How I Organize Evernote: A Peek Inside My Personal System

I often refer to Evernote as my digital brain. It has replaced my physical filing cabinet, allowing me to go completely digital. It is where I store anything I need to reference later.

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Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Devonyu

But Evernote can quickly become unwieldy if you don’t have a system for using it. It doesn’t have to be complex, but it does have to be intentional. My own strategy has evolved over time.

When I started with Evernote, I organized everything with Notebooks. In addition, I used Stacks to create a hierarchy of Notebooks. I documented my structure in a post called, “How to Organize Evernote for Maximum Efficiency.” But since that time, I have radically re-worked my system.

If you are just getting started with Evernote, I suggest that you buy Brett Kelly’s remarkably practical e-book, Evernote Essentials, 4.0. It will save you HOURS of learning Evernote on your own.

The Limitations of Notebooks

After years of use, I discovered three limitations of Notebooks:

  • Notebooks are limited to 250 per personal account. This may sound like plenty, but it wasn’t for me. I bumped up against the limits. (You can have 5,000 notebooks in a business account, but that wasn’t availabe when I reworked my system. Even if it was, I think my current system is better.)

  • A Note can only exist in one Notebook at a time. It’s a one-to-many relationship. The problem comes when you want to include a Note in two or more notebooks. That’s a many-to-many relationship, and it isn’t supported. You have to duplicate the note and put a copy in each notebook. This ends up being more work than it’s worth.

  • Notebooks can be stacked but not nested. In essence, this means you can only create a hierarchy that is one level deep: a stack with a group of Notebooks. My life is more complex than that. I wanted to be able to organize things in multiple levels.

The Advantages of Tags

I discovered I was using the wrong entity. Instead of Notebooks, I should have been using Tags. They are much more flexible. The advantages are the mirror image of the limitations:

  • Tags are virtually unlimited. You can have up to 100,000 per account. This will satisfy the needs of 99.9% of users, including me.

  • Notes can have multiple Tags. The practical value of this is that a note can exist in multiple containers without duplication. For example, if I meet with Megan about Platform University and my upcoming Get Noticed! Theme launch, I can Tag it with “meeting notes,” “platform university,” and “get noticed! theme.” In this way, I can see this same Note, regardless of the Tag I am using.

  • Tags can be nested into multiple hierarchies. This allows me to organize my Tags in a way that makes sense for me. I am not constrained by the limitations of the software.

How I Organize My Notes

I use two Notebooks and a Stack. If I select View | Notebooks (⌥⌘-2 on the Mac), I see this:

Evernote Screenshot 01

Figure 1: My Evernote Notebooks

Here’s how I use each:

  • Inbox—this is where I put Notes I need to process later. It corresponds to a physical inbox.

  •  Cabinet —this is where I put Notes I have processed and want to keep. It corresponds to a filing cabinet.

  •  Shared —this is a Stack or collection of Notebooks. This is where I keep Notebooks that others have shared with me.

  •  Trash —this is where Notes go when you delete them. Until you “empty the trash,” you can restore them to another Notebook.

This is dramatically more simple than what I used to use.

Next, I nest my Tags to create a hierarchy that reflects how I think about my life and business. Notice that all my Tags are lowercase. This isn’t a big deal, but I like the consistency.

If I select View | Tags (⌥⌘-3 on the Mac), I see this:

evernote-screenshot-02

Figure 2: My Top Level Evernote Tags

These top levels are all collections. They function similar to Stacks. Notice that I begin each tag collection with a special character—a period, a carat, or a tilde.

I never actually use these as Tags in my Notes. I simply use them to organize my real Tags. The cool thing is that you can nest these Tag collections as deep as you want to go.

By the way, you nest Tags by dragging the ”Child” Tag onto the “Parent” Tag. When you do that, the Child appears under the Parent.

For example, under my .what Tag, I have nested four additional collections. Under .work , I have four collections. Under .products , I have a set of collection Tags for each of my main product categories.

Figure 3: Evernote .what Tag Collection

Figure 3: Evernote .what Tag Collection

Notice that under .conferences I have the actual tags that I use with my Notes. These are my actual conferences. In some cases, I might have multiple products with the same name, so I distinguish between conferences, books, speeches, etc.

By the way, you can nest these as deep as you want, though I would be careful not to make your system too complex. This is often a matter of trial and error.

My .when collection is particularly useful. I use this for information related to past or future events. It might include speaking or consulting engagements, phone appointments, one-on-one meetings, etc. They provide a convenient way to collect all the materials related to that event.

Figure 4: Evernote .when Tage Collection

Figure 4: Evernote .when Tag Collection

When the event is passed, I drag the Tag to the past events collection.

In the .who collection, I have a Tag for each of my teammates.

Figure 5: Evernote .who Tag Collection

Figure 5: Evernote .who Tag Collection

I begin each Tag with a caret character. That way, when I am tagging a note, I can simply enter the caret and the names are all displayed, like this:

Figure 6: Selecting a Teammate, Using the Caret Character

Figure 6: Selecting a Teammate, Using the Caret Character

Finally, the ^reference collection contains the kinds of Tags you would include in any filing cabinet. I don’t include them here because some are confidential. By the way, I start with the caret, because it sorts after the collections with periods.

In the miscellaneous collection I have three tags:

  • !templates—this is where I keep reusable Note templates. For example, I have templates for Pre-Event Calls with Event Sponsors, Book Net Outs (where I summarize the books I read), Packing Lists, just to name a few.

  • .shared—this is where I store Tags from shared Notebooks. Since I can’t always control the Tags that others use, I simply segregate them here, so they don’t “pollute” my system.

  • read later—rather than use an application like Read Later or Instapaper, I clip blog posts and articles that I want to save for later reading. I can get to all these by simply searching for this Tag.

My system is not perfect, but it works for me. It took some work to set up, but now I rarely think about it. I simply add the appropriate Tag to my Notes.

I’m sure my system will continue to evolve over time. Hopefully, this gives you a few ideas of how you can design your system. The key is to design a structure that frees your mind from distraction and allows you to focus on what matters most.

Question: How is your Evernote system organized? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Thomas Osthus

    Michael,

    This post is super helpful. Evernote finally became a “game changer” for me after I took your “Best Year Ever” course and I started putting my goals into Evernote instead of a stationary Excel file like I had been doing.

    I can’t tell you how much my follow-through has improved with my goals after I started tracking my progress and key metrics like “My motivations” – “actions steps” and “Scheduled times to work on the goal” inside Evernote. How do you tag your goals inside Evernote? by year or category?

    If you do a relaunch of Best Year Ever for 2015 I’d love to see a short Screen Cast on how you organize your goals inside Evernote (just an idea!).

    I’m really grateful for what you and your team do everyday. Thanks!
    Tom

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Thomas. I tag each goal with two tags: the year (e.g., “2014”) and the word ”goals.” Then I create a saved search, so I can call them up with a click.
      Thanks for your kind words. We will consider this for 2015. We are completely re-shooting the course. Thanks.

      • Thomas Osthus

        I appreciate your reply and I’m excited for the new course for 2015. Have a great day!

      • http://markstruczewski.com/ Mark Struczewski

        You can also make a note or notebook a shortcut. That’s what I do. Just a thought.

      • http://www.YearOfWriting.Com Omar Khafagy

        Just a thought: why not simply use Evernote’s built in “Date Created” metadata for the note in your saved search?

        This way you don’t have to use a tag at all. You can simply search by the year the note was created.

        If you’re creating a note *in advance* of the year, you can still edit the “Date Created” information.

  • Mark

    Excellent, thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/robertkennedy3 Robert Kennedy III

    While I use Evernote all the time, my system is probably not as complex. I definitely use the notebooks and the Stacks. I don’t tag as often as I should though, probably because I simply search through notebooks for stuff that I need or just use the general search. Works for me for now though.

    What I AM working at is finding a great way to set up my blog posting in Evernote. Writing a post about that soon.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Have you read my post on “How to Use Evernote as a Blogger”? It’s not how I do it anymore, but it has some good ideas, I think.

      • http://twitter.com/robertkennedy3 Robert Kennedy III

        Yep. Read that a while back. Definitely has some great ideas. I was actually trying out doing the post and emailing it to wordpress using a plugin. Working out some kinks. There were a couple of other apps like Sentinote, (used to be Everlicious) and IFTTT recipe that I was exploring. Will figure out and then write the post.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          Cool. I’d be interested in seeing what you come up with.

        • doughibbard

          I’ve got an IFTTT recipe that backs up my blog to Evernote, but it’s a pretty simple “everything in one notebook” line. Working on a better way to sort posts as they come through that.

  • http://www.thadthoughts.com/ Thad Puckett

    Michael, how much time do you give to organizing your notes in this manner? Is it something you do periodically, or is it something you consciously do each time you add something to Evernote?

    I ask because randomness is my preferred method…I don’t have organization with this level of depth (though I do use tags). Instead I make great use of the search function. And I learned the great value of pinned notes for those things I go back to time and time again (these are almost always work related).

    Great posts by the way.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      It takes virtually no time. I try to add tags to everything I put into Evernote, so I don’t have to come back and do it later. Where this system really shines is when I want to go back and review the contents in a tag. In that sense, it functions as a virtual notebook.

  • Shawnshack

    Michael, have you addressed why you use this instead of Google Drive? I’ve been using that but I’m wondering if I would be better off using Evernote. Thanks!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      These are two different tools. For example, how do you save web clips? Also, searching is much, much easier in Evernote. You should give it a try.

      • Shawnshack

        Good point. Is the Chrome clipper extension the only way to save web clips? I’d like an option for my iPad as well.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          I’m not sure. You might have a look at this thread on the Evernote forum.

          • Frank Degenaar

            Yep… besides Dolphin, this works wonders. You can copy the java script and use it as a shortcut in iOS. Whenever you use your shortcut in absolutely any browser you have (Address/ URL bar) it will clip to Evernote via a popup. This can also be done with read it later apps such as Instapaper or Pocket. Pretty cool!

          • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

            That’s really awesome—gonna try that now!

        • Zach

          Check out Everclip for iPhone/iPad.

          • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

            Good to know!

          • Dr. Frank Buck

            Zach, I am looking at Everclip right now. It’s also in the Google Play for Android users. Thanks for putting me onto this.

        • Rusty Castleman

          Try the Dolphin Browser for your iPad. It has a built-in Evernote Clipper that is very robust. On my Windows PC I find Chrome has the best Evernote web clipper by far.

        • http://markstruczewski.com/ Mark Struczewski

          How I clip on my iPad/iPhone: save to Pocket – which integrates with Evernote. Plus, you can choose tags and a notebook.

          • http://www.hansschiefelbein.com Hans Schiefelbein

            Mark, can you tell me how Pocket integrates with Evernote?

          • http://markstruczewski.com/ Mark Struczewski

            Hi, Hans… Sure! In Pocket, when I click on the Share! icon, I have the following choices: Send to a Friend, Evernote, Copy Link, Safari, Buffer, Twitter, More. When you first click on Evernote, it will ask you to log in. Once you do that, you can clip an article by saving to Pocket and then upload it to Evernote in Pocket. It’s great that it lists all your Evernote notebooks and allows you to add tags too. Feedly has added Evernote integration, but when I try to use it, I get a “FAILED TO GET NOTEBOOKS” error, so I don’t know how this works. What’s nice about uploading to Evernote from Pocket is that the article’s formatting stays in tack.

          • Saikat

            Mark, feedly-evernote integration works only for feedlypro accounts.

