I recently wrote about getting started with Evernote and how disorganized my life would be without it. It’s my favorite system for note taking. And it’s an essential part of my computer workspace. I open Evernote every morning when I start my workday.
One of the keys to being successful with Evernote is to take advantage of the built-in organizational features. Once you have several thousand notes, Evernote can be a little unwieldy. Evernote will be more useful if you take the time to organize your notes.
The question then becomes “how to organize Evernote?”
Use these five Evernote organization tips to create a system that works for you.
Evernote’s Built-In Organizational Features
I’ve seen people say online that they don’t like Evernote because of its “lack of organization capabilities.” And I just don’t get that. Evernote has several organizational features built in that will help you stay on top of your notes.
Notebooks, tags, and notebook stacks are the main ways to organize your notes in Evernote. We’ll also talk about Shortcuts because I think they are essential.
1. Assign notes to notebooks
Just like you might keep papers in a notebook and have various notebooks assigned to different topics in a physical sense, you can also organize your notes into notebooks within Evernote. A notebook in Evernote is simply a method of storing notes in a logical way.
You might set up your notebooks by projects, by interests, by areas of your life, etc. For example, I have various notebooks for my business, notebooks for volunteer organizations and hobbies, and notebooks for health, finances, house, etc.
There are some limitations to notebooks. You are only allowed to have 250 notebooks and a note can only be in one notebook at a time. I think that most people (and I’m one of them) start out with too many notebooks. I currently have 81 notebooks; 26 have fewer than 10 notes each. The good news is that it is very easy to move notes from one notebook to another and to eliminate notebooks that are no longer needed.
Some people advocate that you should only have one or two notebooks and organize everything with tags, but I think that is taking minimalism too far. You have to think about what will work for you and how you are going to be using Evernote.
2. Use tags for more comprehensive organization
Tags give you another level of organization that works across notes. Tags are descriptive words or phrases that will help you search for or group items later on. I like to think of tags as keywords.
The difference between a tag and a notebook is that a note can only be in one notebook at a time, but it can have multiple tags. For example, here is a screen shot of a note that is in my Reference notebook and has three tags: evernote tips, GTD, and productivity.
Tags are much more flexible than notebooks. In addition to being able to add multiple tags to a single note, you are also allowed to have 100,000 different tags. That should be plenty for most people.
3. Group similar notebooks together with notebook stacks
Whereas a notebook corresponds to a physical notebook, think of a stack as the bookshelf that holds all related notebooks together.
Stacks will help you manage the visual clutter in the sidebar because you can collapse related notebooks into a stack. That way you only see the notebooks if you need them.
To create a stack, simply drag one notebook on top of another and a stack is created; then you name the stack. Here is a screenshot of one of my stacks. The stack is called “2_My Biz” (the 2 is in the name to make sure this stack stays near the top). Notebooks within this stack include Biz Receipts, Biz-General, Blogging, all the way down to Solopreneur Diaries.
If you find the idea of stacks confusing, then it may be helpful to think of stacks as a filing cabinet and notebooks as the folders stored inside the cabinet drawers.
4. Use shortcuts to access frequently used content
Shortcuts are a quick way to access frequently used content. Notes, notebooks, notebook stacks, and tags can all be added to the Shortcuts view, which appears in the navigation sidebar on desktop computers or on the home screen for iPhones and iPads. When I find myself searching for the same note multiple times, then I add it to Shortcuts to make it more accessible.
To create a shortcut in Windows, simply right-click on the item you want to add and select Add to Shortcuts.
5. Schedule periodic cleanups
My last tip for organizing Evernote is to schedule periodic cleanups. You could spend a few minutes every day tidying up or schedule a longer cleanup session weekly or monthly. Some things to look for include:
- notebooks with very few notes (maybe tags would be better),
- tags with similar names (for example, blogging and blogging-tips – should they be consolidated into one tag?)
- notes or notebooks that you don’t need anymore. (For example, I have a notebook called “Alaska” which includes all my preparation notes before my cruise last year. I don’t really need this notebook anymore.)
These are the basic ways to organize Evernote. Notebooks and notebook stacks are for grouping similar content into buckets. Tags are great when you have more than one keyword that you want to apply to a note. Shortcuts make it easy to access your most-used or most-searched-for content. Lastly, take a little time on a regular basis to declutter and purge redundant or obsolete content. Use these five tips for organizing Evernote to create a system that works for you.
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