How to Organize Evernote for Maximum Efficiency

Please note: The way I organize Evernote today is completely different than what I wrote here. You can find my updated methodology here.

I have been using Evernote for months. However, I have not really taken time to explore the depth of this incredible program until just recently. I have mainly just used it for a place to store meeting notes and an occasional web clipping.

Files in a Horizontal Filing Cabinet - Photo courtesy of ©, Image #11346887

Photo courtesy of ©

However, thanks to Brett Kelly’s very helpful e-book, Evernote Essentials, the Evernote user forum, and a little experimentation, I have begun to see the incredible power of this digital repository. So much so, then I am committed to going paperless in my new office setup.

It all begins by establishing a solid organizational structure. Evernote doesn’t require one, but, based on my personal experience you won’t realize the full power of this tool without one. You need to give some thought to how you want to structure your notebooks, “stacks,” and tags.

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.

First, let’s define some terms:

  • Notebooks: These are collections of individual notes. Theoretically, you could just have one notebook and dump everything into it. But most people will want to establish different notebooks for different “areas of focus.”
  • Stacks: These are collections of notebooks. For example, you could have a stack called “Work” that has separate notebooks for each client, project, or area of responsibility.
  • Tags: These are attributes that you can apply to any individual note. You can then view all notes with a specific tag, regardless of which notebook it resides in. This provides for the ultimate in filing flexibility, though it can be confusing at times. (I still get confused about whether something should be a notebook or a tag.)

I tend to think of stacks and notebooks as a vertical (or hierarchical) way of organizing, and tags as a horizontal (or lateral) way of organizing. To use the metaphor of a filing cabinet, think of stacks as individual drawers, notebooks as the files within the drawers, and tags as a way of identifying common attributes regardless of what folder or drawer the note is in.

For example, you might “tag” a piece of paper within a folder by printing invoices on yellow paper. With Evernote, it’s much more simple, because each note can have multiple tags. So, for example, I have some notes in my Receipts notebook that are tagged “tax deductible” and others that are tagged “reimbursable.”

Perhaps my current structure—which is still a work in process—will serve as an example. Here are my stacks and notebooks. Bear with me. The list is a little long.

Evernote stacks and notebooks

I created this list by first asking myself, “What are my primary areas of focus?” The highest level stacks or notebooks are that list. Note that “!Inbox” is my default notebook. This is where I put random items until I know exactly where I should file them. (The exclamation point ensures that this notebook is first in the sorted list.)

Note that I had to divide Work into several stacks, all with the prefix “Work.” This is simply because Evernote doesn’t currently allow the nesting of stacks. (Note to Evernote developers: please consider this as a feature request.)

Here are my current tags:

Evernote tags

It is tempting to tag every note with a several tags. However, I broke myself of that habit once I realized that Evernote indexes every word in every note. So if you have a great quote on “purpose,” for example, you don’t need to tag the note with “purpose,” so long as the word appears in the note. This only adds more clutter. The key is to remember that less is more.

Once you get your basic structure, the fun really begins. (Okay, maybe this is a stretch.) I hope to post soon on how I get stuff into Evernote. This is where the versatility of the tool really shines.

Questions: How do you organize Evernote? Where do you see that I could improve my organization? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Leah Adams

    This is very helpful. I have just begun using Evernote and need to expand my notebooks and tags a bit. This gives me a great guide on how I can use Evernote MORE effectively!!!! Thank you so much.

  • Geek for Him

    Wow great stuff Michael. I must say when I reach more than 5 notes I will use this hahaha

  • David Santistevan

    Wow. Looking at the amount of notebooks you have is overwhelming :) Do you find that to be a mental barrier for you when you review Evernote during a weekly review or does it make the process easier? I currently have about 8-9 notebooks and don’t utilize tags. After reading this, I’m considering getting a bit more detailed.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Now, because it is organized the way my brain thinks of these topics. Thanks.

      • Talshiatsu

        Hello, so what is your system now?
        paper or evernote?
        im trying to work with evernote but i feel that im loosing my creative side, something with the pen open a different level in me. make sense?

        • tufelhundin

          then use one of the moleskine evernote journals, notebooks or sketchbooks

          • Michael Hyatt

            I still use Evernote. Thanks.

    • Jeff Randleman

      I think each to his own.

      I’ve read several comments that are shocked that people can use so many, and encourage others to use only one or two, relying on the search feature.

      For me, my mind needs to be more organized than that. I uuse about 25 notebooks so far. Even though the serach feature will find what I need and fast, I still feel better about it becaus ethe note or file is in the right place.

    • Karen

      Interesting comment..I thought the same.  I’m a heavy EN user (2000+ notes) and I’ve found that less-is-more when it comes to notebooks..and to rely much much more on tags to organize things.  That was a reverse from how I started out, but I quickly noticed that I would be frustrated browsing a notebook looking for a note when I was “sure” that it was in there..and it was instead in another notebook.  Now I stick a huge % of notes in my Catch-All notebook and tag them..or just rely on text search to find them.  

      I also find that my needs change over time: like a notebook dedicated to a client or a project, which is now over, can be “archived” by creating a tag with the old-notebook-name and throwing them all into Catch-All.  Keeps the sidebar from being cluttered with non-used or infrequently-used notebooks.
      The great part about EN is “to each his own” – it has the flexibility to be set up anyway you want, and with text search, there’s really no way to file something into oblivion.  

      • Peter Fabian

        I’m also using lots of tags vs lots of notebooks–trying now to determine which might be better

        Do multiple tags of a note help you–right now i’m scrolling down through my tag list–there are more than a few (~200 ) 

        I just am looking at organizing both from a perspective of how I think and as a way streamline what it was I was thinking–as the search function brings up a lot of notes


        • Karen

          I do use multiple tags sometimes (I have maybe 50-60 tags for those 2500 notes).  But I try not to over-tag either.  Basically, I try to apply this thought process:  if there is a topic/category that I think I’ll want to browse through…then I’ll go ahead and create a tag.  If it’s not something I’ll browse through (and I’ll just want to put my hands right on it, then I’ll rely on EN’s excellent text searching to do that).  Tags are virtual drawers.  If you want to browse through a drawer, create the tag.  Otherwise, it’s very likely that your memory + EN’s text search will allow you to put your hands on the document sufficiently fast enough to not bother w a tag.

          Would love to hear what other people think & do regarding tags and notebooks. Always like to learn from others’ workflows!

          • Shirley

            I use notebooks primarily.
              A-Medical Research

            This first stack of notebooks contain my tasks and because they are in Action notebooks, they are sorted by category.  I review this group of notebooks at least once per week and add to the title “Atop” to those items I need to do in the next few days.  When search “Atop” I have a list ready to go sorted by category.

            The rest of my notebooks contain reference material (notes, internet site links, relevant emails).  I’ll use Entertainment as an example:

              E-Books to read

            Within these notebooks, I’ll name the individual notes category specific also.  E-Television notes will start with “Etv,” so I never have to go to that specific notebook if I don’t want to, but rather just search Etv and they’ll all pop up.
            In my People notebook, I have notes devoted to different people in my life and all those notes begin with their name with a P in front to filter searching.  Example:


            Searching pBetty, I come up with Betty’s files in the People notebook and not every time Betty is mentioned in all my notes.  

            Searching capabilities of this program is so powerful.

  • SoloBizCoach


    I think your filing cabinet metaphor for explaining stacks, notebooks and tags is one of the best descriptions I have seen. I use Evernote a lot, but I have not organized it in a way that really helps me. I hope that this guide helps me with that.

    “To use the metaphor of a filing cabinet, think of stacks as individual drawers, notebooks as the files within the drawers, and tags as a way of identifying common attributes regardless of what folder or drawer the note is in.”

    • Michael Hyatt

      I have to have metaphors to understand the world. I think the language of “notebooks” was throwing me off a bit I think the language of drawers, folders, and files would be more helpful, but I doubt that Evernote will change that anytime soon!

      • Jeff Randleman

        I know that metaphor helped me as well. Thanks!

      • Mitchell Allen

        First, thanks for this awesome post. I found you a bit down in the Google “stack” lol.
        I actually love the notebook metaphor because, in my pre-computer days, I used to buy a dozen notebooks at a time and use one for each project.

        The two things I hated about paper notebooks have been eliminated by Evernote:
        Lost notebooks (wah!!!)
        Buried content (due to my random scribbling in the books)

        I’m project-oriented, developing software, board games and fiction. Your tutorial just saved me from a major tag disaster.

        The search capability is awesome! I had no idea, since I already “know” where everything is, I hadn’t needed to use it for more than locating a notebook.

        Anyway, I’ve clipped your handy reference and added it to Evernote. I’ll be back! ;)



      • Becky Williams

        I’m thinking cabinet/drawers/files.
         Maybe it sounds too “old fashion” because  with digitization we will not have cabinets much longer, but with kindle we may not have “stacks” of “notebooks” either.

      • Chris Coussens

        A thought on the metaphor… Tags are like an index, or card catelog

      • Susan_pinicday

        Thx for your article, I actually do have an enormous amnt of physical stacks of notebooks all around my home office, like for gardening, nutrition , finances, computer info, travel, etc so I do relate to the nomenclature of stacks and notebooks. But I still found your article very helpful. Tags is throwing me off a bit

  • Anonymous

    I just took a few minutes to add a few more stacks to my Evernote notebook list. Should help in retrieving some more information.

  • Joe Abraham

    I am new to using Evernote. I saw a post on it, installed it and checked it out. But, honestly, I found it as confusing! May be it’s that I am new to its style and format.

    I like learning new things which helps me do things faster and smarter. And this post motivates me to try it out one again!

    Thank you.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I think the organization is the key to usability. Also Brett Kelly’s e-book was enormously helpful.

      • Joe Abraham

        That’s true. Structuring works. Let me use that key to break the lock!

  • Anonymous

    I downloaded Evernote and have been popping things in. I made Notebooks but didn’t know about Stacks. Also I like the !Inbox because things kept popping into the first notebook on my list and then I had to find it. We put our house up for sale by owner; a lot of information needed to be written, sorted and stored and Evernote worked well.
    Thanks again,

  • Dr. Brad Semp

    Hey Michael –

    Great post! Many years ago as an executive in the automotive industry I was “almost paperless” but refrained from 100% paperless due to two reasons:

    (1) A solution like Evernote didn’t exist to easily organize electronic files
    (2) Because of (1)….if I shredded something it was often GONE forever

    About 2 months ago I also made the decision to go paperless in my home office (made possible by Evernote). I’ve been able to develop a similar structure of stacks, notebooks and tags but your list has definitely helped me to re-assess a few things. :) Thanks for sharing!

    • Michael Hyatt

      I expect to have to keep a few pieces of paper—passports, birth certificates (dang, I can’t find my long-form one!), deeds, etc. I think the paper should fit in one drawer in my desk. Everything else: digital!

      • B_Schebs

        How would you suggest an employee of a company move to paperless, in a company that seems to Love paper? Any tips on making that work or being an agent of change?

        • Michael Hyatt

          Cast the vision!

        • Anonymous

          I work in a company that is supposed to be paperless and I still can’t get awa y from it….internally we are using some things like SharePoint to help element paper docs, but it is still a struggle.

        • Robert Ewoldt

          I helped my department at work to go paperless by doing 2 things: (1) show that it can be done and (2) create a process around paperless. I created an electronic archive of all the contracts that I work with, and then created documentation for the rest of the team to follow to do the same thing. Now, we don’t use paper at all for storing contracts!

      • Dr. Brad Semp

        Technically……you could argue that the stuff that you mentioned are “personal” items and not business paperwork (opening the door for the 100% paper-free claim). :) As a side note, I have scanned and uploaded all of my important personal documents (passport, driver’s license, birth certificate, etc) in the past to Gmail….then to Google Docs….and now to Evernote allowing me to access them digitally from anywhere in the world.

