On setting up Evernote in a way that works for the way you work.

The power of Evernote is the flexibility to set it up in a way that works for the way you work. Here’s how I organise it.

First, my default notebook is called @Ian’s Inbox. This is where screenclips, webpages, my random thought jottings, forwarded/saved emails, photographs, scans etc land by default ready to be actioned. Processing my Evernote inbox to zero is as important to me as processing my email inboxes to zero. Processing is a chance to reflect on whether I need to keep the content, if so move it to the relevant notebook. It’s worth noting that one notebook can be set as default in settings, and this is what enables third part apps or extensions to link to Evernote.

Next I have a ‘Coming Up’ notebook stack. Here I have an ‘Events’ notebook into which I put all booking confirmation emails, pdfs of tickets etc for theatre, cinema, concerts, train bookings etc. These tend to be one-offs. It’s great to see them there and know you have stuff coming up that you’ll love to do. If I have a holiday or trip for which I have a range of information I’ll create a notebook specially for it. This will hold everything from booking information to maps, ideas of places to visit, brochures downloaded, contacts etc. Once the trip is over this content will get added to my ‘Timeline’ notebook and the trip notebook deleted. I also have a ‘Someday’ notebook of wide-ranging ideas and inspiration of things to buy, places to go, stuff to do etc. It’s good to check back in on this from time to time and see what curios are in there.

Next comes the bulk of my content. Some people simply have one folder and drop everything into it. They rely on the quality of the search function to retrieve information. Over the years I have preferred to cluster my information by workbooks. It just works better for me that if I know I have content related to ‘Move house’ it is all in the same folder, easily found.

I have aligned my Evernote structure with David Allen’s Getting things Done (GTD) approach. In it, amongst other things, he talks of the different levels at which you view your life, from your ultimate vision or purpose (what he calls the 50,000 feet view), to long-term goals (40,000 feet), short-terms goals (30,000 feet) key areas of responsibility (20,000 feet), projects (10,000) and actions (the runway).

So I set up Evernote as follows (this isn’t necessarily advocated by GTD followers but it works for me). Each notebook stack represents an area of responsibility at 20,000 feet (such as work, health and fitness, friends and family, home and finances etc. Within each stack I have a separate notebook for each project or element that is important to me. This is the inventory of projects at 10,000 feet. For example, within the health and fitness stack I have a notebook called ‘Complete Great North Run 2016’. Within my ‘Complete Masters in Behavioural Science’ stack I have a notebook for each module. Into each of these goes all my related content. All this content therefore relates to areas of my life that are relevant and important to me at the moment.

Finally comes ‘archived’ content, although you might argue that Evernote is one big archive! I mentioned my timeline notebook. I have two: Personal and Professional. These contain all my past notes and content that relate to areas of responsibility and projects that are either no longer relevant or are completed. It means that as my life changes and my notebooks change, I thrown the notes into my timeline ‘for the record’. Holiday over? No longer a member of that club? Move the notes to the Timeline notebook. Finished a consultancy project? New job? Move the content to the Professional timeline.

And that’s it.

Here’s how it looks on my iPhone…

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