            Feedly
            wasn’t very clear on this earlier, however the website has been updated now. http://bit.ly/1igRt1j

            Paying $45/yr is a bit steep (still unsure of other advantages), but decided to go for it considering the time saving.

          • Mike Parrott

            I read the article in pocket. I can then either delete it or archive it. I use an IFTTT recipe to automatically send the link, title etc to Evernote for any article I archive. Tags I add in pocket become the tags in the Evernote note. How cool is that!

  • http://stevespring.org sespring

    I use Evernote to store everything that I might want to refer to later. Unfortunately, my Evernote system is not very well organized, so I will try using your system to get myself better organized. Thanks for this very helpful post.

  • http://www.liveitforward.com/ Kent Julian

    Brilliant! (That says it all.)

    Thanks so much.

  • doughibbard

    Right now, I’m still using notebooks, but I’ve recently reduced the number and gone with more generic labeling to fit items. I’m seeing why I might need to switch to using the tags, though it’s daunting to think about reclassifying everything. That’ll take a few weeks.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      It is daunting, but I would do it in two phases. First, create a collection Tag called, “.not yet processed”. Drag all your existing tags under that collection. Now, set up your new system and start tagging new items with these tags.
      Second, as you have the time, move items from the old system into the new system. This is how I did it, and I was able to get there slowly over a few weeks.

      • RichardHaralson

        So just to clarify, you have minimal stacks and few notebooks. That you have moved to using tags to do your sorting and grouping rather than Grouping by notebooks. Wow that is brilliant.

        I understand your steps you mentioned – what would you suggest as for moving notebooks?

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          If you don’t mind, look back through the comments. Several people asked this, and I responded. Thanks.

      • mikehardin63

        Michael, the thing that frightens me about trying to nest all my old tags under a “.not yet processed” tag while I set up a new system is, evernote will not let me duplicate tag names. So if I try to use a tag in my new system that is already nested in “.not yet processed” I’m going to get an error. Did you not have problems with naming conflicts for your tags when reworking your system?

  • Roy Danby

    Hi Mchael, good post.
    I use pretty much “The Secret Weapon” method of GTD in my Evernote, with minor tweaks to suit me.
    Although I am totally Google, with the amazingly good Chromebooks, the system is very similar to the outlook examples
    of TSW.
    Cabinet, Action Needed, To sort, Shared and Trash for the notebooks. Many many tags that make life much easier
    once you have gone through the setting up of the system, and I can retrieve info with ease.

    .

  • http://www.samsmileymusic.com/ Sam Smiley

    I organize Evernote pretty similarly – I have 3 notebooks – Inbox, Processed, and Teaching (I’m a teach in case you couldn’t guess :) )

    I tag everything, keeping the tags to only about 50 or so. I didn’t know about nesting the tags so I’m going to look into that.
    Then I use 3 shortcuts for frequently accessed notes – To-Do which is a running list of To-Do stuff, a Freq tag which is notes I access weekly, and my platform tag.

    Evernote is absolutely essential for everything I do – kind of scary! But it’s so useful. Thanks for the post, it’s really helpful.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Great, Sam. Thanks for sharing your system. I always get ideas from seeing how others use Evernote.

  • http://www.paulcopcutt.com/ Paul Copcutt

    Do you just send all e-mails to Evernote or process them first and then send only the ones you plan on actioning further?

    I have only been using Evernote in earnest for less than a month and am already up to over 70 notebooks so I can see the limitations. I especially see the value in having one note in multiple stacks. I have yet to use tags so an adaptation of this might be the answer, thanks for sharing.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I only send emails I want to reference later. I tag them right in the subject line of the email, so they enter Evernote with the proper tags.

  • Bill Cox

    Hey Michael. I love Evernote, but you just blew my mind a little and created a real paradigm shift for how I can use it. Would you consider going a little deeper with this in Platform University? I am not naturally organized, which is why I love Evernote. But someone like myself begins to use a tool that helps you organize your life, the tool can begin to reflect the user. I need a better system for using Evernote because it’s starting to get a little unwieldy for me. I would love it if you could do a session where you are teaching and using the app as you teach the system. Thank you.
    Bill

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I will discuss that with Megan. I think seeing how I do it would be helpful.

      • Bill Cox

        Awesome. Thanks.

        • http://www.GigaLawFirm.com/ Doug Isenberg

          Yes, a screencast would be very helpful, so thanks for considering it!

  • http://orraclemedia.com/ Rob Orr

    So glad you shared this Michael – this is outstanding info. I always learn so much when I see how other people organize. I particularly like how you use the special characters for sorting. For the longest time I’ve used ” ! – tagname ” in my notes to push those things to the top, long before I ever used EN. But I noticed recently that this is a bit cumbersome, because like you, I’ve also gone to a really simple notebook set-up and I’m primarily using tags for organization with only Inbox, Main Cabinet, Skitch, and Software folders. I’m going to have to implement the carets along with a couple others to make this a little more streamlined.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Awesome, Rob. I love seeing how other people organize, too.

  • http://mysimpleinspiration.com Christopher Jones

    Terrific post Michael. I have recently been experimenting with tags in Evernote. For some reason I have resisted all these years. Your detailed outline helps me a lot. Your examples are invaluable. Thank you for your post.

  • Victor Guerrero

    I am extremely grateful for all that you have written and spoken on evernote. I am very grateful. I hope you keep talking about it as Evernote and your use of it develop.

    Minor error, third bullet point under “The Advantage of Tags” says notebooks can go into a deep hierarchy, I think you meant tags.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Victor. Great catch. I have fixed it.

      • A P

        same paragraph…should say “limitations” rather than “imitations” I think?

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          Fixed. Thanks so much.

  • http://markstruczewski.com/ Mark Struczewski

    Hi, Michael. I agree with what you wrote. Thanks. But the one reason I still use notebooks (the only reason) is that as a Premium subscriber, I can download individual notebooks for offline use. Like you, I have A LOT of notes and downloading my entire account would not be practical.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I’m not sure I understand, Mark.

      All my Notebooks are available offline via the Evernote software. They are selectively available in the cloud. In other words, I can choose whether the Notebook is local or synchronized, but the default is synchronized, meaning it’s available in both places.

      • http://markstruczewski.com/ Mark Struczewski

        I apologize for not being clear, Michael. Premium subscribers have the ability to download notebooks for offline (airplane mode) use. As you know, our notes are not stored on our devices (a portion of the notes are – but not the entire note), but rather in the cloud. But if I am going to go on a plane, I can download entire notebooks to my iPhone or iPad for reading when I don’t have an Internet connection. As far as I know, Evernote doesn’t allow us to download individual notes.

        • alanwages

          I think what you’re getting at, Mark, is that you can download an individual folder, but not a tag? So if you had all your notes for an upcoming event under one tag, you wouldn’t be able to selectively download those notes as you would if they were in a separate folder.

          • http://markstruczewski.com/ Mark Struczewski

            According to Evernote, yes. As far asI know, they haven’t changed this. I wish they would.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          I could be wrong, but I think all notes are stored locally—the full note—unless you tell it otherwise. I review my notes all the time on the plane and have never even thought about it. Everything is local.

          • http://markstruczewski.com/ Mark Struczewski

            According to Evernote, Premium gives you: “OFFLINE NOTEBOOKS
            Access your notes fast whenever you need them on your mobile device, even without a network connection. Great for travel.”

          • http://nextcapital.com.co/ Andres Waldraff

            Hi Michael,

            I love your org method, I will copy most of it.

            What Mark means is that if you use Evernote in a smartphone/tablet, and have the regular version of Evernote, NONE of your notes are locally saved. You need to be connected to the internet to see them. With the premium version, you can select which notebooks to sync locally to your smartphone/tablet. The issue with organizing with tags as you did, is that you lose that option, as you can only sync notebooks locally.

            What I do about that problem is create a notebook in which I put all notes that I need local access in my phone/tablet.

          • http://nextcapital.com.co/ Andres Waldraff

            btw. I forgopt to mention that this org method is also applicable to OSX Mavericks!

          • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

            Ah, got it. I have used the Premium version since 2008, so I was unaware of that limitation. All my notebooks sync locally except a handful with sensitive information I don’t want on the cloud.

          • mikehardin63

            If you are using your Mac I’m sure that’s true. But not on a mobile device.

          • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

            Got it. I use my MacBook Pro for 90% of my work.

          • David Limiero

            Notes are local on a Mac or PC. iOS and Android apps are not unless you specifically indicate that you want to make a notebook available offline.

            I much prefer the tagging method, but have several notebooks that are separate for this reason:
            – Key Reference
            – Travel Reference (current hotel, air, car reservations, passport copies, etc.)

        • http://gaplauche.com/ Geoffrey Allan Plauché

          Maybe have two Cabinet notebooks instead of Michael’s one. Name them Cloud Cabinet and Offline Cabinet. Presumably the Offline Cabinet would have far fewer notes in it. Some notes you might file into the Offline Cabinet notebook immediately and they’ll stay there, others you might move in and out of it as needed.

        • Nick

          Good point, Mark. I am thinking of adopting Michael’s method. (Currently my Evernote is a complete mess; a jumble of randomly created notebooks and tags that looks rather like a collection of filing cabinets that’s been emptied into a garage with the door left open on a windy day).

          For offline notebooks, you could perhaps create a notebook called Offline and transfer all the notes you need to look at on the flight etc before you go offline? You could tag these notes ‘offline’ to find them easily when you need to temporarily transfer them? Come to think of it, if Evernote were to create an Offline Tag facility for Premium users, that would solve the problem for those that use Notebooks and those that use Tags…
          Nick

        • http://www.jamesshort.net James Short

          Mark, just curious. Is there a reason why you would not want all your notes “downloaded” at any given time? If you only have three folders, then set those for offline use and you’ll never have to worry about it again as long as you allow them to sync with all your devises.

          • http://markstruczewski.com/ Mark Struczewski

            Hi, James. I have close to 3,000 notes in my Evernote. I don’t want to use up that space on my iPhone/iPad. I clip EVERYTHING I think I will remotely ever need to review again into Evernote. That’s why I have folders. For example, I have a folder called Twitter. Everything in here pertains to Twitter. So, if I am going on a trip, I can download this folder to my iDevice and read it offline.

          • http://www.jamesshort.net James Short

            I see. I only have 1,900 notes and while I record a lot of audio for songwriting and such, much of these are text only notes so I guess it would all depend on what type of files you have. Mine only take up 1.6GB on my phone.

            For me, I got tired of needing a note offline and not having it downloaded. So, since memory size wasn’t an issue, I enjoy having constant access without having to think about deselecting “A” folder so that I can select and sync “B” folder. With your concern of space, I can see how not using notebooks could be a problem.

      • Frank Degenaar

        I think either way, this relies on syncing notebooks (or not), which can’t be done for tags. I could imagine someone using a predominantly tag-based system temporarily creating a notebook (or as an exception) from a select group of tagged notes… and then when that notebook has served its purpose and is no longer needed, one would just delete the notebook and the items would still have their tags. That might be something to play around with… going predominantly tag-based, but creating and deleting notebooks as and when needed.

      • Mark Silberbauer

        I think he means that he’s able to mark the folder for offline use on his Evernote apps for his device (android or IOS), not his desktop / laptop Evernote software. AFAIK, the apps don’t store everything for offline use automatically like the desktop software does.

  • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    One suggestion I would make is to write down your Evernote organization plan, on paper, using flowcharts. It’s there that you can work out potential conflict or confusion.

    When you’re done, write a smooth copy of your plan, with written descriptions and annotations, and keep it in a safe place.