        • Michael Hyatt

          I have done the same. I just have to retain the paper copy, since some security people (TSA) require that they look at the original document.

        • Jason Schock

          Is this safe (secure)? Are there not security concerns that people can easily hack your personal information?

          • Dr. Brad Semp

            Hey Jason – your question is very valid. How do we really know the levels of security at Google, Amazon, Evernote, and other shared storage services? Frankly, we don’t. Your question voices a real concern and such questions will continue to arise as “cloud storage” continues to increase.

            Personally, I simply don’t worry about such things and I certainly do not lose any sleep over not knowing the answer to this question (thank you God for having my back and allowing me to NOT worry). I do, however, have Lifelock policies for myself and each of my family members (although you can save the money and do the same by completing a diligent review of your credit 2-4 times per year).

            As cloud storage does grow watch for new marketing approaches from companies that are touting the “best security” of your data. Not many are pushing this angle now….but they will soon!

          • Michael Hyatt

            No, I am not worried about that. I believe it is encrypted. Even my house is insecure, in that someone could break in and steal my computer or backup drives.

          • Bruce

            I use Dropbox for files that I want encrypted, encrypting them first before I sync them. You have to have the encryption program on each of the machines you will be using to access them, but then I know (or assume) that no one can read them.

  • Rashad Morris.


    This post is EXTREMELY helpful. I first downloaded this program after reading a previous post of yours and played around with. Now after reading this I realize how comprehensive Evernote is. Thanks for sharing.

  • Bwenman

    Thanks for sharing this! I downloaded Evernote and have not been using it effectively. This helps significantly! After reviewing your list, I just have once question – Are you going to share your 1 joke with us?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Ha! I have a tone of others ones ready to enter into Evernote. Now, the heavy-duty filing begins!

  • Anonymous

    Question: Are stacks available on the Premium version and not the free version? I can’t find them on the free one.

    • Mike Kirkham

      Stacks are nested notebooks. A stack is one big notebook with notebooks inside. Think back to high school when you had one big binder that held all your individual class notebooks. In this case, the stack is the binder. Stacks are in the free version.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks Mike,
        I pulled over a notebook onto a notebook and did create a stack which I renamed. However there was no word Stack until I did that. Great to have binders now. I looked for “create stack” and there isn’t one. Now I have to think about how I will be organizing this as I tend to have lots of “jobs”.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Try left-clicking on a notebook. It should stay “Add to Stack …” Do you have that option?

      • Anonymous

        When I left click it goes directly to that notebook. But when I right click on a notebook it does say: add to stack with an arrow, then “new stack”. So now I have found two ways to make new stacks – either drag and drop, or right click. Mike made a picture for me that helped me see that drag and drop might work.
        Thanks to both of you.

        • Michael Hyatt

          I meant to say right-click. You are right! Sorry for the confusion.

          • Joe McDowell

            I have a Macbook and cannot figure out “stacks.” Two finger click (right click) does not reveal any stack options. Can you help?

          • Joe McDowell

            Just did an Evernote update and Stacks are not present w/ a two finger click. So, I just needed to update my version.

          • Michael Hyatt

            Are you using the desktop app? You should have this menu option if you right-click. You can also drag one notebook over another one. That will create a stack that includes both notebooks. You can then change the name of the stack.

    • joncasillas

      This one Question and its responses have saved ME LOADS of time thank you Jan Cox for asking it and Michael Hyatt for answering it.

  • Mike Kirkham

    One thing you may want to consider with the names of your notebooks, (and maybe this is where your !Inbox will work best) in relation to the Evernote email feature (you are aware of this, yes) is the length of the notebook names. When I am CCing an email to Evernote for storage, I use the stacks/notebook names to filter the message directly to the correct notebook (sometimes with appropriate tags). Most of my notebooks have short, easy to remember (for me) names. Your system, with the long notebook names (see work – speaking – 2011…) might be overly complicated to remember for easy auto filing.

    If your current system works for you, please continue. If you are not yet using the email feature (you can send tweets to EN too), try it out and see if you current system works. You’ll see what works best for you. Otherwise, if what you are doing works, rock on.

    • B_Schebs

      How do you send Tweets to EN?

      • Michael Hyatt

        I haven’t tried that. Not sure you can, unless you just copy and paste.

      • Mike Kirkham

        Rather than re-invent the wheel, here is the link from EN’s knowledge base on using twitter:

        Hope this helps.

        • B_Schebs

          Thanks for passing on the knowledge. Learned something new already today. Always a good day when the learning starts before 7AM

        • Michael Hyatt

          Now THAT’s cool!

        • Robert Ewoldt

          Mike, that’s a great idea!

      • Anonymous

        If you add EN in Twitter, you will get a DM telling you how which mention to use. Then, just tweet with that mention, and you’ll see it in EN.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I use the email feature extensively. The only place that has become a problem is with my speaking engagements. However, I have a Typinator macro set up to prompt me on the format. It has become second-nature—almost.

      • Mike Kirkham


        • Michael Hyatt

          Google it. It’s a piece of Mac software that I find indispensable.

      • Anonymous

        EN’s new recording feature is nice too. Great for recording audio on the fly with a phone.

  • Mark Martin

    I have been using Evernote for screen clips and occasional typed notes. It hadn’t occurred to me to organize it by areas of my life until I read this post. Also, my tags are too random. You are very purposeful with your tags and notebooks. I am going to invest some time in reorganizing my notes.

    Thanks for the post!

  • Jeff Goins

    Thanks, Mike. This is really helpful! I was wondering if it was advantageous to create multiple notebooks for Evernote, and it sounds like it is. Appreciate your sharing your structure and note-organizing process.

    • Michael Hyatt

      It probably isn’t perfect, but it is a start.

      • Jeff Goins

        much more developed than my current system, i.e. “Jeff’s notebook”. :)

        • SarahSt

          Totally with Jeff on this one. Have one HUGE notebook: Sarah’s notebook. Doh! Thankful for the left-brain Michaels of the world to tell me how to organize it. You should have seen my binder in high school… bless.

          • Jeff Goins


  • B_Schebs

    Thanks for all the great insight in how to optimize Evernote. I tried it for about 3 months but couldn’t find a system that worked for me. I have since started using Microsoft OneNote. I really like using it from my laptop, but since I now have my iPad, I am looking for something that I can use from both.

  • John Richardson

    This is very helpful, Michael. I’ve been really happy with Evernote, especially as a way to move things from a capture device (phone, iPad, scanner, camera) to an output device (laptop, work PC ).

    Your list is a little overwhelming at first, but it’s nice to see a completed list that has been designed to be all encompassing. I agree with you that the nesting of stacks would be very beneficial. Closing the nests and only looking at the working one would help with visual clutter, especially on smaller screens.

    Overall, you’ve given me some great ideas on organization. I really like your 2011.05.16 Sabbatical. I need to schedule one of those!

    One thing you might want to add is a recycle bin for notebooks and clutter that you are finished with but might need for future reference. Evernote might have a specific way of backing up that would make this more useful.

    Thanks for another great post!

    • Michael Hyatt

      The Recycle bin is a great idea. I have that under my Work – Speaking stack. It is called Past Engagements. One an event is over and settled, I tag those notes with the former notebook name and move them into the Past Engagements notebook. (Evernote has a limit of 10,000 notebooks, so I don’t want to just drag the notebooks in there, which would also force me to create a separate stack for them.

  • Lissa

    Great tool! Thanks for sharing. As I looked at your stacks and notebooks, I was overwhelmed. I have often thought about how much you do, and how well you do all those things! I appreciate your faithfulness in using the many talents God has given you, and sharing tips with us so that we may be more fruitful as well! You are a 10 talent person and from what I can see, you are using them all! May God bless you mightily as you continue to honor Him!

  • Anonymous

    I was helping a friend with some computer problems last week, and realized that, like most people who have never learned about folders, all of his documents were lumped all together his My Docs (windows) folder. I started showing him he could arrange his docs in folders, just like we do here in Evernote.

    A thought for those who aren’t using Evernote, but wonder how they can apply the same principle to their other digitial files.

  • Rick Womack

    Great post! I’ve been using Evernote for quite a while – I’d love to know your method (or is there an app) for getting notes from Google Reader to Evernote? I tend to store items in Reader (with tags) and leave them there, never saving them in Evernote – do/did you struggle with how to do this?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, you can totally do this. In Google Reader, go to Reader Settings > Send To. Now add Evernote manually with a custom link. In the name field, put “Evernote.” In the URL, put “${url}&title=${title}” (without the quotes). In the Icon URL, put “” (without the quotes). Click Save.

  • Marti Burbeck

    This may be my week to launch into Evernote, and I look forward to it. I have endless stacks of notes, printouts of web pages, titles of books to read . . . I have great hopes that Evernote will help me actually use all that information. Thanks for all the tips about how to use it most efficiently.

  • Eric S. Mueller

    Thanks for showing us your Evernote strategy. I’ve been using Evernote since Version 1, and though I’ve used it heavily, I still have a lot of holes in my ability to use it effectively.

  • Mike Freestone

    I currently use the ‘one stack’ model and just toss the notes and clips within the site. But it is nice to see your organizational technique. I prefer the R&D method (rip-off and duplicate) :)

  • Mark

    Love your description and explanation of Evernote. Never really considered using it. But you seem to love it. Guess what! Now I’m considering it. Funny how a little passion about a project can be contagious through writing… even in a blog post. You clearly like the tool. No reason not to give it a try. It’s got a free option to see how much I may like it. Appreciate you sharing. Thanks & Blessings.

    • B_Schebs

      this is kinda the stuff Guy Kawasaki speaks to in his book “Enchantment”. I have gotten about halfway through and am digging it. Thanks Michael for the book!!!

      • Michael Hyatt

        You are welcome!

  • Mark McElroy

    I started out with dozens of notebooks in Evernote, but eventually decided I was clinging to old habits (developed back in the days of DOS!) of obsessively filing everything. What would happen, I wondered, if I allowed the system to do the filing for me?

    Today, most of my hundreds of notes are stored in just five notebooks. @Ideas is for capturing book and article ideas on the fly. @Wanted contains a list of the movies, books, shows, music, restaurants, and software I’m curious about. (The @ symbols float these notebooks to the top of the notebook list.) The Inbox captures incoming notes for filing later. A notebook called “Working” contains documents I’m likely to need during meetings over the next seven days. And a fat, thick volume called Archives contains everything else.

    From time to time, I may create a project-specific notebook — like “Cruise-Europe-2011″ or “Campaign-ProductX” — but when this work is done, I tag every note in a project-specific notebook with the title of the project, dump all the notes into the Archives, and delete the empty project folder.

    This streamlined approach grew out of an insight I had about tags: for me, tags have become a way of creating notebooks “on demand.” So, instead of what I used to do (individual notebooks for Apps Wanted, Movies Wanted, Restaurants Wanted, etc.), I now have one notebook (@Wanted), with notes inside tagged Apps, Movies, Restaurants, Books, etc. To see just a list of the books I want to buy, I use a Saved Search (“Show me just items in the @Wanted folder tagged “books”).

    I think this system, or elements of it, can be really helpful in reducing complexity. In Michael’s current system, for example, there are many notebooks called “Work-[Something].” What if there were one notebook called Work, with items inside tagged “AuthorsEdge,” “Boards,” “Consulting,” etc.? Then Michael could use Saved Searches to generate project-specific collections of notes as needed.

    At first, this may sound like six of one (many notebooks, nested, with tag-like names) and half a dozen of the other (few notebooks, with items inside related by tags). For me, though, the benefit has been the total elimination of the question “Now, what folder does this get filed into?” Instead of deciding which of many dozen folders to file an item into, I tag items well and stick ‘em into one of four or five places. Fewer decisions = less time deliberating = less friction = more efficiency.

