How a PhD student uses Evernote to organize his life – with one notebook! 42

The number of ways that people organize their lives in Evernote seems to be almost endless. This is a wonderful testament to the flexibility that Evernote offers its users. One such person, Christopher Mayo, a PhD candidate in East Asian Studies at Princeton University, is a prime example.
Christopher Mayo
Christopher is a frequent poster on the Evernote forums, where he goes by the moniker, Grumpy Monkey (more on that below). This is where I first learned about him and his very unique way of organizing his notes in Evernote. I found it so interesting, in fact, that I interviewed him for my blog. Call it a nod to his doctoral degree in East Asian studies. Whatever it might be, I hope you enjoy this post as much as I enjoyed my interview with him.

Christopher uses Evernote everywhere.

• Mac
• PC
• iPhone
• iPad

When he first started using Evernote

Several years ago, Christopher began using OneNote to help him stay organized and study for exams. He had seen Evernote, and had given it a try, but felt it was a bit too much. It was an open field and he almost didn’t know what to do with it the program. In addition, he did not realize that Evernote offered premium users offline notebooks so that they could use the application without an Internet connection. He wanted something that would be everywhere he needed the app to be, and because neither of them seemed to offer this, he looked around for something else.He went on and tried blade WIKI, which helped him take and manage his notes. What appealed to him was that he could have it with him at home or on the go. In fact, he could save information right onto a USB drive and it was very simple for him.

Of course, like all of us, Christopher had one of those “Evernote moments” that changed everything for him. He was having lunch with a colleague of his who had Evernote on his iPhone. Christopher said his colleague was doing so many incredible things with that right in front of him, that he just couldn’t keep up. For example, his colleague took a photo of a document on the table in front of him with his iPhone, cropped it with JotNot, turned it into a note in Evernote, and then shared it in a notebook with him. Christopher logged into his old Evernote account, and of course, the note was there. The whole process of getting that paper into Evernote only took a few seconds. Moreover, he was told that Premium members receive up to one gigabyte of uploads per month, and this was cumulative, so he could potentially end up with as much as 12 gigabytes of data stored in the service each year to be accessible for download anytime, anywhere. He realized the reason why Evernote is so powerful is because you can leverage it across multiple platforms, easily share the content, and manage it any way you want.

His searching methodology

Christopher is a minimalist. He doesn’t want to spend a lot of time on the front-end doing the organization. His mantra is that he stays organized without organizing. It did not start out that way, however. Like so many of us, Christopher had lots of notebooks and lots of tags. He felt as if he were tagging things as a safety net and it just became too complex. He needed something that required very little work. It didn’t make sense to organize your organizational system.To him, the process of setting up multiple notebooks, nesting those notebooks and then setting up tags and then nested tags in various hierarchical structures and taxonomies was too much. It expended unnecessary mental bandwidth to figure out where a note should go after it was created. The “thinking” about whether a note should be classified as work or home, which tag it gets, and which notebook it should be in was too complex.

The goal, therefore, was to create a system that was both simple and uniform. In other words, if he decided to export all of his notes out of one application into another, like he had done when he moved from OneNote to bLADE Wiki, he wanted them to maintain their organizational structure, and for it to be a smooth process. His basic aim was to create a system which he calls, “future resistant” notes. It’s not quite “future proof,” but gets as close as possible to it.

The system he created needed to have unique file names, and those file names needed to organize themselves. His solution begins with how he titles each of his notes.

