Tag Wrangling in Evernote

I’ve written about Evernote before (Archiving RSS Feeds with Evernote, Storage Space in Evernote, and Evernote), and it’s time for an update. I’d been feeling as though my organizational system wasn’t quite working as efficiently as I want it to – I can’t always find things easily when I want them – so I went looking to see how other people are using the program. After being inspired by some Evernote gurus (particularly Michael Hyatt and Thomas Honeyman), I decided to make a HUGE leap, away from notebooks, and to using tags as my primary tool for organizing my notes. With more than 16,000 notes in my system, it’s somewhat daunting to think about making this change, but I’m going to take the plunge anyway.

The main thing that convinced me that tags might be a better method of organizing notes is this: each note can only be placed in a single notebook. So, for example, if I have a notebook for “Blog Posts” and a notebook for the “Introduction to Biology” course I teach, if I’ve written a blog post about teaching that course, I have to choose one or the other. That’s kind of limiting. But I can use as many tags as I like on a single note. Certainly, I have the capacity to do that regardless of which notebook holds any given note, but I was starting to find myself overwhelmed with notebooks. If I can come up with a tagging system that really works, finding notes at will relies on Evernote’s search function, which is pretty kick-ass, actually.

The basic idea is to have an Inbox, and a very small number of “Cabinets” to hold all notes. Then, a hierarchical tagging structure makes it possible to search quickly and efficiently for notes.

So, just for teaching materials, I’m going from this:

To this:

This is something of an oversimplification, but not much . . . especially since the first screenshot shows JUST my teaching notebooks, which represented only about a quarter of my total notebooks.

Of course, the simplification of notebooks will be accompanied by an increase in the number of tags, but probably not hugely more tags, as I’m already in the habit of thoroughly tagging posts for topic. Mostly, I’ll just be adding “descriptor” tags – what type of file is held within the note. Right now, here are the tags I need to wrangle:

Haha, I’ve got my work cut out for me, don’t I? But I think that by committing to using tags to find things, instead of scrounging around for them in notebooks, I’ll be able to find things a lot faster. (I hope so, anyway, because otherwise this switchover will have been a crazy amount of work for not much payoff).

I’ll update on my progress soon!

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