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Playmaker

web Notebook and tag hierarchy structures

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I'm relatively new to Evernote and I love it.  It is a major part of my future. I'm so excited by it that I've even managed to get my wife and son to love it too. 

 

Now, I'm looking for ideas for the optimal structure of my notebooks and notes, do you have any ideas or suggestions on this?

 

I want to use Evernote for everything in my life.  Broadly, this is divided into Work and Home. Fortuitously, this fits with my Mac calendar too!

 

Then there's my Personal life which includes my personal interests over and above my Home life which includes domestic stuff and family.

 

Add to the mix that I'm attempting to get more productive all around in my life and integrate the productivity bible Getting Things Done by David Allen, and I am beginning to get confused as to how my Notebook structure should look. 

 

Ideally it would be an elegant and intuitive structure - that's my vision for it, anyway!

 

I've watched the way Paul Boag uses Evernote: 

and am reading Evernote: The unofficial guide to capturing everything and getting things done. 2nd Edition
 

However, I'm a bit confused as to how best to structure my own Evernote.  Does anyone have any ideas about how to structure the Notebooks, notes and tags etc?  Perhaps you can share some of the ways you're using Evernote, in terms of the structure of your notebook hierarchies and tags, particularly if you are integrating your use of Evernote with David Allan's Getting Things Done methodology. 

 

Thanks!

 

 

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OK I'll add my usual comment - if you want to learn how to use Evernote best for your individual use case; start experimenting for yourself now. There's no substitute for hands on experience, and making a few mistakes. It's a remarkably forgiving environment so you won't lose data (did I mention backups?) and you really need to keep notebooks to a minimum, tags (IMHO) to a minimum, and use descriptive titles. The thing you really REALLY need to learn is the Search grammar. That's all online. And if you have any specific queries - there's a bunch of over-keen Everjunkies who hang around here that will probably try to help.

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From Gazumped:

 

> (keep) tags (IMHO) to a minimum,

 

Gazumped, can you explain why you think tags should be kept to a minumum -- I just want to understand.

 

Thanks!

Shawn

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Hiya - always happy to explain..

 

I have a lot of tags - about 1,000 - which were set up in my initial phase pf getting used to Evernote.  Letters from my bank are tagged "bank" and "finance" and "budget" - and probably several other things - but if I ever want to find a letter I search by date,  or subject,  or (if I'm querying a payment forinstance) the amount involved.  £30.42 forinstance is a good search string because there are only a couple of hits on that.  I can conceive that there might be a circumstance where I want to know how many letters I had from my bank,  or I'll be doing the annual budget and want to find some relevant information - but then going for 'budget' or 'finance' tags will get me so many hits I may as well not bother.

 

And its a bind remembering the various tags that I need to attach to a bank item.  Were there three or five?  ..And what was no 5 again?  And I have tags for "bank",  "banks",  "banking" and "bankers" - which one goes on letters?

 

So:  my best advice is - don't go wild on tags;  you'll just get confused and it won't help.  Learn the search syntax so you can reliably find the stuff you need.

 

I do recommend that you tag when you're searching - if you get too many hits on a particular search that you simply cannot refine any further and will need to repeat,  go through and find the results that you need,  and tag them with a unique term so they're that much easier to find next time.

 

Hope that helps...

 

EDIT:  Forgot to mention that I'm gradually deleting my 1,000 tags..  very gradually...

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I've been playing around with this myself.  I use Evernote for managing my actions (based upon GTD methodology), and find the tag structure works very well if you keep it organized.  I also try and limit the number of workbooks as well.  For my personal life, I have two main notebook stacks.  The first is for my Active Actions (things on my "to-do" list in various contexts).  The second is for reference materials (including Completed Actions).  The two notebook stacks with notebooks are laid out as follows:

 

 

  • Active Actions (stack):
    • !Inbox
    • @Agendas
    • @Calls
    • @Checklists
    • @Computer (Internet)
    • @Errands
    • @Home
    • @Plans
    • @Someday
    • @Waiting For
    • @Work (if you manage work related items here as well)
  • Reference (stack):
    • @Completed Actions
    • Reading Items (unread)
    • Reference Materials

I find I really don't need much more structure than that.  I have a few other workbooks for very specific things where it's easy to track and sort those items, but I really try and limit those.  

