In my previous tip I explained that each Evernote note can be stored in one, and only one Evernote Notebook.  Notebooks are containers for notes.

Tags are very different.  Each Evernote note can be given many different tags.

Imagine you are at a family reunion.   You meet a cousin who you’ve not talked to for years, and find out they are living in New Zealand.  You’ve always wanted to visit New Zealand, and in fact you have an Evernote tag called “New Zealand” and you’ve twenty or so notes with information about New Zealand that you’ve tagged with that tag.  Prior to coming to the reunion you also created a tag “Family Reunion 2012” since you knew you’d be collecting lots of memories that you’d want to store in your trusted permanent store (aka Evernote).

With tags you don’t have to make a choice, you can create a note with contact information from your cousin, and perhaps a photo, and tag it with both “New Zealand” and “Family Reunion 2012”.

That way, when you finally get around to booking your trip of a life time, you can select the “New Zealand” tag and see that note, among all the others.  Also, in 30 years time, in 2042,  when you are reminiscing about that family reunion, you can click the “Family Reunion 2012” tag and see that note, complete with photo, as well as all the other notes you created at the family reunion.

Tags provide a way of grouping your notes.  You can slice and dice your thousands of notes in different ways – each tag provides a different perspective into your collection of notes.

At the start of this year I moved the twenty or so physical folders taking up space in my office down to my basement.  There was a folder called “Kids” with dividers for “School”, “Soccer”, “Music” etc.  There was a folder called “Bank” with sections for various bank accounts.  There was … you get the idea … you probably have the same thing.

Once they were all downstairs I recreated an equivalent structure in Evernote using tags. A tag called “Bank Accounts”, a tag called “Kids” etc.

imageNow each time something arrives by post, or from school, I:

  1. use my scanner to scan it into Evernote and create a new note containing the scanned document;
  2. tag the new note with the tag corresponding to the folder into which I would have put the document;
  3. take great delight in shredding the physical document;

I can’t tell you what a pleasure it is to be able to effortlessly pull out some document I need for my taxes in seconds, or to see what the kids swimming schedule is, or what my last car insurance bill was.  All at my finger tips, on all my devices, no matter where I am in the world.

Its actually better than my real world folders were, because I can tag notes with multiple tags.  Whereas in the real world I’d have to decide whether to file a bank statement into my Bank folder, or my “Taxes 2012” folder (because I’d need it for a tax return), with Evernote I can tag it with as many tags as I wish, letting me then find it in different ways depending on what I’m doing.

I’m using tag hierarchies in the picture, which I’ll cover in a later tip.

Next up: Forget about Tags, they are too much hassle – just search.