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Roue

productivity Tagging reference items by AoR

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This question is from the perspective of setting up The Secret Weapon (.org) but is a valid question for all/most of the evernote + GTD implementations I have seen.

I am mind-stuck at the point where you start your initial processing of the mass of stuff in Action Pending, after the big dump from OneNote and email.

I want to tag my (cabinet/archive/reference) by Area of Responsibility, initially just Home and Office/work. Should I use @Home and @Work or keep those reserved for GTD flow and make new “Home” and “work” tags for archiving (cabinet)?

There is the option of home and work notebooks but not using tags feels like taking a step backward.

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Roue - Great question. I use AoR tags such as @home, @office, @blog for my todo items, but for reference items, I have a master tags such as .01 Home, .02 Work, .03 Recipes, .04 Reference, .05 Stuff. Under each of those parent tags are tags related to those. In other words, none of those master tags actually have any notes associated with them. They're merely there as "place holders". I'm up for being convinced otherwise! Take a look here. Let me know and thanks for the great question!

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Roue, I haven't watched secretweapon.org stuff so I don't know what's suggested there but...

I'm not saying that it's not possible or even a bad idea to use Evernote for everything but I personally use a separate tool to manage actionable data, i.e. actions and projects, start and due dates and etc. I can do it all in Evernote but there is no reason or advantage in doing so in my view. The ways we need to interact and organize actionable and non actionable data are different so using a single interface to do so leads to compromises and no real benefits when you can just use different apps on a single mobile device and still keep all information linked.

I wrote about how I personally organize stuff in evernote here

From your question it feels to me like you're getting a little confused from using a single tool for everything btw and over complicating things.

Short answer -

Even organizing pure general reference with tags at all is often unnecessary In evernote because every word in the note is searchable.

You might be surprised by how simple you could keep things and still have everything organized.

Any additional organization wich could be avoided is just a waste of time.

Generally I tend to agree with Daniel about using AoR to organize actionable data only if you want to and not using it for organization of general reference.

In short, it's best to keep it as simple as possible and avoiding mixing actionable with non actionable data is the key also.

Long answer -

I used to use Areas of Focus to organize both separate actionable and non actionable data in the past (not even in Evernote at all btw, but in PersonalBrain) but found out that in practice it's just over organization and it's unnecessary, at least for me personally.

In my understanding of GTD, non actionable data is just pure reference... ideally there is nothing even remotely actionable there, e.g. Ideas or stuff you want to check from time to time and anything even remotely actionable should be processed as actionable and go to Someday/maybe or tickler or some checklists and etc. at least...

There is no need to organize pure general reference and project support material by Areas of Focus because

You wouldn't need to browse through general reference from top to bottom. General reference is just there in case you need it and in those cases all you really need to do is just search. There is nothing actionable so you don't need to be reminded about it and nothing would fall through the cracks if you'd never see those notes again. If you feel you can't just let go of such notes and feel that you still need to organize them additionaly and keep them in your sight then that means that it's not general reference and not all actions and projects are teased out from there.

As long as all your commitments are teased out and captured as projects and actions then any additional categorization of general reference is useless because to get reminded about everything you need to be reminded of you will be browsing and reviewing your projects and actions ( which btw could still be organized by Areas of Focus ).

I still use tags to organize general refence into some categories sometimes but only if there are real reasons to do so, e.g. if I have a lot of notes related to a particular topic and I would want to browse or search only those specific notes related to this topic from time to time, i.e. it helps to narrow down search results,

e.g. Raw food; lyrics; photos; gtd and etc.

But I don't even use tags at all for a lot of misc notes because I can find them just by search and there is no need to narrow down search results. Using Areas of Focus such as Home or Work or whatever for any of those general reference notes is pretty pointless in practice for me.

Hope this helps :)

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@Daniele, you have answered my question in that you do leave your GTD @context tags for GTD and utilize similar but different ones for your reference items. I am trying to have as few tags as possible so was thinking that if I can get away with using the same @home/@work that would be great but was wondering if folks have encountered pitfalls doing that.

@May, In cruising the GTD/Evernote online areas I have come across your posts several times, you are very...strong in your opinion of not using EN for everything so I get that for sure. For me, having everything in the cloud and available where ever I am and with what ever device I am using is just too comfy of a security blanket.

