you wish to save. The screenshot will go to your default Evernote location.

You can do the same with an email, a Word document, and anything else that appears on your screen.

5. Email Directly to Evernote Account

One of my favorite ways to feed Evernote is to email a document (e.g., Excel, Word, PDF) directly to Evernote; when you set up your Evernote account, you will be provided a private Evernote email address. Set this address up in your email contact list; then you can send any email or document (attached to an email) to your Evernote default notebook.

6. Drag and Drop

With Evernote open, you can create a new note and then drag a document (e.g., Word or Excel file) onto the open note. The material is added to the note. You can add multiple documents to one note.

7. Import Folder

An even easier way to get files into Evernote is to use an “import folder.” After you specify in Evernote where the “import folder” is located on your computer (i.e., a particular Windows folder), you can drop files into the designated folder, and they will automatically feed into your default Evernote notebook. (Note–Import folders are only available in Windows.)

What About You?

How do you feed Evernote? Are there other ways to feed Evernote that I have not mentioned?

My Ten Most Popular 2015 Posts

Here are my most shared posts

Well, 2015 is in the books. Here are the top ten 2015 posts (from number 10 to number 1) — based upon your social shares.

Picture courtesy of DollarPhoto.com

Picture courtesy of DollarPhoto.com

10. A CPA’s Office Setup

9. How to Prevent Payroll Fraud

8. Which Standards Should I Follow When I Prepare Financial Statements and Perform a Compilation, Review or an Audit?

7. SSARS 21 – Which is the Best Option for Issuing Financial Statements?

6. How to Perform Fraud Risk Assessments

5. 10 Super Easy Ways to Increase Your Productivity

4. The Most Efficient Way to Issue Financial Statements

3. How to Lessen Segregation of Duties Problems in Two Easy Steps

2. What I Wish I Had Known About Public Accounting

and drum roll…..

1.  How to Perform Audit Risk Assessments

Your Ideas for 2016

If you have an accounting or auditing idea that you’d like for me to address in 2016, please let me know — post a comment. Thanks.

 

The Minimalist Auditor

Do you like to travel light? Here's some ideas to lessen your load.

Are you a minimalist auditor?

I remember when I would load my audit files on a hand-truck (I’m not kidding), especially for local government audits. I felt like I worked for a moving company rather than a CPA firm.

My back is thankful for paperless software.

In the present age of minimalism, everything is smaller, even the audit gear we use. Scanners, monitors, cell phones, tablets, projectors–all are more compact. For the traveling auditor, this is like manna from heaven.

Let me suggest a few hardware and software ideas to lighten your load.

minimalist auditor

Courtesy of iStockphoto

Scanner

Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i Instant PDF Sheet-Fed Mobile Document Scanner

The weight is 4.9 pounds and the cost is $249.99. It has a ten-page document feeder.

If you want a lighter scanner with fewer features, try the ScanSnap S1100, weighing only 12.3 ounces. The cost is $169.99.

Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100 CLR 600DPI USB Mobile Scanner (PA03610-B005)

Can’t spare the traveling space for a scanner? Or maybe you’d rather not spend the money? Buy the cell phone scanning app: Scanbot. The cost is $1.99. Scanbot is available on iPhones and Android phones. The app can scan multiple pages and will–once you tweak the settings–automatically feed output to a cloud product such as Evernote. Alternatively, you can email the scans.

Ten-Key

I use a Dell laptop that has a ten-key pad built into the keyboard, so I don’t need a separate adding machine. I use Judy’s TenKey software; the cost is $19.95.

Cell Phone

Apple iPhone 6s

I use an iPhone 6S and love the feel and intelligence of this device. The battery life is substantial and the weight is 6 ounces. It fits in my pant’s pocket.

image

Most cell phone companies offer Internet hotspots. Since you probably already own a cell phone, there is no need for an additional physical device for an Internet connection. Check with your cell phone company about activating the hotspot. The cost will be about $30 per month.

Tablet

Apple iPad mini MD529LL/A (32GB, Wi-Fi, Black)

I am an Apple fan, so you know I will recommend the iPad mini which can be purchased for as little as $279 (16GB model) on Amazon. The weight is less than 1 pound.

Projector

AAXA P4 P4X Pico Projector, 95 Lumens, Pocket Size, Li-Ion Battery, HDMI, Media Player, 15,000 Hour LED, DLP Projector

The Pico Projector is pocket sized and, at $240, provides you with 125 lumens. The dimensions are 5.6 x 2.7 x 1.2 inches and it weighs 12.8 ounces.

