Evernote folders vs. tags


I am wondering if there is a better way to manage my projects in Evernote. Currently I use these folders:

!nput to Watch, Read or Listen

1 Next
2 Waiting
3 Scheduled
4 Someday/Maybe
5 Completed
6 In-Process Projects
7 Degree Project Support Files
8 Other Project Support Files
9 Checklists and Templates
10 Reference

Then I have lots of tags for
/type of material
+time estimate
and various other tags related to the general idea of the note

I basically like this, but as my projects accumulate, what do I do for the actionable steps associated with that project? If I add the action item to a list on the project note, I would have to go through each project to see what my next action is. If I create a separate note for each action, how does that relate to my separate project note?

I guess I'm wondering if I am using my tags and notebooks and notes in the best way. Maybe I should create a tag for each of my projects instead of a note? Or a notebook (though I hate to think how many notebooks that would give me)?


David Parker

GTD Connect
There are a couple of ways to handle this.

1. Add a keyword for the Project in your Next Actions etc. Then you can use the powerful Evernote search function to pull together related information. If the same keyword is in all the Notes relating to that Project it will pick them out as well.

2. Use a tag for each specific project (adding that to your Next Actions, etc.) and sort by that tag.

These are tips from the GTD Setup Guide for Evernote for Mac and Windows. They're a worthwhile investment for just $10 each.


I have used Evernote for reference for years, and use folders for areas of focus, and tags for everything else. I should also say I am really pretty unhappy with the poor export capabilities of Evernote, and am considering a change.
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I guess I'm wondering if I am using my tags and notebooks and notes in the best way. Maybe I should create a tag for each of my projects instead of a note? Or a notebook (though I hate to think how many notebooks that would give me)?
I set up Evernote using the suggestions in the guide that @David Parker referenced. Basically, the guide suggests you set up a separate notebook for each individual context (like calls) as well as for other list categories (like waiting for, someday maybe and projects). Each item in the list is represented by its own note (so, for example, you'd have a separate note for every project).

It's true the guide recommends using a keyword or tag if you really feel a need to tie next actions to a particular project, but it also suggests you do so sparingly. Otherwise you risk creating a system too burdensome to use with ease.

I would strongly recommend purchasing the setup guide if you want to continue using Evernote as your list manager.


Stacey Harmon
Hillary -

You are asking an important and foundational question when choosing how to organize Evernote – notebooks or tags? You do need to decide this, and there are solutions that work on both sides. It isn't a simple answer and you can have success either way, but I would suggest reading this article I wrote on Notebooks vs Tags in Evernote (short highlight...I'm pro-notebooks as your primary organizational tool. I'm also not anti-tags...but I do think they are a secondary level of organization). I've run GTD in my account for nearly 10 years with a notebook based approach. I believe it to be the most scalable option (it has certainly worked for me...I successfully manage over 30K notes in my account without overwhelm). I also believe that when using Evernote for GTD, you have to decide how to organize by context. For me, notes, notebooks and stacks provide the most compelling and scalable way to do this.


I'm on the other side of this issue, so far.

I'm just starting out with seeing whether Evernote would be useful to me (mostly as my filing system). With only a few dozen items, using notebooks was already feeling too opaque. Tonight, after reading the linked-to Hyatt article, I promptly created a MegaNotebook and an Inbox notebook, moved everything to Mega, tagged everything with a new set of tags, and....ahhh. So much better. I was just about to abandon the Evernote experience before this.

I strongly suspect that this is a mental model thing. Evernote notes are records. That's my mental model. I want to be able to get at them as records.As far as I'm concerned, a notebook IS a tag, just one with special display capabilities. So if I'm going to see the organizational system as tags anyway, I want all the capabilities of tags, including the ability to have multiple tags per item.

And if I do want a hand-selected group of records to sit in a notebook for a while, maybe because there's no obvious search, all I have to do is drag them there. Admittedly, only the desktop version makes it quick and easy to do that, but I can live with that.

I do agree that it's problematic that tags are treated differently in different platforms, but I am, nevertheless, much happier with Evernote on Mac desktop, web, and iPhone, now that it's all organized by tags.

We'll see if this still works for me if and when I have orders of magnitude more data stored there.