I appreciate both of you taking the time to reply, GTD is a personal thing so there are no right or wrong ways. The whole concept and setup is a big mindbender sometimes and I was getting stuck in the details. I needed the discussion to help me move past this log jam so thanks again :)

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@Daniele, you have answered my question in that you do leave your GTD @context tags for GTD and utilize similar but different ones for your reference items. I am trying to have as few tags as possible...

Roue - you're right on, friend. I'm a big fan of keeping things simple. Especially when it comes to GTD. Less is better. But as you pointed out, GTD is so personal and it's so important to trust your instincts and go with what works for you! Take advice with a grain of salt. :)

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"For me, having everything in the cloud and available where ever I am and with what ever device I am using is just too comfy of a security blanket. "

I do also have everything available with me on any device and backed up in the cloud so that's one of the reasons why I actually don't see any advantage in using a single tool.

Heh, maybe it seems like a strong opinion, but really, I'm just sharing how things look from my perspective and experience... I tried to keep everything in a single tool in practice so I have experience doing things both ways... I still would agree that Evernote could be used nicely for everything though so that wasn't my main point.

My main point was that you don't really need to organize general reference by AoR at all.

Also you have to be clear about the real purpose of those tags and how you're going to be actually using them to really decide.

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Well I am just starting my experience with GTD and EN so we shall see which side of the coin I fall on. If EN works for everything, great. If I have to start compromising then I will be looking closer at May's methods as compromise is great but not when it comes to productivity :)

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Well I am just starting my experience with GTD and EN so we shall see which side of the coin I fall on. If EN works for everything, great. If I have to start compromising then I will be looking closer at May's methods as compromise is great but not when it comes to productivity :)

Yeah, that makes sense. I think it's really more of a process, i.e. you just need to start with something at first and then see what works and what doesn't work and then work from there and improve things... it's impossible to get everything just right from scratch.

Anyway in your particular case with AoR tags, I'd say that, again, you really have to be clear about their purpose, because it all depends on many factors, i.e. wheter you want to review your actions by AoF as a criteria at all; do you still want to organize general reference by AoR; and etc. And to answer those questions you probably need to actually use your system for a while...

But in general the first issue that comes to my mind is that if your going to use the same tags to organize both actionable and non actionable data is that you would mix actionable with non actionable, i.e. you would see actions and projects and general reference and project support notes mixed in a single list.

Keep in mind that in screenshot Daniel provided he is not using separate AoF tags for general reference NOTES at all, he is just using those tags for sole reason of keeping his list of tags more organized and easier to scroll, he's just nesting some tags under other tags. But that's all, i.e. he is not using those separate tags for notes at all.

Also this nested tags feature doesn't work on mobile devices so you can't rely on it if you want to keep the system cross platforrm and fully available on mobile devices.

I actually don't use nested tags at all because I don't want to rely on a desktop version of Evernote so I organize everything in a way which would work on all platforms.

Btw this is also an important decision to make at first before you can really answer your own question about those tags.

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Also this nested tags feature doesn't work on mobile devices so you can't rely on it if you want to keep the system cross platforrm and fully available on mobile devices.

I actually don't use nested tags at all because I don't want to rely on a desktop version of Evernote so I organize everything in a way which would work on all platforms.

Btw this is also an important decision to make at first before you can really answer your own question about those tags.

Are you sure about this? I just looked on my Android phone and tags were represented in tag view respecting the nesting despite no notes residing under the organizational tags...

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I'm sure about this because there are no nested tags on iOS and iPad in particular so I guess it really depends on the platform. If it does work on Android then that's nice but it's still far from being available on any platform. I don't use Android personally. It's nice to know this though and hopefully they will implement it eventually on iOS.

Still there are no true sub-tags on any version of evernote so nested tags aren't very useful. They're useful only to organize tags sort order and you can't rely on this feature to organize actual notes anyway. There are no real hierarchical relationships between nested tags, or in other words - Nested tags are only for organizational tidiness; there is no semantic carryover from the implied hierarchy.

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Check out Nozbe. I keep projects there, and name them #projectname in my tags in Evernote. Nozbe finds all notes tagged with the project name, and also allows for context (AoR) within it's app, so no need to try and manage it in Evernote. You can also mark an item within a project as a "next action". Pretty cool, and a nice interface, too.