How he uses Evernote

Christopher’s magic lies in the way he names his notes. Every note has the same syntax:
YYMMDD keyword keyword keyword
No tags. No notebooks. Just the default one Evernote makes you create. In case your mouth is still open in awe, let me just read that back to you again: the date and two or three keywords. That’s it. No tags. No notebooks. He currently has about 30 or 40 tags left over from the days when he used to tag everything just in case, but plans to eventually delete them.
Christopher Mayo Evernote
It literally took me about five minutes to get off the floor after we spoke about this unique way of structuring his notes because – well, I just couldn’t believe how much sense it really makes! Granted, what I am about to detail is not for everyone or for the faint of heart! However, I am positive, that each of you, just as I have, can take something out of what Christopher has done, and apply it to your own system. 
Christopher Mayo Evernote
Christopher argues that we naturally remember things chronologically. The idea comes from Noguchi Yukio‘s filing system.  The theory being that you stuff everything from one day into an envelope and place the date and title of the contents on the outside of that envelope, and then stick it on your bookshelf. Since the belief is that we remember things by the date rather than by an artificial classification system (read: tags or notebooks), we’re more likely to find the information quickly by remembering “when” we made the note.
Here’s where Noguchi’s filing system gets interesting. If you take that envelope out, instead of putting it back in chronological order, you put it all the way to the left of the shelf. Why? The idea is that over time, everything you need that you grab often is on the left. What you don’t, is on the right. This allows for pruning of the content you don’t need over time and can purge what you no longer need.
Christopher set up his Evernote account based on this theory. The “created” date that Evernote automatically assigns a note often doesn’t have anything to do with the content, which might be a PDF scan of notes from years ago, or even old notes from bLADE Wiki that he transferred into Evernote, so each note received a date relevant to the content and keywords. Let’s take Christopher’s journal entries as a perfect example of how this works. The note is titled by the date and then followed by the word “journal.” This way he can easily keep track of his notes. Web clippings is very much the same: date, and then a big category such as “clipping.”The notes I made for my interview with Christopher would be titled 120224 blog mayo evernote (to maintain consistency and ensure backwards compatibility with his antiquated DOS brain, he uses lowercase for everything in the titles). This idea of date keyword keyword keyword creates a “future resistant” system for him. If he were to move to another system, all of his notes are titled the same, and so he could be quickly up and running. The notes also organize themselves by appearing in chronological order, a sorting method that he says is much easier to use than an alphabetical one.

Because Evernote enables you to sort by “date updated,” he can basically recreate Noguchi’s method of having the most relevant notes at the top, and the least relevant ones (the ones that haven’t been accessed recently) on the bottom. However, because this is a digital world and there is no benefit to throwing things away, he rarely deletes any of the information.

The Index Card System

By far though, one of my favorite aspects of his system are the “index notes,” or “Index Cards.” Christopher uses my absolute favorite feature of Evernote to make these index cards – copy note linking. 
Christopher Mayo Evernote
The idea here is that you have one note that serves as a master note, or a table of contents. Or a wiki, really, for all of your previous notes. This allows you to quickly access all of the notes. As you can see from the screen shot, Christopher has an index for his journal entries. This index enables you to organize all of the related notes for this subject. The easiest way to do this is quite simply by selecting multiple notes, and then dragging them into the master note. The result is a beautiful index.

What about Todos and His Calendar?

Naturally, I was most curious on how he handles tasks and his calendar. If I haven’t amazed you yet with Christopher’s system, I might just do it now.In each journal entry that he creates, he includes a list of “Todos” that must get done for that day. As you can tell from the screen capture, he lists his to do with an action verb, “Email translation to…” and prepends it with a simple en dash. When he completes his task, he replaces that en dash with an “x”. If, for some reason, he did not get that task accomplished on the day, he’ll copy and paste it for the following day. That’s it. Really. When I took a pause to think about it this, there is some incredible beauty to it all. Whether or not you actually like it or think you can use it for yourself, it is beautiful in its simplicity. From its simplicity, I think there is something we can all benefit from with our own systems.

You might be asking yourself though about the times listed under his todos. That is his calendar. He has done away with Google Calendar and strictly uses Evernote. In Christopher’s stride to minimize, he has found a way to just use Evernote for everything. Since his habit is to look at his Evernote journal entry every single day, he leverages his journal note to know what must be done that day. What about something in the future? The way he does this is by future dating his notes. For example, let’s say that he has to do something on April 15, 2012. He would title a note 120415 journal sunday. In the note would be 1:00 Pay Taxes.