    It may seem primitive – but Evernote can’t store the thought processes you bring to it, and those will change or fade over time as other tasks come to the fore.

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2014/04/is-it-ever-too-late-for-your-marriage.html

  • John R. Gentry 

    Michael, this is awesome! I’ve been struggling with the best way to organize things, and I think I’ve found it now! I use tags all the time, but I had not planned them out like I needed to. Thanks! God bless.

  • Kathleen Thompson

    Thank you, Michael!!!!! I love Evernote, and use it all the time. However, I’ve been leaving notes in my Inbox because I couldn’t decide which notebook to put them in, and using the tags instead. This post confirms that my instincts were correct, and that I just need to refine the system a bit. Do you know of a way to quickly move stuff that is in other notebooks?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, just highlight the notes you want to move, then select Note | Move to Notebook.

      • Kathleen Thompson

        Thanks so much. I am doing that right away.

  • http://juliesunne.com/ Julie Sunne

    Just the information I’ve been waiting for, Michael. I love Evernote but have so much to learn. I can’t wait to sit down and begin digesting it all. Thanks!

  • kevinmiller22

    Thanks – this is a much cleaner method of organizing Evernote info. I did find a drawback in that the iOS version on the iPad does not support nested tags. It will show the new tags, but not nest them.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      That would be nice if Evernote would support that nesting on iOS devices. In my use case, I rarely use Evernote on those devices.

    • http://www.calebsg.com/ Caleb Simonyi-Gindele

      This is a *major* gotcha to Michael’s method if you use Evernote on iOS…

      • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

        Yes and No. It only is if you want to access your notes via tag view. All the tags are still there and fully accessible. You tag notes the same way. Search the same way, etc.

        • http://www.calebsg.com/ Caleb Simonyi-Gindele

          Maybe there’s another approach I’m not aware of, but I tend to locate my notes by navigating the “tree” formed by nesting. So, case in point, I wanted to find my Sunday School lesson this evening that I wrote on my iMac. I tagged it as “SS 2013-2014″.

          My wife and I teach separate classes but share Evernote. So this tag is nested as follows: “Sunday School” > “Caleb’s Class” > “SS 2013-2014″.

          The only tag that will bring it up in Evernote on iOS is the last level tag. I can’t navigate through the nesting so I have to remember that final tag.

          Also the iOS version of Evernote lists *all* the tags together, grouped alphabetically by first letter. So I have to scan 124 tags to find what I need.

          As much as I love the tagging on OSx I think this is a show stopper for tossing all my notebooks unless I can find a workaround.

          • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

            If notebooks work for you, great. This is one of the things I love about Evernote. It is so flexible, you can create the system that works for you. Thanks.

          • http://www.calebsg.com/ Caleb Simonyi-Gindele

            Absolutely. And I appreciate the conceptual shift in your tagging methodology. Perhaps Evernote will see this and consider tweaking their iOS version to make the experience with tagging more consistent.

            Have a great evening, Michael!

          • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

            I would love to see them do this. Thanks.

          • http://gaplauche.com/ Geoffrey Allan Plauché

            Switch to Android. We’ve got nested tags. ;o)

          • http://www.calebsg.com/ Caleb Simonyi-Gindele

            Touché!

  • Shane Sams

    Have you guys ever tried Google Keep? I love Evernote, but actually prefer keep. It just integrates so well with my calendar and gmail as a part of my organization strategy.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I have not. Looks interesting.

  • alanwages

    This is a great system, Michael. I have been using Evernote following your previous method with a large folder hierarchy. When you transitioned to this approach, did you retroactively tag everything or just start with new notes?

    • alanwages

      Nevermind, I see you addressed this below. Thanks

  • ScottSkibell

    Michael,

    You forgot to mention the power of tags when it comes to searching. Or if you did, I missed it.

    One can search for notes that have multiple tags. For example, in the Evernote search box, one can type “tag:1 tag:2 tag:3″ and only notes that have all 3 tags will be returned. This is a great way to narrow down notes and it’s so much more efficient that trying to scroll thru Notebooks. So in your scenario, you could search for projects that have a particular name assigned to it.

    It’s a very flexible approach.

  • http://www.hansschiefelbein.com Hans Schiefelbein

    Wow, this is exhausting and motivating at the same time. Is that possible?! It will take awhile for me to wrap my mind around the tagging strategy. I have used notebooks and in stead of nesting (which isn’t possible) I number them (01 Notebook, 02 Notebook, etc.) so I can order them. Question: how would you suggest an avid Evernote user like myself take the first step at integrating a tagging system (rather than a complete overhaul like you did)? Thanks Mike!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Hans. If you will read back through the comments, I offered a few suggestions for migrating from an existing system to the one I suggested. Thanks.

  • Frank Degenaar

    Hi Michael,
    I am going to give your post another thorough reading, because there is a lot of food for thought there. I do recall having read your post on the way you structured your notebooks and stacks. It was a great read too.

    Haha, Notebooks vs. Tags is one of the biggest areas in Evernote where people tend to have polarized opinions. There’s even a guy, GrumpyMonkey (Christopher Mayo), who has a good argument for using neither tags nor notebooks. Interesting.

    It really depends on what you use Evernote for, because there are many cases where it would be absolutely essential (or helpful) to have a system of Notebooks too. I personally make moderate use of both notebooks and tags… But I tend to favor notebooks for the following inescapable reasons (that fit my use case):

    1. We can share notebooks, which is extremely useful. We can’t share a set of tags across different notebooks (although that might be something for Evernote to look into!)
    2. By putting a note into a notebook within a stack, it immediately has two contexts. One would need to use 2 tags to represent it equally and then nest at least one tag under the other. A little bit more tapping. Added to that, if you tap/click on a stack, it shows you all notes within all notebooks in that stack, which you can then search. Unfortunately, choosing a certain tag context does not show you the “children” tags that have been nestled.
    3. Many 3rd party applications allow for super quick entry of ideas to Evernote with a predefined combination of Notebook and tags, most notably, “FastEver” and SnapEntry (iOS). That’s powerful.
    4. The nesting of tags is an awesome idea, pretty much like an outliner (WorkFlowy/ CloudOutliner)… And I may be tempted to go the tagging route if that were supported on iOS/ Android etc. In iOS, for example, your well-thought-out nested tag categories/ contexts are reduced to an almost unrecognizable linear/ alphabetic list. Nice for desktop, very impractical for mobile devices (Until Evernote rolls out this capability)
    5. Unless every note in Evernote is tagged with at least one tag, the sum total of all the tagged notes may not include/ represent all notes in Evernote. In that sense if we don’t know what we’re looking for, we may very well not find it in the tag list if the note fell through the cracks and is tag-less, especially if it is not tagged, but if every note goes into some sort of notebook context, we will be able to browse and happen upon it.
    6. New notes are automatically created in the same notebook that you are currently in. Not so for tag contexts. It used to be so in iOS, but that was done away with. Thus (a little) extra mandatory maintenance with tagging. Almost everything needs to be tagged.
    7. Applications that sync to Evernote generally use notebooks, for example: IFTTT, Bamboo, Skitch etc. Gneo, one of the most interesting task managing apps out there that integrates with Evernote, uses a Gneo stack with notebooks to mirror the tasks in Gneo.
    9. This is a huge one for me, for task tracking: If you are inclined to make use of the Evernote reminder feature and the resulting reminder list, you are able to drag and drop tasks (notes) between notebooks (on desktop), thus changing it’s status, importance or category. Tag contexts/ categories are not represented here within the reminder list.

    You have some fantastic ideas for specific uses of tagging, however I think it’s difficult for some people to get the most out of a predominantly tag-based infrastructure with a minimalistic approach to notebooks.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for your detailed explanation, Frank. Part of the power of Evernote is the sheer number of ways it can be used and customized. I don’t offer my system as THE system. It won’t work for everyone.
      There are perfectly legitimate ways of using Evernote that are different than mine. I simply offer my system, along with the rationale, to stimulate people’s thinking, so they can design the system that works best for them.
      Thanks again.

      • Frank Degenaar

        If I didn’t thank you before, let me say a huge thank you right now. The benefit of having a tag-based system is massive! It’s just difficult to reconcile all the ways I want to use Evernote. Your tag-structure is up there as one of the best I have seen. I love tinkering and finding new ways of doing stuff. On second revision of the article (perhaps I didn’t see it the first time because of my bias!), for example, it makes total sense that nothing is going to fall through the cracks (in terms of being tagged) because any tag-less notes only “graduate” to the cabinet once they have been processed and tagged in the inbox… so that’s a very logical and fail-proof method. Also, I decided to go ahead and nest the tags I do have, since I rely on them heavily for specific things, and I figured that mostly I use the desktop client anyways when I am working with those tagged items, precisely because I need to merge many of those notes, which can only be done on desktop for now. It’s a great mental exercise trying to wangle Evernote into doing my bidding :-)

    • http://gaplauche.com/ Geoffrey Allan Plauché

      Evernote on Android supports tag nesting and has a tag tree view.

      • Frank Degenaar

        That fascinates me. Wish I could tinker around on Android a bit. Thanks for that piece of info Geoffrey.

      • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

        This tells us that it has least possible to do on a mobile device. Perhaps it’s coming for iOS.

    • http://gaplauche.com/ Geoffrey Allan Plauché

      Can you set up a saved search for untagged notes? I’ll have to look into that.

      • Frank Degenaar

        I think saved searches can be for any parameter you would ordinarily pop into the search box. I use tagging quite a bit in certain areas. I’m definitely for tagging and Michael’s setup really interests me. Just that there are pros and cons to either extreme (a predominantly tag-based or Notebook-based infrastructure). I leverage both… but I’m always open to radical changes if I can wrap my head around it and maybe find a good workaround for the things that I find useful, if not imperative about the notebooks I do have.

      • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

        Yep. Just put this in the search bar: -tag:*

  • http://www.kenzimmermanjr.com/ Ken Zimmerman Jr.

    Michael, I agree with Thomas. This post is extremely helpful. I have been using Evernote for a year but I’m not getting the most out of it. I want to go completely digital, so I don’t have to actually file paper for personal things anymore. I am going to take some of your ideas here and organize a system. Take care.

  • Hardrock

    Fascinating stuff. You have basically your whole Evernote “system” invested in tags though. As a leading Evernote evangelist, do you have any assurances from Evernote that they will not change how tags function? (which could wreck your system). I love Evernote, but they tend to ‘improve’ things that don’t need improving. I just worry about long-term stability. How long before they decide to “overhaul” the structure, to make it ‘more efficient’ or some such?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I have a hard time imaging they would ever do this. Tags are too central to the system. They would have tens of thousands of angry customers. I don’t have any assurances, but I have no worries about it whatsoever.

  • RayStrauss

    Michael,

    Since you are offering another fantastic post on Evernote again, I thought this would be an ideal moment to ask the following question. Is there a reason you choose not to use the “Evernote clip” icon that is sometimes seen next to the other social media action icons. I’m curious because your articles are like gold and definitely referred to over and over again in my Evernote account. Pastors.com uses this convenient tool on their posts as seen below. Thanks for all you do for all of us!

    Ray

    • Frank Degenaar

      Hey Michael, I was looking to do this with my blog posts… make it easier for people to clip the article to Evernote… but then I figured that most people would already have the Evernote web clipper add on in their browser anyways… but you know, sometimes it might be a reminder to people that they can actually clip an article if it’s right there or pique someone’s curiosity :-)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I tried it for a while, and it did’t get used enough. Most people I know have the Evernote extension installed on their browser, so it ends up being redundant. Thanks.

