Angelo

organization Building My Evernote World

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I'm making this thread to work out my 'project' of building Evernote that is most efficient to me. Hoping this might be some help to other beginners who have run in to similar blockades of not able to organize your notes which hinders productivity.

I've attached a screen of my current Evernote schema where I've setup a hierarchical tag structure that I worked through in a previous thread.

Now this structure worked for while and I had high hopes for it but after a while i started finding it difficult on finding this that needed attention now. This caused me to revisit square one.

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So the first thing I think works best is identifying obstacles and objects and other aspects that define my 'life'

So going down the list....

  • School: class notes, assignments
  • Work: Projects, meeting notes, reference notes
  • Interests: Guitar, photography, technology, travel

Alright so that's a start. The one thing I seem the hardest to place is 'Projects'. So to solve this I am going to define a project and what that entails. David Allen defines a project as something that needs more than one step to complete. But in Project Management, a project is “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result".

Ok well obviously I will be choosing the former of the two definitions but I am still unsure as to whether it should be "Project" stack with "project name" notebook and all the notes related to that project or if I should make a tag "project"

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Another thought to consider and not ignore is: How do I want to find the notes when I need to find them? And how to make it as easy and quick to find them. This is where tags and search feature come in to play I feel.

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I think I have identified the actual stacks and notebooks I will be placing and I have decided after a lot of thought to make projects a stack and have the project name a notebook...perhaps I'll include a 'Completed projects stack or notebook to archive the completed old projects...

I've attached the reformed notebook structure to reflect the changes. The pain will start when I have to reorganize my notes in the proper notebooks and tags...right now its at a more larger scope...

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Update;

I have completed migrating the notes to new tags and removing the old tags out and properly placing notes in new stack/notebooks.

One thing I've noticed is that this method has created an increase amount of tags which could make it difficult in future notes. The last thing I want to do is try and remember which tags I have, so I will try and consolidate some of the tags somehow.

I also find that having a tag 'notes' is sort of repetitive as I would be attaching a note tag to a note...So i need to find a way to go around this in a better manner... I am also wondering if its necessary to have a 'personal' tag at all...I will have to put some more thought in to this new schema....

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I was able to size down my tags to 10 tags including: @action, @completed, Chartwell, finance, goals, photography, study, technology, travel....getting rid of personal, notes, Later (sandbox/ideas notebook is for undefined projects)

But now some of my notes have no tags associated with them and I don't want to have more than 10 tags (for simplicities sake) but I fear that in the long run, they will be lost in an ever growing Evernote of notes....I suppose I can make a saved search for this...Need to think more about this...

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Well thats enough for one night. I will have to come back to this and see how else I can improve.

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i think your process will be a great help to new users. thanks so much for sharing!

i have my own organization system that relies quite heavily on consistent and information-laden titles. two notebooks, and very few tags. i have a style sheet that i follow to keep track of things. it is a lot simpler than it sounds, and at nearly 6,000 notes, no problems finding anything so far.

http://www.princeton.edu/~cmayo/evernoteresearch.html

i get the impression that other users rely a lot on titles as well. another scheme i like is this one suggested by jbenson using randomly generated codes.

hostricity, in the other thread you started on the topic, also had some helpful advice along with links to resources.

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Thanks Grumpy.

Right now I am trying to think of a way to better increase my notebook structure. With my previous setup it was easy because if it was either a personal note, a work related note or a receipt. With this new structure however, if it isn't a project then it seems to default to a reference notebook which isn't always the case...

I really enjoy the sandbox/ideas notebook since thats where I can store ideas or possible projects that need to be looked at a later date. But right now I think I need to maybe include another notebook for temporary one-of notes that entail simple tasks that need to be done. I may just leave that for the inbox though but I want to keep the inbox clean...

Second thought, I will keep the inbox for those items. This should force me to go through it on a more consistent basis and keep things clean...

The ground work is done and the structure is up but now I am going to focus on improvement. This will require a re-evaluation of the core requirements of evernote in my life.

Sooo back to square one for now.

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But now some of my notes have no tags associated with them and I don't want to have more than 10 tags (for simplicities sake)

If we had to limit ourselves to 10 adjectives to label the world, it would be a poorer place. Don't fear a larger number of tags; just learn to create them judiciously.

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But now some of my notes have no tags associated with them and I don't want to have more than 10 tags (for simplicities sake)

If we had to limit ourselves to 10 adjectives to label the world, it would be a poorer place. Don't feat a larger number of tags; just learn to create them judiciously.

