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(Archived) Your Evernote structure


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I know its one of the most asked questions on this forum. How do you have your evernote set up?

I'm both interested in what you use evernote for and what notebook/tag structure is. do you use a notebook for every conceivable topic/category? do you use stacks to keep them all organized or just have a long list of notebooks?

there hundreds if not thousands of different ways to apply evernote. i am not in school. i do work full time but in my job i don't really have many things that need to go into evernote. i have outlook and archive folders.

basically i only use it for personal notes. don't have a scanner to put all documents in

honestly i don't know that i NEED evernote. i just feel like its a great product and want to use it to the fullest

and i really don't care for springpad tho it is a free alternative

so please add your thoughts and comments. and please don't tell me to search the thread because i have and have read many posts but have one person saying how they use evernote and then 50 comments on it. i'm looking for more testimonies not as many comments on other peoples

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basically i'm struggling with how to organize. i keep arranging my notes and notebooks and then rearranging and revamping. i can't find something that really fits and i'm looking for ideas

most posts tell what they use evernote for. not really the file structure which is what i'm struggling with

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  • Evernote Staff

Oh we have some really good fights about tag and notebook hierarchical structures in here. You'd be surprised how heated those get. :)

I have my Evernote structure based on the use case I need from each area. So, for example (lil bit of insidery info here), I actually use Evernote to track and maintain feature requests I pull from the forum. When I say something is "snagged", or "noted", or whatever, you can bet that it's in my feature request pipeline. I have a set of tags that I use to help with searching that queue better. There's no chance I'll be using those tags outside of that notebook, so I don't have to do anything fancy to derive value from that tag hierarchy. It's also my highest volume (in terms of notes) notebook. So I've ensured that my tag hierarchy is good enough to support the influx of notes.

In my home/extracurricular life, I use a more traditional set of notebooks, that aren't as fine-tuned for searching, because I can just bop into them as needed, and they're more short term and project based. Each notebook is built around a side project (say, a home reno project) with a "future note" (aka, a note with a forced future date to keep it on the top) that serves as my project checklist. I'll update this continuously as I complete bits of the project. The rest of the notebook holds my research or whatever I need to complete that project. I use almost no tags whatsoever, b/c I'm either relying on Evernote's search, or the Notebook is rather short term and I'll probably clean it out later anyway. It'll never get too big is my point.

Some vague categories, based on type of use:

High volume - One notebook + heavy duty tag hierarchy

Project based - One notebook (named X project) + Summary/checklist note + almost no tags

Catch-all - One notebook that acts as slush fund for random notes. If a certain category of notes (I treat this very organically) gets too big, they get their own notebook or their own tag.

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cool. that was really helpful. i don't know why i feel compelled to use more notebooks and tags. i guess because i can :)

right now i have inbox, notes, work, tasks

i don't really need work and i'm thinking about implementing gtd so i may need to grow my notebooks a bit more. but yeah i need to figure out something that will last. because redoing my structure every week is getting exhausting lol

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  • Evernote Staff

This may or may not be helpful advice, but I only build structure as I use/need it.

In other words, I've developed all of my structures in specific response to my usage. Sometimes creating a hierarchy ahead of time makes sense, as a scaffold you can hang data on. For me personally, it didn't make sense to do that in Evernote. Evernote feels more "real time" to me. Noting something in Evernote means taking action. I "will" do this. I "need to remember" that. This should be "recorded". So, in my feature requests example, I built its structure to best help me snag feature requests in real time, where clipping the request literally became "record, catalog and save" feature request. All in one clip. Otherwise all I would be doing all day on the forum is recording feature requests. As great as ya'lls requests are, that's not the only thing that needs done around here :)

A popular use-case is with keeping track of recipes. One of my friends is a chef and uses it this way all the time. Which is great, and I love that idea (I cook all the time) but until I actually start using Evernote in that capacity, I'm not going to create a structure around it.

Sounds like you're thinking the same thing about work. Until you think you need it, don't build it. Otherwise you'll keep going round and round with your structure. My 2 cents anyway :)

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thanks, it sounds like i am thinking like you.

one thing that i think is driving this cycle is that most people seem to hold on to everything that goes into evernote. archiving and never getting rid of things

one thing i like about your example is that you make a notebook and then clear it out when you're done. does this mean archive or delete? i just can't see keeping every note forever. and i think deleting things will make organizing a much less daunting task

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My usage is similar to Geoff's.