      • Ray Strauss

        I figured you had a reason and agree with the redundancy issue. Thank you.

  • Matt Horne

    Like you, I started with notebooks and stacks, thinking that was the key, but then discovered I had way more flexibility with tagging. At the time I was also new to GTD and discovered http://www.thesecretweapon.org which combined the best of GTD and Evernote.

    What was helpful from this post was your method of nesting tags. I currently do it, but I can see the value in nesting more complex projects.

  • Stan Siegwald

    Great post that will help me better use EN! Would love to know how you layout your EN screen. I’ve played around with different views in what may be a futile search for the “right” one.

  • Ruthie Spoonemore

    Awesome post, Michael! You’ve made organizing Evernote possible. I have a clutter of items stuffed into notebooks without tags. You’ve given me some ideas on how to clean Evernote up and make it searchable. Thank you!

  • Kris Sellers

    Michael,

    Great post! Thank you for sharing.

    Question: I have been an Evernote user for about a year so I have my share of notes / notebooks. Any recommendation as to a fast way to “retro fit” my notes? Is it possible “bulk tag” some notes verses having to go through each note one by one and identifying tags?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, it is possible, but I don’t think it is possible for me to give a generic answer. It would depend on how you have it organized now. What I recommend elsewhere in the comments is this process …
      First, create a collection Tag called, “.not yet processed”. Drag all your existing tags under that collection. Now, set up your new system and start tagging new items with these tags.
      Second, as you have the time, move items from the old system into the new system. This is how I did it, and I was able to get there slowly over a few weeks.

      • Kris Sellers

        Thanks, Mike. Apologies if I made you repeat yourself! :) Appreciate all your input!

  • Lamar Pierce

    This is great! I particularly like the way you begin each tag with a caret character so that it displays the list. Do you have any other articles where you go into more detail or show an example of your templates? Specifically your book summations. I use Evernote to summarize my readings and thought it would be interesting to see how you do yours. Really helpful article.

  • Skip Foster

    This has been my year to go paperless with Evernote. My desk is clear, my file cabinet is empty, my life is becoming clutter free. I sure have noticed an increase in productivity from this. Thanks for the tips. My tags and notebooks were a bit out of control.

  • Naima

    Thanks for laying out your system so well and in such detail. I’ve been putting off migrating from notebooks-based to tag-based for a while. You’ve just given me one more incentive to get going.

    I would think that marrying this with saved searches and shortcuts should cinch it.

    Thanks for great value content as always Michael.

    Naima

  • Ruth Smith

    I am just beginning to use Evernote, so appreciate your comments, as I try to figure out how best to organize my information.

  • http://tonychung.ca/ Tony Chung

    Michael this is absolutely amazing. I can’t believe I missed this. I already do the two mailboxes and categories thing with my Outlook email at work. I never thought to transfer the same paradigm into my
    Evernote too. I look forward to you posting more of your trade secrets! ;-)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Tony.

  • http://www.waynestiles.com/ Wayne Stiles

    I’m standing and applauding as I type (and slapping my forehead in
    between keystrokes). I use the simple mailbox for email and it makes
    total sense to do the same in Evernote. Thanks, Michael, for hitting
    another one out of the park.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Wayne. I appreciate that!

  • prestonshaw

    Timely post as I’m just started out in Evernote. You just saved me a ton of time with the tagging system!

  • Frank Degenaar

    A thought for those wanting to transition from a Notebook to tag-based structure. Simply replicate the name of a Notebook in the form of a tag… then just batch tag all the contents of a notebook with its corresponding tag name. This way (at least on desktop) you will then have the ability to structure your new “notebooks” (tags) in any hierarchy you want. That’s a decent starting point. Doesn’t seem too scary. Then the notebooks could be deleted… or not. Conversely, if you needed to share a “notebook” but didn’t have one… give a tag or combination thereof a notebook “shell”. Then share.

  • Ben Berson

    Thanks michael, I am going to try Evernote.

  • Michael Kwon

    Might wanna be careful with relying on tags because while we can backup notebooks, backing up tags is not an inherent feature in Evernote. While there are version controls for notes, there’s no version controls for tagging.

    There is a workaround for this: For the mac, be sure to check “Include tags for each note” when you are exporting notes.

  • Pam Hannon

    I use the best of both worlds – notebooks and tags &
    limit the # of each that I create. The beauty of Evernote is that you can
    design it for the way YOUR brain thinks. I have separate EN accounts for
    personal and business since I am not self-employed so should I change
    organizations, all my files are accessible for my replacement. A simple
    system is my goal. I am an EA supporting a high-level executive. I
    live in a world of Projects and Events. I use tags as a Trace File (tags
    1-31 for every day of the month) and will tag & untag notes based on when I
    need to work on tasks. I mainly work off of my desktop and love the
    Shortcuts section for notes or notebooks that I need quick & easy access
    to.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I agree, Pam. Evernote is so flexible. You can use it in whatever way your brain works.

  • CharOster

    Michael, I need to take a weekend and revamp my Evernote this way! I wonder if my freebie account even allows this great tag-nesting…must go check. I’ve wondered also if you use any IFTTT hacks…seems to me it would be good for all my Evernote clips in the to-be-read category to get magically shipped over to my kindle. Feedly Pro now links up with Evernote, so I’m toying with the idea of paying for that upgrade….anyway, thanks for all your helpful info, and for Platform.
    Charlotte

  • Cal

    Excellent post. I began using Evernote in tag mode, meaning minimal notebooks. Adjustments I have made have included more notebooks (9 including an inbox and a scan folder, so 7 “real” ones), and creation of local and synced stacks containing those 9.

    Local stacks contain financial information I’d just as soon not have on the web and really don’t need anywhere but at my desk. The reason for the multiple notebooks in each stack is that as my data base has grown response time has suffered with recent product updates (Windows). So if I am looking for a bank statement having a notebook of 2,000 statements is a decidedly quicker context search. I can now control the search context to All Notes, A Stack, or an individual notebook.

    Without performance issues I would have 4 notebooks: Local, Synced, Inbox and Scans. Again, thanks for a well written post extolling the flexibility and virtues of tagging.

  • A P

    Thanks for this much wanted post Michael. After reading your previous Evernote workflow methodology, I’d become confused… in my opinion if you keep the old post active, it would be great to put a very obvious “THIS POST HAS AN UPDATE, CLICK HERE” or something like that. I’d also love for you to show us how you integrate that with Nozbe. :)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Great point. I am off to do that now.

  • A P

    I currently have 2 STACKS of notebooks: 1. PERSONAL (contains notebooks for fitness, shopping, finances, etc), and 2. WORK (contains ONE notebook for my acting career, one for my singing career, plus I’ve got a few books ideas so I have one notebook for each book I would like to write). Michael, should I simplify my system by one “level”? Meaning, instead of using 2 stacks and a bunch of notebooks inside them, and then a bunch of tags, would you recommend I eliminate the stack concept and simply have 2 notebooks (1 Personal, 1 Work) and organize all their contents (different aspects of my career or project ideas) using tags?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, that’s what I would do.

      For example, today I was on the phone with my attorney. We talked about three different projects. Fortunately, each project is a tag in my system, so I could tag my meeting notes with all three tags. If I had notebooks for each project, I would have to copy the same note or the portion of the note into each notebook.

      • A P

        Gotcha! Time to launch Focus@Will and do an Evernote cleanup session. :)

  • Michael Korb

    Michael, thanks for sharing the “secret” that tags can be nested. I did not know that before. Is there also a way to share tags in the same way as you can share notebooks? Thanks again.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Not that I am aware of. Sorry.

  • Lucinda

    Thanks for the tips. I decided to simplify my notebooks and reorganize my tags. Unfortunately, EN windows wouldn’t sync my changes. I moved 1450 notes to a new notebook and that notebook will not sync, neither will many of my newly renamed and relocated tags. Those notes no longer exist on the web version. I’m working with Evernote to try to troubleshoot this but didn’t want others to face the same difficulty.

    I suggest that users first back up their .exb file then attempt creating a new notebook and moving a few notes and see if it works before putting in a lot of time. It may just be my system but other windows users have reported problems with syncing.

  • A P

    Michael, do you keep a Someday/Maybe (GTD) tag somewhere in Evernote or have you eliminated that from your system?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I only use that in Nozbe. I could certainly see the value of it in Evernote, though.

  • A P

    So based on your screenshots, I’m wondering…if you had an idea for one of your books, would you tag your new note as “lifeplanmanifesto” (for example) AND “.books”, or are you not using the .books tag at all? I’m wondering what is best tagging “preventative measure” so that when it comes time for you to search for a note that may relate to a few of your books, if it would be best to have used .books tag from the start, or if you would just include the tags of each of your individual books when doing a search?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      No, I never use the collection tags with notes. Those are just there for me to organize the tags. If something pertained to more than one book, I would just use the individual tags for each book.

  • Nancy Lohr

    How does all of this translate to your ipad? Or does it? I use Evernote on my ipad, but I don’t find it nearly as easy to organize as what you are discussing here.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Evidently, you can’t nest tags on iOS devices. I don’t use Evernote much on iOS devices, so it hasn’t been a problem for me. Thanks.

  • Jesper Gråsjö

    Hi.
    Thanks for another interesting post.
    I started using EN about 18 months ago when I was shown the secret weapon, so I set up my structure of notebooks and tags to replicate this.
    Since then it has evolved a bit as my usage has increased.
    I use a combination of Notebook stacks and free ones (18 notebooks), I also use a fairly simple structure of tags based on GTD but i have quite a few (247 at last count) where some are nested but all are structured under the main GTD structure
    .What
    .When
    .Who
    .Where
    Most of my nested tags are housed under the .What category

    My default notebook is “Action Pending” and instead of using tag for “to be handled” i find these by them not having a tags. I currently have just over 9000 notes of different kinds and this system is working very well for me

    I also use reminders quite extensively to ensure that nothing or at least as few things as possible get lost

    Getting started with this was bit of an uphill but it has made a huge difference in my daily work

    //Jesper

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      The Secret Weapon was what got me moving in this direction. I would have credited them in the post, but when I visited their site, it was down. It appears to be back up, but it is showing a PHP error. It looks like it is not being maintained.

  • Scott Smith

    I love the guidance. New user to Evernote, so I can just start this way. I understand the .work, .who, etc…., but I don’t understand how to nest the other tags under the primary ones

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Just drag the “child” tag you want to nest on top of the “parent.” I probably should have said this in the body of the post!

  • Otis Woodard

    I am continually amazed at the quality of information you share so freely with us. As much as I appreciate the technical aspects of what you share (such as this will change the way I use Evernote), what I also appreciate is the generosity behind the share, how your motive and intent energizes the share, and how what you are sharing reflects who you are.

    It all reminds me a bit of what Chris Brogan over at Human Business Works once said in a blog post (09/04/2013). “”With everything I create, there is an intention that acts alongside the main “payload” of the piece…”

    There is a lot more in that statement than meets the eye.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Otis. I appreciate your kind words. Thanks.

