Organizing Evernote - Notebooks and Tags

Notebooks for Filing Notes

Evernote Notebooks
Evernote Notebooks. Jim Kimmons

 This is going to be a tough tutorial for me because I've gone through numerous stages in how I use Notebooks in Evernote.  It's a very personal and individual thing for everyone.  I started out like most of us who were used to using the Windows filing system and Outlook for emails.  Notebooks are folders, or at least they resemble them.

So, I started out with a whole lot of notebooks.  I tried to micro-manage my notes and how they were filed.  I had more than 50 notebooks and the stack was growing.  As you can see in the image, that's certainly not the case now.  The fact is that Evernote has such a powerful search function that I ended up using it more because I was forgetting where I filed notes in the notebook structure.  In the next tutorial set I'll show you search and just how powerful it is to zero in on just the information you want.

I ended up thinking of notebooks as larger containers, more like filing cabinets than the folders in them.  I have Personal, Writing (the www notebook), my real estate business with a few sub-folders, etc.  In another tutorial you'll see how you can select in which notebook to file a note with most applications and add-ons.  

Notice that the Accounting folder has 1287 notes in it.  Those are mostly receipts for expenses, and they're all lumped together.  At first I had notebooks for vendors, but that got unwieldy in a hurry.  I'll show you in search just why it isn't necessary with a search for a certain receipt from Walmart for office supplies.  So, all of my invoice copies and expense receipts just pile up in reverse chronological order in the Accounting notebook.

Here's an overview video at Evernote.

Note Structure in the Notebooks

Notes in Evernote Notebook
Notes in Evernote Notebook. Jim Kimmons

 As I said, Evernote notebooks are like folders into which you file away notes.  You can see in the image how I choose to display my notes in the desktop software.  You have choices, but I like this one with notebooks on the left, summaries of notes in the middle, and the full note selected on the right.  I had to shrink the screen, so you only see part of the full note.

The top note in the center is selected and displayed on the right.  Notice the bottom note in the center at the arrow as well.  It's a photo of a receipt for an office supply purchase.  If I highlight it, I'll get to see the entire receipt in the right pane.

Evernote Notebooks are Cabinets or Boxes

Do this any way you want.  If you want a folder for every little sub-category in your business, feel free to do so, because that's how I started.  The problem is that you end up like many of us, with so many folders/notebooks that you can't remember where you put a note that might apply to two or more.  We'll talk about tagging in this tutorial, and you'll find that it can be more effective for grouping notes.

The fact is that Evernote search is so powerful, I could have all 10,000+ of my notes in one big notebook and find the one I want easily in most cases.  The next article is about searching and saved searches, so don't make any organization decisions until you check it out.  I find notebooks effective as big containers for somewhat related notes.  Accounting is a big bucket, as is the notebook for my writing notes.  Another is for my real estate business.

The real estate business notebook is one where I have sub-notebooks (called Stacks) where I can save all of the notes related to a listed property or a transaction in the same notebook. Later when I talk about transaction management, I'll give you instructions in sharing notebooks with clients, another reason to create a separate notebook for each transaction. Having notebooks is more of a convenience than it is a way to find notes again.  It also makes me feel more organized to see a group of notebooks on the left with my big bucket categories.

When Tagging isn't Grafitti, it's Evernote

Tags in Evernote
Tags in Evernote. Jim Kimmons

 Though they're tags in Evernote, they're like hashtags in other places, and labels in still others.  They give you another way to group notes with similar characteristics or to relate them in whatever way you want.  As you get familiar with Evernote, you'll come up with uses for tags.  Let's use a real estate example to clarify:

Let's say that you're working with a buyer, showing properties around town.  You take a photo of each of them into Evernote tagged with the buyer's name so you can pull them up later to help in remembering what you've shown this buyer.

If you work with a lot of buyers and show a lot of properties, another example might be a feature tag.  You're showing listings that aren't familiar to you, but you tag all of them that have a pool (tag: pool) or the same for a hot tub.  Later you may get a new buyer prospect who says they want a pool, and you can quickly pull up your notes and images of the homes you've shown that have one.

We'll mention tags again in this series, and it's fun to think of creative uses for tags.

**Update:  I've gotten my filing down to just specific transaction notebooks, an accounting notebook and a marketing notebook.  I no longer think much about tagging.  The reason is that the search function in Evernote is so good that I can easily find whatever I want with a few keywords I know will be in the note.**