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Hello everyone.

Recently embarking on the paperless journey, I have quickly realized that for the elegant simplicity of naming and tagging documents to be thrown into the Evernote soup and retrieved later via metadata or a robust search, there are many hang-ups in doing so with documents that one either needs to edit, ammend, aggregate, or otherwise tinker with while doing work. Whether these documents are as basic as MS Office files, or as complex as large statistical data sets, there are things that, at this juncture, just cannot live happily in the Evernote world.

Without a boring discourse, I really have two fundamental questions:

  • For those who require a file structure outside of evernote to do work (be it because of file formatting, frequent editing, sharing with non-evernoters, firewall issues for EN syncing, etc) - what, if any, program(s) do you use to achieve a similar level of ubiquitous access to your files as is provided in Evernote (i.e. Dropbox, Sugarsync, GDrive, etc.).?
  • Whether you use a cloud sync tool or not, what is your preferred method of non-Evernote folder/file nomenclature/project structure? Does your file and folder nomenclature change if the documents are to eventually be archived in Evernote? I have grown quite fond of the YYMMDD prefix that Grumpy Monkey has adapted for his digital life, but I am struggling with how such a filing identifier can be adopted into a file naming system which also uses things like job (project) identifier codes (i.e. project 172C) to categorize and track things like costing, logistics coordination and billing.

I ask these things because it appears as though I am quite unintentionally relying upon Evernote as a capture and action-related tool due to the bulk of my ongoing work taking place outside of Evernote. At the same time, I see great utility in combining the two, and at the very least would like to develop a work process that naturally feeds one into the other (or back and forth between the two). Any advice or experience in this area is, of course, much appreciated.

Thank you all in advance for your valuable input on these forums. Without your willingness to share your experiences, I would still be mired in the paper/digital hinterland with the lion's share of my colleagues. It has drastically changed the way I approach information and work.

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Purely for reasons of history I have a tree-structure of folders on my hard drives which contain much of my 'old' historical data, plus any large or confidential files I don't care to add to Evernote. My 'new' archive-of-choice is Evernote and some of my data is now stored there, along with all the paper I used to hoard (again exclusive of some large or sensitive items) and most of my work-in-progress. My workflow is still evolving, but these days largely consists of

  • mining my data stores on and offline for any relevant information
  • scanning and collating any new paper documents
  • tagging all the resources required for a task with something suitable
  • creating a new notebook as a kind of "supertag" to keep all new material in one place until I finalise and name/ tag it appropriately
  • working off my (otherwise clean) desktop and the files in my notebook and updating the note as I go along (and without fail at the end of each day - working files are deleted from the desktop)
  • delivering _FINAL documents and notebooking them appropriately
  • tidying up subjects and tags and moving all notes back to my main database

Hope the outline helps, but I continue to stress to everyone I can that the 'ideal' process doesn't exist - you shouldn't hope adopt my method (or any other) and have it transform your life; you need to find something which may involve some of these elements, but it will have to be the practice you can best live with. What works for me may well not do so for you.

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therearenoroadsher - I too require that quite a number of docs live outside of Evernote (for a variety of reasons). For this, I use SugarSync - and I sync everything. All folders, every doc (yes, I do have a paid plan). I don't want to have to think about it, so I just choose to sync everything. For me, it makes my life easier.

Gazumped is totally right in that there is not "one right way" that works the best or is right for everyone when it comes to file structure (or anything organizing or productivity related, for that matter).

Based on my experience implementing folder structures with many, many clients over the years, one thing I can suggest is this: keep your file tree/folder structure/whatever-you-choose-to-call-it as similar as possible in the various places you store data. Use the same folder/notebook labels, keep them in the same order, etc. Switching between systems will be a lot easier for you if you do things this way.

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gazumped and Joshua - I certainly appreciate the individual nature of one's "work process" or "organizational hierarchy", or whatever language we choose to describe how we do what we do, and on that note, am not anticipating any life-changing experiences to result from the adoption of another's time-tested habits. I do, however, value the opinions of others who, at some time in the personal life or professional pursuits, have similarly scratched their head and wondered, "I wonder how I should best be doing THIS." The greatest utility of these forums in particular is that they allow for individuals of otherwise disparate backgrounds to gather and share, and I will shamelessly concede that in reading them I have, on multiple occasions, disovered completely novel (to me) ways of doing or thinking about things that I had been doing or thinking about for years. I find it entertaining that some of the greatest organizational advice I was able to apply in grad school (the second time) came from a red seal carpenter-turned construction project manager, or that I was able to turn a virology post-doc onto a file naming system sourced from an Asian studies PhD. Remarkable what we can learn by talking to one another!

Things like your outline, gazumped, are fantastic. I wish more were willing to share such things. I hope that once I have wrapped my head around this entire topic of systematic digital organization and project support, I too will have something to throw into the ring for discussion.

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