 

With that organization of notebooks, I use the tags to provide some structure to what all has my attention in life.  I started by looking at how I had organized files on my PC, and then just took a basic inventory of everything else in my life that I dealt with on a fairly regular basis.  The first section is a list of tags that represents all my projects that I'm working on (there is a plan for each of these in my @Plans notebook).  The second grouping is tags for my reference files (but may also be used on certain action notes as well).  In order to prevent over-proliferation of tags (which can easily happen), I have one cardinal rule - I never create new tags ad-hoc.   My tags are managed in a hierarchy that reflects things that I do or have an interest in anywhere in my life.  I then do a quick review of these on a weekly basis (for projects) and less frequently for reference tags.  But here's roughly how the tags are structured:  

 

  • . Active Projects
    • Home Projects:
      • PH/Decorating my home office
      • PH/Plan Christmas Vacation
      • PH/Writing Project 1
      • PH/Project A
      • PH/Project B
    • Work Projects:
      • PW/Project X
      • PW/Project Y
      • PW/Project Z
  • .Inactive Projects (I move completed projects to under this subheading and keep it collapsed and out of view)

 

Note that all my project tags begin with "PH/..." for home projects, and "PW/..." for work projects.  This allows me to quickly see my project lists when I create a new action (or have a reference document related to a project).  If I'm adding an action related to a home project, I just type "PH" and it brings up my whole list of projects so I can tag the appropriate one.

 

Then I have reference tags for everything I do and or care about in life, but that may not be related to a specific project at the current moment.  Note that comments in Italics are just commentary, not part of tag title.  My tags look like the following:

 

Reference Tags:

  • .Activities (everything that I participate in):
    • Cooking
    • Cycling
    • Guitar
    • Meditation
    • Reading
      • Books (I like to write a little summary of key books and keep them as reference where I can easily find all of them)
    • Running
    • Shopping
    • Speaking
    • Swimming
    • Travel
    • Writing
    • Volunteering
      • Organization A
      • Organization B
    • Yoga
  • .Assets (all my major assets for which I track documents, which luckily is not many):
    • Subaru
    • Condo
  • Financial:
    • Institutions (for ease of tracking correspondence, statements, etc.)
      • Bank A
      • Bank B
      • Brokerage 1
      • Brokerage 2
      • Insurance Company X
      • Insurance Company Y
      • Condo Association
    • Expenses (I use this to keep track of receipts easily once I scan them in - starting with "0X" allows me to easily categorize scanned receipts)
      • 01-Unfiled (not yet submitted)
      • 02-Filed (submitted and not reimbursed)
      • 03-Reimbursed
      • 04-Deductible (I'll quickly sort these and give them to my accountant at year's end)
      • 05-Non-deductible (but that I need to track for other reasons)
    • Taxes (any tax related documents)
  • Subjects of Interest (I like policy/politics and have other interests on various topics I might later want to easily reference):
    • Campaign Finance
    • Economny
    • Education
    • Energy
    • Environment
    • Feminism
    • Food
    • Foreign Policy
    • G A Y Rights (interestingly, Evernote doesn't let me write out that word)
    • Guns
    • Health Care
    • Leadership
    • National Security
    • Religion
    • Technology
  • Who (not my whole contact list, but people I interact with regularly, or have commitments to on a regular basis - allows me to easily find things I want to discuss with them or to capture something they might like and later reference it):
    • Mom
    • Dad
    • Sister
    • Niece
    • Nephew
    • Friend 1
    • Friend 2
    • Friend 3
    • etc

 

This list can seem a bit daunting when you first look at it, but I only review it periodically (adding new topics/activities/projects as necessary) and it has structure that reflects how I spend my time in my actual life.  It's actually very cathartic to have it all in front of you and realize how you spend your time.  And once you get it in place, it's easy to maintain (and to change around if you end up needing to do so).

 

Hope this is helpful.

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Thanks for sharing - as I said,  I don't use tags much now and I think it's better to get used to Evernote and how you'll be able to use it before deciding on a structure;  but you've certainly got a comprehensive grasp on organising your life and whatever works for you..

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Hi Sontervillain,

Great post! Thank you for taking the time and for sharing your method. I really appreciate it. It's interesting, you've got it pretty much where I've been heading and now given me some great tips for the next iteration of organisation I can implement. It's also interesting that we have some similar interests and assets. Subaru, cooking, economy for starters!