Exactly

It's not how many tags you have, it's having tags that are easy to remember, easy to use, and to not create multiple tags for the same thing (a "dinner" tag and a "supper" tag)

I use a tag for each of my clients. That's easy because I know their name and so typing in the tag without getting duplicates is easy.

Often, my client's name doesn't appear in the note, so I tag it. I also tag my Code notebook notes with tags like "PHP", "SQL" or "JS" - Because code snippets don't necessarily have the language in them. I also use tags when the topic of the note is a word that is so common It would likely appear in a lot of unrelated notes. "parent" could appear in a lot of notes, so I use a tag "parent" for MY parents. That way I can easily eliminate the notes talking about "parent" and child tags, or news articles about Mrs. Obama's skills as a parent.

The tricks are to not use tags for stuff you can easily search, and to be careful about tags where you could end up with multiple tags for the same thing.

Other than context tags, and client name tags, I have about 10 or 12 tags. I expect it to grow some, because I already have an idea about what tags I will need, but haven't created a note yet on that topic. For example, I don't have a Ruby tag or a Python tag yet. If I had 10 clearly defined contexts, I'd have 10 context tags, but I don't, so I have 3: @grocery @home @work.

Just remember that the idea is to use EN to make your life easier, not to create a bulletproof filing system that you have to constantly think about, reorganize, or remember a lot of stuff to remember how to use it.

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Update;

I have completed migrating the notes to new tags and removing the old tags out and properly placing notes in new stack/notebooks.

One thing I've noticed is that this method has created an increase amount of tags which could make it difficult in future notes. The last thing I want to do is try and remember which tags I have, so I will try and consolidate some of the tags somehow.

I also find that having a tag 'notes' is sort of repetitive as I would be attaching a note tag to a note...So i need to find a way to go around this in a better manner... I am also wondering if its necessary to have a 'personal' tag at all...I will have to put some more thought in to this new schema....

Well, how do you use the "notes" tag? If it is for notes you take in class, a "notes" tag could be very useful and it's just a shorter way of saying "classnotes" Same for "personal" If you can have personal receipts and business receipts...

I'm glad to see you have pruned the number of notebooks. You have a similar number to me. What you had before would have driven me nuts...

And They're coming to take me away Ha Ha

They're coming to take me away ho ho he he ha ha

to the funny farm where life is beautiful all the time,

and I'll be happy to see those nice young men

in their clean white coats

and they're coming to take me away ha ha...

.

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IMO, there are kind of two basic obstacles that new EN users may encounter.

The first one is organization, period. Many of us older users who have dealt with organizing papers & physical objects ("Where is the Tivo manual?" "Guest closet, top shelf on the right in a three ring binder.") have learned a bit of discipline is required in order to be organized. Is the phone bill stored under "C" for cell phone, "T" for Telephone, "P" for phone or "V" for Verizon?

Second is that many people (myself included) have a hard time switching from folders/sub folders to tags. In my case, even though I had a bit of a problem, I think it was easier for me b/c I'd already encountered the limitations of folders. I have a farm of internal/USB drives with my various files. About 7 years ago, I wasn't willing to spend the money on a single hard drive that was large enough to contain my photos & videos. So they were scattered across several hard drives. If I wanted to find "My Video 0123", I may know it existed but not know which of 4-5 drives it lived on. It was a major PITA to use the Windows search on each hard drive to find this file. I then found Locate32 (freeware) which will index all the file names across all my hard drives. All I had to do was type in "My video 0123" & it would find all files of that name, regardless what drive, folder or sub folder it was in. Absa-frickin-loutely-mazing! That's pretty much how tags work in Evernote. I think that lesson allowed me to adjust to tags more easily than some people.

Another key point in "my Evernote" is that I'll use alternate/misspellings as keywords. If a contact's last name is Shafer, I will include keywords of Shaffer & schaeffer. That way, if I don't remember the correct spelling of their name, it doesn't matter. At this point in Evernote's life cycle, it's up to the user to plan ahead, think of these things to facilitate retrieving our information. Not that that's a dig against Evernote b/c that's still a step ahead of any manual/physical filing system, IME.

Again, I think that's easier for those of us who are not new to organizing. Perhaps a few years down the road, EN will be smart enough to offer up these other options without the user intentionally adding them in. IDK. In the mean time, I continue to use accurate tags, titles & keywords & rarely run into a situation where I can't find my note.

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well, i will put in one more plug for more simplicity.