It's not a perfect system, but it's made me pretty happy. I continue to adapt it to fit my needs, and I find that each revision of my system involves some sort of simplifying. Keep it clean, rely on search, don't overtag, and give Nozbe a try. That's my two cents.

Nozbe is free, but I've upgraded to the paid version since I use it so much. The link in the first sentence for Nozbe is a direct link, not an affiliate one. If you're cool with it, feel free to use this one which is an affiliate link to go to Nozbe which will allow me to slowly build my empire and retire on my affiliate earnings... or maybe just afford better beer.

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I'm sure about this because there are no nested tags on iOS and iPad in particular so I guess it really depends on the platform. If it does work on Android then that's nice but it's still far from being available on any platform. I don't use Android personally. It's nice to know this though and hopefully they will implement it eventually on iOS.

Still there are no true sub-tags on any version of evernote so nested tags aren't very useful. They're useful only to organize tags sort order and you can't rely on this feature to organize actual notes anyway. There are no real hierarchical relationships between nested tags, or in other words - Nested tags are only for organizational tidiness; there is no semantic carryover from the implied hierarchy.

Ok, noted. Well I am going to start off with no tags for archive/reference/cabinet whatever folks want to call it :) and go from there. Thank you two for the dialogue, helped me get my mind right, just the act of talking about it.

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i'm a bit of a minimalist. no tags. no notebooks.

1. yymmdd keyword keyword keyword in the title.

2. random 8 character codes go in notes that are related.

3. index notes with note links to notes in a category (all my research journal notes, all presentations given, etc.) provide easy ways to jump to notes on a topic.

4. advanced search grammar (especially intitle) filters everything

organization is easy, because there isn't much. it might be a bit too simple for some people, but the principles still work. keep it simple. with the simple categories you have, why not just stick them in the title of the note?

i'm not against tags and notebooks. it's just that a lotof times we rely on complex systems to do the work that consistent naming in titles can do with much less hassle.

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GrumpyMokey - I love your style!!! That's awesome!! If I say please, can you send some screenshots. I love it!! Thanks!!

i'm a bit of a minimalist. no tags. no notebooks.

1. yymmdd keyword keyword keyword in the title.

2. random 8 character codes go in notes that are related.

3. index notes with note links to notes in a category (all my research journal notes, all presentations given, etc.) provide easy ways to jump to notes on a topic.

4. advanced search grammar (especially intitle) filters everything

organization is easy, because there isn't much. it might be a bit too simple for some people, but the principles still work. keep it simple. with the simple categories you have, why not just stick them in the title of the note?

i'm not against tags and notebooks. it's just that a lotof times we rely on complex systems to do the work that consistent naming in titles can do with much less hassle.

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hi dg. thanks. i'll send some along tomorrow when i fire up the computer. i'm afraid there really isn't much to see, though. the searches to filter, and sorting to order the notes are really what make it work (thanks evernote!).

as a concrete example, sort by title, search for intitle:journal thursday and i have my daily journals lined up in chronological order and filtered to just show thursdays.

obviously, future dating with the yymmdd will tell me what i have for every thursday in the future in this list. it is quite handy, as long as you stick to some basic naming conventions (personalized for your workflow, of course).

anyhow, 6000 notes and never a problem finding anything. for anolder, tagged version of this, and a bit about the philosophy behind it, see

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

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I also like GrumpyMonkey approach and while it's too simple for me to the point where it would actually make things more complex, i.e. no clear separation between actionable and non actionable or even no GTD methodology at all (right?) - the principles for organization for general reference are pretty much exactly the same, i.e. to keep things as simple as possible and rely on search instead of some organizational structure with no real purpose.

I do use tags when it's more convenient to use compared to just title, e.g. titles can get too long to read; tags don't have to be retyped all the time; renaming single tag is easier than renaming lots of note titles; tags are more convenient to browse. Those examples are just off the top of my mind btw :)

Basically tags main advantage is that they are separate independent attributes.

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put "actionable" in the title and you are gtd :)

but, you are correct. as i have it in my system, it is not gtd. iam interested in gtd, and i appreciate the systems people invent along those lines, but i already know what i have to do. my problem is doing it!

i have a list of things to do every day, and whatever i don't finish, i copy and paste into my daily journal for the next day. it seems to work well enough for me.

again, i have nothing against tags or notebooks. as for browsing, my searches do the filtering for me, and my index notes are also like a table of contents. type intitle:index and i can see all of my note collections easily browsable by the note links in them. in my case, i have several bibliographies, an index note for my journals, one for all of the things i have written, etc.

i could use tags, but i just don't need them anymore. glad the feature is available, of course, because it is always good to have options for various users.