  • http://www.mymeadowreport.com/ Renee Fishman

    Michael, ironically I came to your site today because I recently saved your new ebook to Evernote and no search would bring it up. I came to double check the name. Your new organizational structure is interesting — and also seems very complex, just in a different way from before.
    I am finding that some of my once-helpful systems of file management now are not as helpful because they take more time to manage than the time saved.
    How much time are you spending tagging your notes? How much time did it take you to revise the notebooks and tags to the new system? Do you ever have problems finding something via Evernote’s search?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I think sometimes systems look complex, because our minds work in a different way. My system is not right for everyone. My only claim is that it is right for me. I just hoped to inspire people to see what is possible and then devise their own system that works for them.
      I spend virtually no time tagging notes. It’s second nature. I tag emails that I forward to Evernote, web clippings, and all of that in just a few seconds per note. Because the system reflects my business model and the way my mind works, I don’t have to think about what tags to use. They are intuitive and obvious.
      Revising my system took me about four hours on the front-end and then a couple of weeks, on and off, to move everything over. I first tagged everything that already existed with a collection tag, so I could move it out of the way. (All my previous tags were nested under this new one.) I then built the new system and started immediately using it. Then little by little, I moved stuff out of the old system into the new.
      Yes, I do occasionally have trouble finding stuff with Evernote search. That is why I like the tag system. I can usually remember the tag I used.
      Thanks for your comment.

      • http://www.mymeadowreport.com/ Renee Fishman

        Thanks Michael. It’s so helpful to see how you have set up your system. I hadn’t known that tags could be nested.

        I have been slowly consolidating notebooks in Evernote and trying to rely more on tags. The biggest challenge for me is that often the way I think about something when filing it is not how I think of it when I want to find it!

  • frenat

    I’m trying to see if you already answered this… but are all of your notes in the “Cabinet” then after processing? For ex, if you have a bunch of web hosting info in a note, do you slap on the appropriate tags then put it in the cabinet?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, those are like notes that have moved from my physical inbox to my physical filing cabinet.

  • Frank Phillips

    I appreciate the info on tags. Just recently I started experimenting with them. The bottom line? In just a few minutes I can find anything in my 8,000-plus library of notes.

  • A P

    Michael, do you still use TaskClone now that you’ve revamped your Evernote-Nozbe workflow? I’m guessing you don’t create task lists in Evernote anymore so you probably dont use TaskClone, but please confirm…

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I do. I mark tasks when I am taking meeting notes. TaskClone makes sure they get into Nozbe.

  • Darlene Hull

    Curious to know if there’s a way to select all the notes in my Evernote at once, so I can start on this. I’m on Ubuntu, and I’m unable to select more than one note at a time.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      Yes, You can choose large chunks of tasks (all if needed) by using the shift button (on the Mac)—or if you need to select specific tasks not next to each other you need to use the command button (on Mac). It will then give you the options to make those tasks a table of contents note. Email them. Merge them, turn them into a presentation, move them to a notebook, or tag them with a specific tag. Not sure what the command is for a windows machine—but I am sure you can do it.

    • http://gaplauche.com/ Geoffrey Allan Plauché

      Unfortunately, I don’t see a way to do this either in the web app or in the third-party Linux app Everpad. CTRL + A doesn’t work to select all. You might try installing the Windows version of Evernote in WINE.

  • venkat

    Good ideas. Thank you. Even a great product is made greater by effective use.

  • http://nonprofitinsuranceblog.com/ Brett

    Did you go back and re-process old notes to get them into this system?

    What I love about your system is that it looks like following it would clarify a lot of things, regardless of what someone does for a living. If I sat down and came up with my ‘products’, it would force me to think through what I offer in various contexts (my day job, my side gigs, my ‘aspirational’ gigs).

    Great stuff. But this post will take some serious desk time to work through and figure out how to apply it to my situation. That’s a good thing, though.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I did. I describe in my reply to a few other comments how I did that, if you want to scan the comments.

  • Todd

    I don’t understand how you create the second level of tags? Pls explain. Thanks.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Just drag and drop the child onto the parent.

  • http://www.debistangeland.com/ Debi Stangeland

    Great content on this one Mr. Hyatt. I am going to try this method and see how I like it. I moved everything over and it’s quite nice so far. I like reading all the comments too. It’s good to “hear” what others are finding works for them. Thank you.

  • kandros

    this seemed so awesome i was just mindblowed i didn’t already had a tagging system like that, i just run to my pc ready to start all over again, BUT too bad selecting a parent tag doesnt show the child tagged note.. such a fail

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      You could accomplish what you are after by putting the parent tag in the note, too. Thanks.

  • Mike Liang

    Thanks Michael for your helpful sharing!
    I’m using Nozbe when you introduced it, can you share when you use Nozbe and when you use Evernote?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I use Nozbe for tasks and Evernote for reference items. Thanks.

      • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

        Hey Michael—not to confuse things, but do you use dropbox for anything? How does that fit in? I love Evernote—but the ability to share files and the ability to view pics, movies and music directly from the app or web is pretty cool.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          Oh yea, Dropbox is one of my main tools. In fact, my entire Mac Documents folder is in DropBox, giving me the ability to share any file with anyone at any time. Plus, it serves as a backup in the cloud. But Dropbox can’t do what Evernote can do. They work together, like a hammer and a screwdriver. Sure you can pound nails with a screwdriver, but it’s the wrong tool for the job. Both are fabulous.

  • http://www.hoopercoaching.com/ Charles Hooper Jr

    I used to have a physical notebook which I organized my life. When I got married I thought, “My wife needs one of these so I made her one”. In my excitement I gave it to her, she looked at it then threw it at me! I learned a good lessons, some people like their notebooks and some don’t. Enter Evernote! I love using stacked notebooks and have been refining my tags. I love your idea Michael about .what .when .who. Looking forward to incorporating some of these ideas and my wife can’t throw a digital notebook at me!

  • http://mark3000.com/ Mark3000

    Nice system, Michael.

    I think it’s worth mentioning that “there aren’t yet any tag backup or tag history options” currently in Evernote – quoting Evernote Support.

    In practical terms, this means that you could delete one tag (like your .what tag, for example) which would delete hundreds of nested tags that would permanently alter thousands of notes by removing those tags from each note.

    The best (only) solution from my understanding is to implement a custom recurring backup procedure as outlined here: http://evernote.com/contact/support/kb/#!/article/23186097

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      Hey Mark,

      This is a really good point! Do you know if you erase it—is it still in the trash? Or do you mean if you erase it and then empty the trash? Does Evernote warn you that you are erasing things? Good comment!

      • http://mark3000.com/ Mark3000

        Barry, you should be prompted before deleting like normal, but you don’t have the luxury of using Evernote’s history (or trash) for recovery like you would with simply deleting a note. Make sense?

  • Y.C. Pan

    The following is how I use tools to get organized! It might be interesting to some people!

    Trello:Action List (To Do), Kanban Task Management, PM, GTD, Agile Development, Scheduling, WBS, Task/KPI Tracking
    Wunderlist :Cloud Storage (Checklist, Wishlist, Reminder, Tips)
    Evernote + Springpad:Cloud Storage (Writing, Note-taking, Feedback Collecting, Bookmarking)
    Pocket + Youdao Note:Cloud Storage (Clipping, Collecting, Reading & Managing Information as Reference) – Pocket (Globe), Youdao (China)
    Google Drive and its Apps:15GB Cloud Storage (Creating Diagram, Form, Table, Mindmap, Chart)
    OneDrive and its Apps:7GB Cloud Storage (Editing Spreadsheet, Document, Slideshow)
    360 Yunpan:37TB Cloud Storage (Archived Data and Reference)
    Weiyun:10TB Cloud Storage (Photos: a smart system of photo management)
    Baidu Yun:20TB Cloud Storage (Ebooks & Audio Files & Movies)
    IFTTT:Automation, Notification

    Devices: Mac Air, iPad, Android Mobile, PC Desktop; Web Browser: Chrome

  • IANROD2000

    I had never heard of Evernote but this has made me go off and do some research on You Tube and it will help me with my website and blogging. Will give it a go for a month and see how I get on.

    Thanks for the post, too deep for me as a beginner but it has fired my imagination.

  • http://www.ringantangan.com Amirul Faiz Abd. Razak

    This inspires me to use Evernote more efficiently. Thanks.

  • Alvin Wayne Weiss

    Thanks Michael. I am a big fan of Evernote.
    I left Evernote years ago and just came back after joining Platform University. And while reading this post, I bought Evernote Essentials via your link.
    I have a request of you: would you please share in detail your “Book Net Out” template ? Like others I read a lot, but I also get confused about where I read what; and I would like to create a quick personal reference of the books I have read.
    Thanks again.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Sure, Alvin. My post, “How to Retain More of What You Read” provides an Evernote, Pages, and Word template for this.

      • Alvin Wayne Weiss

        Thanks Michael. Like you, I want to have more than just a vague recollection of what I have read.
        Evernote is such a great resource.
        Wonderful blog. Thanks again.

  • http://www.TheEternityJournal.com/ Zobia

    This was a very interesting approach to organizing Evernote notes. My Evernote account isn’t nearly as organized as this one! Great post!

  • http://craigmcclellan.com/ Craig McClellan

    This post is great Michael. I’ve been using Evernote for the last 2 years, and don’t know what I would do without it.

    When I got started, your post on notebooks was incredibly influential for my system. However, slowly I have started migrating away from notebooks and toward tags. Your system is incredible in terms of opening my view of what I can do with tags.

    My question is what your system looks like for retrieving notes. Do you just do a search for multiple tags, or use the tag view? I want to make sure as I move towards a tag system I can still find my notes efficiently. I love systems and categories, but sometimes I slow myself down with them.

    Thanks!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Usually, I just go to tag view, but I also save my most common searches and add them as shortcuts.

  • Jeff Aman

    Thank you, Michael, for another helpful and provocative post on Evernote. I have read the post and all the comments. Just to help me apply your rubric … for example how would you tag the PDF owner’s manual to a new camera you recently purchased? Is that nested under ^reference or under .what? I understand you couldn’t share your ^reference sub-tags because of confidentiality, so I’m trying to get an idea of that. Another example would be, for example, service records for your car. When you scan those in, how would you tag them in your system? Thanks again!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yep, that would go under ^reference. I use a tag called “manuals.” I only put it under .what if it pertains directly to my business.

  • http://www.vhcreativephoto.com Gwen Vann-Horn

    Any thoughts on using OneNote vs. Evernote?

  • http://philcooke.com Phil Cooke

    Michael – does it bother you that Evernote turns each document into it’s own type of file? So if you ever stop using Evernote, all those thousands of documents aren’t Word Docs, .pdf’s, Jpeg’s or whatever anymore – they’ve been translated into Evernote’s format. I’d like an organizing system that allows me to keep each file in it’s original form. It that an issue for you?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      No, it really doesn’t bother me. With as many users as Evernote has, someone could profitably write a program to convert your Evernote database to the next big thing. Thanks.

  • Nadia McDonald

    This article is absolutely terrific! I loved how Michael broke down the effective tools of being an organized business person using evernotes. I have done lots of reading and training via webinars
    and blog postings. THIS post stands out because it meticulously outlines how to effectively manage time, dates, important calendars and so much more! It is crucial in the age of modern technology, advances in education and mobile apps to manage our time and investments!

  • Scott Bradley

    Great article Michael! It is so interesting how you treat it like a filing cabinet. I tend to use Evernote more as a dashboard for my life to help me get more done in less time, and accomplish stuff on my goals list.

    Have you seen any of my YouTube videos where I give people a glimpse into my Evernote setup one video at a time? I would love your feedback!

    Here is the link to the EvernoteScott YouTube channel!
    http://www.youtube.com/EvernoteScott

    I look forward to seeing what you think!

    -Scott

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Cool, Scott. I will check it out. Thanks.

      • Scott Bradley

        Cool! I look forward to seeing what you think!

