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Organising general reference in Evernote - my approach (thoughts?)

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  • Organising general reference in Evernote - my approach (thoughts?)

    I have very tentatively started to incorporate Evernote into my system. Evernote's proper place in definitely seems to be for elegantly managing general reference. (I already use Toodledo to manage tasks and projects, and am happy with it).

    It took me a while to get to grips with the limitations of Evernote with regards to control over organisation. Really I think I was just forced to confront some existing uncertainties about managing general reference. Coming up with something 'complete' took a lot of thought, as none of the approaches I found from a quick Google search resonated with me. Below is the description I developed for myself but, as I said, I'm being very tentative about this so I'm looking to unearth any potential problems or - if I actually haven't missed anything – show off my own take on effective general reference management! What are your thoughts?

    --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

    The approach

    -Stacks behave as filing cabinets (so just having one GR stack should be enough)
    -Tags and notebooks both behave as file folders
    --Tags are used to file by topic, author or company
    --Notebooks are used to group things by type of material (e.g., recipes, manuals, inspiring pictures) where helpful, with a 'general' notebook for anything without a clear 'type' category

    -Hyphenated tags can be used where an item belongs to multiple 'topic, author or company' categories to subcategorise within each and an item would otherwise have to be mislabelled under one parent category or another.

    This system is as simple as it can be, and as sophisticated as it needs to be, but it is delicate and could be undermined, become confused and collapse if not used mindfully.

    Filing can still be done quickly, easily and intuitively without sacrificing control or flexibility. Filing this way can be done without being torn between different, seemingly incompatible ways of organising reference material ('style - inspirational pictures' Vs. 'inspirational pictures - style') or having to duplicate files. It is not necessary to organise past 'topic, author or company' where it would be unhelpful to do so but it is possible.

    The hyphenated tagging seems cumbersome but you may never need it, and you'll be thankful for it if you do. I looked into hierarchical tagging as a more elegant alternative but Evernote requires tag names to be unique anyway, so it would not work as an alternative.

    Considerations

    -'Type of thing' categories (notebooks) should be preceded by a specifying word where the broader category would be uselessly wide-spanning. i.e., inspiring pictures, rather than pictures or pictures - inspiring. (Having the specifier before the 'type of thing' works as a failsafe against using second titles inappropriately.)
    -Tagging issues: Plural v. singular, capitals v. lower case. Be consistent, though you probably would be anyway.
    -Hyphenated tags should ONLY be used if there is a need to avoid contradictions in subcategories. Remember, the system is delicate and must be used properly.

    --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

    So, what do you think? Anything worth adding to the list of considerations? Have I missed anything? Have I created a complex system and missed the simple alternative?

  • #2
    You have, no doubt, put a lot of thought into your Evernote reference system. And if that's working for you, keep on with it. The most important thing is that your system isn't too complicated for what it's worth, and that you're not wasting too much time trying to determine where something goes or how it should be categorized.

    At first glance, it seems like it might be too complicated from my p.o.v., especially when you start getting into hyphenated tag rules, plural vs. singular, etc. But again, if it works for you, that is what counts.

    I like to keep my system pretty simple and intuitive. And I have incorporated Evernote with the simple guideline of:
    If I want to have access to the information on my mobile devices, I use Evernote.

    My Notebooks are simple, straightforward. And I rarely use tags. The Evernote search function is incredibly powerful, so I can find things easily.

    But Evernote is a great tool and one of my favorite apps.

    Comment


    • #3
      I'm becoming a heavy Evernote user. 666 notes and counting. (I'm not making that up. That's where I'm at right now. I'm not worried. If there is a Satan, somehow I doubt my Evernote account is the lynchpin to his plan for unleashing the apocalypse. I'm just not that important.)

      I agree with Zoltan on both counts. If the setup works for you then it's the right setup. There's no wrong way to use Evernote per se.

      Second, Evernote's search capabilities are amazing and easy to use. It's actually hard to truly lose anything in Evernote.

      There's something else to consider, though. Think about the last time you mis-filed something, whether it was hardcopy or digital.

      Did it irrevocably ruin your life?

      Probably not.

      You are going to mis-file some things. It's inevitable. Chances are you'll be able to use the Evernote search feature to find them. If not: you'll survive.

      I have ADHD and people like me sometimes overcompensate because we live in fear of making the next "dumb, absent-minded mistake." I read an article about organization for ADHD'ers with some great advice. "Sometimes it is better to be resourceful than to be prepared."

      Go forth and mis-file a few things. It's cool.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by bcmyers2112 View Post
        There's something else to consider, though. Think about the last time you mis-filed something, whether it was hardcopy or digital.

        Did it irrevocably ruin your life?

        Probably not.

        You are going to mis-file some things. It's inevitable. Chances are you'll be able to use the Evernote search feature to find them. If not: you'll survive.

        I have ADHD and people like me sometimes overcompensate because we live in fear of making the next "dumb, absent-minded mistake." I read an article about organization for ADHD'ers with some great advice. "Sometimes it is better to be resourceful than to be prepared."