Thanks again.

Best wishes

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I've been playing around with this myself.  I use Evernote for managing my actions (based upon GTD methodology), and find the tag structure works very well if you keep it organized.  I also try and limit the number of workbooks as well.  For my personal life, I have two main notebook stacks.  The first is for my Active Actions (things on my "to-do" list in various contexts).  The second is for reference materials (including Completed Actions).  The two notebook stacks with notebooks are laid out as follows:

  • Active Actions (stack):
    • !Inbox
    • @Agendas
    • @Calls
    • @Checklists
    • ...
  • Reference (stack):
    • @Completed Actions
    • Reading Items (unread)
    • Reference Materials

I find I really don't need much more structure than that.  I have a few other workbooks for very specific things where it's easy to track and sort those items, but I really try and limit those.  

---

 

@Sontervillain

 

Thanks for this post, some good ideas for beginners, actually I've had EN for years and never got beyond web clips and simple search

 

What is the significance of the '@' and '!' as the leading character notebook names?

 

thanks RP

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Hiya - always happy to explain..

 

I have a lot of tags - about 1,000 - which were set up in my initial phase pf getting used to Evernote.  Letters from my bank are tagged "bank" and "finance" and "budget" - and probably several other things - but if I ever want to find a letter I search by date,  or subject,  or (if I'm querying a payment forinstance) the amount involved.  £30.42 forinstance is a good search string because there are only a couple of hits on that.  I can conceive that there might be a circumstance where I want to know how many letters I had from my bank,  or I'll be doing the annual budget and want to find some relevant information - but then going for 'budget' or 'finance' tags will get me so many hits I may as well not bother.

 

And its a bind remembering the various tags that I need to attach to a bank item.  Were there three or five?  ..And what was no 5 again?  And I have tags for "bank",  "banks",  "banking" and "bankers" - which one goes on letters?

 

So:  my best advice is - don't go wild on tags;  you'll just get confused and it won't help.  Learn the search syntax so you can reliably find the stuff you need.

 

I do recommend that you tag when you're searching - if you get too many hits on a particular search that you simply cannot refine any further and will need to repeat,  go through and find the results that you need,  and tag them with a unique term so they're that much easier to find next time.

 

Hope that helps...

 

EDIT:  Forgot to mention that I'm gradually deleting my 1,000 tags..  very gradually...

 

Thanks for sharing why you think tagging should be minimised but I only see this as a shortfall of the evernote tagging implementation. It's only really usable on the desktop client and abandoned everywhere else. 

 

I use something similar to and find it the only way to stay organised. Tags are essential to this tool I think. The search queries power rely on using tags but we need better ways to keep them organised and relevant. I completely agree that it's difficult to remember the tags and that why we need help from the tool - Evernote.

 

 

I've been playing around with this myself.  I use Evernote for managing my actions (based upon GTD methodology), and find the tag structure works very well if you keep it organized.  I also try and limit the number of workbooks as well.  For my personal life, I have two main notebook stacks.  The first is for my Active Actions (things on my "to-do" list in various contexts).  The second is for reference materials (including Completed Actions).  The two notebook stacks with notebooks are laid out as follows:

 

 

  • Active Actions (stack):
    • !Inbox
    • @Agendas
    • @Calls
    • @Checklists
    • @Computer (Internet)
    • @Errands
    • @Home
    • @Plans
    • @Someday
    • @Waiting For
    • @Work (if you manage work related items here as well)
  • Reference (stack):
    • @Completed Actions
    • Reading Items (unread)
    • Reference Materials

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wow you guys figured it out. alot of your ideas look like the guide on this one page i found recently and am adapting for myself.

thesecretweapon.org implemented gtd methods with evernote as well and made them available to us ... have a look maybe you find something useful there

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I also try to keep ACTIVE tags to a minimum but I try to keep fewer notebooks by far - only because my initial strategy for using Evernote (a notebook per project) was quickly outgrown based on the way I want to and find I'm fastest at using information...and that is where I agree with much of what is above...you will need to experiment and test things out and see how they work for you.  No list will work for everyone...for instance I have a job where I am frequently traveling both in my own state to business locations as well as nationally to various cities for presentations and meetings so I have a NUMBER of tags under Where...that might not be needed for every person.  I also use the Outlook Web Clipper for Work and the Gmail Web Clipper for Email to move email that is reference information into Evernote (so going on over 25K notes after about 6 solid years of use)...hence such a big project hierarchy...again would annoy some but works quite well for me.