    In other words: despite having moved to a paperless office, I found myself, out of habit, projecting paper-based filing methods and paper-based concepts (like “I need a fine-grained filing system, because a piece of paper can only be in one place at a time, and I want to find it whenever I need it.”) on my paperless system. Now, I’m embracing the speed and efficiency that’s gained by a paperless data storage process, and depending on the technology to help me find and bind together whatever I need on the fly.

    I’m not saying this is superior; it’s just what works for me. But if you catch yourself debating, “Now, where do I put *this* note?” or if you feel intimidated by the complexity of all those nested notebooks, you might consider using a maximum of four or five notebooks … and using tags and Saved Searches as a way of making very focused collections of notes available when needed.

    • Doug Hibbard

      That looks like a good way to approach that organization. Would simplify the view!

    • Michael Hyatt

      I may eventually simplify like this. It is certainly what I recommend with email: one folder for archives. I did consider the saved search option and am using that for some tags now. Thanks for your input and your very thorough comment.

    • Mark Mathson

      Mark McElroy,

      Nice name! ;-)

      Great thorough comment. A breath of fresh air. I would consider myself a seeker of minimalistic productivity methods. While I like Michael’s structure, since I am a newly ‘full-on’ committed Evernote user, I am going to embark on your methodology first before creating an essential ‘file’ structure.

      Using Gmail + modified GTD inbox trusted trio (see Lifehacker article) it has changed my life. I have presented my methodology to c-level execs with much success as well. I’ve seen die hard Outlook users with 100+ folders go down to 2-4 folders and be happy as clams.

    • Leroy Campbell

      Thanks for the tips, Mark. I have a similar system. I use two main notebooks (@inbox and @notes) plus a few others for blog drafts and shared notes. Brett Kelly’s book was great for learning how to manage tags and use saved searches to find exactly what I need.

    • Jmhardy97

      Thank you for sharing.

    • Jesse Lahey

      I have used an approach with Evernote that’s similar to Mark’s for the last 9 months or so. There were two things that made me switch from my prior approach (which was similar to Michael’s): 1) A growing trust in Evernote’s search capability — I used to use tags similar to Michael’s, but I found them so generic that just doing a search on that term would pull up the right notes (and some that I’d forgotten to tag). 2) When researching how to incorporate GTD principles with Evernote, I found several bloggers who recommended this approach.

  • Doug Hibbard

    Between Evernote, Dropbox, and SugarSync, I’m no longer carrying flash drives back and forth to the office. I have an external hard drive backing up one of my computers, which has all the data, so I’m covered if any of them go splat.

    I use Evernote to clip blog ideas, to organize sermon structure, and to keep my school work up-to-date. It’s quite helpful for doing research on the internet that is going to be cited in a paper because it will save, automatically, most of the info you need for the citation as well as saving the actual data.

    Also, my wife and I have shared notebooks that we keep up with gift planning, family event planning, and some of our shared ministry stuff. Oh, and cooking/recipes—we see a recipe online and clip it.

    I’m looking for how to build stacks of notebooks, though, and can’t find it yet. I’ll have that figured out today and will have stacks for home, work, academics, and writing.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I use shared notebooks, too, principally with my researcher. (Those are the blue notebooks you see.)

      • Doug Hibbard

        We’re a decentralized church office—there’s a part-time secretary who works from home as she can. I’m going to get her started with Evernote so that we can use shared for planning/announcements and such. That way, instead of emailing me to ask “What is this week’s sermon?” She can just look in the folder!

        • Anonymous

          Interesting concept. Is it difficult to run a church with a decentralized office?

        • Robert Ewoldt

          Doug, I think this is a great idea. I’m the business manager and IT manager for a church in Illinois, and I think this would help us a lot!

  • Jon Stolpe

    Thanks for the post. I haven’t started using Evernote as of yet, but this gives me some insight into how I might use this.

  • Anonymous

    Sometimes, I think that you are doing everything you can to convince me to use Evernote. My current system is that of using Dropbox, Springpad, and I have trying a service out called ( . Power Me is the closest thing that I have found to a really great GTD application. It does not have a desktop client per se, but I create the documents on the desktop and then upload them to and that way I have access to them in the “cloud.” I can attach the documents to the projects that they are for and I can also share them with others (if they use They have I-pod, I-pad and Android apps (there is a cost for the app which is one time) the drawback is the cost, but if it works and syncs well with my Android (which is in beta version) it might be worth the 39.99 a year to have a backup and cross function on web, phone and computer as well as access from any computer with internet access, plus the added security of offsite backup and restore if something does happen to my computer.

    • Michael Hyatt

      The main thing is to find a system that works for you. If this works, great!

  • Brandon

    Can you use evernote on a computer or is it just a smart phone app?

    • Carolyn

      Hi Brandon,
      There’s a desktop version, a web based version, and a smart phone app. That’s why it’s so incredibly useful. It honestly goes everywhere with you.

      I have to agree with the observation that over-filing is (in my humble opinion) a leftover from the olden days ;-) With the search facility there’s really no need to have so many notebooks. It’s so much simpler and quicker (and therefore more likely to be used) to just pop things into a couple of places and then rely on search. I ditched almost all my notebooks (and most tags also) and heave a sigh of relief each time I look at the simplicity of it all now. I’ve never wished for any of it back.

      Cheers, Carolyn

      • Brandon

        Thanks for the advice! I will have to check it out! I’m trying to get my dad
        to use it right now for his business because he has a smart phone…

    • Mike Kirkham

      Both (for the most part).

    • Michael Hyatt

      You can use it virtually on any device. They have a Mac and Windows desktop version.

      • Brandon

        Awesome. I don’t have a smartphone so that is why I haven’t used it yet, but
        I might have to check out the cpu versions! Thanks!

  • Jon Bauerle

    Excellent article!
    I love your organizational structure. I do warn new users, however, that they may want to start small with Notebooks/Tags, as I’ve found newer users can get lost in a forrest of Notebooks. However, as your information grows, so do your “Filing cabinets.”

    Keep up the great work!

  • Greg Simas

    I love to see how people use Evernote. A picture is worth a thousand words. This will definetely get me started! I started using Nozbie and working on connecting Evernote with it. Thanks for this informative post!

  • Steven Bradley

    Notebooks…Stacks…Tags…Ingenious, but aren’t there documents within the notebooks?? I’ve been using a program called askSam for many years that organizes in a similar fashion (if you wish), and provides boolean search capabilities (these days, that’s almost a “given”). With askSam, the document is the basic item, and the documents can then be organized in any way you wish. It resides on your own computer, so it’s not quite like Evernote. I’m not “pushing” any other program in any way, and Evernote seems superior in some respects, since it resides in “the Cloud” as well as on your computer. I think I’m going to have to explore this program, since it sounds so excellent.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Steve Bradley

  • Jeremy’s Confessions

    Thanks for sharing how you use Evernote. I have started to use and find it helpful.

  • Brad Farris

    One thing that I’m adding to my setup is a digital tickler file. Create a stack with 12 notebooks (one per month) Then in each month’s note I have space for each day of that month. That way I can delegate work, or reminders to a day in the future, and I will pick it up again when that day comes.


    • Michael Hyatt

      That is a very cool idea. I like it!

  • Brian61067

    Thanks for sharing this. I am just getting started with evernote and am beginning to see the possiblities with this powerful tool.

  • Metric

    I may have to break down and buy this book. Does Evernote index words of scanned documents as well?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Indeed, it does.

  • bethanyplanton

    Michael, I got excited when I saw the title of this post. I have just started exploring and using Evernote. So far I like it, but I was having trouble with the tags vs notebooks as well. Thanks for these helpful hints. I am going to start re-organizing everything right away!

  • Dylan Dodson

    I have not used evernote, but have heard a lot about it. Thanks for the post!

  • Jeff Randleman

    Thanks for posting screenshots of your workflow. That was really helpful to me as an example. However, my list of tags is about 10x longer than yours. It’s crazy, I know.

    I’m wondering, how much do you actually use the tags, versus the search feature? If the search function is so versatile, why really bother with tags, unless in certain exceptions, like photos?

    • mickmel

      I use tags to power the search engine. If I have a note that doesn’t happen to contain a keyword I might use to find it later, I just tag it with that so it’ll show up when needed.

      • Jeff Randleman

        Makes sense to me now. Thanks!

      • Jeff Randleman

        That’s a good idea. How do you think of all the possible tags you might use later? And how do you organize them all? I can see tags easily spiraling out of control…

    • Michael Hyatt

      Let me give you one example. Once I pay an voice, I tag it “paid.” This will not show up in a search because that text does not appear in the note itself. Make sense?

      • Jeff Randleman

        Ok. That makes sense. You use tags in addition to searches, that way it’s a sort of catch system. Thanks!

      • Jeff Randleman

        That does make sense. I also figured that in Adobe Acrobat pro, you can stamp it paid and that wil lshow up as well. Thanks for the input.

        What about things like credit card statements? Do you save those to the cloud? Are you worried about numbers being compromised?

        • mickmel

          I don’t worry about it. I keep the tag view collapsed and just use the notebooks and search. It works quite well.

          • Jeff Randleman

            Interesting… I’m just enough of an obsessive compulsive for that to bother me. I might just have to make myself do that.

  • Joe Lalonde

    Thanks for the suggestions on organizing. I’ll have to pass this on to my wife to see if this will help her out.

  • Oleg Sinitsin

    A couple of recommendations in addition to Evernote:

    (1) Mind mapping is a fantastic concept that is applicable to all sorts of creative and organizational activities. I use a free mind mapping program Freemind daily for organizing my work. Here is an example:

    (2) You can’t go wrong with David Allen’s Getting Things Done. My favorite GTD apps: and

    • Anonymous

      I have started usnig Power Me, and it is starting to grow on me as a GTD app.

  • Richard Burkey

    Thanks Michael. I have become an avid user of Evernote. The explanation of “stacks” and explaining the search feature to avoid too many tags were great gifts.

  • Pam Stephens

    I am using Evernote and really like it…your article is interesting, however—I cannot find anywhere on my Evernote where there are “stacks” ….I am on PC…is that why? I’d love to organize further!

    • Michael Hyatt

      I am not sure about the PC version, as I only use it on a Mac. If you right-click on a notebook, you should have an option to “Add to stack.”

    • Jeff Randleman

      Or, if you click and hold a notebook and drag it on top of another one, it will create a stack.

  • K.C. Procter

    Great stuff! Thank you for sharing this. I’ve been using Evernote for awhile and definitely need to be more strategic about it.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been using Evernote for the past month or so and it’s great. I sync my notes to my smartphone, home computer and work computer so I can keep track of my ideas and tasks.

    I especially like using the program for keeping track of on-going projects I’m managing. I don’t forget new ideas anymore because they go straight into Evernote.

    I haven’t used the tagging system yet, but I think I might start now!

  • Lemi

    I’m starting an internship in August and am going to accumulate a wealth of information. I didnt know of another way to store all this information, so I settled for a 3 ring binder…..blahh.

    I think Im going to ‘go’ get me a Mac notebook and try out Evernote.
    I really appreciate folks who share……..especially techy stuff that normally drives me nuts.

    Thank you!!!!

  • Fernando Almeida

    I have started using Evernote last year and started to get a sense of disorganization once notes and clippings began to pile up. Your insights to organizing Evernote in this article were very helpful. Thanks for writing about them.

  • Angela @Homegrown Mom

    I have One note, I think it is similar. And I absolutely love notebooks, so I don’t know why I haven’t been using it. This post and your lists makes me want to go organize all my files! Off to open it up now :)

    • B_Schebs

      I use one note as well, It is very similar, the only part I am trying to figure out, is getting information and access to oneNote between my iPad and PC.

      • Bruce Mustard

        MobilNoter (sp?) is what I used to use before I switched from OneNote to Evernote.   

