Evernote Notebooks v. Tags – The Best Way to Organize Evernote

How to organize Evernote is an important part of how to remember everything in your digital life. After all, if you are going to send all your business documents, clipped websites, favorite quotes, pdf’s, inspirational pictures, favorite songs, kids artwork, and digital memories for quick recall inside Evernote, you need to have a good organizational system to find it all.

Here’s how to Organize Evernote to retrieve everything quickly:

Evernote Notebooks vs. Tags

Evernote Notebooks

Are for important parts of your life. Each person in your immediate family, a school, a business, current projects, a career search or a blog. Think of Evernote notebooks, as the verticals in your life.

What you do not want is too many notebooks. Notebooks become difficult to scroll and hard to make sense of once you get above 30 notebooks. You should maintain the practice of keeping your notebooks in Evernote for active projects or ongoing endeavors.

An example of Evernote notebooks might be: current business Ideas, medical, bills, Julie, school course work, your business, Inc., blog, travel, etc… Any interest or business you are actively researching, exploring or participating in should be considered for a notebook. Notebooks should have 20 notes or more to qualify.

Multiple notebooks in the same category can be grouped together, called an Evernote Notebook Stack. Drag one notebook onto another and a stack will automatically be created. This is helpful if you have more than 1 blog, a few kids, etc…

Example: Julie, Chris, James = Family Stack and each have their own notebook. Blog 1, Blog 2 = Blog Stack. Running a business and you are responsible for the finances and marketing? That would be 2 notebooks. Drag one on top of the other to create the company stack.

What you want to avoid is a notebook for each class you are taking each semester, it is not necessary. There are better ways to organize your data to maximize Evernote’s productivity.

If you find a notebook is no longer active, you discontinue a blog or the trip to Italy has passed, tag (more on tags in the next section) every note in that notebook and move it to your main notebook. Now delete that notebook as it has now become cumbersome and inefficient to remain in the notebook list.

Keep in mind Evernote limits the number of notebooks any account can create to 200 at a time. Once you are fully committed to Evernote as a tool, several thousand notes are just the beginning. Over committing to too many notebooks will quickly limit your options.

Evernote Tags

Are like manilla folders. Clicking on a tag in Evernote is similar to opening a manilla folder. Inside is everything you tagged or “put inside that folder.” Put it another way, tags are granular segmentation of topics. You can never have enough tags. I encourage you to tag frequently for 4 reasons:

  1. You can search by tags. You can search by multiple tags.
  2. Once you have over 1,000 Evernote notes you will begin to forget some of what you have saved, though you know you saved it to Evernote. While Evernote has an amazing search engine, you can not search for something if you can not remember what you are looking for. If you use Evernote tags extensively, you can scroll through the tags list in Evernote much quicker and find more meaning than you can in 1,000 note titles. You will find what you are looking for this way.
  3. Tags can create very specific filing systems.
  4. There is no limit to the number of tags you can create.

For example:

A tag can be a year, month or day (some people use this method exclusively.)

A tag can be a file # for a business (I have done this and it works great). #1234

A Tag can be the year. Some pundits will argue it is not necessary since you can search a note by the year a note is created or updated. Again, you may not remember. Tagging a note with the year ensures the date will not change. Keep in mind, if you make a change to a note, the update date changes and will alter your search. Tagging with a year will prevent note alteration from impacting results. Further, if I have a client interaction in 2012 & 2013, I can tag it with both years.

Evernote Tags can be for people, places, things, topics, teams, it is endless. Tags can duplicate names of notebooks. They can replace notebooks, and they should.

As I mentioned, if a notebook is dormant for more than 3 months, highlight the notes in the notebook, give them tags of the same name as the notebook they are replacing and move the notes to your main notebook. Now delete the dormant notebook. You will still be able to see all the notes from the deleted notebook together by the tag you just created and free up valuable notebook space.

The most important tag in Evernote: “++”. The ++ tag is for the most significant notes you need to access frequently. Drag this tag to the top of the sidebar in the Evernote Application for quick access to what’s of note to you. On the tags list, you will see ++ as the first tag in your list. You can add a ++ to other relevant tags like ++ jobs or ++ ventures, etc… You can change which notes require the ++ distinction as you see fit.

Evernote Sidebar with Tags

Evernote Tags in Sidebar

Final Analysis: Evernote notebooks are for the verticals in your life and you want to keep them to a minimum. Tag, Tag, Tag to maximize Evernote’s usefulness. Tags are for granular segmentation of topics.

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Google+ Comments


  1. Jay Fogleman says

    Nice explanation. I like your point about notebooks as vertical organizers. One thing that I would add is that tags allow a particular note to be categorized several different ways. This is not true with notes you place in manilla folders. For example, if I think that a note about painting concrete might be a useful reference for two projects, I can tag it with each project’s’ tag:, PR-Home-GarageRepair and PR-Home-Basement.

    • says

      Hi Jay,

      Excellent point! You are absolutely right in that tags give us the ability to categorize a note on multiple topics.

      Thanks for pointing that out with a great example for everyone!


  2. says

    Interesting approach. Similarly, I’ve organised Evernote to fit the GTD principles.

    Notebooks for Actions/Tasks and tasks for projects and other qualifiers.

  3. David March says

    Hi, good article with some useful tips – ++ is particularly useful. Personally I am running 2 Evernote accounts – 1 work and 1 for home. I have recently migrated my work evernote from notebook to tag organisation (primarily to introduce GTD) and now plan to do the harder task of migrating my home – so all tips are much appreciated.

    One question – have you ever come across a tool for analysing Tag usage? Its great being able to search for notes but it would be really valuable to me to be able to analyse the volume of Tags used over time – a fantastic insight into where I spend my time.

  4. says

    Hi David March,

    Glad you found this post useful. Migrating any system is always challenging. Though I find it to be a great exercise in that you get to refresh your mind with all the details you saved, wanted to remember or need to do.

    As for a tag analysis tool, yes there is one that is currently in beta. I believe it comes close to what you are looking for. A little less analysis, more mind map: https://www.moh.io/mohiomap/welcome.php

    Give it a try and let me know how it works out for you.

  5. thefrozenpenguin says

    Excellent article, succinct and to the point. I also apply the GTD principles and only have 5 notebooks but nearly 500 tags.

  6. Mark Elmerick says

    Hi Jason –

    I am Day 1 of using Evernote and came across your blog.

    Rather than deleting old notebooks, would it make more sense to create a Stack called “Old Notebooks” and put all old/inactive notebooks in it… rather than deleting old notebooks (assuming you are not in danger of reaching the 200 notebook limit — but that seems like a lot of notebooks)?



    • says

      @Mark – No need to keep old Notebooks… rather keep the Notes in the Notebooks.

      So, if you do not need the Notebook any longer, move the Notes to the new Notebook.

      Once the old Notebook is empty, delete the old Notebook. The old empty Notebook serves no value. I hope this makes sense.

  7. Dave Yuhas says

    I use tags a lot. The problem that I’ve run into is not being able to remember all them. The only solution I’ve been able to come with is to use a prefix to categorize tabs. For example if I’m planning a trip I would create a tag like Peru-hotels. Is there a better way?

  8. Leo says

    I love the tips but I have a problem using the year tagging thing. I want to automatically assign the current year as a tag using applescript when uploading notes to evernote throw Hazel rules and can’t find a way to have hazel write the tag 2014 automatically for me.

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