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Organising business


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I will soon be organising my mothers business papers by means of a snapscan scanner and the wonderful Evernote.

Basically I will be providing her with a digital copy of all her important receipts, tax sheets and everything relating to the paperwork side of her business.

Normally the kitchen table is clustered with sheets of papers, bills and the usual stuff found in an unorganised environment.

My question is simple. What's the best way to go about organising the above? Should I use tags or just titles?

This will be my first time to use Evernote in this way so I want to get it right rather than going back and editing stuff later.

I look forward to hearing your opinions.


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  • Level 5*

There are many ways to organize, but I have found it helpful to ask yourself a few questions before you implement:

  1. How do you plan to use the info you put into EN?
  2. How do you want to find your records later?
  3. What kind of "reports" or searches do you want to do later?
  4. Think about what queries/questions you might ask later, such as "What are my tax records for year XXXX"
  5. How much effort are you willing to put in to initially setup Evernote?
  6. How much effort are you willing to spend maintaining it?
  7. Who will be maintaining it (you, you mother, someone else)?
  8. Will anyone other than you and your mother need access?

While many people feel the need to use a lot of Notebooks to model the folder-subfolder design used by PC file systems, this is probably not the best approach for Evernote. Many experienced users have found that it is best to keep the number of Notebooks to a few (< 10, and maybe only 2 or 3), and use Tags and Note Title as the primary means of organizing in Evernote.

Having said that, Notebooks are essential to:

  1. Selectively share large blocks of your notes
  2. Selectively have some notes available offline on mobile devices

You could start with 3 Notebooks:

1. Inbox

  • This is your default NB where most, if not all, new Notes are initially put.
  • Import new notes into this NB
  • Clip new notes here
  • Create new notes here
  • Then process, assigning Tags, cleanup Title and Note text, etc, and move to ultimate NB
  • Generally, it should be empty when you are finished processing

2. Active

  • This is the NB of Notes that you are actively using, or will likely need access to in the near term
  • It could be for Notes within the last year, 2 years, etc, as well as ref Notes/docs (like current insurance, mortgage, assets, etc, depending your needs
  • this might be the NB your mother shares with you
  • It might be the NB you make offline on your mobile devices so you always have these Notes available.

3. Archive

  • This is for older Notes/Docs that you need to keep, but you rarely need to access

Scanning of your Paper Docs

  • Most prefer PDF format, with all pages of the doc in a single PDF file
  • Develop and use a file naming convention, that includes the source document date (not the scan date)
  • Scan to a holding folder, rename using your naming convention, and then move to EN Import folder
  • If your scanner has OCR feature, you may want to use it so you have the text of the document
    (EN will OCR the PDF after upload, but only for indexing purpose)
  • Use scanning software (or other PDF SW) options to optimize/compress the PDF
  • For very sensitive documents, you may want to use PDF SW to encrypt and password protect the PDF since Evernote does NOT auto-encrypt Notes or attachments

Don't worry to much about how to organize. It is very easy later to change blocks of Notes

  • to a different Notebook,
  • to assign Tags
  • Rename Notebooks
  • Rename Tags

Note Titles

The only thing that it is hard to do later is change the Note Title on large blocks of Notes.

You have to change the Title one note at a time.

So you might want to give some thought to your Title naming convention before you get started.

Finally, start slow, scanning and creating a few Notes at a time.

This will allow you to see how your system and process are working, and make adjustments before you have large number of notes. Try filtering your notes with tags (selecting one or more tags in the left panel, using the Tags filter on the Favorite Bar) and Search Expressions.

More Help from Other Evernote Users

There are a number of experienced uses who hang out in these forums that are more than willing to share their organizational approach. I'm sure some of them will be posting in your thread. You can also review the threads in the Evernote Organization Forum to examine a number of approaches/discussions.

Good luck. With a little trial-and-error, I'm sure you will determine a system that works for you.

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Superb information amigo! Thanks for taking the time to reply.

I like your 3 notebook style and I think I'll go down that route for my mums set up. She's not computer literate, but i will show her how to work Evernote and search for stuff.

She will soon see the light when all she has to do is type a few letter and boom, the results are in front of her. No more going through stacks of papers on the table.

I think a good title along with 1 general tag will be sufficient. For example a bank statement: date(on statement) bank name. And then tag it with "statement"

then pop it into either active or archive notebook depending on time frame.

One question about your active/archive notebooks....

How do I go about sorting or moving all my notes in the active nb to the archive nb when the notes are more than a year old etc?

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How do I go about sorting or moving all my notes in the active nb to the archive nb when the notes are more than a year old etc?

You can use the Search operator for "created":

  1. Click on "All Notes" to clear all filters
  2. Enter this in the Search box:
    notebook:Active -created:year-1
  3. Select all Notes in Note List
  4. Right-click on selection and click on "Move to Notebook . . ."
  5. Select "Archive" notebook

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I just realized that my above process assumes that you have changed the Created Date to be the Source Document Date.

If today you scan and import a document dated in 2010, it will have a Created date of May 10, 2012.

You will need to change the Created Date to the Document Date to make good use of the Created Date in searches.

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I explained to my mother how easy and quick the system is plan on implementing for her once upon get my scanner delivered. For 35 years she's been doing all her tax/vat reports by searching through stacks and stacks of papers from her kitchen.

She's finally accepted that the digital age is here for a reason :)

Regarding tax/vat stuff, are there any tips or guidelines that I should follow in order to make life easier for me as I start scanning her papers?

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Regarding tax/vat stuff, are there any tips or guidelines that I should follow in order to make life easier for me as I start scanning her papers?

Think about how you will want to retrieve your notes for tax purposes. What keywords come to mind?

Then create and assign tags for those keywords.

Here are some tags that jump out to me. You will probably want to assign more than one of these to each note:

  • Taxes
  • Federal
  • State
  • Income
  • Expense
  • 2011
  • 2012
  • Receipt
  • Guidelines
  • Filed
  • Correspondence (might abbreviate to "Corres")
  • IRS
  • Attorney
  • Accountant

My personal preference is to make good use of tags, so I generally have quite a few. Others prefer to have fewer tags and rely on keywords embedded in the Note Title. The advantage I find in Tags is that it makes it easy and consistent to apply a keyword (ie, tag) to each Note. I don't have to worry about typos or spelling in the Title. And I can see my keywords in the Tag list on the Left Panel, and in the Fav Bar Tags filter.

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