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Yeah, linking is awesome, I can definitely see how you could replace tags with index notes and links to other notes. I'd like to have it available (generating note links) on iOS to use it more though.

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@GrumpyMonkey - Holy cow. Ok, there's so much racing through my mind right now! I'm going to PM you ... :)

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Yeah, linking is awesome, I can definitely see how you could replace tags with index notes and links to other notes. I'd like to have it available (generating note links) on iOS to use it more though.

yeah. the ios app needs work. the random 8 character codes provide a nice way of organizing, though. it helps easily filter things on the ipad. when i get home, i just punch it in, drag all of the notes that appear into an index note, and i have my links :)

someday, i hope i can do this on the ipad. but, i won't hold my breath for the ability to create multiple links at once :)

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@GrumpyMonkey - Holy cow. Ok, there's so much racing through my mind right now! I'm going to PM you ... :)

looking forward to it. i should give credit here to jbenson for the 8 character random character technique. a brilliant way to create a unique identifier without agonizing over what to call it. it's random. it can be whatever you want :)

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I try to keep notebooks and tags to a minimum, but not to GrumpyMonkey's minimum :-) And I'm a big advocate of GTD, including the Areas of Responsibility. I set it up like so:

  • A special tag for each AoR. "Special" in that they are preceeded by a special character ("_") that only AoR tags have.
  • A notebook stack for each "Organizing Category", from David Allen's Making it All Work. So one for reference, one for support (materials needed for projects, etc), one for "inbox", etc. I do have separate notebooks for active projects in the "support" stack, but these get deleted when project are closed.
  • With this setup, my document flow runs from the "inbox" notebook to the "support" stack to the "reference" stack. Almost all of the reference stack material is in a single notebook called "the stacks", but because my wife and I share some reference notebooks not all of it is in there.

I like using AoR tags to capture any loose ends. With this system, all the "family" (AoR) related material that might require an action is tagged "_family" and in the support stack. I make saved searches for each such support area (e.g., a search for "family support", a search for "work support", etc.)

Because of the way I set it up, I also want to make sure that everything in the "support" stack is tagged with *some* AoR. So I have a saved search called "No AoR" which finds any notes without an AoR tag that are in the support stack. (Because of the leading _ on the AoR tags, this is easy to set up). I look for any support materials without an AoR at least once a week.

To keep the proliferation of notebooks to a minimum, I add keywords to the titles when projects are closed and I move the materials to reference. I wrote an AppleScript to do this for all selected notes (a link is in my .sig)

So to close a project I do this.

  1. run the AppleScript on all the notes for a project to add any needed keywords to the titles.
  2. create a single note with the tag "closed projects" and drag note links for all the notes from the newly closed project into it. This note becomes an index of the notes for a closed project in case I ever need to go back to it
  3. Move all the project notes from my "support" area to "reference (the stacks)".
  4. Delete the support notebook

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GrumpyMonkey (or Jbenson), why do you find it faster/easier/otherwise better to add a random 8-character code to a note (body or title) than to apply a tag? I generally appreciate how your tagless, search-heavy system works very well for someone who is consistent about it, but this one element is lost on me. What's the benefit to the code over a tag?

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I love the idea of no tags, not a lot of notebooks but for me, I don't want to type that much. Especially when on my tablet or phone. This is where tags help a lot.

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For AoR—or what I think roughly translates to "roles" in the Covey model—I added a .Why tag with my different AoRs as tags underneath. It seemed to fit well with the .What, .When, .Where, .Who list. That way I can keep my .Where tags specifically focused on the physical location I need to be at in order to execute a task, and I can work on my "Home" AoR anywhere—for example, @Errand for that thing I need to pick up, or @Phone for that call I need to make to the roofer.

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I wondered if I wanted to extend the who, what , where structure with a .why but it is an extra tagging step that, so far for me, hasn't been needed. If I need to state a "why" it becomes part of the note "do such and such a thing so that this matches that" no need to go through an extra tag step.

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