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Which method would you use-


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So I'm about 3000 notes deep into EN and finally get on board with GTD via Omnifocus. I've read Allen's book and May's paper and am in a little bit of a mental fork in the road.... I tend to overcomplicate things and am trying to take a step back to get a fresh perspective before continuing.

A great number of my notes are either Statements, Receipts, or Checks/Deposits. The way I've been processing them up to this point is the are all in my Filing Cabinet notebook and each have their own tag. I also have a tag for each company (at least the major ones). I have a few saved searches using multiple tags to actually list what I'm looking for. To further organize, each note has the general format of "YYYY-MM-DD Place/Origin Amount".

My goal is to have something concise yet easy enough to use that my wife will not get lost. I'm tired of long-templated note titles and notes where I have to sit and remember all 4 tags that should be associated. The result is that I usually have to stop what I'm doing and look up all of the similar notes so I can duplicate the info. After awhile, makes me not want to use EN. What I'm really wondering is if I am overly processing each note, namely do I really need a YYYY-MM-DD in the note title and a tag for Statements/Receipts/ or Checks/Deposits.

So here are my options, all involve removing the first layer of tags-

1) Create a new sub-folder of Filling Cabinet for Statements, Receipts and Checks/Deposits.

Pro- removes a tag from many notes. Con- where do I stop creating notebooks and when does an overly used tag get stripped and become a notebook? I'm reluctant to use this approach because I believe that notebooks should be used for general areas of responsibilities, not as electronic representation of a physical notebook. Our habits are so hard to rewire away from the paper/folder/file cabinet method it is staggering.

2) Place "Statement" or "Receipt" or "Check" or whatever else descriptor of the "thing" I am looking at as the first word of each applicable note. This one intrigues me but I've never used it before. I've heard of people here using it for things like "Tips" or "Thoughts".

3) Use sub-tags, ala "Statements-Schwab" instead of "Statements" and "Schwab". This seems easy enough, as usually when a note is associate with Schwab it is in fact a statement. The problem is what if it is not. What if it is just a letter from schwab. The risk here is I could easily double my tag combinations. Again, road down "over-complification".

4) Any other option I haven't thought of?

Finally, how or should I have a tag or notebook for a couple broad areas, such as "Retirement" or "Rental Properties". I think they are both kinda like Projects, but with much longer horizons, however, they encompass such a large number of notes over time it is sort of impractical to ever view them all under the same umbrella. However, there are a few in each category with no other tags associate which I fear will lose their relevance somehow should I remove the tag.

Sorry for the long post, I've looked all over and rather then try to piece the solution together thought I'd just toss the whole thing out there and see what others though-


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  • Level 5*

hi. tough questions. see the shared notebook in my signature for my solution. it might be too stripped down for your situation. but, in general, my suggestion would be that if you are going to use notebooks and tags, and you want someone else to be able to navigate, you:

(1) create a style sheet and put it in your favorites bar. this is an index to stuff: what tags/notebooks you use and what they have in them. this will also help you remember what you are doing.

(2) organize your notebooks chronologically and your tags topically. you don't have to think so much about when something is, but what is a more difficult problem, and the answer changes according to time and context.

for example, what about: a statement from chuck you get today gets titled 120511 schwab newsletter. newsletter is a throwaway word. the only important one you need to be consistent with is the date and schwab.

it gets put in the 12-05 notebook. do you need anything else? i mean, if you are looking for all of your schwab stuff, just type intitle:schwab. that will show you the exact same view as you would see in a notebook. save your organizing for important stuff. just make sure to label everything important with "record", or tag it with "record" if you want. a search for intitle:schwab tag:record will show you all of the statements and so forth. save the search if you want.

anyhow, the point is, if you save your effort for the necessary stuff, and make good use of the search capabilities for filtering, then you can cut down on our tags a lot. save the searches so your wife can easily find anything. a label like "schwab important papers" on the search, and you are good to go.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The beauty of EN is that with a well-directed search you can find anything. For example, my Schwab statements are simply placed in a note called "Schwab Stmts". Within that note are pdf's containing the various statements eg: all of 2011 is in one pdf; 2007-2010 statements are all combined in another pdf. New statements that I received are dumped into this same note and labelled "Schwab stmt 5-18-2012". At the end of the year I will combine all the individual 12 statements into one pdf ie: Schwab stmt 2012. I have this note tagged as "bank" but the tag is really rather useless and I rarely use it. Every once in a rare while I simply can't remember any of the key words in a note's label and therefore will rely on sifting through the contents of a tag to find it. For example, let's say that I forgot "Schwab's" name; I would simply go through my "bank" tab and eventually find all notes relating to Schwab. My system is a little different than others because I like to consolidate all my stuff into as few notes as possible. Therefore, I have many notes that contain multiple pdf's. The only downside to this system is that if you want to conduct a search for a term WITHIN a pdf, the search engine may bring up a note with 10 pdf's (but without any indication of which pdf holds the search term).

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