        Also…some really cool news!

        I just found out that this EvernoteScott channel will be featured in the Evernote For Dummies Book launching on June 3rd from Wiley!

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          Excellent. Congratulations.

  • Al

    Michael,
    Thank you for all of you “tips”. I have desired templates and downloaded the packing list template which you previously shared. Will you consider providing guidance on creating and copying templates? Thank you, again. Al

  • iPad user

    One word of warning – this doesn’t work on the iOS version of Evernote because it does not display nested tags. So if you set this up on a laptop and and plan to also use it in Evernote on your iPad you will be sorely disappointed.

  • Jason

    First time commenter here, Michael, do you use Ever it’s on your iPad? Do you find this system has the same functionality on both your Mac and your iPad?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I do use Evernote on my iPad, but not much. Evernote for iOS does NOT currently show nested tags. All your tags will still be there and all your searches will still work, but you can’t graphically see the hierarchy. I really wish Evernote would fix this.

      • Jason

        Thanks for the quick reply. I’ve been following you for years. Really enjoy your insight.

  • Patti Weix

    Michael,

    Thank you for this perfectly timely post. I’m just getting into Ever note and it was starting to get overwhelming. Your suggestions are golden, as always. It is much easier to be intentional when you have a system.

  • Peter

    Michael, this is interesting, I had a similar system to yours with the 4 notebooks & (nested) tags organised into categories, albeit without carets. However, I still found the tag “management” cumbersome. I recently came across this article (http://www.degconsulting.net/2012/03/how-a-phd-student-uses-evernote-to-organize-his-life-with-one-notebook.html) by Christopher Mayo (aka Grumpy Monkey on Evernote forums, you probably know him better than I do) which was closer to what I was looking for.

    I have taken this and adapted it: the 1 notebook ((your Cabinet) I already had, but instead of having “keyword keyword keyword” as markers in the titles of notes I use what I call “short code title tags” or sctt consisting of just 2 or 3 letters. Examples: bg (=background), spv (=security & privacy), ef (=efficiency), doc (=document) & so on. One note can have more than 1 sctt, usually 2 & no more than 3, but that is a choice. I use sctt’s for every note, particularly those that already have a notable word in the title such as “Google”, “Evernote”, “Windows” that you get from clippings.

    I now have half the number of tags I had before, don’t have to think about nesting & these tags cannot get lost or deleted accidentally.

    As for Christopher’s system: I don’t use his manually added date because the “created date” is automatically added to each new note, and when he says he uses no tags that is not really true: his keywords in the titles are effectively tags.

    Bottom line: I am very happy with this system, it works well for me :-)

  • http://www.jasonfrasca.com/deconstructing-tech-blog/ Jason Frasca

    @mhyatt:disqus It is nice to see Tags finally catching on in the Evernote community. For quite some time I felt like the only advocate for Tags, sharing their power and flexibility while others insisted they were unnecessary.

    Your shift in organizing Evernote is dramatic. What prompted the switch from Notebooks to Tags? An epiphany? A blog post or article you read? Be curious to know what initiated the shift.

  • http://productivitypad.blogspot.com/ Ben Nielsen

    My evernote system is in Notebooks and Stacks, which seems to have worked well for school. But for things out of school it has not worked as well. I need to try something new and I think this is it. Thanks much for the post!

    • Frank Degenaar

      Hey Ben, I think I’m in the same boat as you. I think it’s possible to have the best of both worlds. That’s why it’s great to delve into both perspectives… maybe in one context you could work from the notebook list… and at other times from the tag list/ tree. One would obviously just collapse either the tag list or notebook list depending on what you’re focusing on. Haha, two (more or less) parallel universes. Maybe notes that are predominantly for school go from (according to Michael’s model) inbox after processing to specific notebooks (within a “school” stack… and all else unrelated could then move on to the “cabinet” after having been tagged.

  • Guest

    I tag every “Name” like this: -Hyatt. Michael. It helps me find quotes, poems, etc. by who said or wrote it. All names go under the -NAMES parent tag.

  • TrainerJames

    This is great, thanks Michael. I think the biggest contribution I could add to your system would be names. I am a quote and poem collector and I tag every “Name” like this: -Hyatt. Michael. It helps me find quotes, poems, etc. by who said or wrote it. All names go under the -NAMES parent tag.

    I have and .Inbox, .Cabinet, and a .Queue.

    My main categories are as follows:

    .Athletics – workouts and athletic endeavors
    .Business – My day job, my personal training consulting
    .Education – Platform University, Literature, College courses, Seminars and Conventions
    .Personal – Family, Friends, and items in my wallet
    .Platform – Blog, Podcasting, Novels, Speeches and Presentations

    I also have a notebook called .Queue where I put articles that I want to read during down time. When I read them, I file them.

    You are a valuable part of my growth as a writer and speaker. Thank you for what you put out into the world.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Great idea.

      I actually use a separate notebook for Speech Resources, because I share it with my team. I use these tags: anecdotes, illustrations, jokes, poems, quotes. I just put the source (the name) inside the note.
      I have someone who helps me do research, so they add to this notebook as they find stuff.
      Thanks.

  • http://www.twitter.com/danieldecker Daniel Decker

    Wow. This is awesome and may revolutionize how I’ve been using Evernote. Love this. Thanks.

  • http://bihanskyy.blogspot.com/ Yurko

    This post is very useful for me – I also organized a similar all like you. Thank you very much, my friend! :)

  • Mike

    This is great! Unfortunate that the iPhone client doesn’t preserve nested tags. :(

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, that’s true. I don’t typically access Evernote via tag view on iOS, so it really isn’t an issue for me. Hopefully, Evernote will fix this in an upcoming release. They do support nested tags on Android devices.

  • RAD

    Have you tried sharing notebooks, or even notes? I can’t begin to tell you the difficulty I had with tags not syncing, unable to be changed by those receiving the notebook. I’d be interested to find out how Evernote is working for those you are collaborating with?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I do it all the time. I am not experiencing any problems.

  • http://josuemolina.com/ Josue Molina

    Evernote just keeps getting better and better.

  • Guest

    I’m still creating individual notebook with multiple notes under them.

  • Norman Earls Jr

    I’m still naming individual notebooks, and creating individual notes as needed under the notebook. I store multiple notebooks in a stack if I need to. After reading this post, however, it’s made me think about trying something different. I might experiment, have to look at it and see. Thanks again for a thought-provoking post, though.

  • http://www.snoringscholar.com/ Sarah Reinhard

    Michael, I’ve followed your Evernote series closely over the years, and have become quite the addict. One question for you, as I use many shared notebooks: how do you manage the shared tags idea in a shared notebook? I haven’t quite cracked the nut that is figuring out how to use that aspect.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      If I initiate the note, then I use my tags. If someone else tags it, I have a tag collection called .shared. I dumb any shared tags from others there, so they don’t gunk up my system.

  • B-man

    I understand that Evernote has the advantage of allowing access to documents on multiple devices, but I usually do all my work on a single laptop. Regarding using Evernote as a digital filing cabinet, what are the advantages of Evernote over simply saving documents on a laptop hard drive? Paper documents can be scanned to PDF and saved to the hard drive instead of to Evernote. Is the tagging and annotation process a significant benefit for someone who only accesses their documents on a single device? The search function on Windows is pretty outstanding these days, so it is easy to find any document on my hard drive in a quick search.

  • Peter

    Michael, this is interesting, I had a similar system to yours with the 4 notebooks & (nested) tags organised into categories, albeit without carets. However, I still found the tag “management” cumbersome. I recently came across this article (http://www.degconsulting.net/2012/03/how-a-phd-student-uses-evernote-to-organize-his-life-with-one-notebook.html) by Christopher Mayo (aka Grumpy Monkey on Evernote forums, you probably know him better than I do) which was closer to what I was looking for.

    I have taken this and adapted it: the 1 notebook (your Cabinet) I already had, but instead of having “keyword keyword keyword” as markers in the titles of notes I use what I call “short code title tags” or sctt consisting of just 2 or 3 letters. Examples: bg (=background), spv (=security & privacy), ef (=efficiency), doc (=document) & so on. One note can have more than 1 sctt, usually 2 & no more than 3, but that is a choice. I use sctt’s for every note, particularly those that already have a notable word in the title such as “Google”, “Evernote”, “Windows” that you get from clippings. And 90% of my searches can be done with “intitle”.

    I now have half the number of tags I had before, don’t have to think about nesting & these tags cannot get lost or deleted accidentally.

    As for Christopher’s system: I don’t use his manually added date because the “created date” is automatically added to each new note, and when he says he uses no tags that is not really true: his keywords in the titles are effectively tags.

    Bottom line: I am very happy with this system, it works well for me :-)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      The key thing is to find a system that works for you. If this one does it, awesome.

  • cmac2020

    I use aNOTE (Awesome note) for iPad and link it to my Evernote app.

    The synergy is powerful;simple in design and execution.

    Together they’re better! That’s all I need to keep my daily data flow under control.

  • cmac2020

    I use aNOTE (Awesome note) for iPad and link it to my Evernote app.

    The synergy is powerful;simple in design and execution.

    Together they’re better! That’s all I need to keep my daily data flow under control.

  • fredcastagnac

    Great tips. I’ve been using Evernote for more than 3 years now and I never reached the 250 notebooks limitations…! I even didn’t know about it.

    I really use Evernote as my external brain, I clip websites, I take notes, I upload picture, I also love my Evernote Moleskine to save my notes on the go. I don’t really use the notebooks nor the tags, thanks to the search bar I find everything I’m looking for in my Evernote.

    Afterwards I share my content with my team on Azendoo (integrated to Evernote) to manage all the actions with have to do with my team (http://appcenter.evernote.com/apps). I create tasks and add my notes to those tasks. I post comments in dedicated subject and attached my notes to share my ideas. It’s the best way to get organized!

  • Fedja

    Wow, this is so neat that I might actually have to give a new shot.

  • Deb

    Any tips/tricks on getting from one system to the other? You mentioned it took some work…was it just simply figuring out your tags and applying them or did you have to do some additional steps?

  • DB Cherry

    Where do you keep your ‘To Do List’ or Next Action Items list?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I use Nozbe.

  • Frank Degenaar

    Hi Michael, I’ve been tinkering around with your ideas the last couple of days… there are some fantastic advantages to nesting tags… obviously. I’m just having difficulty deciding where to nest many tags that have notes associated with them AND other tags too. Do you have any examples of notes that have multiple tags associated and where you might nest each tag? I’m talking about notes with tags that don’t necessarily fit into the same nested branch of the tree, if that makes any sense. Is your setup mostly to give structure/ hierarchy to note categories that have one tag associated with them, or does it lend itself to the idea of a sort of spontaneous organic tagging for some notes?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I’m not sure I follow you, Frank. I try to use as many tags as is necessary but no more than I have to.
      For example, I had a call with my trademark attorney last week, I attached the following tags to the note I created: “meeting notes,” ”^lannie (his name),” “get noticed! theme,” “platform university,” “life plan manifesto.”
      The “meeting notes” tag is nested under my “.reference” tag collection. The ”^lannie” tag is nested under the “.who” collection. The last three are nested under “.what => .work => .products” and then the type of product.
      This all takes a hundred times longer to explain that to do, but hope that helps.

      • Frank Degenaar

        Perfect example, thanks! So the various tags you used for that specific note may be arranged in different branches (sections) of your nested tags hierarchy… Not necessarily all under one “lineage” so to speak… And in using multiple tags you are able to find it in multiple contexts. That makes sense. I thought that maybe you were leveraging tags to sort of achieve a notebooks within notebooks within notebooks structure… But you are also taking advantage of the inherent power tags have… That of multiple contexts. I think this example will be useful to others here too. Thanks for fleshing this out!