  • Adriana

    Thanks for sharing this post. I’m completely addicted to Evernote and I have the same problem tag vs notebook problem. Some of my notes relate to several projects, which all have a different notebook. Even if it takes a bit more time to enter. I just decided it’s not a problem to have a notebook and a tag for the same thing … until I find a better solution.

  • Anonymous

    Evernote is an idea incubator for me. I create notebooks for ideas and then add notes containing various kinds of info: research, processes, development, contacts, etc. This allows me to keep my back-of-the napkin ideas organized digitally. I also make notebooks for books I’m reading and then add notes for each chapter. Whatever I underline in the book gets typed in manually when I finish the chapter. This helps to review what I read, reinforce the information, then make a digital version that’s tagged and searchable for future reference.

  • Anonymous

    I am loving evernote. It’s value in my mind when way up when they added the ability to stack folders. I access notes on my iPhone quite often.

    One of the nicest features I have found is the ability to print to evernote. On my Mac this is listed under the PDF button that appears in the bottom left of the printer select window. When I make a hotel reservation or airline reservation I Print the confirmation to evernote.

    I have always hated trying to find the confirmation email weeks or months after I made the reservation. Now it is a quick search to pull them up on my phone or computer.

    Michael, I noticed that your Joke/illustration/Quotes are shared files. Care to elaborate?

    I speak on occasion and have had a hard time with the joke part of my collection. I’d be curious as to your joke sources.

    Thanks for a great blog. One of the few I always read

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I share these notebooks with a research assistant, so that they can add to these notebooks. I don’t have a good source for jokes other than what I hear from my friends.

  • John Clemons

    Great post but with Evernote being in the “cloud” how do you backup notes in case the Evernote site goes down? Thanks.

  • Angela Braach

    Downloading Evernote as I type! Looking forward to some digital de-cluttering and re-organizing. Thanks!

  • Kyle Johnson

    I’m a student of Getting Things Done, so I applied the use of @Action, @Waiting For and others to my Evernote. These helps know that I have to do something in that note.

    Your info is great to see how others use Evernote.

  • Becky Schmid

    Thank you so much for posting this! A friend introduced me to Evernote a year ago, but I haven’t used it because I didn’t really know how to, especially since I have so many other lists/organizational strategies going on.
    After reading this post, I think I will we using my summer break to condense all my lists, spread sheets, bookmarks, etc. into Evernote, using this as a guide.

  • PhilHoffman

    Thanks for this blog on Evernote. I am trying to figure out how to utilize Evernote and Dropbox into my orgainzation plan, but keep having difficulty “getting it done.” Your blog is helpful. Thanks.
    Phil Hoffman

  • Anonymous

    I am still struggling to completely understand it. I have been using to take notes from different books I read. Some quotes I want to blog with, some I just want to keep the notes for future reference. I have each book separated. Is that a good idea? My evernote is certainly not organized, but I would love it to be.

  • Jonathan Gaby

    Gosh, I’m still debating Evernote free or Evernote Premium. Thanks for the thought behind this great tool!

  • Ricky Lewis

    Thank you very much for posting these kind of things. I have found your blog very helpful especially in the leadership and productivity areas. May God bless all of your work and ministry going forward.

  • Cyndy Salzmann

    Great post!

    As a professional organizer (who also speaks and writes), I like the stronger hierarchical structure of MS OneNote as opposed to EverNote. It helps me segment various areas of work/life/hobbies efficiently. For clients, OneNote more closely mimics the filing systems they are already familiar with so the learning curve is easier. On the other hand, EverNote more easily syncs across multuple platforms – although the auto sync to Office Live has addressed most of these issues with the 2010 release of OneNote. The collaboration feature is also helpful when working on a project with another person or group.

    Regardless of the program you choose, it is well worth the effort to learn how to use a notetaking program. It not only provides a way to capture important thoughts and informatiion, it will save you MANY wasted hours looking for that scrap of paper you know you put “somewhere.” : )

    “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much but have harvested little.” Haggai 1:5-6

  • James Dibben

    Question and Comment

    Question: On Michael’s list I don’t see ‘All Notes’ like mine and I can’t get it to go away.

    Comment: I finally started using Evernote because I get all my ideas when I’m NOT in front of my pc. I always have my iPhone with me so now it’s easy to make quick notes to myself for blog posts and podcast ideas.

  • Pingback: Ditching my paper planner: Lessons in online organization « Laura Creekmore()

  • Jmhardy97

    great post. I have been using Evernote, but I had not used stacks. Thank you for sharing.

  • Anonymous

    Well great, now my addiction to Evernote has grown even stronger. Thanks for that!

  • Misty Paige

    I love this! Thank you. I am always looking for ways to be better organized in Evernote. Differentiating between folders and tags is confusing for me also and sometimes feels redundant. Thank you for sharing your system. It will be very helpful.

  • Misty Paige

    I love this! Thank you. I am always looking for ways to be better organized in Evernote. Differentiating between folders and tags is confusing for me also and sometimes feels redundant. Thank you for sharing your system. It will be very helpful.

  • Blake Schwendimann

    I use it for Sermon and Writing Preparation. Since I’m in school full time, as well as work at my church full time, I find myself doing a lot of both.

    I do research in the library, online, and at home. I save articles/quotes from online using the Evernote webclipper, then I take quotes from books (including my kindle) and put those in Evernote. I also have a notebook I keep for my Footnotes.

    Evernote has been my number note taking and research tool.

  • Bret Mavrich

    Hey Mike, great post. I love your EN ideas. I have a bit of a divergent philosophy (though I’m not a CEO of a major publishing house– that could account for it. *wink*).

    I use tags differently than you do. My basic approach has been shaped by Gmail which, to my understanding, uses tags (labels) instead of folders. That said, I don’t have a very developed hierarchy of folders, but I’ve got lots of tags. For instance, all my whiteboard pics get tagged wb. Financial information gets tagged with a three letter month abbreviation and a separate four number year. Meeting notes (including whiteboard pics) get tagged “brainstorm” or “agenda.” When I find something online that would make a good gift for someone it gets tagged “gift” or “xmas” or “bday.” I’ve also experimented with tagging personal finance notes with $$$ since a search for three dollar signs in a row is unlikely to return a note with that in the content. In that same vein, I’m looking for a good use of *** and ###. I’ve found that with a good tagging system, I can pull up the notes I need very quickly.

  • Bret Mavrich

    Mike, I just noticed that you have zero notes in your “Books to Read” folder.

  • Lacey Wilcox

    Loved this! Great tips for being as organized and effective as possible. One thing I would add is the handy little tool that provides an actual “check box” for lists. I’m a huge list person, and so i plan out some daily to-dos in Evernote. When I’ve done something on the list, I still get the satisfaction of “checking it off”.

  • Scott Kantner

    With any personal organizational tool, I think there is always a fine line between “enough” and “too much” structure. You need enough structure to get the tool’s organizational benefits, but not so much that it becomes too cumbersome to use.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I totally agree.

  • Bryan Radtke

    Great Post. I’ve been in the process of moving my electronic file cabinet to Evernote. Always insightful to see someone else’s process. One of the drawbacks I’ve had to get around is the inability to use the same notebook name under different stacks. Only way to do this right now is to make it unique (i.e. clientname-documentation). Hope to see this added in future releases.

  • NextStepChurch

    I have a tag called “Percolating”. It allows me to ID those ideas that aren’t ready for prime time yet, but could be with a little time and tweaking. I carve out time in my monthly review process to glance over these. I’ve had ideas percolate for as little as a few days to a couple of years. The process has worked well.

    I also have a notebook called “templates’. This allows my to standardize entries like book reviews and projects plans.

    My main frustration with Evernote is the lack of rich text support on the iOS devices. I find myself getting frustrated over the fact my ‘bullet-points’ won’t work on my iPhone. Any suggestions on who to format iOS friendly (yet visually attractive) notes?

  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much for sharing your insights and helps regarding Evernote. You are helping me make it a much more powerful tool.

  • Jy

    love it. i am about to lead a co-learning time with our company about how to use evernote. good tools in your post. i love using evernote for almost everything i have.

  • Jonathan Van Horn

    I have been using Evernote since your first post about it and I have been loving it! The one thing that I have added is my daily, weekly and quarterly “to-do” lists. I now am able to maintain focus on what’s most important regardless of where I am at; in the office, meetings or on the road. Thanks again for the posts and updates!

  • Dustin W. Stout

    This is a great post! This will definitely be a point of reference for me! Thanks Michael!

  • Kay

    Well, I have to say that Evernote sounds very interesting and useful. I probably could have figured out a way to incorporate it into my homeschooling. But, the last chick flies the nest this summer and I will be “retired” in a manner of speaking.

    As an empty-nester homemaker, I don’t know how I would use this.

  • David

    I have been a user of Evernote for a couple of years. The more I use it, the more helpful it becomes.

    I don’t know how realistic it would be to go paperless for me, but I really would like to try to get there. Not that it will keep me from killing trees (because, like you, I still take notes by hand), but it would make filing everything easier if it all got filed into Evernote. It certainly would help me find things if I knew everything eventually landed there.

  • Anonymous

    Love the article! I am fairly new to the Evernote game as well, but see that it has some great potential for helping me keep my life and mind organized. I look forward to your next Evernote article about how to get stuff into Evernote. Thanks!

  • Robert Ewoldt

    I never knew that Evernote was so powerful an archive tool. Up until now I’ve only been using it for small notes.

    Question: My wife says that Evernote isn’t great for shopping lists, because you can’t easily cross off items when you pick them up. Do you use Evernote for shopping?

    • Michael Hyatt

      I actually use Nozbe for shopping. It is my task manager. You can create checklists in Evernote, but I personally think it’s the wrong tool for the job.

      • Robert Ewoldt

        Thanks. I’ll check it out.

    • Anonymous

      I use for shopping list, errand list, someday maybe list and general list like that. It is web based, works on mobile devices and is easy to cross list off and can use the GTD platform.

      • Robert Ewoldt

        I noticed that Nozbe is a paid application. Is SpringPad a paid

    • Lisa

      Make check boxes on the items within EN, use the phone app when you are out and cross them off. That said, I use groceryIQ for shopping lists not EN.

      • Robert Ewoldt

        Thanks. I’ll give it a try.

  • Jeff Randleman

    Another question: What do you do about security issues? Do you save creditcard statements to EN? If so, do you encrypt them, and is it secure enough?

  • Randy

    Thanks for sharing your notebooks and stacks, Michael. This helps me get a better grasp on how to maximize Evernote.

  • Adonis Lenzy

    Great way to explain Evernote. I’ve been using it but now I’m about to maximize it. Thanks again for sharing.

  • Anonymous

    The insight you provide for Evernote is very helpful. I first learn of the program from you and Brad Lomenick. I was using a note program on my phone, Google Doc, and Microsoft One note, but none of these match the ability to have the same notes on every device. I look forward to learn what you discover in the future. I am incorporating a similar structure to my notes.

  • Jared P

    I still haven’t gotten used to Evernote. I use it now as a place to store lists and agendas for meetings. To stay organized I use omnifocus which utilizes GTD methodology, which is exactly what you’ve done here with Evernote. GTD uses contexts and I’m sure you could use tags as contexts like “phone” or “errands”. I spent a lot of time searching for something that would help me get organized and finally settled on omnifocus. It’s expensive, but totally worth it for me.

    • Anonymous

      I have been using a combination of Power.Me and also SpringPad. SpringPad is great for shopping list, @errands, @someday maybe, and things like that. It is helpful since it also takes the products you are looking for and compares them agaisnt the web and helps you to find great deals. Power.Me is great for project management and also allows for you to upload documents. It is about 40 a year but provides accesss via web, your computer, and also mobile device and it has back up for you too.

  • Patrick Gallagher

    Timely article for me. I’ve been actively looking at ways to improve my Evernote setup. Some good ideas here. I’ve been going a little overboard with the tags and trying to use Evernote for GTD.

