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(Archived) Can't find a system of organization that works!!

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I have constantly struggled with trying to find a system of organizing all of my Evernote clippings, and I am now convinced that doing so is simply beyond me and I would now like to see if the collective mind can offer some support...

I almost exclusively use the Evernote Firefox extension to clip interesting tidbits I come across online. I've got about 2000 clippings in Evernote, including everything from NYTimes articles on health reform; to Mashable articles on social media; to Lifehacker 'Hive Five' posts about one random thing or another... I also use Evernote for non web content such as PDF eBooks, receipts, user manuals, etc...

Initial attempt at organization -

I created like 25 notebooks to organize everything according to semi-focused topics like Photography, Business, Macintosh, iPhone, Hardware, Software, Humor, Financial, eBooks, Personal, Misc, etc... When I had this many notebooks, I didn't really tag my clippings very regularly (on occasion I would add tags like 'to-read', or 'important', etc...)

Using this method, things seemed nothing short of completely disorganized and chaotic, so I've recently opted for a change...

Second attempt at organization -

I narrowed down the number of notebooks to about 5-7 very broad topics such as Tech, Photography, Business, Reference, Financial, Misc... and then I tried being more thorough and relevant with my tags for each of my clippings by using many of the words that I used for notebooks in my first attempt at organization (i.e. Photography, Business, Macintosh, iPhone, Hardware, Software, Humor, Financial, eBooks, Personal, etc)

Using this method, things again seemed nothing short of completely disorganized and chaotic... and this brings me to where I stand today - Lost, and hoping that someone on these forums can help me organize my clippings!

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated... Thanks!

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It's tough isn't it. My experience of organising large amounts of data comes primarily from numerous attempts over the years to organise my email and I've finally arrived at a solution that I'm happy with and feels efficient and elegant to me. Here's what I did, including the detours that I consider to be my mistakes since those explain some of my thinking...

My first email was in outlook so only folders were available to me (in EN terms I consider Folder = Notebook and Tag = Tag). I ended up with lots of folders and, even worse, lots of duplicate emails. How can I handle a quotation that I send out to Ford - do I file it in my Customers/Ford folder or my Customers/Quotations folder? Even worse, what if the quotation relates to ProductX and I also try to maintain a folder for all activities related to ProductX? I ended up saving emails into multiple folders. This, together with my discovery of GMail many years ago now, convinced me "Tags good, folders bad".

My takeaway message for my personal EN setup at this point is to keep everything in a single notebook and use tags to organise within the notebook.

So at this point my email is in GMail and I have tags for pretty much every folder I had in Outlook. I ran like this for a while but I discovered two things. Firstly, it felt unorganised and unwieldy because I had so many tags. Secondly, I often didn't use the tags to find things and usually just typed very simple search terms into the GMail search engine (e.g. if my camera broke and I needed to find the receipt then just typing "Camera Invoice" or "Camera " would get me close enough to see the correct email on the first page of the search results). This encouraged me to trim down my number of tags to the bare minimum and now I only have 13 tags for my personal emails. This feels way cleaner and more organised to me than the huge list I had before.

Two key tags I have are "Registration" and "Purchasing". Registration is attached to any information relating to userids and passwords (e.g. acknowledging registration with a forum, an AppleStore userid, a password reminder or whatever) and "Purchasing" is attached to anything relating to something I buy (e.g. an order or shipment confirmation, an invoice/receipt, etc). This way, if my free-form search doesn't find what I want, I can narrow it to just purchasing events by also specifying a tag. Other tags are very broad, e.g. my camera purchase would also be tagged "Technology" which covers everything from computer hardware, software, internet services, smart phones and mobiles and electrical appliances or another example is "Media" that covers books, ebooks, music, TV shows, films, etc.

My takeaway message for my personal EN setup at this point is to use search as much as possible (but see my caveat below) and use tags only for broad divisions that might only ever be used to help refine a search. This probably means that I will need to do some in-note annotations so that I ensure that I have sufficient meaningful keywords in the body of the notes if the essential content doesn't already contain them.