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          You are welcome, Frank.

  • Daniel Hedrick

    This is a great post, Michael. I currently have everything set up in notebooks and stacks, lightly peppered with tags. Like you, I prefer the many-to-many relationships, but with 11,000 notes currently organized in stacks and notebooks, the thought of converting to a tag system is overwhelming. How long did the process of moving from notebooks to tags take you?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      It only took a couple of weeks. I explain how I did it in the comments above.

      • Daniel Hedrick

        My apologies–I did find the comment where you explain how you transitioned. Thanks!

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          No problem. Glad you found it.

  • Bill Baumgart

    So I’m tracking with how you’re using tags to create the nesting hierarchy (truly brilliant Michael!) Allowing you to see any note, anywhere it correlates to any category. To what extent are you now using additional descriptive tags beyond these organizational ones? Definers that help you further search your actual content later based on other criteria? Or do you just rely on the organic search capability within Evernote? Not necessarily relevant for something straight ahead like an event, but perhaps research content that is rich with alternate use potential for varied applications.

    BLESSINGS! Bill

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I don’t really use any additional tags, Bill. If there are words that I think I might use later in searching that aren’t in the article, I just insert those in the first line of the note. Then I rely on Evernote’s organic search ability. Thanks.

      • Bill Baumgart

        Makes total sense on search. So I’m midstream migrating to this system. One concept I am still hazy on “Tags can be nested into multiple hierarchies”. I can’t seem to make this happen as only able to nest a single tag somewhere within one hierarchy. Can you elaborate?

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          Just drag the child tag onto the parent tag. It should then nest underneath.

          • Bill Baumgart

            Yes it does, but then physically moves it from one hierarchy to the other. How do you nest one tag in more than one hierarchy? So that the same tag appears both in a “.what” hierarchy and a “.who” hierarchy?

          • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

            Ah, got it. You can’t do that.

      • Noel Ward

        Good question Bill. Michael, am I correct in thinking that you use only one tag per note? If yes does this present you with any problems when searching back through past years/events etc.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          No, I use as many tags as I need in a given situation. For example, if I am in a meeting taking notes, and we discuss three projects, I will add the tag for each project. Thanks.

  • jonnymatthew

    Brilliant post, Michael, as always; thank you! Are you aware that the photo doesn’t have the photographer’s name in the credit line?… Cheers, Jonny.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Good catch! I have added his name. Thanks.

      • jonnymatthew

        No worries – itching to get my hands on GetNoticed now! :-) Cheers, J.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          That’s music to my ears! It won’t be long.

  • Ron Kastens

    Hi Michael,

    I’m grateful for the coaching your provide regarding Evernote (and other things). I wish there was a very easy way to “save” posts like this one into Evernote for future reference. I know there is “Clip to Evernote,” but I wish there was an icon at the top of the post – like the ones to share on Facebook or Twitter, print, or email – that we could click on and automatically save the content of the post into Evernote. Perhaps there is already something like this or perhaps I’m just nuts. :-)

    Thanks again for the great ideas,
    Ron

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, there is. I used it for a while, but it rarely got used. It just wasn’t worth the real estate.
      I would encourage you to use the web clipper. I use it numerous times a day. Then you can use it, not only on my site but every site.
      Thanks.

  • Joshua Sheats

    This is really useful. I was looking at the older version of this article and didn’t find it very useful. This is much better!

  • D. Matthew Facer

    Thank you for this article! I have been using Evernote, but knew that I was heading down a path that was going to leave me with a mess on my hands. One issue I’ve had since trying to implement this system is with tags from our Business account. I cannot drag them under another tag to create a “.shared” collection. Is there a solution for this, or will these just have to be listed individually under Tags?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Hmm. I am not sure about that. You might check the Evernote forum.

  • http://lifeupfront.com/ Jeff Waters

    Thanks for sharing, Michael. I use nested tags, too. It appears there is no concept of “rollup” with them… I would naturally expect that if you click on a top level tag, all notes from all child tags under it would show.

    Do you know if there is a setting to make that happen?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      No, I am afraid not. They aren’t functional in that sense. They are simply a way to organize your own thinking. (Not that I would be opposed to what you are suggesting!)

  • SooBrett

    Michael I could hug you! Thank you so much for spelling out a workable solution. I’m still at the multiple notebooks with nesting stage. I use multiple tags too, but had not figured out that I could nest them. Can’t wait to put your ideas into practice. Now I just need a similar solution for my emailing and bookmarking messes and I’m sorted!

  • Stephen Gordon

    Just wanted to say thanks so much for this super helpful post! I use Evernote for everything but it had gotten out of hand! I took your organization suggestions and made a mind map. Just finished re-structuring! Thanks for taking the time to write out such detailed suggestions!

  • Brendan Sullivan

    This was really helpful. I have been using evernote for years, but not seriously. The move of contact scanning from CardMunch to Evernote forced me to take it a lot more seriously, and I was just getting into the nested notebook issue. The tagging scheme is great.

  • The Math Magazine

    You seem to be very knowledgeable about Evernote. I am fairly new to it. I noticed that when I share a notebook via “send by email” that I am losing my original formatting. For example, I may have created the note in a 12 pt font but when the note arrives to the designated email, it is in a 7pt font. So now I have to go in and “fix” which takes away from the efficiency of using the program. Any suggestions?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I am not sure. I just send a public link to the note.

  • Lee Radford

    Thanks for this post. I just reorganized my Evernote around these principles. Have you written a post about how you use Dropbox? Now that my Evernote is organized I am realizing that my Dropbox needs an overhaul.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      No, I am afraid I haven’t. Thanks.

  • Workislove

    Thanks a lot for this post. I’ve been struggling with yet another re-arrangement of my notebooks. I’d thought about using tags, but didn’t know where to get started – this gives me some good ideas on how to make my own oragnization system.

  • Sinan Serdar

    Thank you Micheal, excellent article!

    I think using labels as we do actually reveals how better the software could be.

    I use a similar organization. Just wondering your thoughts about those potential evolutions.

    What if it was:

    – possible to create CATEGORIES of labels (instead of using caret character)
    – possible to use those CATEGORIES for all notebooks or specific ones only
    (Wouldn’t you then use more than two notebooks? I am currently using 2 too)

    – a distinction between labels CATEGORIZED vs “ON-THE-GO”
    ( have been designed and +/- fixed ) vs (that may be created randomly once in a while)

    – possible to visualize/organize the labels CATEGORIZED differently.
    (i don’t like the display when i want a big picture of all my labels, sorting alphabetically only is a bit weak)
    – an INTUITIVE AND PERSONAL SCREEN to TAG the notes
    (displaying all the concerned labels as we designed it, through a mind map or a presentation for instance)

    – a way to archive/delete/PURGE notes automatically based on our knowledge when creating it
    (ex: i may want to recall about wallpaper until the room of my son is finished, then do not need them in my cabinet. Today i know in 6 months the room will be finished, so i select a lifetime of 6 months, doesn’t have to be precise)

    Thanks,
    Sinan

    • Sinan Serdar

      also a remark thinking about notes shared within a team.

      it is i think REALLY HARD to use this method in that case. Because you have to remember well how the TEAM is thinking the tagging.

      Defining rules and making everybody in the team understand the tags architecture and categories logic would be the only way this TAGGING-SORTING could work..? But even then i am sure some people in the team would be frustrated as others are not tagging how they would have done.

      Because notes are in a single notebook with potentially infinite tags does not mean tag is always the solution. this add complexity in a way.

      But of course i am absolutely convinced about the power of tags

      • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

        In my experience, you just have to train people how you want it done. It is really no different from a physical filing system in that regard.

        • Sinan Serdar

          Thank you. Yes i agree with that!

          What about the categories/group of labels that u could manage at a notebook level? Do you think that would help you?

  • http://greghickman.me Greg Hickman

    I implemented this a few days ago and searching for things is soooooo much easier! Loving this method and pumped to have adopted it. I’m going to tweak it a bit for some of my own little style but this is a great foundation.

    Thanks Michael!

  • Alex Wilson

    Michael,
    The idea for using tags was a game changer for me – almost. I hit a snag and was wondering if you have this issue and how you work around it. I set up cascaded tags like you did. Works great on my Mac and Windows clients. However it fails on the iPad and iPhone, both of which I use pretty heavily with Evernote. The tags do not show up on theose platforms in a cascaded format. They are lumped together in alphabetical order, so all my special tags like – or * or ! end up at the top, with the others falling in order after that. They are not cascaded at all.

    In order to find documents with a particular tag, I have to recall the spelling of the tag so I can search for them. Not the fastest way to go about it. Evernote support did not offer much help… any thoughts?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Unfortunately, that is a snag. I don’t use Evernote much on those devices, so it doesn’t bother me. Supposedly, Evernote on Android does show cascading tags, so I am hoping Evernote brings it to other mobile devices. Sorry about that.

      • Alex Wilson

        I will hope for that level of support on the iPhone and iPad soon! In the meantime, I will limp along because the tag idea is much more useful than my stacked note books and carries over to Evernote Business much easier.
        One of the limits I found with Business was that you could not easily move notes into it via email or applets in the browser because it looks to your personal folders, not the business folders. At least with tags, you won’t have that problem. I hope!

  • Guy G.

    Thank you for this great and very useful article. Based on this I stared to clean up my system and wanted to move all tags from shared Notebooks into a parent tag (same as you’re “.shared”-tag). However, I can’t move “external” tags at all – can you share how you did it?! I’m working with EN on Windows 7. Thank you.

  • Jason Haas

    Michael

    Great information. This is very helpful, and probably like many others, quite opposite of how I have my Evernote organized. However, much of what you said makes sense, especially if it allows me to index/search my notes quicker. I will definitely look into implementing a structure similar to this. Thanks for sharing! I’ve already saved your post to “evernote.” :)

  • Grant Wesley Parks

    I have a question about the tag hierarchies. If I had ^john under .who, wouldn’t I have to tag a note about him with both tags to get anything useful in the “container” tag, .who? It looks like my Evernote doesn’t attach the “implied” parent tag. Which would be an awesome semantic feature.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I never use the parent tag in notes. I just use them as a way of organizing my tags. Thanks.

  • Dick Butter

    Hi, Michael.
    Very helpful hint. But is there a way to include all child-tags when searching for the top level tag?
    Let’s say „cooking“ is the top level with „meat“, „soup“ „vegetables“ etc as second level tags. When I search for tag:cooking I will find nothing but would like to find all the entries with „meat“, „soup“ …

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      No, I’m afraid not. The hierarchy is strictly visual for purposes of organizing. You could, however, search for notes that have any of those tags and then save the search. Thanks.

  • http://socialyze.ca jamiedefined

    Hi Michael, I’ve followed your various workflows for quite some time, and when I read about this new Evernote structure I was floored because I had just recently made the same change myself!

    I had over 2000 notes scattered across 78 notebooks, and I dreaded having to find something! To remedy the situation I started a new account and immediately decided on a minimal notebook structure with a “tagging protocol” that stretched beyond Evernote, into Mavericks, Pocket, etc.

    It looks like this:

    .area of focus

    /subtopic

    :project

    #description

    ^collection

    I then created a shared notebook between the old and new accounts, and I’m slowly adding the relevant notes as needed, and tagging them accordingly.