By doing away with excess apps, he has found a way to stay organized with just Evernote. He stresses that the key to staying organized with a minimal amount of effort is to make sure that everything is in one place. Because he has gone paperless, with few exceptions, if he cannot find it (a task he needs to do or notes on a meeting from 2005) in Evernote, it doesn’t exist.


If you’re an Evernote search fiend, you know that one of the great benefits to the app is its incredible search taxonomy. For Christopher, it’s all about “intitle:_____”. For many of us, we’re searching by “tag:_____” or even “notebook:______”. Some of us might even have a search that looks like this: “tag:______ notebook:_______ -tag:________ todo:false resource:audio/* contains:pdf”. Yes, it can get pretty complex. But for him, it is as easy as an in title search. The keywords he chooses are in effect, very similar to how many of use tags. A search for “intitle:index” pulls up all of his index cards, and he can scroll through them like you would a table of contents or the index for a book. Searching for an index or even all of the notes as it pertains to a project would be easier, Christopher says with this uniform titling system.



One idea that I think we can all benefit from is Christopher’s idea of pruning. He never deletes his notes, and so he has a memory that increases every month. He’s up to about 6,000 notes and adds several hundred each month. He doesn’t believe there is a benefit at all by destroying notes. In fact, he says, it is very liberating to not delete anything. However, he does like to prune his notes; go through them and graft things onto one another. This is really back-end work, but that can be done over time. The idea is to get everything into Evernote quickly and easily with his naming system, and because it is already automatically organized chronologically, he can spend all of the time and effort he would have spent “organizing” actually reading the notes, thinking about the content, making new connections, and generating ideas.

How can others apply it now?

If you have fallen in love with his system, you might be asking yourself, well how do I go backwards and apply this to 3,800 notes I already have in Evernote? The answer: that will take a lot of work that you really don’t need to do yet. The last thing you need is yet another “system” to waste your time. He encourages you to keep the same system you have now, and just give a try to the date and keyword method. You don’t have to delete a single tag or notebook. You can keep using them if you want, but you might find over time, as he did, that you do not need them anymore. Then, you can do some pruning of your own. The great thing about it is that a date and keyword title can be used in any system. You could stop using notebooks and tags today. By doing so, you could easily move out of Evernote and right into another system without any loss because all of your notes are titled in chronological order.

The Moniker, Grumpy Monkey


Grumpy Monkey

I couldn’t end my interview without finally getting to ask him that other really important question: how did you come up with the moniker “Grumpy Monkey”? Well, as it turns out, the name Grumpy Monkey is a name of Christopher’s favorite coffee, at the local coffee shop there in Princeton called, Small World Coffee!


If you’d like to find out more information on Christopher’s thinking, I encourage you to visit his website and the Evernote forums where he is a frequent poster.

One More Thing…

Although the YYMMDD keyword keyword keyword method is his own, he has picked up a lot of other tips and tricks on the Evernote website, including this one about random codes, and you’ll certainly want to give the forums a try, if you have not already. I know that Christopher will be more than happy to answer your questions in the comments below!

About Daniel Gold

Daniel Gold is a productivity coach, keynote speaker, author, and podcaster. He is most well known for his eBooks, Evernote: The Unofficial Guide to Capturing Everything and Getting Things Done, Simplify your Life with Springpad, and Make it Happen: How to Write, Publish, and Sell Your eBook. Daniel is also the co-host of the GTD® Virtual Study Group podcast.

  • Wow! What a unique way to manage notes! It’s great if you stick to the system. However, I find that I’m always dumping anything and everything in Evernote and I don’t always have the time to combine all my thoughts for a day into a single note. I’m also a bit more of a visual person and have a system of tagging (though tags can get out of control quickly).
    Still, this is very unique and powerful way to keep your Evernotes organized! Thanks for the insight Daniel and Christoper!

  • Mayo Christopher Michael

    Hi Jeremy. Thanks for the kind words! 