Your Ideas?

How do you lighten your traveling load? Please share your ideas.

Livescribe: Note Taking Magic for CPAs

If you interview clients, you'll find the Livescribe pen helpful in remembering all that was said

Have you ever interviewed a client, feverishly taking notes, and straight away forgot critical facts (that you did not have time to write down)? You wish you had a recording of the conversation. Better yet, you wish you could magically touch a particular word in your notes and hear the words that were being spoken at that moment. What if I told you, you can?

Livescribe: Note Taking Magic for CPAsThink about what you could record:

  • CPE class lectures
  • Walkthroughs of transaction cycles
  • Board or committee or partnership meetings
  • Fraud interviews

How? Livescribe.

What is Livescribe? It’s an electronic pen/recorder. As you write on special coded paper, you simultaneously record the conversation (the recorder is built into the pen). Once done, you touch a particular letter in a word (with the pen) and you will hear, from the pen, the conversation that was occurring at that moment. No more forgetting and not being able to retrieve what was said. And it’s efficient since you can go to any particular part of the conversation using your notes as signposts.

To start a recording, you press the tip of the pen to the “record” icon at the bottom of the page.

IMG_0002

To stop the recording you press the “stop” icon above.

Once the recording is complete, you simply touch the tip of the pen to any letter and the audio recording will start playing–from the pen–at that point.

IMG_0004

You can upload the pen notes and the audio to your computer desktop Livescribe software using a USB cord that connects to the pen. (Yes, you can play back notes from your uploaded desktop copy just as you can with your pen; click a letter with your mouse and the recording will play.)

IMG_0003I was surprised at the clarity of the sound from the pen and at the amount of audio that the pen will hold–200 hours (for the Echo version that you see above).

There are different versions of the pen; I bought the Echo version due to price–only $115. You can review the available pens on Amazon. I also bought additional Livescribe notebooks (they come in packs of four) and a portfolio (binder) to hold the notebook and pen.

Another Option 

If you have an iPad, you can buy the Notability app for $2.99 and record conversations with your notes (which play back similar to Livescribe); this is a new feature that Ginger Labs (maker of Notability) just added. You will need a stylus to take notes since you will write on your iPad screen.

One More Thought

If you are performing a walkthrough of a complex transaction cycle, consider using your phone to take pictures of what you are seeing (e.g., computer screens, documents). Between your notes (with audio) and your pictures, you will have an excellent understanding of what you have seen and heard.

Is It Best for a CPA to Text, Email or Call?

A sprint, run or walk

A CPA called me today and left a message with a question. My first thought was to call him. If I phone him, one of the following happens:

  1. No answer and I play phone tag.
  2. He answers and wants to talk about other things.
  3. He answers, and I provide him with a response.

The first two possibilities are not good (if you are busy like I am–and I know you are).

Young and successful businessman

My next thought: I will text him. I did, and it took about 30 seconds.

With the options to text, email, or call, which is best? Let’s see.

I like to think of these choices as: a sprint, a run, or a walk.

Texting – A Sprint

If a client or firm member texts me, I will text back–as long as:

  • The response is short and
  • The response does not contain sensitive information

Why not just call or email the client or firm member?

In the middle of busy season, I’m looking for every moment I can save. Many times a text answers my client’s or firm member’s question–and I can do so in a timely manner (this is better than not responding at all because I’m too busy).

Emailing – A Run

When is email a better option?

Mainly when you need to send attachments. Emails take longer than texts but seem to work better–at least for me–when more than one or two short answers are necessary.

If you are emailing sensitive information, consider using a secure method such as ShareFile to do so. ShareFile offers an Outlook add-in that makes the transfer seamless.

Calling – A Walk

I call when the message is important or long.

We lose something in electronic communications. Our tone of voice and inflections say a great deal. Phone calls will usually take longer than texts or emails, but may be warranted if the issues are of high importance.

If my communication is lengthy (say more than three medium-sized points or one complicated issue), I usually opt for a phone call. If you are providing accounting, tax, or auditing advice, consider whether you need to document the phone conversation in a memo to your client’s file. I use a form that I’ve created for this purpose and keep it handy in my Evernote cloud account.

Summary

Sprint, run, or walk. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Regardless of your choice, it’s all about communicating clearly and timely. Oops sorry, got to go–someone is texting me.