Simple Rules To Sorting The Horrors Of The Tag Mess In Evernote

Brian Bojan Dordevic
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For past hour and a half I was going through my tag horrors. I never paid strict attention to tags, but as my Notebooks became to small for my needs, I was urged to move forward with tags. I am still using Notebooks to organize my notes, but tags are way more useful. I have awful lot of tags! When I say awful, I mean, I can’t even count them! They are nowhere near being organized even now. It’s just messy place, that I didn’t clean up in a while. If it wasn’t for search I wouldn’t make any sense out of my 1500+ notes.

How To Organize Evernote Tags
Sneak Peek into my notebooks and tags (and OmniFocus on the left)

So what is the basic premise behind organizing your tags? Well what do you want to use the tags for in the first place? While I was going through them, I figured that large number of tags I used only once. If I saw the huge number of tags that were tagging only one note, I would simply delete them. If I don’t have the need to tag something twice, I don’t need that tag in the first place!

Tagging is awesome taxonomy. I knew it’s benefits while I was using Evernote for GTD. All the GTD tags were put at the top, and I didn’t pay any attention whatsoever at what’s happening at the bottom. I am going to take the same approach now!  I still kept the notebooks for organizing purposes, but they are becoming the second class citizen. Why? Because the notebooks that I actually use the most are next 2:

Inbox and Archives

All the rest of the notebooks can perform as the tags more or less. Apart of some notebooks used to collaboratively share with my coworkers and friends, majority of notebooks can be replaced with simple tags. I was avoiding switching altogether, because it didn’t feel comfortable to go through the tag hell.

Now instead of devoting more than 2 hours of organizing tags, I wanted to make the sense of what’s important and what’s not. It was awfully hard to scroll up and down, so I used to “!” (exclamation mark) to mark every important note and take it to the top, where all of my important tags resided. Symbols are increadibly important in daily Evernote use! If you want something to be on top, be it notebook  or a tag, you just add “!” and it’s right there at the top. If you want to make sure that the item is going to be the first on the list, just use “!!”.

Now once I pulled all the important tags to the top, I started sorting out without scrolling up and down. Scrolling up and down through hundreds of tags was dountaing task, and not a pretty one either. So double clicking the tags name, allowed me to immediately change the name of the tag and from there move it to the top instantly.

So here is the list of those simple rules of organizing Evernote Tags:

  • If the tag is tagging only one note – DELETE IT!
  • If the tag is tagging only one note, but you have a tag stack list where it belongs to, add it to the stacked tag
  • Before you delete the tag, go through the single note and see if you need it, if you do tag it with another appropriate tag
  • If it takes too long, Take a break!

This method works way better than deleting all the tags and than retagging them all over. It’s something that need to happen occassionally. Every time when you don’t have something important to do, and want to take a break, make a moment to go through a couple of tags, delete those that you don’t use etc… Tags can be the bread and butter of your Evernote account. I am glad that I was tagging my notes all over the place, so once I went through and organized my tags, whole lot of them made a lot of sense. Hopefully your tags will make a lot of sense to you too!


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