This crazy useful tool has been an exercise in evolution for me. What once was an elaborate web of files and email folders ( and filing cabinets, and paper stacks, and post-it notes) is now a finely honed organization systems that is rich with content, tags, and search-ability.
I’m very particular about how I store information that I expect to need in the future. For years, I kept important files in file folders organized with meaningful names and a fairly sophisticated depth of subfolders. Following the logic of my mind, I stored things I needed just like I thought. Makes perfect sense, right?
Then came email. Emails were more difficult to store in that way, so I basically replicated that elaborate file storage system in my email (and regularly got the warnings that come when the mailbox is too full). Now, I had two electronic storage systems that invariably had duplicated information. I also had multiple places to search when I needed something.
So, not everything that came to me came in electronic format, so I needed a place to store those items that came to me physically. These were contracts, catalogues, letters, purchase orders, and a myriad of other pieces of paper that warranted my retention. That meant that I had to have a series of filing cabinets that included… Yep! You guessed it! They also needed a filing system that would make it easy for me to find what I needed.
Lastly, I had my tickler file. My tickler file consisted of a series of stacks of paper on and around my desk. I had in-process work, work to be done, things I needed to re-visit, and POST-IT NOTES! Those were my reminders of things to come, passwords for web sites I visited often, names and phone numbers, and a whole host of other information I wanted to have at my fingertips.
In the midst of all this paper and clutter, I read David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done – The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.” In it was painted a picture of organization and peace of mind that one can create an environment where your information is safe, and your mind is free to FOCUS. While not insisting on any particular method of organization, Mr. Allen introduced me to Evernote, and I have been committed ever since.
My use of the program has changed dramatically since first adopting it, and I’m miles from where I started. Specifically, I started building my Evernote precisely as I had built those folders and subfolders that I told you about earlier. It worked great, and Evernote even indexed everything I put in it for easy searching. Sadly, I learned (quite by accident) that Evernote has a maximum number of notebooks allowed in their individual account. Who knew I would bump up against a limit of 250 notebooks?!? I did. I did, because I wasn’t using one of the most powerful tools available to Evernote users, Tags.
For example, I had over 100 notebooks under a stack called “Customers.” Each customer had their own notebook, and I filed everything related to that customer there. Some had dozens of notes. Some had one. So, in my most recent evolution, I decided to use tags in my notes. Instead of having a separate notebook for each client, I put every note in a single notebook called “Clients.” But FIRST, I went to each note and gave it a tag with the client’s name (This can be done in bulk by highlighting every note in a notebook and adding the tags to all of them at once. While still highlighted, you can also move them in bulk to the “Clients” notebook).
Imagine that! In just a short amount of time, I eliminated over 100 notebooks, freeing me up to add others as I decided I need them, and I created tags for each. I also learned in that exercise that tags can be nested together so my tags page doesn’t look overcrowded. So, I have a tag named “Clients.” Because I drag another tag named “Doe, John” and drop him on the “Clients” tag, Evernote puts John’s tag into a sort of tag folder or nest. I click on the “Clients” tag, and it unfolds to show all of the tags I have created for my various clients. One notebook. Many tags that I can organize easily. Whew!
My use of Evernote will continue to evolve, but I am more convinced than ever that it is a powerful tool for storing, retrieving, and sharing information.
One more thing…. Thanks to my handy desktop scanner, I have no more filing cabinets, and I haven’t used Post-It notes in two years.
One more thing more…. Evernote syncs on my desktop, notebook, iPhone, and iPad. I have ALL of this information at my fingertips at all times.
Thanks for reading, and I’d love to know what you use to organize your life! Tomorrow Begins Today.