Some big things that have there own notebook and organization within the notebook. A lot of that is done via structured note titles.

e.g. I have one notebook that is for Evernote reference. A lot of the notes in that notebook are clips from this forum. I edit the titles of the notes to keep them grouped by category so that e.g. a clip from this topic would have title "Evernote - Misc - Your Evernote structure".

e.g. I am a music junkie and keep a record of YouTube, etc. performances that I like. It has its own notebook and again its own local title structure. In this case "" () () e.g. Adele "Rolling in the Deep" (Video 2011) (YouTube)

I also have a lot of transient project notebooks. When I start working on something new I create a notebook that will contain all related materials for the project. When the project is complete I clean up the notebook tags, titles, etc. and then ARCHIVE the contents in a rollup notebook.

My most active notebooks are Inbox and Journal. Everything that comes into Evernote starts in my default "Inbox" notebook. I am also an obsessive journaller. Lots of small notes about anything I do. A lot of these notes also contain checkboxes to indicate actions required from/for the note. Most of these notes are in my "Journal" notebook. Again I have a local title structure. YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM [Keyword]... and a tag "#dj" that is assigned to all journal items.

I try to keep tag use to a minimum. I do use them, but, they are usually high level.

Bottomline, there is no right way to use Evernote. Just things that work correctly for you. Also, different use cases may require different approaches, all within the same database.

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My usage is similar to Geoff's.

Some big things that have there own notebook and organization within the notebook. A lot of that is done via structured note titles.

e.g. I have one notebook that is for Evernote reference. A lot of the notes in that notebook are clips from this forum. I edit the titles of the notes to keep them grouped by category so that e.g. a clip from this topic would have title "Evernote - Misc - Your Evernote structure".

e.g. I am a music junkie and keep a record of YouTube, etc. performances that I like. It has its own notebook and again its own local title structure. In this case "" () () e.g. Adele "Rolling in the Deep" (Video 2011) (YouTube)

I also have a lot of transient project notebooks. When I start working on something new I create a notebook that will contain all related materials for the project. When the project is complete I clean up the notebook tags, titles, etc. and then ARCHIVE the contents in a rollup notebook.

My most active notebooks are Inbox and Journal. Everything that comes into Evernote starts in my default "Inbox" notebook. I am also an obsessive journaller. Lots of small notes about anything I do. A lot of these notes also contain checkboxes to indicate actions required from/for the note. Most of these notes are in my "Journal" notebook. Again I have a local title structure. YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM [Keyword]... and a tag "#dj" that is assigned to all journal items.

I try to keep tag use to a minimum. I do use them, but, they are usually high level.

Bottomline, there is no right way to use Evernote. Just things that work correctly for you. Also, different use cases may require different approaches, all within the same database.

i am planning on using it for journal-ling. i thought that i'd title them "journal entry - 09/30/2011" and then just go to town

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i am planning on using it for journal-ling. i thought that i'd title them "journal entry - 09/30/2011" and then just go to town

A few problems with that:

1. You will get real tired of typing that after a while

2. MDY is not a sortable format once you change years, YMD is.

3. I keep a lot of small journal entries instead of one for a day. This will become more important if you proceed with GTD.

4. I assign a tag "#dj" to all journal entries and to other clips/notes which initiate an action. This makes searching and data entry very easy, e.g. search for "dj evernote todo:false" will find all journal items for evernote with unfinished tasks (unchecked checkboxes).

5. I started with just date-time but quickly found that I needed to add a keyword or 2 to the title. Again, it makes browsing and searching a lot easier. I chose keywords in titles over tags because title is more visible, regardless of the Evernote client you are using. I also didn't want to worry about the issue of tag maintenance, etc.

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I chose keywords in titles over tags because title is more visible, regardless of the Evernote client you are using. I also didn't want to worry about the issue of tag maintenance, etc.

Me too. I think people new to Evernote have a tendency to over tag (I did) and not utilize the EN search engine. I have hundreds of documents in my EN & almost never tag them. But I'm diligent about using an accurate title. I always include the date of the bill/letter in YYYYMMDD format as well as the company or the name of the sender/recipient (if it's something I sent). So if I need to find the Cox cable bill from May of 2007, I'd simply do this search:

intitle:cox 200705*

and boom...out of thousands of notes, the one note I'm looking for pops up, no matter what notebook it was in. And no tags involved.

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Good meaningful titles, a few tags and search.

That should be on a tee-shirt. Very well said.

The other posters, like myself, are all heavy users of Evernote (I average about 80-100 new notes a day, depends on what I am doing/researching). The key thing that I almost subconsciously consider before a note leaves my inbox is, can I easily find this note again. After that, everything is details. Important ones. But. Details.

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Me too. I think people new to Evernote have a tendency to over tag (I did) and not utilize the EN search engine. I have hundreds of documents in my EN & almost never tag them. But I'm diligent about using an accurate title.

