Evernote: Organization with Tags

Evernote tags are sticky notes for the “thoughts” (notes) in our “external brains.” Unfortunately, virtual sticky notes often end up looking a lot like the ones pasted onto the edges of your monitor right now — pretty messy. On this page I’ve got organization suggestions from some of the more experienced Evernote users out there, and hopefully these will help you keep things tidy.

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Titles + Notebooks + Tags

Tags are powerful because they can ignore the boundaries among notebooks, and group notes together from anywhere in your account. Yet, despite the clear benefits of tags, I only use them sparingly. Why?

I used to maintain lots of notebooks and tags, but I stripped out most of them, and now rely on information-rich titles to have an organized Evernote account without organizing. Although this minimalistic approach is especially well-suited for beginners, even after several years of storing memories, and accumulating nearly 10,000 notes, this remains my primary method of organization. For me, it comes down to how I interact with my external brain, and how much time I want to spend on account upkeep. This method provides me with the highest organizational return on my investment of time and energy.

Over time, I have re-introduced some complexity into my account by combining the information-rich titles with some of the special features that notebooks offer. This allows me to share with others and easily keep frequently used notes accessible offline all the time.

I dabble with tags, but I am not using them to their full potential. I think that when you put information-laden titles, broadly defined notebooks, and a well-conceived tag system together, you get what amounts to the digital hoarder’s equivalent of the Deathly Hallows (for those of you who have forgotten what this is because your minds are filled with the Game of Thrones, refresh your meat-brain memory with this awesome animated sequence from the Harry Potter movie). In other words, Evernote has some pretty powerful tools available if you are willing to invest the time and energy.

Organizing Your Stickie Notes

I treat tags as a temporary expedient that enables me to get a project done, and when the project is over, I usually replace them with random character strings or index notes. The idea is not to get bogged down with organizing things unless and until I actually need to do them, and not to let the detritus of past projects clutter my account.

I may change my mind when I reach 50,000 notes, but for now there aren’t a whole lot of tags to see in my Evernote account. For tag organization, it is probably better to look at users who rely more heavily on them. The following method by jbenson2 is one of my favorites (taken from the Evernote discussion forums).

There are other options, of course. Uber-Evangelist BurgersNFries started a popular thread on the topic of nested tags, and I think it provides a concrete example of how someone with 50,000+ notes manages their account.

Finally, there is a succinct post by a self-described Evernote Geek, Owyn.

Other Resources

If you are looking for more advice on how to use tags, the resources below might be helpful. Good luck fine-tuning your external brain!