  • Robert Talbert

    Michael, I don’t know if you’re going to touch on this in your next post about input methods, but do you have difficulty using notebook and tag names that have spaces in them (e.g. “Life plan”)? One of the great features of Evernote IMO is the ability to email stuff directly into the system and include notebook and tag information in the subject header of the email. But if your tags or notebook names have spaces in them, I don’t think that works. Interested to hear if this is an issue for you and how you deal with it. Thanks for the great post as usual.

  • Ron Dawson

    Another great feature about Evernote is that there is unlimited storage space, although, depending on the plan you have, there IS a limited amount of data you can upload in any one month. But it’s nice to be able to upload pdfs, jpegs, mp3, or other similar documents to a note.

    Also, I think all the major browsers have Evernote plugins for clipping pages. I kind of like it better than bookmarking in some cases b/c since it downloads to your computer, even if you don’t have internet access, so long as you’ve clipped the whole page (and not just the link), you can read the page.

    Thanks for the tips on Stacks. I didn’t even know that.

  • Anonymous

    Do you scan your receipts? Or are those email receipts from ordering online? I’m trying to go paperless, but I also keep & file all my receipts. I was looking into a scanner.

    Your tag list is overwhelming. Do you plan to downsize that since Evernote indexes every word?

    Great ideas, I’m going paperless this year! I’m 90% there and love Evernote.

  • Chris Little

    Thanks for this.
    Just reorganised my whole kit of notes after getting inspired. I’m sure EN will be even more useful now

  • Dave Anthold

    I have recently gone to nested notebooks much like you have. I have high level categories, and then multiple notebooks under those categories. The tip about the indexing of words was very interesting. I must have missed that when I read Evernote Essentials.

  • Crystal Renfrow

    Thank you for this post. I have been a premium Evernote user for the past year. But, only recently I have started getting more serious about organizing my notebooks for my writing and other items. I was having trouble trying to figure out how to organize them but your post today helped generate some ideas for me! Thank you.

  • Jon Owen

    Wow, this is great. Been using Evernote for a few months and slowing getting hooked. The info on Stacks was gold. Just set up several Stacks and this opens up a new level of Evernote use for me.

  • Schmid Andreas

    very good! i started to use evernote… my concern is, that i place my entire archive on evernote… and suddendly in a few years this tools won’t sync with newer/better programs in the future…

  • Daniel Becerra

    Michael, I just want to thank you for the extra effort you take to cap your screen. It makes all the difference in the world to better understand. Thanks bud!

  • Michael Sliwinski

    Great post Mike! Although I’m not sure if you’re not over-doing it with structure.

    So many notebooks can be a little overwhelming. I tend to keep all of my notes in one notebook and use search to find what I need. I do have some single-purpose notebooks like “contacts” (for all the business cards I’ve scanned) and “documents” (for all the paperwork I’ve scanned) but as far as the notes go, I keep it simple with one big notebook.

    I just don’t want to think about where to put stuff. And the search in Evernote is amazing (even in images) so I don’t worry about finding stuff. This is why I also don’t create so many folders anymore. Too much structure tends to build headaches over time. That’s my take on it. Anyway, thanks for the post and good luck with your paperless switch, Mike!

  • Blair Howell

    Hi Mike, great article. I too have been gradually moving things over to Evernote, however I dropped the tagging idea and only use Notebooks and Stacks. I found that using tags just made things more confusing and many times I would forget what tag to apply to the note so I ended up creating more tags and because of Evernote’s search function I decided the extra step was not necessary. I am testing the idea of creating a Notebook labeled “To Read/Review” in place of the ‘Read It Later’ app I use in my browser. Just one less place that I need to go and keep track of. Hopefully it works. I will check out the e-book, Evernote Essentials, thanks for the tip.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for the lesson. I’ve been using Evernote for about five years and know I’ve never used all the great feature. This post has given me a better starting point.

  • Bianca C Perez


    I got evernote, got the book, and you’re right! Most things you recommend on here i try out, i love all your recommendations. I’m recently starting my own business with a few of my friends…anyway…Evernote, and everything you suggested are definitely being utilized in the start up to stay organized…and having an ideal week! Anyway, thank you for such great tools and resources! You’ve def brought my organization to a whole new level..Also, my old boss thanks you! Because of your posts/suggestions we gotten him on board with being more organized and getting more things done and i think he is thoroughly convinced that structure and organization gets more things done. Oh, and i’ve been reading the Creating a Life Plan and am excited about that too! Best of life, love, and laughs to you and Gail!


  • Anonymous

    Worked through the exercise of creating notebooks yesterday. This was very helpful. Until now, Evernote has simply been a dumping ground of random thoughts. Thanks Michael, very helpful as always!

  • Teresa Cuervo

    I use Evernote for work only , although I know it has several uses. I wanted to know could we have different notebooks, with different tags in a different panes ? I know we can “collapse” the tags we are not using at the moment but I would not want to mix work with other “stuff”. Is that possible?

  • Clinton

    This is very timely for me. I started a new job half way across the country and I am going through the paper we have moved from place to place. I have thrown out about 24 boxes of paper (I recycled it) that I had been moving without ever looking at. In the future, I can go paperless and carry this junk forever which will satisfy my fear of thinking I might need something one day so I’d better keep it.

  • AAMCO of Venice FL

    Great article! I bought the book, downloaded, and read it last night… Excellent thanks for sharing!

  • JD Eddins

    Thanks for sharing this. While I don’t use Evernote that much I might start now that I have seen how powerful it can be.

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  • Hona Amer

    I have not used Evernote before, but your posts about it are inspiring me. Thanks for sharing!

  • Lcontiplus1

    I have been using evernote for awhile now. What I find at work and at home that filing in and of itself is an art. I liked your tips today and will atempt to put them to use!

  • Dshick

    Michael – While I use OneNote rather than Evernote, I want to thank you for your posts. Not only have you given me the motivation to re order my notes….but I love your idea of scanning in your hand written notes. I’m more comfortable writing notes than typing in meetings as it is less of a distraction. Up to this point, I’ve been typing my notes in One Note…but now I will simply scan them and use some of your organizational tips as well. Thanks.

  • Uma Maheswaran S

    This is very helpful. I am yet to begin using Evernote and notebooks and tags. This gives me a great guide on how I can use Evernote effectively in first go itself. Thank you so much.

  • Richard E

    Thanks for the great article. I’m ramping up my usage of Evernote (and going digital in general) and have a question for you:

    With regards to bills & receipts – do you throw the originals away once you scan them into Evernote? I’d love to trash everything and rely on my digital system. But I don’t want to overlook a need for the originals (for example, we are required to show our utility bill when we discard stuff at the transfer station).

    I certainly see the value of tagging and easily searching and finding digital copies when/if needed, so even if I had to dump originals into a file drawer somewhere, I’m okay with that. But I would like to trash bills and receipts if possible.


  • Greg Lhamon

    Michael…I’ve looked into Evernote and learned that it is not particularly secure. Do you have privacy concerns using it? Is there certain information that you would never put inside Evernote?

  • Jared Dees

    My life exists in evernote, but this is the first time I’ve read about Stacks. Thanks Michael, this is going to do to wonders for those small notebooks that should probably be filed under a Someday/Maybe Stack. I’m overused tags as well, but I try to tag websites I clip with certain keywords to make sure when I search for topics those notes come up.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Excellent. I am so glad it was helpful.

  • Anonymous

    Awesome tips. I, too, have been overwhelmed with too many tags. Looks like it’s time to consolidate some of those tags, since the search feature finds words in a note w/o having to tag each of them. Thanks. This really helped.

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  • Christion

    Thanks Michael- it’s always great to see how someone else is using a tool to find new uses or features. For instance, I’ve been using Evernote for about a year now and I didn’t know they added a stacks. Now I’ve grouped my notebooks by Personal and Work.
    My notebooks are named along GTD lines, ie: 2_Projects, 3_Recurring, 4_Someday Maybe, 5_Reference, 6_Archive. Then I have tag groupings for projects (containing tags name for specific projects at work) and other references. I’ve also tried tagging based on role (7 habits) or context (GTD) but haven’t found them particularly useful yet.
    Evernote is such a cool tool!

  • TNeal


    Thanks for the initial prompt to use Evernote. I mulled it over for a few weeks for no reason other than I just take my time to decide. I’ve never regretted downloading the program and stuff all kinds of notes into the file. Now I’ll mull this advice over for a few weeks, finally see the wisdom in it then promptly return to this post and reconfigure how I use Evernote.

    You can say this is a belated thank you for the earlier post or a preemptive thank you for my actions a few weeks from now when I realize the value of your advice and actually follow it.–Tom

    P. S. That 9/20/11 date wouldn’t be the ACFW conference in St. Louis would it?

  • DM Cook

    Awesome post, Michael!
    I really like the idea of using so many notebooks: that’s one form of organizing in Evernote I don’t do a whole lot of (I tend to tag everything, though evernote’s inability to do batch-tagging is really irritating).

    I also think having multiple notebooks might solve the Pro user’s granularity issue: that is, how to download the stuff you want for offline viewing, without dragging along the 500+ megs of other crap (the offline feature is per-notebook).

    For now, I tend to use simplenote (via notational velocity) for most day-to-day notes since it’s superfast and easy to get around, but I use Evernote for rich text or PDFs that I want to search through. I use Dropbox for most of my everyday documents (the ones I don’t need searchable).

    In any event, I have my own issues with evernote from an interface perspective (how do you even see all your notebooks in the left panel? With all the extra junk over there, it seems like there’s no room!), but it’s certainly a powerful and unique tool. A lot more people SHOULD be using it! You can read more of my thoughts on it here: (ultimately negative, but I use it anyway.)

    You’ve definitely got me thinking. Also, I’m new to the site, but now I think I’ll have to stick around! Nice work.

  • Tina Murphy

    Mr. Hyatt –

    Thanks to your blog – I am officially obsessed with Evernote. When I got on the computuer tonight, for an hour and half, all my kids have heard me say is “just a minute, honey”. Their bedtime stories all started with “Once upon a time there was a green elephant…”

    Seriously though I had loaded the evernote app on the iphone a couple months ago and was not impressed. Used the web site and was a bit more impressed.

    Downloaded the desktop application and WOW!

  • Josh

    You utilize Notebooks way more than I do. For example, you have separate notebooks for bills and receipts. I instead put the notes in the same notebook and then tag them either bill or receipt. But that is the beauty of Evernote – you do it how it fits your lifestyle and your way of thinking.

  • Jeff scholen

    What are your DPI settings for your scanner? I wonder how low you can go before Evernote stops recognizing the text in pdfs?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Honestly, I don’t even know. I am just using whatever came out of the box.

  • Marshall Tsen

    Thanks for sharing. You however got too many notebooks and tags to retrieve necessary information sometime, I wonder. To my observation, you may leverage the function of search by key words while reducing notebooks and tags to minimum. For thoughts only.

  • Anonymous

    I admire your quick progress toward a paperless office using Evernote. I have used Evernote for a couple of years, primarily on iphone and ipad. I also use the Mac and Windows desktop apps, but I find them a little clunky and less intuitive than the iOS versions. Lately I’m working directly in Evernote less and less; instead using lighter weight text editors like SimpleNote or Writer to take notes then transferring them to Evernote for later reference. Up to now I have used one primary notebook for current documents, with a second “archive” notebook for items I don’t plan to reference often (I sync the primary notebook locally on the iphone and ipad). Other than that I rely completely on tags and search. After reading your post, I was inspired to create a similar structure of stacks and notebooks. What I quickly realized, though, is stacks are not yet supported on iOS. After I thought about it, I’m not sure I need the notebook structure. Tags and search allow me to easily find and organize notes, and it feels like using notebooks is an extra step – for every note I create, I have to assign it tags and choose a notebook.