My one issue at the moment with evernote is that the way they do search is actually really annoying vs how GMail does it as described in this thread I started yesterday (viewtopic.php?f=30&t=17015) but hopefully that might get fixed.

Anyway, that's were I ended up and the reasons why. It works well for me but you might hate it. Good luck with wherever you end up.

- Julian

P.S. For anyone who remembers my previous posts and is trying to square the above (search is good) with my position as someone who was campaigning for hierarchical organisation tools because I didn't always like searching, all I can say is (a) I'm changing my mind somewhat, and (:( I am still a bit concerned about use on my soon-to-be-purchased iPhone since, on a small device with a small keyboard, I might prefer browsing a hierarchy where possible (it's more finger friendly) but the jury is still out on that one. Also, if sub-notebooks do get implemented in EN, then there's nothing to stop me also implementing a sub-notebook hierarchy within my master notebook that I could use to browse on the iPhone but completely ignore on the desktop.

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  • Level 5

Initially, I started off with a lot of notebooks, but I started to see the power of Tags, so I cut back to just 5 major notebooks.

Hobbies (including computer stuff, tech support questions)

Local (private stuff that is not synced)

Miscellaneous (jokes, interesting, trivial stuff)

Personal (includes stuff on family, friends, home, car, bills, job)

Politics (mainly current web clippings of stuff that makes my blood boil)

To address your concern about the confusion, I often do some housecleaning of the database.

For instance, I recently added Charter as a TAG. (Charter is my cable TV service). I ran the following search:

notebook:Personal Charter -tag:Charter

This found for any mention of the word Charter in my Personal notebook which was not already tagged with Charter.

I then reviewed the search results and decided whether to add the Tag to the specific notes.

This process makes my database more useful and notes are easier to find.

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Somewhat similar to jbenson2... I also limit my notebooks but I do have around ten with occasionally temporary notebooks for pending group tagging.

My Notebooks are as follows:

Blogs (clips from about 10 major blogs I monitor regularly with a couple broken out when I passed 1,000 clips)

Business (mostly reference materials, emails for job)

Finance (offline notebook)

Personal (offline notebook of non-financial)

Mystuff (anything not fitting in the other notebooks)

Inbox (pending any tagging)

Inbox-Offline (offline - pending tagging such as statements, receipts invoices and personal documents)

My tagging is minimal and is somewhat dependent on the notebook but I strive for none and rely on the note content and title to search.

The tag exceptions are primarily the Blogs and Finance notebooks and may be overly complicated........

For blogs I generally use two tags... one is source for the major blogs that I monitor and the other is year published. Other blog clips would only have the year. For example:

2009, Lifehacker

2010. Zen Habits


For Finance items (generally clips and scanned documents) I may use as many as three or four tags such as source, type and year. For example:

2010, BankABC, checking, statement

2008, receipt, Visa

2006, Comcast, utilities, statement

My yearly tabs are actually sub-tags within the decade so I can toggle them open and close as needed...


- 1970

- 1971

- 1972


- 1980

- 1981




I keep the yearly tags for:

- potential purging of old stuff some time in the far distant future

- to indicate publish year which doesn't always coincide with date added to Evernote

- quick verification that I have loaded financial notes for a given year such as 12 bank statements in 2009 from BankABC

I have almost 35,000 notes in Evernote in less than a year of use and quite happy with how quickly I can slice and dice to find what ever note I need.

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My recent foray into organization is using namespaces. I don't use the tagging feature much and don't have that many notebooks.

Here's an example.

Notebook: Recipes.

Notes in Recipes.

Appetizer.spinach dip

Entree.Crab Souffle

Those are fake, here are some of my real ones.

Faith notebook contains the notes relating to classes I teach, spiritual journeys, etc.

Lessons.Loving the Unlovable

Lessons.Serve the World

General.Calvins Institutes Book 1 Ch 3

WotW.Research.The Barna Group - New Research Explores How Technology Drives Generation Gap

Code notebook contains various programming code snippets (namespace contains language)

Perl.Joining Files



BASH.While Read

Maybe this will help?

