This post originally appeared on blog.VladCampos.eu and has been republished here with permission.
I strongly believe that the key to make things work well in Evernote is by understanding that the note is its core element.
Understand and use this in your favor when creating and building your system. Even tasks are note-dependent. There’s no task, reminder, tag, documents, etc., without a note.
The note also has some invaluable characteristics. For example, every single time you create a new one, it will have the date, time and in some situations, even your location attached to it. Moreover, we can also add tags that, combined with other elements, like images, documents, texts, etc., will help us group notes in so many ways. The next logical step is learning how to automatically group all these elements using the Advanced Search Syntax. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
What I’m describing so far is a database where the equivalent of a Primary Key to the end-user, aka, you, is the note. That’s why, if you treat the note as the core element of your system, you’ll make the best use of Evernote.
Connecting the dots
Evernote wasn’t around when I went to school, nor during my graduation. But it was a priceless tool for my post-graduation. From now on, I’ll use this period of my life as an example because it’s an easy way to demonstrate time passing. However, the same principle I’m explaining below is what I always follow to build all other systems in my Evernote.
Each course had its notebook. Each day, when I attended a class, I would open that notebook, create a new note and start taking notes. When studying, I would do the same. Any annotation, clipping, documents, etc., had a specific note in the corresponding notebook.
As I explained in my interview to Protocol, there’s no way to control or defeat time. The best course of action is embracing it. Time controls us, not the other way around. That’s why I order my notes in Evernote by creation date. And if you stop to think about it, it’s a natural sorting. It is the best representation of time passing. Stay tuned, I’ll soon explore this topic in other articles and videos.
First, having item-by-item notes, means that what I annotated during the last class or when I was recently studying, is one note or a couple of items below in the notes list, like a reverse timeline (1). And as I have already explained in this video, these are the notes I would most likely need.
Then, there’s the possibility of cross-referencing or filtering information (2). As the classes progressed, I noticed I needed some structure, and notes taken during classes started getting the “Class” tag. This was an important addition to my system. I would now be able to filter a collection of notes from my classes in reverse chronological order. It made reviewing all I have learned to that point extremely easy.
Then came the topic-related tags. I call them neuron tags because of the way they connect all the knowledge I have stored in Evernote. Watch this video to understand it better.
It’s a beautiful thing to have related content connected like this, but occasionally a more direct link is necessary. When this was the case, I would connect notes. If you don’t know how to do it, there are some examples in this video.
It was an International Relations course and my research was on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). So tags were country names, “NPT”, “Permanent Member” (of the UN Security Council), and anything else that would help me cross-reference my class notes, study notes, and all I collected and stored in all the post-graduation notebooks.
Not all my systems are exactly like this. However, I try my best to follow the principles above. I keep the note as nuclear as possible. No pun intended. As for the timeline, I always use it. Then, there are the tags and note links to connect everything.
And Evernote Home made all this even more magical. Notes linked to calendar entries brought my timeline to the next level, and the Filtered Notes widget helps me convert static notes into a dynamic productivity system.