  • Dennis Preston

    Hi Michael,

    Thanks for sharing this, this is great. I’ve used Evernote briefly, but have been looking for a single source solution that sync’s with my smart phone. For example, when someone asks me to pray for them, instead of writing it down, losing the paper or trying to remember, here’s a way to do it seamlessly.

    As well, I like how detailed you are with this and the number of different areas you address. As Brian Tracy once said in a study about high achievers, they are very organized, and use their time very well. I believe the two go hand in hand.

    Thanks again.

  • Christian Ray Flores

    Love evernote and enjoy your exploration of it. I am going to write all week on productivity on The Third Drive. Check it out if you like.

  • Michael Levitt

    This post is inspiring me to go completely paperless. Thank you very much for this post, and the examples on how you keep it all organized.

    Many times people will go on the “paperless” route, and basically create a virtual junk drawer; scanned items all piled into one big messy folder.

    This will hopefully help others become more organized, and digital at the same time!

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  • Randy Green

    I am thoroughly enjoying Evernote and I’m resigned to the fact that you know what you’re talking about when it comes to productivity & working efficiently.

    The one thing I have had trouble integrating is a “to do” tool such as Nozbe or Things. I downloaded a free trial of Things but have had a difficult time getting into the swing of things. I’m currently using Evernote with my iCal & another program just seems like too much for me.

    What are your thoughts about using to do lists in Evernote? I’ve experimented with that this week and it’s gone really well. I’m assuming your gonna say to do whatever works for you, but I was curious about your thoughts on the matter.

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  • Daniel Im

    Hi Michael,

    Thanks for writing out this post.

    Since I use the Getting Things Done method, I actually organize my evernote in a completely different manner. I only have three notebooks: ministry, fuller, and personal. And I place all my emphasis on tags because they transcend whichever notebook I’m in.

    That’s the website where they help you use gtd with evernote.

    Hope it helps people!


  • communicatrix

    THANK YOU. I love Brett’s ebook as well—it’s wonderfully written and incredibly comprehensive—but I’ve struggled with taxonomy, sensing that Evernote would be more useful (and my anxiety level far lower) if I could only come up with a sane filing strategy. My 1106 notes (and counting!) are very, very grateful to you for sharing.

  • Jeff Goins

    Really enjoying using Evernote more. Appreciate tutorials like these. Thanks, Mike.

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  • Stephanie Hodges

    This is extremely helpful information! I need to take some time to set up a more solid organizational structure with my notebooks. I’ve found with any filing system, it takes some trial and error to figure out what will truly work best for you. Not sure that anyone else can tell you how to improve your organization if you’ve found a system that reflects the way your brain works.

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  • Bill Kraski

    I didn’t get around to commenting till there were already 209 comments. So, hopefully, I’m not duplicating something already said, but I’m not ready to wade through that many. Sorry.

    I use Evernote among three PCs and my Blackberry. This system is great! I love the categorization you describe. But it fails on the phone. Not all documents sync back and forth. The phone app seems to sync only one notebook. For this technique to work fully for me, Evernote is going to need to add some more flexibility to the Blackberry phone app. However, as I start bringing my tablet netbook more places, that may become a nonissue. Still, I’d like to see this functionality in the phone app, too.

  • Anonymous

    I just went through and organized my Evernote. Thank you so much for this recommendation!

  • Sjthompson11

     Hi Mike,

    Will you be writing on the set-up process of your scanner for notes going direct to evernote if it was a difficult process?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I am going to write on this at some point.

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  • JEG

     Thank You Michael!  I love Evernote, Dropbox & Scancloud to put stuff in Evernote!  I have been organizing away!  Getting rid of lots of clutter and all those random thoughts of things I need to do today, someday and whenever now get a note in Evernote!  I bought Bret Kelly’s book!  So very handy!  

    Also, an interesting sidenote . . . my husband’s cousin posted on facebook about getting organized with Evernote the day I downloaded Evernote and was trying to figure it out.  To get even more interesting he was using it because of your blog post too!!!!  He lives in another town and we rarely see each other so I found that most interesting!

    Thanks so very much for all your great suggestions!  They are really helping me get my life more organized – inside and out!

    Your post about blogging have been great too!  I moved my blog  to WordPress  because of you and LOVE IT!  So much more that I can do with it than the other site I was using.   If you want to take a peek at my blog it is 

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Joyce. I’ll take a look. Best.

      • JEG
 – New post MH style! Thanks for the words of wisdom!

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  • John Lane

    When creating new notes from a scanned item, for example a bill, do you change the “created date” to the date you received the item?

    • Michael Hyatt

      No, I actually notate the date of the invoice in the note title, like this:

      2011.05.23 – American Express – $322.91

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  • Anonymous

    Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah that is what I feel like starting off as a newbie trying to get this Evernote thing down.  I guess slow and steady wins the race.

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  • Kenny Scott

    I have always liked the analogy of a recipe in a cookbook to understand tags and categories (or notebooks).

    The item you are clipping is the recipe itself. The category or notebook is the section the recipe  is in (Seafood, Dessert, Salads, etc). The tags are the ingredients. And in the case of Evernote’s stacks they would be the type of books themselves (cookbooks, travel books, theological books, etc)

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  • Julie Gumm

    My husband is a paper junkie and he stumbled across your posts. I’ve been trying to get him to print less stuff for years. I’ve been a beginner user of Evernote for a few months but your posts have inspired us both.

    I had to laugh last night though when he asked “Did you see his post where he showed his notebooks and tags?” I said “No.” He said “Here, I printed it out.” 

    Definitely some retraining still to do :-)

  • chrispalle

    Thanks for sharing, Michael. I’ve become a huge evernote fan over the last year. I have a question about your methodology, though.
    The list of notebooks and stacks: That seems really lengthy. Almost reminds me of my list of labels in gMail which I have a hard time managing. How do you keep up with everything?

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  • Ben Komanapalli

    Thank you so much for this! Have been using Evernote for a long time but just learnt about ‘stacks’! very helpful!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, indeed. Stacks are a wonderful way to group notebooks.

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  • Ronhbridges

    Very helpful. Thanks !!!

  • Brent Fielder

    Is Evernote replacing your computer files (on HD) or an addition to them?  I am struggling trying to figure out what I should save to a folder on my Hard Drive and what I should put into evernote.

    • Anonymous

      If  it is in Evernote, then it is saved.  Does NOT need to be on the hard drive too. 

    • Michael Hyatt

      I don’t duplicate my file structure in Evernote. I only include frequently accessed files, like my life plan, household budgets, etc.

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  • Josealbertotop

    has tested with Evernote??

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  • Anonymous

    I tried to use Evernote before, but I think I dived into it, thinking it was too much like Springpad. I’m going to try again from the ground up! Thanks for your guides! I am currently clipping all your guides into EN at the moment to read and better organize myself!

    Thanks a ton!

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  • John Grenier

    My question is about how to file away a “Completed Job” with other completed item and not see it in All Notes.  My guess is that it is simple.

    Thanks John

  • Ashley Smith

    Thanks fo the hepful tips and info. Please check out a similar article ===> Evernote Essentials: 3 Reasons Why You Need It Thanks in advance :)

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  • Norman

    While the EverNote search feature is a very good tool, one can use multiple tags within a note to filter/organize their view of the data. Only recently I have begun to use prefixes on my tags to categorize and organize projects and key activities. 

    FYI: I found that EverNote sorts common symbols in following order: ! # * . @ _
    Being part of a sales team, I use the “period” (.) prefix for customer accounts (examples: .ACME, .MICROSOFT, etc. ) which allows me to readily sift through mountains of material. 

    As most of my work is repetitive types of activity, I like to use “pound” (#) for the type of activity (e.g.#workshop, #meeting, #poc, #admin, #learn, etc.) which allows me to work a chunk of calendar time on like-minded activities.

    Lastly, I use the “bang” (!) character to indicate time-and-focus for time-sensitive rather than more for just reference. Note the use of double-bang character ensures that select tags are at the top of the pile.
    !!ASAP = Primary project/activity (A-List)
    !!THISWEEK = Secondary project/activity (B-List)
    !RADAR = Flag places project/activity within my peripheral as ongoing and active
    !INACTIVE = Flag project/activity as currently inactive (e.g. project completed, delayed, other)

    Those persons using a 43-folders time management approach might also make use of the ! prefix as follows:
    !JUNE = allows use of re-occurring annual events: taxes, spring planting, booking summer cottages, etc. 
    !2012-06 = allows use of time-specific period that could extend beyond the 12 month window.
    !2012-Q2 = permits organization of activities for those persons that are sales-focused.

    Those that follow the Getting Things Done (GTD) time management approach,  could use the @ symbol for location specific activites (e.g. @Desk, @Office, @Home, @Car, etc.) however introducing another tier of tags it might make the system unpractical.

    Finally, the process has to be easy to use and relevant to how you work, so keep it simple.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for such a well thought out comment!

  • Angela WR

    Wow, this is great! I have started to separate-out the business/organizing time from the actual writing/research time.  So, learning to use Evernote can be used in that block of time without me feeling that I should be writing. 

  • Rob Hall

    I am still not ready to give up on THINGS in place of Evernote. Please push me over!?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Things and Evernote are two different animals. Things is a task manager. Evernote is a repository for information. I use Nozbe for task management and Evernote for storing information. They even sync with each other.

      • Rob Hall

        Thanks Michael. That is helpful. I’ll look into Nozbe. I wonder if Things and Evernote sync???

        • Michael Hyatt

          I don’t think so, but I am not sure.

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  • Maggie

    Michael, what a true blessing this post is.  I didn’t find your list overwhelming, but rather exactly what I needed to jump start my organization of EN.  Thank you for the details.  

    I see that you also file by year/month/day.  I do that with my business expenses and I add the amount and expense type but this is on my PC.  I haven’t yet visited the process in EN.  It makes creating my expense sheet easy as it has them organized by date incurred.  Woot woot!I just started using EN a couple of months ago and am thrilled whenever I find something truly useful to do with it.  The last AHA I had was when I realized I no longer had to print the detail sheets whenever I take buyers out to look at homes (I’m a Realtor).  I now save the sheets to Evernote when I am working on my laptop and tag them with the buyer’s last name and the house address, then I throw it into my “Showings” notebook.  When I am out with the buyer, I can just pull up the pdf in EN on my Droid and look at all the details.  In trying to use EN a little more each day I opened it up today when my daughter’s teacher called to discuss her class progress.  After making all my notes, I realized that I did not have a notebook for either of my kids.  I then looked at my notebooks and realized they were not organized visually in a way that made sense.  I knew I needed stacks but didn’t know that EN had that feature.  That’s how I found your post.  I googled “can you create a notebook inside a notebook in Evernote.”  It didn’t occur to me that it would be called something else.  Stacks makes sense!

    Thank you again for the great post.  And your blog as well.  I am also a Christian and it was a delight to end up on your blog.  Why is it surprising that Christians are normal people who can be witty, techy, geeky, funny?  I’m on Council at church and the last surprise I had there was when I found out that a lovely lady at church is a prison guard.  It put her in a new light for me. LOL  I need to stop drawing boxes around people.

    I’ve signed up for blog updates and look forward to more reading.  Hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Maggie. I appreciate your kind words and your experience with EN!

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  • AJ

    Very nice!

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  • Ryan

    Do you use Evernote as an archive too? For example, you scan all of your receipts into Evernote, is that where they stay?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yep, exactly. Anything I want to find later goes into Evernote.

  • MJ

    Michael, great blog!  I found you looking for some info on getting Kindle notes over to EN, so thanks for that tutorial too.

    I’m a in the process of integrating a lot of my personal organization into EN. 

    I am stumped on one thing, and see that you have figured it out.  HOW do
    you organize by date?  I have my “inbox” with the dates like you do, in
    the title of the post.  My posts do not sort in numerical order, and
    I’m stumped as to why.