    I tend to put all of my thoughts in one place (my daily research journal), but there is certainly no need to do that, and there are many topics that have notes spread out all over my account. As long as you have a consistent title, you are fine. 

    You could start a note in the morning, and have ten more by the evening, and it can all work well using something like “120314 thoughts about meeting” for your morning note and “120314 grocery list” for the last one before you fall asleep. The idea is to do as little work as possible in the process of creating notes and getting them into Evernote. As long as you have the date in the title, you can pull up all of your notes that day with a search for “intitle:120314”. If you add the word “journal” into the title as well, then you can narrow your search down to just your thoughts.Even if you aren’t consistent in your titles, and don’t even bother to put a date, as long as you remember “when” you wrote it, you can easily find it with a search for the “created” attribute. Once you do locate the note, drag it into your index note for your journal entries, and you are all set! No need to create a bunch of pesky tags :)As for the visual thing, if it works for you, that’s what matters! It is just great that Evernote has a variety of tools available.

  • Mayo Christopher Michael

    Hi Martin. Enjoy your trip to S. Africa! 

    I can see why you would want to use notebooks and tags. We have certainly been trained well for them (who hasn’t got a bunch of “folders” in their computer?), and they are a convenient way to organize information. As powerful as they are, though, they can be a hassle to manage. And, if I can see exactly the same notes by doing a search to filter for “intitle:lr4” that you see with a notebook called “lr4”, and I can browse through them the same way, then i don’t see the benefit in making the notebook 🙂

  • Yan

    Thank you Christopher (and Daniel) for sharing your system! 

    I haven’t found the right way for me to use Evernote but have attempted various approaches. I’m also from more of a ‘don’t delete anything’ approach – where I don’t organize my emails into folders – I just keep them in the inbox and search for them when I need. 

    This system sounds like something that might work best with my approach/style. It would be great to see a video screencast / screenshots of the entire evernote window so I could get a better ideas (as I’m somewhat of a newbie to using Evernote). 

    Thanks again for sharing!! 


  • Jason Maxwell

    Hello.  I love the unique system and feel it can work well for me, but, not surprisingly, I have some questions.  1.)I like that you keep your schedule/to do list in Evernote.  What do you do if someone stops you in the hallway or calls you on the phone and says, “What are you doing June 13 at 2:00?”  Do you just search on that date and if you haven’t created a note for it, then you know you have the date open?  2.)I keep miscellaneous reference material in Evernote (the size of my air conditioner’s filter, my AAA membership number, the product key for a piece of software, etc).  How do you use your date system for such reference material that isn’t really date specific for any reason?  3.)Do you make any attempt to keep personal and professional things separate?  4.)When taking notes on a book you are reading that may take you several days or weeks, do you start a separate note each time you sit down to read, or do you just start one at the beginning, then go back and find it to continue adding to it?  Thanks to everyone for all of the information.  I’m an elementary school teacher and I see lots of potential in using Evernote to keep everything straight.

  • Very interesting post, and it definitely made me question how I organize my notes, but there are a few things I just can’t jump on board with.
    1. I very much give my titles meaningful names. When I search, most likely what I’m searching for ends up in the title that I gave the note. In this strategy, the note doesn’t have a title, just some keywords that are really like tags. Where does the title go? just in the body? 

    2. Secondly, the Updated field only shows you that, the last time it was updated, not accessed. So while that is a cool idea in theory, i don’t think it would work well for me.

    3. Lastly, I’m all for platform independence, but setting your Evernote up so you could take your notes anywhere and still keep your organizational structure I think really makes you miss out on some of the best things about Evernote. It’s like trying to make an one application that works on all devices (including the ipad). If you don’t use the unique pieces of each platform, you are not reaching it’s full potential)

    I very much enjoyed the look into your own organizational structure and I would definitely like to see more hardcore Evernote users structures! I definitely want to rethink my tagging as well as note linking (which I’m currently note using). My only issue with note linking is I can’t make note links (as far as I’m aware) on the ipad.

    Great post!