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  • Level 5

an interesting and useful discussion but has anyone found a good, robust way to separate their business and personal notes? i was thinking that it may be better to have two separate Evernote accounts for this.

2 separate Evernote accounts? Why?

What happens if you start a new job? Would you create a 3rd Evernote account?

My personal method to separate Business and Personal info - Everything goes into a single Evernote account. I store past employment info from my 3 employers over the past 25 years, business flight info, meeting notes, etc. My business information is stored amongst 4 different notebooks.

Acquaintances (names, phone numbers, address info, etc)

Local (confidential info that I store on only on my non-sync'd Evernote notebook)

Biz (press releases, competitive info)

Personal (business trips, hiring and promotion dates and info)

To identify the specific employer, I use a tag (Job-abc, Job-def, Job-ghi).

And 2 separate Evernote accounts fly in the face of what Evernote is all about.

From Evernote web site

Use Evernote to save your ideas, things you see, and things you like. Then find them all on any computer, phone or device you use.

Capture everything

Organize it

Find anything fast

Put your thoughts, ideas, inspiration, and things to remember all in one place. Use Evernote for work, for play, and for everything that’s noteworthy

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an interesting and useful discussion but has anyone found a good, robust way to separate their business and personal notes? i was thinking that it may be better to have two separate Evernote accounts for this.

I use a single account. I could see a case where someone may want a separate account for work. IE, you work in an office & use EN throughout the day for work issues but don't want to be concerned if you go get a cup of coffee that someone will sit down at your desk & dig around in your EN account. I "telecommute" 100% of the time & only once in a great while, need to go into the office to deal with something. So that's not a big concern of mine. But I do keep that in mind, since when I do go into the office, it's b/c there is a problem that requires "hands on" & I may need to refer to some of my notes. I could use my netbook or iPhone but it's often just easier/faster to use an available computer.

I do have 3 notebooks dedicated to work. One is for emails that are work related, one is for work related notes (IE how to remotely reboot a unix server) & the third one is a "change log", that is used to track changes made to programs and/or data in case something is mucked up later, so I can see if something I did may have been the cause. The change log notebook could probably be deleted by using a tag & moving the notes into the "work notes" notebook.

I like having the work emails & notes in their own notebooks for a couple of reasons. First, if I were to be in a situation where I was in the office & wanted to find a particular note or email & someone was standing over my shoulder, there may be personal notes that would be displayed that I'd rather not. Secondly, it helps refine the search. If I'm looking for a particular email but forget who sent it and the search words I'm using are fairly common, I don't have to deal with emails that may match the search terms but are not work related. (Searching through archived work related emails can be tedious since people tend to include the "history" in their reply. So there could be ~10 emails that contain the same initial email. :shock: So anything I can do to refine those searches is helpful.)

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I could see a case where someone may want a separate account for work. IE, you work in an office & use EN throughout the day for work issues but don't want to be concerned if you go get a cup of coffee that someone will sit down at your desk & dig around in your EN account.

There's also the issue of notebook sharing and the reason i have not yet enabled it is due to my worry that i could drop some sensitive notes of a personal nature or otherwise in there and not notice until others had seen it.

If I had a completely walled off 'business only area/account' then i could be sure that only that space had sharing enabled.

Just thinking out loud here.

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I have an "Inbox" notebook. I tag with a location to review (home, work) and the name of the notebook I plan to use the note in (novel, product, client, moving) At the end of the day my "Inbox" notebook is almost always empty.

So, for the new server I am trying to get my boss to buy, I find it on the Dell website, and clip to EN. "Inbox" with tags "work, product, server". Later I might need to remind myself that one of the reasons we need that server is secure work from home capability. Inbox --> "work, server, remote". Later that day, I sort through Inbox, remove "work" or "home" tags, and throw all that stuff into my " Server" notebook. Sort of simplified examples, there. May not work for you, but definitely works for me. Gotta get in the tag habit, though. ;)

I don't really need notebook sharing for work, so I can't really help you there. If it were me, I would go ahead and share a "Work Share" notebook, and just be extra careful what I put in it.

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