An Expert Answers: “How Do I Organize Evernote?”
As a Consultant who specializes in Evernote productivity, a large part of my job is helping businesses organize their Evernote systems to meet the goals of their organization. How to organize Evernote is the problem I’m solving. It's also the most common question I get from new users, and the topic of my most viewed training video [Strategies and Tips for Organizing Your Notes]. Clearly, people are in search for the definitive answer on proper Evernote organization.
The challenge is, there is no “right" answer to this question. By design, Evernote is flexible and unstructured. The advantage to this is that Evernote can support nearly any use case and be customized to fit your exact needs. This a huge part of Evernote’s power and appeal.
The flip side to this flexibility is that that many users are left to wonder how exactly they are supposed to organize Evernote. It is very simple to embrace note creation both inside and outside of Evernote - Evernote makes it nearly effortless with tools like the web clipper and Scannable, and integration partners like IFTTT. And Evernote is an amazing repository built to hold [and share] anything you can make digital. So collection and creation of notes is easy and users quickly get on board with this part of using Evernote. But, effective use of Evernote goes beyond note creation. Users need to have confidence that they can quickly and easily find what they are looking for. And, at some point, all users reach a threshold where this isn’t possible without a more detailed understanding of how Evernote supports finding what you seek. This is where the need to organize Evernote comes in.
At the time of publishing this post, I have over 16,000 notes in my Evernote account. This quantity of notes would not be functional for me if I didn’t have strategies in place for organizing and retrieving my data. Exactly how I organize my account will likely vary from how you organize yours. But, all users can benefit from understanding the different ways Evernote allows you to create meaningful structure and retrieval in your account - all of which I tap into in order to organize my Evernote account.
The following four categories represent my perspective on the tools and strategies available in Evernote for organizing. Once data is in Evernote, these four areas form the fluency of your Evernote experience. The more skilled you are in understanding the nuances that Evernote offers in each area, the more powerful and delightful you will find Evernote. The “buckets” below are a combination of skill and art. They can be used both independently and intertwined to create powerful workflows in your account. Some of the organizational opportunities are simply about understanding how to use an existing Evernote feature [such as how to create a stack, for example]. Other organizational opportunities are more arbitrary and are best deployed based on a full understanding of what you need to accomplish in your system [how should your notebooks be grouped into stacks, for example]. Regardless of which category [or categories] you start with, all are useful in bringing structure and retrievability of the data in your account.
Categories of Evernote Organizational Tools and Strategy
1. EVERNOTE SEARCH TOOLS
Evernote is on the bleeding edge of search technology and provides powerful ways to find what you are looking for in your account. In fact, the search features are so powerful that it is technically possible to have no structure in your Evernote account beyond a single notebook and still find whatever you are searching for [albeit - you probably would want to be power-user fluent in the search opportunities that Evernote provides]. For example, beyond the basic and intuitive finds most users conduct in the “Search notes” box, Evernote provides tags, atlas search, context, OCR indexing, augmented intelligence, advanced search syntax, etc. All are tools that can help you quickly retrieve whatever you are looking for - no matter how many notes live in your account.
Sharpen Your Evernote Search Skills with These Resources:
The Ins and Outs of Evernote Search [Free video]
2. EVERNOTE STRUCTURE TOOLS
Notebooks and stacks are the Evernote building blocks that provide human friendly organization to your data in Evernote. You can visually group notes and projects together in any way that suits you. Think of notebooks as manilla folders, and stacks as filing cabinet drawers. Don't be afraid to create notebooks and stacks and organize them any way you like. It is not difficult to change your notebook and stack structure. Once data is in Evernote, it is very easy to move around [you just need to learn how]. Most users go through several iterations of their notebook and stack structure over time. What you keep in Evernote evolves. How you conduct business evolves. And Evernote notebooks and stacks can evolve right along with you.
Sharpen Your Understanding of Notebooks and Stacks with These Resources:
How To Create Notebook Stacks With Evernote [Evernote Blog Post]
3. EVERNOTE NAVIGATION FEATURES
There are many small but mighty navigation features of Evernote that provide both structure and simple retrieval of information in your account. These features include note linking, shortcuts, the back button, sort order, the jump to notebook feature, and keyboard shortcuts. These features allow you to quickly navigate to what you are looking for when you start to accumulate hundreds, or thousands, of notes in your account. My favorite of these features, note linking, gives me a layer of structure to my notes that is completely in my control - letting me hyperlink any two arbitrary notes together and creating hierarchy to my data that supports efficiency.
4: NAMING CONVENTIONS
Strategically naming your notes, notebooks, stacks and tags can support rapid retrieval of notes in a variety of ways. Naming conventions help to get like information grouped together in the Evernote interface. This makes data more logical to the human eye and brain and helps you know where to find things. Naming conventions, when used in conjunction with the default sort order of notebooks, and the “Sort by:” view feature [category 3 above], become a very powerful organizational feature. Naming conventions also support accurate and powerful finds from the search box using detailed search parameters that Evernote offers [category 1 above] and yield more meaningful note links [category 3 above].
Sharpen Your Understanding of Naming Conventions with These Resources:
For those of you looking to organize your Evernote accounts in a way that supports your productivity, focus on expanding your Evernote skills and knowledge in each of these four areas. You’ll find that many of the blog posts I do go into great detail about one specific feature of one of these categories [subscribe to be automatically sent new posts]. And, there is no shortage of resources on the web to help you improve your skill in any category. The more fluent you are in the tools and strategies presented here, the more powerful and effective Evernote will be for you.
Now get to it...time to organize your Evernote account!