  • Jane

    Finally – I know where the “Grumpy Monkey” comes from – thanks for asking that question!  Lots of good for for thought

  • Mayo Christopher Michael

    Hi Jason. Thanks for the comments. In reply:
    1. Yes. I have my entire schedule in Evernote (this is the only way a system like this will work), so a search for 120316 will tell me what I have that day. If you have to keep notes in another scheduler, like Google Calendar, then let’s face it, you won’t keep up with both. As much as I love Google calendar, I wasn’t doing a good job of inputting information, and since i was in Evernote all of the time anyhow, it made sense to make the switch. It also has the nice benefit of not needing to be online :)2. For the size of my air conditioner filter, I would give it the date I made the note, but this wouldn’t be terribly helpful. I could remember the year I made the note, though, so I could search for intitle:12* (remember, Evernote only searches from the beginning of a word, so no worries about too many irrelevant results). I might even remember that I looked up the air conditioner size in the winter, so “intitle:1201* air” would probably turn up the exact note. if not, i could try “intitle:1202* air.” it’s never been a problem to find things, thanks to evernote’s search features.

    3. No. I gave up on that long ago, even though I have the artificial distinction on my website 🙂 I have found that it is pretty useless (at least, in my life) to try and separate the two. my life is my work (in a good way!). besides, what would be the point of separating the notes?

    4. I generally tend to do a search to see if i have notes on the book “monkey grumpy 2012”, and if I find a note (120122 reading monkey grumpy 2012), then I continue the note. Sometimes, I make several notes because I don’t have time, or I am too lazy to look. It doesn’t matter, because the naming always follows the same conventions. When I want to see the notes I took on the book, putting in “monkey grumpy 2012” will pull up everything I wrote it. I also put complete bibliographical information inside my notes, so it would be almost impossible not to find it. And, if I want to see my notes on everything I have read, “intitle:reading” will show them to me. Anyhow, the point is that if you have a consistent naming system, there is no reason to worry about putting things in the proper note. You can do your pruning (combining information) later if you want. The important thing is to get it into Evernote in a way that is both organized (at minimum, chronologically and with keywords) and quick.

    As a teacher myself, I find this invaluable. I can take a note on a Susie’s paper, for example, and when I want to find all of my notes on her, I just type “intitle:12* susie” and i will find everything. No need to take the time doing a search to find THE note on Susie and adding the information there. If I want to do it later in my pruning, I can, but I generally don’t bother.

  • Mayo Christopher Michael

    Hi Bob. Thanks for the comments!

    1. My titles are meaningful. I just prefer not to use prepositions and other superfluous words. A note from today might be “120315 journal thursday” instead of “120315 My journal for Thursday”. To address your question about notes that do need real titles, I put the title in the note. For example, I gave a presentation this evening, and the notes for it were titled with things like “120314 speaking otomo memorial tutelary”, while the body had the real title of the talk, “Memorial Temples and Clan Deities in a Warlord’s Religious Network.” I don’t see a point in spending time and effort coming up with titles for every note when a few keywords can do the job just as well.

    2. Yes. Sometimes I add a space or something if I access it so that it will be “updated” to solve this problem.

    3. Yes. I miss out on a lot of powerful features with this system. But, I also spend a lot less time organizing than I did back in the days when I was trying to use folders and tags. So, it is a good tradeoff for me. The system fits my workflow well, but may not work for everyone. I could certainly see someone putting the date in their title at the end, for example, to keep the ability to sort alphabetically.

    You are correct about the lack of note links on the iPad. We are all hoping the feature will come someday! I actually have a method, though, that I prefer in many cases to note links. See my website about random codes ( 

    Thanks again for the comments 🙂

  • Ian

    Hi I loved the article and the simplicity of this. Its made me think a lot about all the tagging etc.  My main qu is about the consistency of the keywords. For you I’m sure it second nature but can you give any suggestions about how to start off this process to ensure the ones used just don’t grow and grow. 