I do the opposite! I rarely title anything manually. I try, though to be diligent about tagging. We do agree on searching, though. I also think most people under use it. Sad, as it's such a great tool. I also have Evernote linked to my Google searches. If I search for anything in Google, I also can get results from whatever I've got stored in Evernote.

I'm also in the non-hierarchical camp. I don't use stacks. My tags are happily sitting there in an alphabetical list. I have less than 10 notebooks, only about half of which I use regularly. A couple of them were created by apps that sync things to Evernote. I tend to tag and move things out of them as I have time. If I used Evernote on a computer or the web more, I suspect I'd make more use of links. But that's just a guess.

I'm very much a dump everything in, search for it later kind of person. One of the reasons I love Evernote is that it works so well for that. I find it too easy to get caught up in the process of organizing things, getting it just right, filing everything precisely. For me, that ends up being a big time sink.

I would never want to preach to anyone, though, that I have found "The Answer". My only advice would be to learn how to use the search syntax.

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I'm very much a dump everything in, search for it later kind of person. One of the reasons I love Evernote is that it works so well for that. I find it too easy to get caught up in the process of organizing things, getting it just right, filing everything precisely. For me, that ends up being a big time sink.

I am sort of 50-50 in your camp.

One of my largest used tags and notebooks is "News". Probably 50% or more of my clips get dumped there with no additional processing. I go by the rule that if it was worth my time to stop and read an article, then, it is worth while to "Clip Article". Pretty good chance that at some point in the future I will sort of remember that I saw something about something and Evernote is how I will find it. These get moved out of my Inbox very quickly.

The other big part is to support frequent specific use cases. In those cases it was worth my time to:

- Think about how to organize this data

- Formally write down (in a note) how I want to do it

- Figure out how to do it quickly. e.g. I have several Saved Searches which let me quickly handle common tasks

e.g. search=notebook:inbox intitle:evernote

I agree that there is no single correct answer. Just practices that make your own life easier. Your use case is dump and hope to find later, so your practices make perfect sense. And, as you said, the better you know how to use search, the more likely you are to find that something.

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I find it too easy to get caught up in the process of organizing things, getting it just right, filing everything precisely. For me, that ends up being a big time sink.

I agree that can happen. Another reason I don't like using too many tags or worry about which notebook to put something in. (Although I do use more notebooks than some of the other heavy users.)

And I think it's probably easier if someone has background in organizing physical papers/notes/documents before jumping into Evernote b/c I think it's too easy for someone to blame EN (or any digital organization tool, perhaps) b/c they can't find something. OTOH, if you've been filing paper for a while, sooner or later you realize you need to have structure in your organization so that you always know to look for your AT&T cell phone bill under "AT&T" rather than "telephone" or "cell phone". Or however you decide to file it. It just needs to be consistent or else you spend time looking for something you already "filed."

I think this post by John Pierce (jmpsfs) is accurate & well thought out & applicable to this thread, too. (I Evernoted it.)

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It's important to understand that Evernote isn't a toy, it's a serious tool, and that any tool you use will require close and careful study to be most effective.

Thanks for the link. Evernoted.

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I am using Evernote for a journal but I don't find it to be using it to its potential. I read a blog post that had 100 things to use Evernote for but they were all wildly abstract and from left field. I'd like more practical uses. So far I have journal, financial records, and lists (groceries, packing, etc)

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Well that's where I'm having trouble. I don't really know what it's useful for because I am a huge minimalist and don't like to have something unless I need it. So archiving and keeping all these notes doesn't appeal to me. However I also have ADD so I need something for transient thoughts. That's why I'm having trouble structuring because I don't really want to keep things but have to.

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i am planning on using it for journal-ling. i thought that i'd title them "journal entry - 09/30/2011" and then just go to town

A few problems with that:

1. You will get real tired of typing that after a while

2. MDY is not a sortable format once you change years, YMD is.

3. I keep a lot of small journal entries instead of one for a day. This will become more important if you proceed with GTD.

4. I assign a tag "#dj" to all journal entries and to other clips/notes which initiate an action. This makes searching and data entry very easy, e.g. search for "dj evernote todo:false" will find all journal items for evernote with unfinished tasks (unchecked checkboxes).

5. I started with just date-time but quickly found that I needed to add a keyword or 2 to the title. Again, it makes browsing and searching a lot easier. I chose keywords in titles over tags because title is more visible, regardless of the Evernote client you are using. I also didn't want to worry about the issue of tag maintenance, etc.

i've adopted this naming convention and it looks to be easier

i currently create a new task list every and also journal every day. i read one of the eBooks offered in the trunk and the suggestion was to create a task list every day and then add "notes" to the bottom of it that are relevant only to that day. almost like a super high level journal. instead of typing your journal in a narrative and in a separate location to just add it to the daily tasks as you already create the notes daily.

how do you guys feel about that?