    Your notes are sorted 2012.01.02, 2012.02.11, 2012.11.22, etc.  My notes are sorted 2012.01.11, 2012.01.02, 2012.11.22,etc. 

    Can you help? 


    • Michael Hyatt

      You can change how the notes are sorted. At the top of the column, click the column header. You should get a drop-down that gives you several options. It looks like this. Thanks.

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  • DM Cook

    Wow, stumbled on this again and I like it just as much this time too.
    You really put a lot of thought into how Evernote works. I love it too, but I’m still really annoyed about its interface design– see …. Wish they spent more time honing the core features– searching, filing, etc. — instead of just letting the user spend all their time organizing things. What do you think?

    • Michael Hyatt

      I’m happy with it. The more I use it … the more I use it.

  • Allannyland

    Thanx – very helpful and to the point.

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  • Michelle Smith

    I really appreciated reading this article because it is similar to how I use Evernote.  I have a loooong list of Notebooks and very rarely use Tags.  If I can’t find it in a Notebook, I use the search feature. 

    My reason for this is because I don’t just use Evernote for storage, I use it for brainstorming ideas for my doctoral classes.  If all of my notes for a particular class/subject are in one place, I can begin to read through various notes and articles to find common themes. 

    I use a default notebook as my sorting station.  Everything goes there first and then about once a week I go through and sort the individual notes into Notebooks.  It takes a little time but also helps me decide what to keep or trash. 

    Thanks again! 

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  • Justin

    Hey Michael, great stuff.  Will definitely check out your other posts, I’ve seen a couple others already.  EN’s truly an app of a new paradigm we’re moving into.

    Question – I’m trying to help someone else out by showing them my list of tags (in hierarchical/nested order), and you seem to have been able to get some kind of screen clipping of the left-side Notebooks/Tags pane (in order to list your notebooks), which seems like it was taller than the app window itself would’ve been.  How’d you do that??

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, SnagIt is the screen capture tool I use daily. Love it!

  • Justin

    Hey, Michael – you know, I figured it out, so nevermind (discovered SnagIt!  very cool)  Thanks again for all the great posts!!

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  • Fix Print Head

    I like learning new things which helps me do things faster and smarter. And this post motivates me to try it out once again!

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  • Doug Pettit

    Thanks for the great information. I downloaded Evernote just before I started reading Getting Things Done by David Allen (thanks for that idea, too). I have only just started using it and organized according to the acionable ideas he presented. I haven’t gotten as far as filing, but appreciate your input here. For the last couple of years, I have been mourning the passing of my Palm PDA…but no more.

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  • Bojan Djordjevic

    Too many notebooks, to few tags. Tags are more flexible than notebooks.

  • failhyve

    Dude… You really have way too many notebooks and tags. 

    Try setting up GTD (Getting Things Done) in your life and Evernote. It will be a revelation for you (judging by your Evernote lay-out).

    I recently started writing down my GTD implementation in Evernote.
    Part 1 –
    Part 2 –
    Part 3 coming soon

    • Michael Hyatt

      I use GTD, but I use Nozbe for task management. It’s a much better tool for task management in my opinion. But the bottom line for me is, use the tool that works best for you. The goal is to get stuff done not argue about the tools. Thanks.

      • rduinmayer

        Hi mister Hyatt,

        Thank you very much for your reply.

        I have to apologize to you. You are completely right it is about to get stuff done and not about the tools.

        Each his / her own thoughts and implementations which ever suits your needs.

        I found out myself that Evernote isn’t good enough for task management. Too bad i have put all my stuff in there first to figure that out :)

  • Chris Hamilton

    I just stumbled upon your posts regarding Evernote.  Great stuff!  Thanks for the ideas.

    • Joe Lalonde

       Michael does have some great information regarding Evernote doesn’t he Chris? What tip has been most beneficial to you?

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  • Andy Potter

    Thanks for your effort. I too am having difficulty finding the optimal organizational combination of tags, notebooks and stacks. I’m glad I’m not the only one having difficulty in doing this. 

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  • Jared Latigo

    I can honestly say that I’ve not used it very well. I’ll definitely take some “notes” from this and apply them though. Thanks!

    • Michele Cushatt

      I haven’t used it well, either. I probably need to block an entire day to read the PDF and set it up right.

  • Jennifer Nash

    This information is extremely helpful. I had downloaded Evernote because so many of my colleagues had but then had no clue how to really use it.

  • Mark Alan Williams

    One of the most helpful things i learned from you is to file all processed email into only one file called “processed mail.” Then the email program can do the search for you. wouldn’t the same principle hold true with Evernote–instead of notebooks and stacks, put all together and find info by doing a search by topic or “tag?”

  • Larry Farlow

    Very helpful post. I’ve been using Evernote for a while as well. I use fewer notebooks than you do but I do have one for most major areas of life (Church, Work, Home) as well as one for each current project that is nested under a “Projects” notebook. For tags I have two high level tags one called “Action Indicator” that includes things like “Waiting”, “Next”, etc.  – anything that indicates an action to be taken. Another called “Reference Category”. All my other tags are nested below one of these two. Every note has an action indicator tag (if applicable) and a reference category tag. 

  • Chris Coussens

    You convinced me to use Evernote. It’s been great. I do find myself starting to lean back towards some paper, however. I find Evernote excellent for lists and notes. I struggle using it for pure creative thought or problem solving. I need to be able to organize disparate ideas that may emerge in a disjointed fashion. Sometimes I draw pictures or diagrams. A little frustrated that I have a moleskinback back in my pocket. Any thoughts?

    • Michele Cushatt

      I’m the same. If I need creative space, I can’t do it on the computer. I have to get a spiral notebook, blank paper, pens, markers, etc. and step away from my desk.

  • aunttammie

    I’ve been using Evernote for awhile and love it, but I definitely need help in organizing! I’m sure that the book you recommend is great, but I was shocked at the steep price tag ($29!!! For a downloaded PDF!) Too rich for a teacher’s pocketbook! Anyhow, all the more reason to appreciate the tips you and others share on blogs. Thank you so much!

  • Dimitri

    I like one awesome feature, which is available only for the premium subscribers: Working offline on iPad.

    • John Tiller

      I think you just solved my only issue with Evernote!  It’s frustratingly slow when starting a new note on my iPhone while it’s connecting online.  I’ll have to see if the feature is available for iPhone too.  Thanks much!

  • Ethan Wilson

    Have you seen “The Secret Weapon”? Great Evernote tool.

    • Michele Cushatt

       What is it?

  • Robinson Mertilus

    Thanks for the summary on Evernote. Quite thorough. I’ve been using Evernote for some time, however not at its full potential. I feel like I can use your blog post as a great reference source. Thanks, again.

  • Aaron

    Great tips on how to improve Evernote effectiveness, thanks.

    I’ve recently started using to automate Evernote updates, it is yet another way to help maximize Evernote usage and minimize time spent processing. If you’re not familiar with it, check it out.

    Thanks again.

  • Jason Pulley

    I have never been able to grasp the digital note taking, I feel like it requires much time to care for.  But, I suppose once I get started I will wonder how I lived without it.  Maybe I will give it a shot.

    • Jason Stambaugh

      It really adds value in a browser setting. Find a web page you want to save for later reference? Run across a great online resource? Want to read articles later? You can’t do that stuff in your notebook. 

      Best of luck to you on your Evernote journey. 

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  • JasonEC

    I love Evernote, but never have felt I’ve come close to maximizing my proficiency/organization with it. It has the potential to be an incredible tool. I have a ScanSnap, which is probably the most useful peripheral on my Mac and years ago bought Paperless for organizing bills and such, but Paperless 2 seems to have trouble scanning things “right.” I’ve considered using Evernote for this, but was missing the “structure” mentioned specifically in this post which helps keep bills, project notes, etc. all separate.

    Well done @mhyatt:disqus 

    • Jason Stambaugh

      Agreed. I’ve been using it for a few years now and have recently really started to see how I can use it more effectively. I currently love to record voice notes and store them  under a “brainstorming” notebook. 

  • Bpwesterfield

    Is there a way to view stacks on iPad?

    • joyceglass

      UNFORTUANTELY NO!! It drives me crazy! I have become sort of accustomed to it, but do not like it.

      There are stacks on the iPhone, why can’t they do the same thing on the iPad!

      I say email the app support and tell them that you want stacks. I have been meaning too, and will do it now.

      I use my iPad EN daily, and want this feature bad!

  • Andi-Roo

    Have been hearing about EN for quite a while now, but was too scared to try it out. This has prompted me to dive in & see how it can help me be more efficient. I appreciate the swift kick in the rear that I obviously needed, & I’m excited to get more organized & go paperless. Thanks! :)

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  • Swihart Julie

    Besides tagging, why is evernote better than microsoft word? I use word’s folders and documents to organize my notes, and I’m not sure what the benefit is for switching.

    • JasonEC

      First off, if you have a system that works excellently for you, then never mind anything others say.

      That said, Evernote has a couple of things that in my mind set it apart from Word. 
      1. It has portable versions that allow you to access your notes anywhere you take your portable device.
      2. Evernote is especially good at utilizing scanned documents (which it then turns into searchable PDF’s) which allows you to later find exactly what you need with search functions (the tags help with that also). 
      3. EN gives you thumbnails for each file in a notebook which helps in differentiating the files by content instead of using filenames only.

      Those are the main things. If any of that looks like a reason to switch, you can always use EverNote for free. I know a lot of people who just use regular text files and keep their documents folder well organized. On a mac, that’s actually a pretty good filing system too.

      • Julie Swihart

        Thanks for the reply — I appreciate the answers!

  • Jordan

    Great post! I started using EN in my classroom (I teach 8th grade English) this past spring. This next year I am going to use EN to teach my students how to use technology for their own benefit (“to each his own”). I’ve started a blog called Evernote for Students that I’m going to update regularly throughout this next school year. I have only a few posts now as I’ve been spending most of my time working on an ebook tutorial for my students . Check it out when you get time.

  • Rafaela Cappai

    Thanks. Trying to reorganise my Evernote structure today and your post was quite handy! I’m also very confused about tags x notebooks, but I’ll follow your advice on minimising tags. Thanks! 

  • David Lloyd

    I was thrilled to discover your blog. You provide a wealth of resources that will take me some time to absorb. It may take me several days just to read the material I tagged from your blog today.

    I disagree with your perspective about structure and tags. I think the structure should only consist of which notes are to be shared. All other notes should be in one place, depending on tags to group items by the “Who, what, when, where, how and why” method, except that “what” and “when” are already covered by the automatic date stamp and file names. Tools tend to work best when they are used in accordance with the designer’s intentions, and the design of Evernote centers around tags to be used for searches.

    You made a statement that a person could put all of their material in one notebook, but technically that is not true, because individual notebooks have a size limit. I started using Evernote because my doctor wanted me to journal my symptoms after a car hit me while I was bicycling for exercise. My journal was fast approaching the size limit, so I had to break it apart as a collection of “headline” links to articles on other pages. Now, in my second year since the injury, I am using those notes to create a blog and eventually a website to provide resources for others whose lives have been turned upside down by a brain injury.

    My blog is at, and it is titled “Resources for Traumatic Brain Injury.”

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      I would use whatever works best for you. My way of organizing is only one way. I readily admit that i is not the best for everyone.

  • jscotta

    Your use of many (many, many) folders in organizing Evernote is the opposite of the path I’m been on for a while now. I’ve been working on moving away from the more manual folder approach to using the power of computer search tools – thus I’m tagging more and filing less.

    As an example, I’ve been able to reduce my e-mail system down to the In Box and Archive (things I’ve read and dealt with and no longer need to worry about except to store them for possible future reference). I’m able to find everything I want need using searches (including saving searches for those things I look for often). As a result, I’m saving a lot of time by not filing things.

