Recently while setting up Evernote for GTD, I frequently read of the importance to keep it simple. I also found Daniel Gold's "Evernote: Unofficial Guide 2nd Ed." and various blog posts regarding EN's tag sort order helpful. My main challenge was to settle on symbols for my tags than sorted the same way on my iPad, iPhone, and MacBook -- no easy task, given that they sort differently on the different devices.
As I’m still an EN newbie, my system remains a work in progress. Here my current line up of notebooks and tags. I invite your review and comments.
Notebooks: only 2
!Inbox The symbol-prefix "!" allows this notebook to appear ahead of GTD. !Inbox is my default. If I have GTD as my only notebook, any new note would disappear from view when I assign the first tag to it. With !Inbox as my default notebook, I can assign appropriate tags, make needed edits, and then drag note to the GTD notebook.
GTD The notebook where all my post-inbox workflow takes place.
Tags: 4 symbol-prefixes that sort the same way on each device and function like folders, except that a given note can appear in multiple folders:
! for my Priorities
" for my Projects
@ for my Contexts
no symbol-prefix for my Filing Cabinet and everything that I store inside of it. No symbol-prefix allows my Filing Cabinet to appear at the bottom of the list of tags.
My priorities are !!MIT (for Most Important Tasks), !!Today, !Next (for Next Actions), !Someday (I dropped /Maybe), !Tickler, !WF (for Waiting For).
Each priority stands alone, i.e., it doesn’t nest inside a parent tag.
!! allows the two top priorities to appear at the top.
!Tickler is my tickle file and began as a separate notebook until I found it an unnecessary complication. The title for each note tagged with !Tickler begins with the date I want to be tickled, formatted as YYMMDD which allows them to be sorted with today’s items appearing at the top. I do not use tags such as !Soon or !This Week, because !Tickler serves that purpose for me.
All projects (e.g., "1Actions, "Talks, "Photo Book) are nested inside the parent tag "Projects.
A someday/maybe project (e.g. “Paint house) nests inside !Someday and not inside "Projects.
I really wanted to use # as the prefix for my projects, but it sorts differently on my different devices.
All contexts (e.g., @Work, @Errands, @Phone) nest inside the parent tag @Contexts.
Designates my filing cabinet with a parent tag Filing Cabinet (a metaphor that works for me better than References, which many others use).
Tags such as Books To Read, Gift Ideas, Lists, and User Manuals nest inside Filing Cabinet, just like a real metal filing cabinet.
Again, without a symbol-prefix, my filing cabinet and its contents appear at bottom of my list of tags, and the contents are alphabetized just like the real thing.
Following David Allen’s GTD advice of buying a good label maker, I bought one and put it to use even with Evernote. With a clear label cartridge, I print out and stick to the margins around my MacBook screen some of Evernote commands that I need to remember:
- the syntax for the email subject line that directs to appropriate tags the email sent to Evernote. However, although I think this is a cool EN feature, but I might stop doing this. Associates who don’t know Evernote often complain about the strange code I add to the subject line, thinking I’m into voodoo Oh well. Besides, I often enter the syntax wrong and then wonder where my message went inside of of EN.
- key stroke commands.
For now, I stopped using saved searches. As an EN newbie, I’ve fiddled with symbol-prefixes and ruined every saved search. However, when I am confident that the above system will continue, I’ll then develop saved searches for my daily GTD needs.