    As you’ve gone paperless then re sensitive info, bank statements etc. If you have just one notebook I take it you are happy about security. I was thinking that sensitive data might go in an offline notebook, everything else online.  I know there is no right answer on this, just curious as to your thoughts.

    Lastly do you always try and keep the keywords to 2-3, or just however many seems to make sense for the item.

    Inspirational though I must say. Thanks

  • Daniel Gold Thanks for this great post. Very informative.

    I’ve used the YYYYMMDD naming strategy for all my electronic files for a few years now. It makes sorting and finding files much easier on both Mac & Windows.

    To make things even more streamlined I use a text expansion app on both platforms to speed things up (and to get around my ‘don’t know what day it is syndrome’)

    I use Text Expander (Mac) and Breevy (PC) and have a short cut called ‘rdate’ which then expands to 20120316 (at least it does today!).

    The final but of kungfu magic is to sync Text Expander and Breevy via Dropbox

  • Johnny McClung

    Although I hoped GTD would make an unorganized guy like a little more organized, it seems to be over complicated in my case. Thank both of you for sharing this wonderful technique. Christopher, I would like to know more about how you handle certain situations. 

    1) Are your keywords single words? My daughter is in Girl Scouts. If you were to use that, would you count it as one, two or force it to be a single word by running the words together (GirlScouts). 

    2) Are your journal notes used only for your calendar & todos? And all the other reference items would just be tagged with your format. 

    These are just two questions that I have from the top of my head. I’m working to implement your approach in my situation and may have many more questions. I’m still pretty new to using Evernote. 

    Thank you. 

  • Mayo Christopher Michael

    Hi Ian. I made a “style sheet” at the beginning, and this has all of my main keyword categories.  In general, I don’t sweat it, because Evernote search will find anything I need even if I mess it up. But, there are a few that are especially important to me (you’ll have your own, I am sure) and I am really consistent with these. The “journal” keyword (a daily item) and the “reading” come to mind first, because I want to be able to refer anytime to my journal entries or my notes on articles/books I have read. 

    As for security, it isn’t a big concern for me with Evernote. I use long, randomly-generated, regularly changed, unique passwords for everything (I don’t use LastPass, but probably will start doing so soon). For someone to access my account, they would need years to do it by brute force (my password will have changed in the meantime), physical access to my devices (they have their own passwords, and I am careful with them), or they would need to break into the Evernote servers (unlikely, but possible). Even if they did get into my account (worst-case scenario) they would end up with some bank statements. What would they do with them? I watch over my accounts pretty carefully, so I don’t think it would be much. But, anyhow, if you do have sensitive stuff (maybe things about other people, who have entrusted you with it, like the tax returns of your parents), then a local notebook seems like a good idea to me.

    As for keywords, I usually do 2 or 3, but sometimes many more. It depends on the item, as you said. 

    Good luck!

  • Mayo Christopher Michael

    Hi John. I don’t use Text Expander myself, but have heard great things about it. Thanks for the suggestion!

  • Great piece Daniel. That’s a really interesting approach that Chris has. The way he organizes is a direct reflection of his minimalist lifestyle. You can often tell a lot about a person by the way they organize things and this is no different.

    As far to do lists, I really think Evernote fall flat here. Chris tries to make it work but a lot of it (like future dating stuff you’re going to do) is very tricky and are more suitable for calendars in my opinion.

    For anyone who wants to make this system work, your search skills will be very important. That is something not stressed as much but I can see already how vital it is.I hope he uses some form of textexpansion software for writing those dates, that would make things a lot quicker to type up. 

    I would love to see more of these articles Daniel. It’s always interesting to see how others use Evernote.

  • Jerry

    Guys, very interesting. I love simple as I am currently caught up in Toodledo, Gcal, Evernote, and Dropbox. However, Some questions, why the need for the date in the title since Evernote allows you to sort by date created?

  • Jukka Vuorinen

    If someone wants even simpler system, then he/she should take a look at Mark Forresters autofocus/superfocus which can be implemented with this general approach very easily.