    I’ve started using Evernote and I started it doing much as you are doing with a lot of folders. After seeing your structure in this article, I was reminded to stop that and start working on my tagging (simpler is better as you have already pointed out) and to start reducing the number of stack and folders that I have. That means reviewing my notes and tagging better. I’m still working reducing the folder structure. It is a process that will get faster as I gain more confidence in Evernote’s ability to index and find my documents.

  • japastor

    Michael- Since Evernote Essentials, Second Edition. is a pretty steep $30  — over 30 cents per “page” — have you looked at any of

    – Evernote: The unofficial guide to capturing everything and getting things done. 2nd Edition by Daniel Gold
    (Nov 30, 2011)

    – Evernote:
    The Complete Guide From Beginners, Dummies To Advanced. Everything
    you’ll ever need to know about getting started with Evernote. by mobboo
    (Jun 10, 2012)

    – Evernote For Dummies by David E. Y. Sarna and Vanessa Richie

    All are available as ebooks, and all are significantly less expensive.


    • Michael Hyatt

      No, I have’t looked at either. Thanks for the heads up.

      • japastor


        There were actually 3: 1. Daniel Gold (Nov 30, 2011); 2. mobboo (Jun 10, 2012); 3. Sarna & Richie (Apr 3, 2012). The third is a “Dummies” book, and — fairly or not — I tend to dismiss them.
        Thanks for your prompt reply, and I’m going to read your original post offline this evening while I await word on the books.
        —– Original Message —–
        From: Disqus
        Sent: Monday, August 06, 2012 1:06 PM
        Subject: [mhyatt] Re: How to Organize Evernote for Maximum Efficiency

        Michael Hyatt wrote, in response to japastor:

        No, I have’t looked at either. Thanks for the heads up.

        User’s website

        Link to comment

  • Tyler

    What do you use as a to do list or something like apples reminders app?

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  • WorldKangaroo

    Michael, I was directed to check out your “Ideal Work Week” blog, but cannot find that one.  Would you mind sending me the link?  
    Thank you!

  • TimFox_26

    Great guide :)
    i love Evernote. don’t know how i lived without it. i link it  and ‘Catch’ (i use them both) with my Cloudkafe account. 

  • Eric Dye

    You’re such a pro. ;-)

  • chasflemming

    One item to scratch off my to-do list:

    *Ask Michael Hyatt to post on how he organizes EverNote.
    (Be sure to include structure as it is currently)

    Wish ALL my prayers were answered this concretely!

  • Rob Steinbach

    This has been super helpful. One question. How do you organize your evernote notebooks / stacks so they aren’t in alphabetical order.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I am not aware that you can.

  • Ddm368

    I have just downloaded Evernote and am unsure how to begin, how I want to use it etc.. Your suggestions gave me great direction to start mine and I plan to reference it as I move along in it. Thank you.

  • Oliver Berres

    Thank you for this great inside. I took it as a reference for my own organization within Evernote, and suddenly everything seems clean and organized. 

  • Mak02a

    WHat would be extremely helpful is to learn how to move a notebook into a stack on the iPhone.  I can’t figure out how to either create a new notebook under a stack or move a notebook to a stack on the iPhone.  I have to do it on my mac, then wait for it to sync.  any thoughts?

  • Maceager

    Many thanks Michael.

    Your first 5 pages contain more doable actions than the American solicitor had in 85 pages.

    Well done.

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  • Yasmin

     Excellent post, great insight, and lots to think about.

  • AJ-Light

    This was well written and enjoyable to read. Thank you

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  • Colby Culbertson

    Great article. I have been using Evernote for sometime but had no idea how powerful it truly could be! Thanks for taking the time to share this great information!

  • Carolingk

    Later this year you will be albe to check another ideal and easy for using tool. app willbe available for iOS and Android. This tool will not only enable full synchronization with personalized content on Evernote but will also allow the user to simply create personal tasks and to do list independently. 

    • Michael Hyatt

      I signed up for this previously. I am looking forward to getting it.

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  • Explorer George

    Very helpful, Michael. I’m a new user, and am finding this a powerful tool – critical two-part question (for me) – I work frequently in areas where there is NO INTERNET – how can I archive my entire Evernote “Library” so that it can be accessed on my laptop (or supplemental hard drive)? Related to that is, of course, if I do work while offline (modify, add) how can this new work be synced when I get back on-line?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, it will all sync when you get back online.

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  • Jenniffer

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  • Promtec

    Very helpful. The !Inbox is a very good idea, thanks.

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  • Jeremy Binns

    I think it’s awesome that under speaking > jokes – there is (1).  Looking forward to platform conference in February.  I can’t wait to hear it. 

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  • Jhope

    Thanks for all the great ideas. Jhave just started looking at using Evernote .

    Side note of warning: in pro version, you can get around the protection by simply reinstalling Evernote!

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  • Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

    I just started using Evernote (per Michael’s suggestion) and I love it!  I have it on all my devices, and it syncs easily.  I am still learning how to organize things, and I am going to upgrade from the free version.  It’s only about $5.00 a month to have a lot more room available.  Thanks Michael…great suggestion, and I’ll be reading your posts and downloading the book by Brett Kelly.

  • Hugh O’Donnell

    Thank you for openly sharing your filing system, Michael. Very helpful.

  • carlos

    Thanks for this. I went looking for Evernote help and discovered a new person of interest…. not in a criminal suspect kind of way though. I’m looking forward to exploring your site more and already signed up for the weekly digest.

  • neil eneix

    Evernote is a great tool! Especially with its cross platform ability. Thanks for the helpful information.

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  • Ed Snyder

    Very helpful! I/we are going paperless at the office and at home and this looks like the ticket. Thanks again for a very helpful article and I am buying your book Evernote Essentials 

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  • Mike

    Eu aconselho você a Jogar bingo. A melhor bingo em toda a rede. Estamos esperando por você.

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  • DougC


    A couple of things I do. Dates I reduce to 6 numbers 130331. I use this to help index – example Journal 130331 will keep all my journal entries in chronological order.

    I have Reference and Reference Personal. Reference is for generic learning but nothing personal. Reference Personal always has something to do with me or my family – Home and property, vehicles, legal, financial, tax, insurance, travel, Equipment manuals/receipts. Reference I like to keep just for my search for pure knowledge and understanding of life.

    I also tag every conversation, phone or personal, with Daily Log, This allows me to go back and reconstruct my life. Date/time is a very important method to sub file – as we can often relate back to where we were or what we were doing when something happened we are looking for. We can go back to the dates of a convention or vacation to pick up the name of a contact we recorded by have since forgotten.

    Doug Collier

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  • Jen K

    Awesome article! I love the “!Inbox” idea & thanks for the tip about the ! I usually put an “A” in front of notebooks I want first. The “!” is much more efficient.

  • Sean Nisil

    Just found out that Moleskine now has an Evernote Smart Notebook. Old School + New School!

  • Caleb Waldner

    This is a great article. Evernote has totally changed the way I do things. This is my notebook/tag method.

    Notebook = category
    Tag = content

    There are some gray lines, but in general it works great. I look at a note, decide the category (personal reference, work reference, list, journal, etc.) and place it in its respective notebook. I tag the not with the content (productivity, fun, love, etc.)

    I use lots of tags, few notebooks, and rely on search engine. Have about 1,200 notes and it works great for me.

  • Amberstone

    Here’s what works for me. No notebooks, no tags. I name the item with 1) category 2) person place or thing, 3) date if important, 4) description of note. Example: Household Plumber 5/27/13 bill for repair. Another: People Bryan Birthday Gift Idea. Another: Kitchen Recipe Dessert Banana Cream Pie. I do all my searching using “Intitle:_______”. Works for me. I have over 1,300 notes.

  • Muhammad Hanif Nasir

    Evernote is a unique idea, now you can facility of evernote on mobile, just visit the mentioned site and get the androide application of stringnot which gives you the facility of sharing and remembring every thing on your stringnote application.

  • Charles Scalfani

    We built a web-app called Dabitat. If Evernote is your junk drawer then Dabitat is your filing cabinet.

    Checkout the explainer video:

    And our Getting Started video:

    • Michael Hyatt

      This looks pretty cool for structured data. The reason I like Evernote is because I don’t have to think about the structure. I just through it in the database.

      • Charles Scalfani

        Thanks. I think there’s room for both. I have a junk drawer at home and I have a filing cabinets. I must say though, if I had to lose one over the other, I’d pick the junk drawer :-)

  • BJ

    I just took the time and reoganized all of my notes based on this. I’m trying to use Evernote more and more to reduce the clutter on my desk and not lose important information. Thanks for the inspiration

  • Carl Carrington

    Michael – this is your second most popular post yet it is three years old. Would be great to prepare a reflection on this demonstrating how you work with this and other tools today.

    I love EN and slowly integrated it in to my organisation.

    Best wishes – Carl

  • Simon

    Evernote is a best note recording and syncing app. I started off with Catch (closed down), switched to Springpad (found out the web interface doesn’t show up in China because it is trying to connect a module on Facebook and obviously it’s blocked in China), and now I love using Evernote (works amazingly fast and easy to use).

  • Dale L

    Hi Michael. I have been wondering if it is a good idea to use folders or just tags for client notes / documents. With about 2000 client files, I wonder if tags are a better option. Seems like scrolling through 2000 folders could be crazy lame. Thoughts?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I agree. I m using tags more and more and folders less and less.

  • realsource

    Thanks for this post — I will be spending my holidays – organizing my evernote

  • lanister

    Evernote works good for personal life, BUT, most enterprise sized concerns, may not accept the risk inherent in having corporate information, in a cloud outside their purview. Not sure if Evernote does this or not, but imagine if it “mined” user notebooks the way Google does its End Users’ email, docs, social software… ouch!

    see: galaxy note 3 & ipad mini 2

  • peggyduncan

    I’m a professional organizer and Michael Hyatt used the principle of organizing that says to put like subjects together using broad categories and then subcategorizing with the next broad, etc. He did this exactly as I would have done. I’m using OneNote and it does the nesting Michael mentioned. It’s how I do the subcategories.

  • owenhemsath

    Evernote has almost lost me to trello but I am going to review this post at my desktop and see what new levels I can discover

  • Charles Johnston

    Thanks for all the info, I downloaded it awhile back then dumped it due to lack of use. More my fault than Evernotes as I did not take the time to dig into its capabilities. Will be adding it back and giving it another shot.

  • OkwyDavis

    Evernote is too great an app. Thanks for making it more beneficial.

  • usagirl

    If I find an article in Safari on my iphone, how can I save it tone Evernote?

  • sony

    Am new to the world of blogging and your article improved me a lot to grew up….. Continue helping with tips, tricks and valuable informations… So that newbies can grow better and better with you…Make Money , Blogging Tips

  • Joshua Sheats

    I’m finally going to wade into Evernote again…I used it for a while, got frustrated, and switched to an all paper-based system. Now that system is insufficient and I’m going back to Evernote!

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  • MsD

    My note books are the same as my folders on my computer.

  • Awadhesh Nema

    How can Evernote be used as S Planner…
    Or any trick to synchonise it with S Planner as per date of that we can see it on a month view….

    • Michael Hyatt

      What’s an ‟S Planner”?

  • Awadhesh Nema

    It is a planner Just like a monthly planner Usually inbuilt with all samsung Galaxy smart phone.. I am using Samsung Galaxy Note3….I am using Evernote for taking notes etc….and S Planner for managing alll schedules….I want as the evernote records date and time automatically…if it can be sync with S Planner I will be easy to manage at one place. Or any other option of planner/Organizer to be sync with Ever Note….Or any option to use evernote as organiser….
    AScreen short of S Planner is attached….

    • Michael Hyatt

      Got it. Thanks.

  • Michael Reinhart

    Given your taxonomy, do you have a way to find objects in Evernote that relate to a specific client?– i.e. would you recommend using a Tag for each client or some other approach… say I want to find all notes that pertain to ACME Ltd.?