My basic hierarchy is:

.Lists

ToRead
ToWatch
ToBuy
To

.When

A tag by business quarter (for me it's semesters)
Holidays/Family Events 

.Where

trip - city - event (repeat for as many as you need)...I do reuse this one if I go to an annual meeting at the same conference over multiple years)
location name (repeat for as many locations as you have in your organization as you need to travel to)

.Who

1:1

1:1 Initials of Person (repeat for as many as you need)

Family

List each family member's name (this is primarily used for tagging photos at holidays...and as the "official" family photographer it helps me to quickly scan to see who I don't take enough pics of to make sure I capture more at our next get together)

Meetings

mtg-Name Of Group (repeat for as many as you need)

Project

prj - 0. Ongoing [Not really projects since they are ongoing maintenance activities that just need to be included in my weekly review
prj - 1. Personal 
prj - 2. Work
prj - 3. Delegated
prj - 4. Watching [Used for projects not currently in my "circle of influence" but that have at least a rough tangential relationship to my team
prj - 5. Inactive Projects
prj - 6. Completed Projects Year [Repeat one per year - I have these going back to 2012]
prj - 7. Someday-Maybe
prj - 8. Cancelled Projects

Reference (and under this are a myriad of random tags that are logical to me)

I tag each project underneath each of those project headers as prj - 1. Project Name and so on.  When I move something from a 0, 1, 2, 3, or even 4 to Inactive, Completed, Someday-Maybe or Cancelled I rename the tag to prj - 5.1. Project Name or similar to keep the Outlook Web Clipper from having 30 different 2. projects show up in my list of specifics.  Because I use the Outlook Clipper my tags come up in a list as I start typing them so I can enter pretty quickly.  If you are emailing in notes then my naming scheme gets pretty cumbersome if you don't use really short names.

 

Hope that's helpful - Good Luck!

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21 hours ago, Kara M. said:

My basic hierarchy is:

.Lists

ToRead
ToWatch
ToBuy
To

.When

A tag by business quarter (for me it's semesters)
Holidays/Family Events 

.Where

trip - city - event (repeat for as many as you need)...I do reuse this one if I go to an annual meeting at the same conference over multiple years)
location name (repeat for as many locations as you have in your organization as you need to travel to)

.Who

You might want to try unique prefixes for each top level, and repeat it for each child item

This way, for example, you start typing tagname . and you get a dropdown of all your Lists tags; start typing tagname ? and you get a dropdown of all your Who tags

. Lists
       .ToRead
       .ToWatch
       .ToBuy
       .To
- When
@ Where
? Who

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On 11/10/2013 at 5:11 PM, Sontervillain said:
  • Active Actions (stack):
    • !Inbox
    • @Agendas
    • @Calls
    • [...]
  • Reference (stack):
    • @Completed Actions
    • Reading Items (unread)
    • Reference Materials
  • . Active Projects
    • Home Projects: [...]
    • Work Projects: [...]
  • .Inactive Projects [...]

 

Reference Tags:

  • .Activities [...]
  • .Assets [...]
  • Financial [...]
  • Subjects of Interest [...]
  • Who [...]

Hope this is helpful.

Dude. DUDE. Talk about a beast of a post. Clipped for later, because it was amazing. Thank you.

I do a lot of the same things, but you inspired me and found a few solutions to some problems I was having. So again, thank you!

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@Playmaker I'm with Gazumped. The best way to figure it out what works best for you is to experiment with a particular Notebook and Tag structure for a few weeks. And then, try another structure. (It easy to change structures with Evernote, so don't be worried about ***** up your structure when beginning.) --- I'd say start out with just a couple Notebooks and no Tags. You need to experience how good the Evernote "search" function is before you decide what might be the right number of Notebooks and Tags for you are.

Also, bear in mind, the people who responded above to your post are highly experienced, expert Evernote users, with fairly large databases. They can get you up to 60 MPH, but to get started, 10-20 MPH is good enough for beginners / intermediate users.

 

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