Sometimes I wish I could organize my 3D life as well as I do my online life.
I banned digital clutter long ago. I set up a folder system for files and keep my desktop empty except for one junk folder.
Following suit, when I got serious about using Evernote in my design business, I sat down and made a plan to keep my notes organized.
Setting up a notebook hierarchy in your sidebar is essential to Evernote organization. By default, the Evernote sidebar displays notebooks in alphabetical order (which isn’t really ideal). Here are my secrets to outsmarting the alphabet!
To bring an item (either a notebook or note) to the top of the list, add a number or symbol as the first character of the title. To move an item to the bottom of the list I add a “z” before the title. I’ve noticed that Evernote orders the symbols differently on Mac vs. PC vs. the web app, so you may need to play around a bit till you find an order that works for your system.
What works for me on my Mac is to use a period before the notebooks I want at the top of the Evernote sidebar list, followed by notebooks with the at (@) symbol, and then asterisks. Another option would be to use multiples of the same symbol (i.e. *title, **title, ***title) but I find that using different symbols helps me to identify certain stacks more easily since there is not an option for color-coding.
Fact: The @ symbol is officially called the commercial at.
The very first notebook in my Evernote sidebar is the inbox. To set this up, I created a notebook called .Inbox and in the General section of Preferences set it as the default notebook. Any notes not created in a specific notebook get sent to this default inbox automatically.
Having a default inbox is helpful for when I’m in a rush, creating notes on my phone, clipping from the web, or emailing into Evernote without labeling the note to go somewhere specific. Once a month-ish when I’m on my laptop I’ll go through my inbox and title, tag, and file away the collected notes. I picked up this tip from the holy grail of Evernote productivity tips, Evernote Essentials by Brett Kelly.
Other than my .Inbox, every notebook in my Evernote sidebar is housed inside a stack. Creating stacks is easy from the main Notebooks view. You can drag and drop notebooks on top of one another and then give each stack a name. Check out the “Organize Your Notes” section in the official Evernote Guide to see exact instructions for your operating system.
As I mentioned earlier, I use a symbol before the title of stacks to bring important stacks to the top. This is what my Evernote sidebar currently looks like when the stacks are collapsed:
.Inbox: default notebook
@home: stack for personal / life notebooks
@work: stack for my day job
**Current Projects: stack for current design project notebooks
**Past Projects: stack for past design project notebooks
**Priceless Design: stack for design business-related notebooks
Design & Development: stack for general design and coding information
Lifelong Learner: stack for notes from e-courses and workshops
Designer Guidebook: stack for my site’s notebooks
zArchive: stack for my archives, Skitch screenshots, and old notebooks that I’m not ready to trash
Another tip from Brett Kelly’s book is to set up a general archive notebook for those notes that you want to keep but don’t really need a notebook for. It’s kind of like having a junk drawer in your Evernote.
I have a notebook called .Archive and it lives in the zArchive stack. My .Archive notebook houses things like auto-generated IFTTT records of my Instagram posts and tweets, random articles that I find personally interesting, and emails I want to back-up.
Now is the time to start organizing your notebooks! Your tasks are to:
- Create a notebook called .Inbox and set it as your default notebook.
- As much as possible, place all your existing notebooks into relevant stacks. Combine notebooks whenever possible!
- Create a stack called zArchive and stick any old or unused notebooks in it.
- Create an .Archive notebook and place it in zArchive stack to hold uncategorized notes.
This is the third post in the Designer Guide to Evernote series.
Check back next week, when we’ll talk about what notebooks I have in my business stack. Trust me, you won’t want to miss this!