"Right now I am trying to think of a way to better increase my notebook structure. With my previous setup it was easy because if it was either a personal note, a work related note or a receipt. With this new structure however, if it isn't a project then it seems to default to a reference notebook which isn't always the case..."

exactly. which is why i do not categorize anything. the categories (if you can call them that) are the dates and keywords in the title. tags and folders are extraneous. you can use as many of them as you want, but if you have a solid naming system, you won't have to burn up brain cells trying to categorize everything anymore.

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well, i will put in one more plug for more simplicity.

"Right now I am trying to think of a way to better increase my notebook structure. With my previous setup it was easy because if it was either a personal note, a work related note or a receipt. With this new structure however, if it isn't a project then it seems to default to a reference notebook which isn't always the case..."

exactly. which is why i do not categorize anything. the categories (if you can call them that) are the dates and keywords in the title. tags and folders are extraneous. you can use as many of them as you want, but if you have a solid naming system, you won't have to burn up brain cells trying to categorize everything anymore.

Actually, if you put keywords in the titles, you are tagging the notes so you can search on them.

Instead of adding keywords to the notes or note titles, I tag them.

My brain must work differently from yours because it is easier for me to put stuff in a notebook from a drop-down list and then have hints about the tags or be able to look at the list in the left panel.

In the past, trying to remember and maintain "a solid naming system" is exactly what has always done me in.

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"Actually, if you put keywords in the titles, you are tagging the notes so you can search on them."

Yes. I actually find myself using fewer and fewer tags these days.

"Instead of adding keywords to the notes or note titles, I tag them."

Good idea. That is fine, of course. I prefer the redundancy. And, if I ever need to export everything out of Evernote, everything I have will be sorted and ready to go.

"My brain must work differently from yours because it is easier for me to put stuff in a notebook from a drop-down list and then have hints about the tags or be able to look at the list in the left panel."

I have index notes and so forth to organize major topics. A class I helped teach, for example, has several dozen links to related notes (a note for each class + a note with handouts + a preparatory research note + a power point or handout). "index class name" brings up the index note and i can find everything.

"Trying to remember and maintain "a solid naming system" is exactly what has always done me in."

I don't try to remember. I create a style sheet for naming and stick to it. If you start with dates, you really can't go wrong. everything after that is extra. And, with all of the search options, it would be pretty much impossible to lose anything.

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"Actually, if you put keywords in the titles, you are tagging the notes so you can search on them."

Yes. I actually find myself using fewer and fewer tags these days.

"Instead of adding keywords to the notes or note titles, I tag them."

Good idea. That is fine, of course. I prefer the redundancy. And, if I ever need to export everything out of Evernote, everything I have will be sorted and ready to go.

"My brain must work differently from yours because it is easier for me to put stuff in a notebook from a drop-down list and then have hints about the tags or be able to look at the list in the left panel."

I have index notes and so forth to organize major topics. A class I helped teach, for example, has several dozen links to related notes (a note for each class + a note with handouts + a preparatory research note + a power point or handout). "index class name" brings up the index note and i can find everything.

"Trying to remember and maintain "a solid naming system" is exactly what has always done me in."

I don't try to remember. I create a style sheet for naming and stick to it. If you start with dates, you really can't go wrong. everything after that is extra. And, with all of the search options, it would be pretty much impossible to lose anything.

Sounds like your requirements for organization are greater than mine and your perseverance in keeping it beats me as well.

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it's actually pretty simple. yymmdd keyword keyword keyword.

after that, i have notes tagged "index," that are lists of note links to related content. i have one for each class. i have one for a list of notes related to a research topic. i have one for all of my journal entries. they're easy to make. you just drag notes into the "index" note to make the list of links.

i am going to give jbenson's idea a try (see link above). because he uses random character strings, he is able to avoid any concerns about classification. this is especially good for minor clumps of notes, like records of a dispute / claim with a company. you might only have a handful of notes, and they are spread out over several days or weeks. it's not worth making an index note or a tag, but you want to link them together easily.

an added benefit is that the ipad currently lacks support for making note links. this is a really nice workaround.

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it's actually pretty simple. yymmdd keyword keyword keyword.

after that, i have notes tagged "index," that are lists of note links to related content. i have one for each class. i have one for a list of notes related to a research topic. i have one for all of my journal entries. they're easy to make. you just drag notes into the "index" note to make the list of links.

i am going to give jbenson's idea a try (see link above). because he uses random character strings, he is able to avoid any concerns about classification. this is especially good for minor clumps of notes, like records of a dispute / claim with a company. you might only have a handful of notes, and they are spread out over several days or weeks. it's not worth making an index note or a tag, but you want to link them together easily.

an added benefit is that the ipad currently lacks support for making note links. this is a really nice workaround.