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Rather than searches, I think @Owyn was referring to sorting notes based on dates in the note title. If you use ‘yyyymmdd’ a sort will automatically place them in correct date order. If you use an alternative like ‘mmddyy’, all of the Januaries will sort first, regardless of year, followed by the Februaries and so on. Naturally, the dates in the ‘created’ and ‘updated’ fields will sort predictably regardless of format.

Search is a different matter. One thing to remember is that if you use separators like '-' in dates to enclose the whole date in quotation marks. Search for "2010-11-29" or "11-29-2010" (as would be your preference).

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@logandb. Correct on both counts.

@johnnyshinta I journal discrete actions or events. e.g Work on abc, Evernote sync failed, call from john doe, etc. Most of my journal entries are pretty short 1 - 3 lines. Some of them are middling long because I include supporting info in the entry (e.g. Evernote activity log abstract). Some of them are huge. I get very verbose when I am testing. A 3 or 4 page log of test events and supporting documents is not unusual. I tried, once, combining a days journal into a combined/merged entry. Worst mistake I ever made. The same note kept coming up in searches for different topics. Anyway, that's my usage. Keep track of what I am doing and keep track of all the interrupts/events along the way.

PS: My journal for the current task/activity is usually in a popped out note. That way I create new notes as needed for events.

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@logandb. Correct on both counts.

@johnnyshinta I journal discrete actions or events. e.g Work on abc, Evernote sync failed, call from john doe, etc. Most of my journal entries are pretty short 1 - 3 lines. Some of them are middling long because I include supporting info in the entry (e.g. Evernote activity log abstract). Some of them are huge. I get very verbose when I am testing. A 3 or 4 page log of test events and supporting documents is not unusual. I tried, once, combining a days journal into a combined/merged entry. Worst mistake I ever made. The same note kept coming up in searches for different topics. Anyway, that's my usage. Keep track of what I am doing and keep track of all the interrupts/events along the way.

PS: My journal for the current task/activity is usually in a popped out note. That way I create new notes as needed for events.

So you advocate a separate journal from daily tasks. I'll have to try it both ways and see what I like better

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So you advocate a separate journal from daily tasks. I'll have to try it both ways and see what I like better

No. My tasks are also in my journal. They are identified as items with checkbox in the journal entries. The first journal entry for each day is always the todo list for the day. It is not unusual for the initial task to result in several new lower level or follow on items. Ummm. It works for me, and, it is expected to change again in the near future. Waiting for the Zendone beta to open.

The real message is that for my usage, I want to keep to 1 event/task per note. For most tasks in today's initial to-do there is a subsequent journal for when I work on it. Not always. Sometimes the act of checking the item is sufficient documentation. e.g. My daily routine includes "Restart Chrome". A check is all it needs. Sometimes I add a something to the existing note. I am not trying to do a time and billing system. Just keep a good record of what I did and hopefully not lose track of a lot of little things.

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So you advocate a separate journal from daily tasks. I'll have to try it both ways and see what I like better

No. My tasks are also in my journal. They are identified as items with checkbox in the journal entries. The first journal entry for each day is always the todo list for the day. It is not unusual for the initial task to result in several new lower level or follow on items. Ummm. It works for me, and, it is expected to change again in the near future. Waiting for the Zendone beta to open.

The real message is that for my usage, I want to keep to 1 event/task per note. For most tasks in today's initial to-do there is a subsequent journal for when I work on it. Not always. Sometimes the act of checking the item is sufficient documentation. e.g. My daily routine includes "Restart Chrome". A check is all it needs. Sometimes I add a something to the existing note. I am not trying to do a time and billing system. Just keep a good record of what I did and hopefully not lose track of a lot of little things.

OK, I misunderstood. I like having a master task list for each day. I think I'll try adding any journal entries tothe end of it and see how I like it. It seems a big cumbersome to work my task list then write an entry every day

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so right now i have four notebooks: Inbox, notes, tasks, and work

my tasks layout is a variation of the eBook's suggestions. I have a master project list that has work and home projects, goals, someday, and waiting

the eBook suggested having separate notes for someday, goals, and waiting

i make a task list daily and divide it into home and work to do's

then i insert a line break and add notes. notes is daily high level journal entries.

i will check the project list daily to see what is waiting and what projects are active.

this is a good short term solution. i'm not really into the GTD mindset and i like having everything needed for a project listed out not just the next action. that way i can stage things for things that aren't necessarily actionable but in the pipeline.

i'm thinking of listing the projects in the project list. then listing all the tasks i can think of for that project and indent where necessary. does this sound like a do-able task management system? i know everyone has their own way of doing things. its sometimes helpful for someone else to look at your workflow and point out flaws you may have overlooked.

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