    I believe this is the ONLY way in which to ensure a long lasting, happy relationship with Evernote, and I’m glad you were able to share it with your audience.

    Thanks, for sharing.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for sharing, Jamie.

  • Annette

    Michael, thanks for this. It’s an interesting and useful structure. I’m having one problem, however. Can you, please, clarify how you put Shared tags under .Shared? They don’t seem to want to move. Thanks.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      You just click and drag them over the parent tag.

      • Annette

        Thanks for getting back to me, but that doesn’t work for me. As soon I drag to the parent tag, I get a “can’t copy here” pointer. It works for every other tag, just not for the shared ones. Any ideas why I might be having problems with it?

  • http://www.kevinbradberry.net/ Kevin Bradberry

    Fairly ingenious system. Makes me want to dig back into Evernote. Thanks.

  • Fernando Diniz

    Michael, thank you. I use Evernote since 2008 (and I really use it since 2011), but I didn’t know it is possible to organize tags in blocks. It’s very useful

  • Jeff Krueger

    I ‘clipped’ this article and just got around to reading it today. After reading I went from 27 notebooks to 2 and cleaned up my Tags. This makes way more sense. I’m using ZenDone with Evernote and this makes processing so much easier. Thank you.

  • http://www.bluehivehost.com bluehivehost

    Thank you so much for sharing your Evernote organization system. I’ve never been a “hard core” Evernote user, but I am trying to get my system for organizing my thoughts and goals established. I started off using Notebooks as well – it just felt natural. However, now that I’ve discovered how you are handling it, it makes sense to not use a bunch of notebooks. Thanks again for the great post!

  • http://www.sundijo.com/ Sundi Jo Graham

    I’d love to learn more about the Book Net Outs.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I wrote an entire post on it. Enjoy!

  • http://johnjustinirvine.com johnjustinirvine

    I spent some time rebuilding my Evernote system into this methodology, and I really enjoy it. It makes recall much better, and endless notebooks weren’t really helping me stay as organized as I wanted to be. I did add one top-level tag category though, “.where,” with sub-tags like “ny-new york” and “il-chicago” to keep location-specific items at the ready, like restaurants I want to try, which BBQ place has the best brisket, photos of landmarks I’ve visited, or notes about which Starbucks has the shortest line in Terminal C. I’ve found the location grouping to be very handy for travelers, both for places I’ve been and places I want to go when I’m in a city.

  • http://levikoenig.com Levi Koenig

    Love this! My Evernote has turned into a big pile of papers…exactly what I was trying to get away from. This system is great, am switching over to it today.

  • leejennatyler

    Hi Michael. I have been with Evernote since it was geeky to know what it was, but I never developed a system as complex (in a good way ;p) as yours. I had notebooks and stacks but several years ago started using tags as the organizational structure and putting all notes into ‘Collections’. This has worked for me and it takes one step away from saving notes (ie: picking a notebook). (I wish I could remember the man that gave me that tip. It was in a YouTube video.)

    I don’t have a business account with Evernote, though I wish I could afford it because the team is so great, but this has worked for me. The autosave function in Evernote often reminds me of tags that I should use for later “search & seizure”.

    Thanks for all that you and your team does. I am ever-grateful.

  • Guest

    Can you elaborate on what you mean by the reference tag?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      It’s just a container tag that I use for reference materials. I put other tags under it. These kinds of tags are different than, for example, project tags.

  • Guest

    Hi! Thank You so much for this post! It really just helped me start over with all my notebooks, and so far, it’s going well! However – and this may seem like a stupid question – is there a reason for the punctuation marks and carrots? Thanks.

    • Guest

      Never mind. Sorry about that. Since there were a lot, it took me a while to figure it out though you mentioned it.

  • Tobias

    Hi Michael,

    thanks for this great article.
    I have re-structured my Evernote according to your idea some month ago, but now I find there are two big problems:

    1. the android and iOS app is not good to work with when you structure your notes with tags only
    2. what are you doing with notes you want to keep offline available? notebooks can be set to offline, but tags cannot.

    Best regards from Hamburg, Germany
    Tobias

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      You are right: tag hierarchies don’t translate to mobile devices. I hope Evernote will fix this. I don’t use Evernote often on my mobile device, so it hasn’t been a problem. My tags seem to fine offline on my Mac. Thanks.

      • Brennan Davis

        I’ve found that my tag hierarchy translates extremely well to the Android version of Evernote. It’s way better than the notebook view. I just click on Tags from my main screen, and it shows me all my top level tags, and off to the side of each one it has what tags are underneath. I’m able to see my organization at a glance, where before with notebooks I had to open stacks to see what was underneath, and stacks don’t automatically close, so things got messy quickly. The easier navigation on my Android device is one of the biggest reasons why I enjoy this system of tagging notes so much.

      • disqus_t2ZwHGMfV5

        The lack of tag hierarchies on iOS is something that’s long bothered me, too, and (reading through all the comments above) I’m glad to see I’m far from the only one. I found a decent workaround, though, in a third-party Evernote iOS client called Clever (and Clever HD for the iPad version). It’s a little quirky, but it does properly show nested tags in the “Tags” view. For those into iOS automation (like with Launch Center Pro), it’s also got a very extensive URL scheme system, which is nice. For those two reasons, I use it alongside the official Evernote app as needed.

        Thought I’d mention that for those who use both iOS and Evernote tag hierarchies extensively (or would like to).

  • David Andrade

    Here’s how I use Evernote: http://educationaltechnologyguy.blogspot.com/2013/12/my-workflow-as-cio-includes-heavy-use.html

    I also noticed that the limits have changed:

    Note Size: Free: 25 mb, Premium: 100 mb, Business: 100 mb

    Maximum size of an attachment: Free: 25 mb, Premium: 100 mb, Business: 100 mb

    Number of Notes: Free: 100,000 notes, Premium: 100,000 notes, Business: 500,000 notes (each account)

    Tags: 100 Tags per note, 100,000 tags per account

    I have Premium and 7700 notes, 250 notebooks and over 500 tags. It is my main work and personal tool.

  • Brennan Davis

    Wow, this system is great. I’d found myself bogged down with how many notebooks and stacks I had, and was getting frustrated on where to put certain notes that fit into several different notebooks. I’ve totally revamped my system based on your suggestions in this post. I now only have one notebook (Filing Cabinet) and every note has at least one tag. I have some tags that go about 3 levels deep (I try not to go deeper than that). Tags are much easier to navigate in the Android version of Evernote, so now I’m able to find what I’m looking for much faster. Thanks for the great tip!

  • http://sheldonorme.com/ Sheldon Orme

    I have used Evernote for years but have struggled to capture everything I want effectively. I just implemented your tagging system and already feel less stressed. Thank you for the great post!

  • agaily

    Michael,
    Love your podcasts, blogposts! I’ve set up my evernote system very similar to yours. Basically using the Secret Weapon tagging system as the foundation while personalizing it to my life as you have done. My question for you and others is…
    Is it necessary to have separate notebooks within your “cabinet”? Or does proper tagging suffice? Clues to how other set up their cabinet would be helpful. Thanks so much for your time.

  • Mariano

    great post. Thank you very much, I was struggling and trying to understand how to use it efficiently.

  • BrettFL

    So if you have a single notebook with 1000’s of notes now tagged that used to be scattered in several notebooks some of which were shared with co-wokers or family members, How do you share with them without sharing the entire notebook that may have notes in it that you don’t want shared.

  • Rocky Kev

    My biggest issue with evernote is that it’s search function is incredibly basic. Searching for anything has become a huge chore. I tried your system 2 years ago, and then I tried it again last year. This is the third attempt at making my evernote work for me.

    Every attempt, I’ve gotten a bit closer to the perfect organization method. I’m going to keep on at it!

  • Paco

    Hi Michael

    Thank you very much for your comments on Evernote, I’m still not a heavy user but I am increasing its use so your posts are very useful for me.

    I also started using notebooks but after reading your post I am moving to tags, trying not to replicate the same structure. I have a couple of questions about tag organization: how many tags should a note hold? is there a recommended maximum?

    As I’m working for two different organizations, should any note related to org1 hold “org1″ tag and the same for org2? This will lead to a great number of notes under org1 then classified by other tags in the note. Is this the way to use tags?

    And then, as I still like notebooks. I now have a stack named “org1-projects” with a notebook for any project. Should I retain this structure or just put any org1 note in its own org1-notebook?

    Thanks again

    Paco

  • http://adamwren.me/ Adam Wren

    Michael, love the post. I’ve come back to it a few times since you first posted it. One thing I can’t figure out: How did you eliminate your previous notebooks without deleting the notes in them?

    • disqus_t2ZwHGMfV5

      If I may pitch in, you just need to move your notes out of the notebook you want to delete and into one you’re keeping. Your old notebook now stands empty, ready for removal, while your notes are safe and sound in their new notebook. The tags associated with each note are unaffected by the move.

  • Sam

    Thank you for this article. I recently started a professional program and needed a way to organize in class notes in addition to notes taken with my livescribe pen and so far your system is working wonders for me!

  • James Grossi

    Michael,

    Thanks for sharing how your system is set up… Do you think that you could elaborate more on how you use characters such as periods and carats?

    Thanks!

    James

  • Jawaid

    How will you compare Evernote with Microsoft OneNote? The best thing about MS OneNote is you can start typing anywhere on the note just like on a real paper. But I’ve seen Evernote is the number one note taking app right now and I’m in the transition phase to come to Evernote. One reason is that Evernote is on my mobile as well while OneNote app is not available.

  • MiniEmpire

    I just reorganised my entire Evernote. Lifechanging. I use Evernote to keep a track of many types of data, this makes so much more sense to my brain.

  • Simone Gimelli

    Really useful, I was not aware of tag hierarchy. I’m going to change from notebooks to tags.

  • http://www.leadbychoice.co/ Kimunya Mugo

    I am hooked on Evernote Michael! Writing my blog posts, meeting notes, my new book outline, leadership coaching program… It is awesome as I have my notes, thoughts and ideas with me every time. From computer to tablet to smartphone. It’s like I never miss a beat :)

    Your system looks awesome. I haven’t got to this level but I am soon getting there at the rate I am going. Thank you for always adding value to me.

  • http://roborr.net/ Rob Orr

    This may have been even better the second time reading this – I love your Evernote stuff! I have question – what KINDS of things would you store under your reference tag? One thing that I know you’ve mentioned is using Evernote for blogging, but I don’t see anything mentioned here about how you store your blogging notes or categorize them. If you ever have time I’d love to see how you’re doing that. I’ve been experimenting Google Drive for blogging a bit more, but I’m thinking it probably needs to live back in Evernote.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      “Reference” is a an overarching category for me. I put everything in there that I would have put years ago in a traditional filing cabinet: anything I might want to reference later. It could be “code snippets,” “medications,” “workflows,” or even “wines” that I like. With regard to blogging, I use a tag called, “post ideas” and one called “posted.” I still do the actual writing in Scrivener. When I have ann idea, I post it as a post idea. Once I have written that post, I add the posted tag. Hope that helps.

  • http://authorbrianlknack.wordpress.com Brian L. Knack

    I’ve just started with Evernote and am SOOOO thankful for this post! I’m going to borrow your basic system to get myself organized. Thank you again so much for this. A definite God send!

  • http://ThisMomsDelight.com/ Tami – This Mom’s Delight

    I’ve decided I want to use Evernote for more things, so that I have LESS productivity tools to organize. :) LOL I love the way you organize your tags. I was having trouble coming up with a filing system for my Notebooks. Thanks, Michael!