Every so often, I go on a tagging and filing spree. It took me a couple of hours, but I finally cleared the 700+ items that had piled up in my Evernote inbox. I was thinking about how to get even better at this because Timothy Kenny told me how he has a virtual assistant file the notes in his Microsoft OneNote notebooks.
Is my filing really worth it? Is it something I value enough to pay someone else to do? Could I explain what I wanted clearly enough so that other people could do it? Could I benefit from organization even if I’m not the one organizing things myself?
Before I dig into that, I should probably examine this question: What do I use Evernote for, and what could “better” look like?
Here’s a quick summary of the different reasons I use Evernote:
|Type of note||Description||Organization||Improvements|
|Sketchnotes||Collection of my sketchnotes for easy searching||Shared notebook, tagged by type||Fine the way it is|
|Inspiration||Interesting sketchnotes, images, and web designs||Notebook, tagged by technique||Tag and file when clipping, identify key areas of focus|
|Visual library||Visual thesaurus / sketches of abstract and concrete stuff||Notebook, titles updated, duplicates merged||Improve workflow – delegate titling?|
|E-mail archives||Keep important information no matter which e-mail inbox it’s from||None at the moment; notebook and tags||Tag and file when forwarding|
|People, conversations||Quick notes from my mobile||Notebook||Add full names; consider Evernote Hello for mobile input?|
|Ideas and thoughts||Quick notes from my mobile||Notebook||Should have weekly task to review and act on; separate from main Inbox?|
|Actions||Quick notes from my mobile, when I’m away from Org||Notebook||Should have weekly task to review and act on / copy into my Org file|
|Cooking||Recipes, usually with pictures||Notebook, tagged by technique or dietary considerations||Review periodically; update when cooked|
|Wishlist||Resources to buy after more consideration||None at the moment; tags, probably||Tag and file when clipping|
|Reference books||Books held by the Toronto Reference Library, to request next time I’m there||Notebook, search||Go to the library more often|
|Letters||Scanned letters so that I can review correspondence||Notebook, tagged by person||Fine the way it is|
|PDFs||Makes PDFs more searchable||Inbox, occasionally tagged||Use Web Clipper to specify tags and file in Notes right away|
|Blog posts / casual browsing||Interesting things that might be useful someday, especially for related items||Notebook||Use Web Clipper to file in Notes right away|
|Other sketches||Scanned sketchbook pages so that I can review||Notebook||Fine the way it is|
|Private notes||Things that I might want to remember or write about someday, but not yet||Notebook||Have an outline?|
|Blog post ideas||Inspiration, drafts, links, images, checklists||Notebook, some tags||Add links to outline?|
|Business and personal receipts||Back up business and personal receipts; possibly be able to search through them||Notebook; tags, or just use folders on my drive?||Decide where to do the organization; have an assistant retitle before import?|
|Blog research?||Clipped pages so they’ll show up in Google Search and related notes, and so that I can review them even if the source disappears (payoff > 2 years)||No organization; search by keywords or sourceurl:||Clip, but remove from inbox quickly|
I have different types of clipping activities:
- A. Researching a topic, which results in lots of clips related to a single topic. Usually in preparation for a blog post or as a way to answer a question.
- B. Casual browsing and clipping based on blog posts, news items, or other things I come across; roughly topical (ex: skill development), although may be tagged and filed in different places
- C. Saving reference material from email or websites, which should be filed
- D. Adding notes on the go using my phone, which should be reviewed and acted on or filed when I get back to my computer
- E. Automatically clipping things based on external input, using services like IFTTT to archive my blog posts.
There are several strategies I could use to manage my Evernote collection. I can choose different strategies based on the results that I want. Here are some possibilities:
- A. Spend a few extra seconds tagging and filing things when I clip them. Advantage: I touch something once, so I don’t have to recall the context of an item.
- B. Capture everything into an !Inbox, then file shortly after clipping. Advantages: I can select multiple entries and tag them give them the same tags, and copy all the note links in one go.
- C. Capture everything into an !Inbox, then file weekly. This is my current strategy. This isn’t working out too well – things pile up.
- D. Capture everything into an !Inbox, then teach someone to file.
I think strategy B will give me a good improvement in performance without me needing to bring in someone else.
One of the areas that I could generally improve in is integrating the notes into my outlines and plans. Instead of just collecting the information, maybe I can use Copy Note Link and then spend some time adding those links to my outline. Alternatively, I can copy the source URL right then and there, find where it fits into my outline, and paste the link. If org2blog respects comments, I could even use that as part of my workflow.
If I were to outsource more tasks in order to improve my effectiveness at learning, I think I’d gain more value from finding someone who can speed-read like I do, filtering through lots of cruft on the Internet to find high-quality resources. They could then clip those pages into Evernote for my review. That might be worth an experiment or two… Let’s find out how that works!