Ultimately, it's really what works for you and avoiding a few pitfalls like huge numbers of notebooks or tags. I like typing in "w" and seeing walnut, weird, whoopee - because it's too easy to make a typo and misspell "woopee" and then not being able to find that note.

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yep. there are lots of ways to organize, and you have to find your own way. its nice to have this forum and be able to borrow ideas from others.

as for the instant search (starts with w), it is nice for five notes, but 5000 generates spinning beachballs on the mac. sometimes i have to type out the search in a text edior and paste it in to avoid the insanely frustrating feature. at 50000 i'll probably have to give up searching altogether. evernote really needs to reconsider this. just because google inflicts this pain on me doesn't mean that evernote ought to follow suit. at least google lets me choose.

more options please :)

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yep. there are lots of ways to organize, and you have to find your own way. its nice to have this forum and be able to borrow ideas from others.

as for the instant search (starts with w), it is nice for five notes, but 5000 generates spinning beachballs on the mac. sometimes i have to type out the search in a text edior and paste it in to avoid the insanely frustrating feature. at 50000 i'll probably have to give up searching altogether. evernote really needs to reconsider this. just because google inflicts this pain on me doesn't mean that evernote ought to follow suit. at least google lets me choose.

more options please :)

I'm talking about assigning or searching on a tag - which I plan to keep to a small number, even if I have 500,000 notes.

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Now this structure worked for while and I had high hopes for it but after a while i started finding it difficult on finding this that needed attention now.

Every evening, I look all my current actions and give the 1 or 2 that I absolutely need/want to do the following day the additional tag "@MIT" (most important task).

Also, I have a tag "waiting for" which I revisit every week or so.

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After many hours spent in thought regarding this, the best situation I could find is the one I had originally. Keeping as few notebooks as possible and tagging everything with precise and accurate tags.

I've tried creating notebooks for projects, and other topics but I was just not happy with the look and feel of it. So I've attached a screen of my new structure and coupling them with the following rules;

Projects will be tagged with !Projectname instead of folders. This allows much more flexibility. Action items start with a # to keep them near the top but below projects (I class projects more important to see). Interests (such as guitar, photography, etc...) will be prefixed with @ to keep them together and under action items. Source tags are prefixed with S. to find web articles easier and such.

Tags are kept in a flat structure as this keeps things simple.

Thanks to everyone for their comments and suggestions. I've taken on Grumpy's suggestion of note title structure. I prefix all my notes with the date (120204 for today) followed by 3 or 4 keywords

I will post somewhat of a guideline to creating an evernote structure following this post. Hopefully this will make things easier for newer users.

The real task comes in sticking to discipline and working hard at it in the beginning.

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Here is a quick guide line you could use to build your evernote structure if your having troubles with tags and notebooks and such. Hopefully this will help you start your massive note collection and keeping it well maintained and organized.

1) Organize all notes in to 1 single notebook.

This can be the default notebook or a created notebook called 'Pending' but there should only be this notebook plus the default notebook in your collection

2) Go through all the notes and write down any attributes that come to mind

This can be as broad as 'Work' or as specific as 'Lasagna'. Make sure to capture as many keywords as you can without using words within the title of the note

3) Go through the list of words and remove any plural forms, making them singular

This will help down the line with searching

4) Applying these as tags

Using the list you just made, begin applying these attributes to each note. A personal rule I use is no more than 3 tags to a note.

5) Create broad-scoped notebooks

One method of Evernote organization is to place notes in very generalized named notebooks (ie; work, family, personal) and use tags to be more specific. Use as few notebooks as you can get by with.

6) Separate notes in to notebooks

Practice keeping the default notebook as empty as possible for better organization.

7) Create action tags

In addition to the tags already existing, creat action tags using !, @, # to keep them at the top of the tags list for easy reference. Action tags are tags that describe what needs to be done with a note (ie; !Todo, !Put off, !Completed, etc..)

Other Notes;

To help reinforce any Evernote structure to succeed, here are some tips;

  • Pick a time in each day where notes in the default notebook are tagged and processed in to an appropriate notebook
  • Use available hot keys for quick and easy note creation
  • Note hoarder? Create an archive folder, and put notes in here whenever you are certain you are done with them and remove the tags. This will keep things cleaner in the tags.

Regards,

-Angelo

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