        Go forth and mis-file a few things. It's cool.
        I like your advice and line of thinking. There is some good freedom in that.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by bcmyers2112 View Post
          Think about the last time you mis-filed something, whether it was hardcopy or digital.

          Did it irrevocably ruin your life?
          No didn't irrevocably ruin my life but cost me significant $ and a lot of time to fix. Close to $200 in fees and expenses and about 20 hours of time. Burned once twice shy.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
            No didn't irrevocably ruin my life but cost me significant $ and a lot of time to fix. Close to $200 in fees and expenses and about 20 hours of time. Burned once twice shy.
            I'm pretty sure no reasonable person would interpret my words to mean one should throw caution to the wind and abandon all responsibility for organizing important documents properly. I'm simply cautioning against over-organizing. I know from direct experience that there is a price to be paid for going to that extreme, in terms of lost productivity, opportunities, and peace of mind. I stand by my advice.

            Comment


            • #7
              JoeMancoBlondie -- yes, it is true that if you misfile something it could cost you time and money. The question is: how much time and effort are you spending trying to avoid that, and what is the cost? Only you can determine if your organizational scheme is an enabler rather than a drain on your productivity.

              I would suggest if you are wondering if your system is too "delicate," your intuition may be telling you something. The fact is no organizational system is perfect. The question is: is yours worth the effort?

              Like I said, I know the fear of losing something. I have ADHD. I have to use all sorts of pain-in-the-butt coping strategies. For example, there are only two places my keys and wallet ever are: in my pocket, or in my jewelry chest. Otherwise I guarantee you I'll set them down somewhere and forget where they are, forcing me to tear apart the house looking for them.

              The pocket-or-jewelry-chest strategy, however, is a sensible one that costs me little in time and effort and saves me a lot of headaches. Coming up with intricate filing nomenclatures, though? I've tried that too and have found the time, effort, and drain on my psyche to far exceed any possible benefit.

              Your mileage may vary, but those are my thoughts.

              Comment


              • #8
                Tags or Notebooks?

                Let me weigh in on the eternal debate. I started with notebooks for everything, but quickly realized I would hit the limit quickly (I think it's around 250). But tags are virtually unlimited. So now rather than a notebook for each case (I'm a lawyer), as with the classic folder tree on my hard drive, I have a tag for each case. I also (pace the GTD Whitepaper) use tags for my contexts. Why? Because -- pardon the heresy -- I like having multiple contexts for one task.

                The necessary adjustment for me was a mental shift away from the folder tree to a more associative method. Took a while, but it's becoming second-nature. As it's now configured, Evernote just blows away all prior tools I've tried (Outlook, Nozbe, Remember the Milk, Toodle-Do, Paper, Thinking Rock Mind Manager, etc. etc.). Quick, unobtrusive, robust (love the various linking capabilities), and the best search function I've ever used.

                Misfiling? Not a problem. Search a word. Find the note. Re-file. Done.

                Jim

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by bcmyers2112 View Post
                  I'm pretty sure no reasonable person would interpret my words to mean one should throw caution to the wind and abandon all responsibility for organizing important documents properly.
                  In my case I had no idea the document was going to become important. It happened years after I initially filed it.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Thanks - some interesting thoughts! I've been using Evernote in the way described and to great effect, nothing has come up as a mistake and I've started importing notes and online reference. The ability to embed videos would definitely be a useful addition to Evernote in my opinion, though.

                    I think the reason it's working is because it's not as complicated as it looks on paper. Essentially, you're filing how you usually would, using tags. And then, if you want to put something in some kind of specialised reference, you can do so with barely any effort. And because you can do this without moving things out of general reference, you can make more casually effective use of specialised reference. Using notebooks works for this because specialised reference is basically reference material that can be isolated and contained in 'one place' so you aren't limiting yourself.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by fassold View Post
                      Let me weigh in on the eternal debate.
                      I don't think said debate was taking place here. Both Zoltan and I acknowledged it's all about personal preference.

                      You might be surprised to learn that I actually lean heavily on tags, frequently applying more than one to a note. I like the freedom it gives me to search for things in different ways. For instance, if I have a sales proposal for XYZ client, I tag it with "XYZ," "proposal," and somtimes the name of the product or service being proposed. That's because sometimes I'll want to look at all notes related to XYZ, other times I might want to isolate just proposals I've sent to XYZ, and there are yet others where I'll want to see all proposals to any client wherein I've proposed a particular solution.

                      That being said I wouldn't tell anyone they're "wrong" for doing it differently. The point is I just don't sweat the possibility of misfiling something like I used to. I try to be careful and thorough but try to give myself room to also be, y'know, human.

                      Originally posted by fassold View Post
                      Misfiling? Not a problem. Search a word. Find the note. Re-file. Done.
                      I agree.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by JoeMancoBlondie View Post
                        I think the reason it's working is because it's not as complicated as it looks on paper. Essentially, you're filing how you usually would, using tags.
                        If it's working for you, very cool. I guess when you used the word "delicate" it sounded like you were concerned the system could easily break down on you. If not, then... not.

                        Personally I love Evernote. One place to save key emails, scanned-in paper (the vast majority of which I can then discard), PDFs, MS Office files... and it's got a very intuitive interface.

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