    P.S. This article seemd very much like Evernote addvert. So it is good the beginning of article is

  • Wuorinen

    1) Did I understood it correctly: You don’t have possibility to see all weeks events in one glance? Your calendar has only “daily view”? Not saying it’s bad thing, but what you have been accustomed to.

    2) What do you do if your daily todo list overflows? I.e. you don’t manage to get everything ready.

    3) What do you do if some task hangs in your list for some time without being done? (this is kind of hypothetical question if your answr to previous question is do it tomorrow.)

  • CR

    Sorry – but all of this is really a second rate workarond for a lack of proper wikilinking.  And yes I know (and have tried) the linking notes “feature” in evernote recently introduced.

    Evernote has not evolved as it should have IMO. 

    Wikilinking is necessary where the currency of knowledge acquisition is online and shared material (it simply adds that much efficiency and speed to assembly and learning of notes), should have been implemented and by apologizing for their lack of it you just delay it actually happening in the future.

    Simply bleating “Evernote is note a wiki application” is denying people that use it from a potentially vast improvement in terms of the tool that they can use.

    Voodoopad is an example ( of rudimentary (ugly as a hatful of monkey’s a$$es) but down and dirty amazing functionality as regards internal wiki-linking – and is is exceptional – at that.  Even this new arrival can do internal linking.  As can circus ponies 3 year old software, Sho notes, vertical notation etc etc etc etc – Evernote in every other aspect shines….but this aspect is a dog.  Why?  How hard can it possibly be?  You cant as some have don here claim poor given Evernote’s recent expansion & freemium pricing structure (versus google docs for example was one example brought up somewhere in these blogs) – Voodoopad was a shoestring project – done well.  Construct an index card?  Crazy.  Because….

    1) Takes ages to do
    2) Void if you lose the card with an accidental delete
    3) Unnecessary hassle Copy….  Paste – Id rather be studying the material (or cutting loose at the head-nodders and fan boys who populate these forums and prevent evernote improving).  Curio is another example.  A one-man band software developer – whose product is almost as elegant as evernote (no syncing sure – but 1 developer….and it is coming…

    Just disappointing that the evernote devs wont take a risk and maybe do the linking thing – I pay the premium account in the hope that likeminded people will encourage developement of what evernote SHOULD become.  I re-install it once in a while…only to run into the lack of linking again….and uninstall it for another few months….

    Wish evernote would sit down and look at voodoopad.  Pay the guy a royalty iff neccessary – and just incorporate it.  There is no advantage to evernote over devonthink or sohonotes etc – syncing over the wire is overrated – (voodoopad can do this either through itunes or via a sever in the paid edition albeit not as elegantly)…devonthink pro office introduce their cloud syncing solution soon too…evernote is just wasting the great start it had….

  • Hi. I find the ToDo lists work great for me in Evernote. It’s not terribly tricky (just put in the date). However, it lacks some of the functions available with dedicated apps like alarms, reminders, and so forth. Personally, I think the trade-off is worth it, because I can keep everything in one place. 

    As for the search, you are correct. Evernote’s robust search capabilities make my system (and everyone else’s) work smoothly, and it pays to become familiar with it. As for text expansion, I’ve never liked that kind of software 🙂

  • Hi Jerry. No need for the date in the title. You could get away with using the “created” attribute to sort notes if you wanted. However, for things like post-dating notes to schedule future events, dating scanned material from sometime in the past, easily browsing notes, and having everything arranged chronologically in case you decide to migrate to another software application someday, it is nice to have. You cannot edit the “created” attribute on the iPad, so if you do your work there (I do), then you are better off making use of the title.

  • Hi Wuorinen. Thanks a lot for the heads-up about Mark Forrester. I think he and I share a similar approach to things, but I don’t see his as a simpler system. It actually seems a little more complicated to me. 

    As for being an ad for Evernote, I suppose it could be seen that way. However, I am agnostic about these things. Use the tool that works best for you. I think my organizational system moves seamlessly from one to another, so you could export everything out of Evernote and import it all into VoodooPad (for example) with very little effort. Because of the dates in the titles, you also have unique file names, so that should make any migration a lot less painful.

  • Ong Wee Hong

    Thanks for the useful information.

    I would like to adapt this system but have problem with the way I work.  Basically I am not a strictly “timed” or “dated” person or I just don’t live that way.  That is to say I might have a few things in hand that I don’t have strict deadlines (date) but I will have/want to get done.  So, I have lots of “someday” stuff, which I will slowly move to “scheduled” or “next”, which eventually get moved to “now” or “today” if I manage to work out the plan/schedule (I am very poor at this).

    I would like to learn how do you handle “someday” stuff, especially you don’t have an appropriate YYMMDD to give in the title (at least within the few minutes when creating the note/clipping)?  How do you track them (well, to be aware of their existence)?

  • Mayo Christopher Michael

    Hi. Thanks for the comment!

    You raised a thorny issue. I think most of us have a mix of things definite and indefinite tasks, and it is difficult to handle the latter. This is where Dave Allen’s GTD system of regular reviews comes in handy. I have a slightly different take on this, because I make it a daily thing, but basically we have the same solution: make sure to review your notes. My reviewing is a little bit more in your face, so to speak.

    I have tasks to do today (the schedule/todo section of each journal note) and ones to do someday (the research tasks section of my journal notes) in my journal notes. Every time I generate a new someday task, it goes at the top of the list, so the oldest ones will appear at the bottom. I copy and paste this list every day into the next day’s note (I do the same thing with unfinished todos). 

    As necessary, I move stuff out of the someday list into the todo list; thereby assigning a due date to them. If I don’t keep on top of this, over the course of the week, month, year this someday task list gets larger and larger! So, I find it useful to weed out the stuff I would like to do from the stuff I need to do. After a month or so, if I haven’t gotten around to assigning a due date, I have to recognize that I am not going to do it during this lifetime, and I drop it from the list 🙂 These old someday tasks are easy to find, because they are at the bottom.

    Alternatively, I could imagine a more elegant way of doing this that would not be quite so in your face. Just make a note for someday tasks (prioritizing however you want in there) and create a note link to it from your journal. Paste that link into your journal template and you can always click on it to go and see those tasks without a due date. Just keep adding stuff to that note as much as you want. You could name it YYMMDD someday tasks, and at the end of every week (or month), create a new YYMMDD someday task note and stick a link to that in your journals. 

    The problem for me is that I would just dump everything in there and never do it. Copying things forward and looking at them every day gets me to actually do them. Does this help?

  • Martin Harvey

    Sorry I completely missed this which doesn’t say much for my GTD skills! And yes I must admit I more comfortable with folders than without – maybe too many grey cells have gone under that bridge to change.

    BTW the trip was spectacular – I’ve been very lucky to do a lot of traveling for both bus and pleasure but SA easily beat ’em all.

  • You write:

    ” The easiest way to do this is quite simply by selecting multiple notes, and then dragging them into the master note. The result is a beautiful index. “

    How do you do this? (I’m somewhat new to Evernote.) If I’m looking at the contents of a note and then I click on another note, the first note disappears. I have tinkered a couple times with dragging one note on top of another to create the note links but I’m note getting it to work.

  • Welcome to Evernote. I hope it works for you. To create multiple note links at once, double-click on a note to open it in its own window, select the notes you want to link, and then drag them into it. Does this make sense?

  • The link in your “One More Thing…” doesn’t work anymore. Do you want to point towards ?

  • Hi there! I really appreciate you bringing this to my attention. Looks like Evernote changed the forum links. All fixed! Cheers!

  • Luke Pranay – Luca Pintilie

    Highly Useful!

  • jbenson2

    Not only is Grumpy Monkey a whiz when it comes to multi-media uses of Evernote. He is also incredibly considerate and helpful to the other Evernote forum users.

    • grumpy

      That’s very kind of you to say jb 🙂

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  • Frank Degenaar

    Super interesting! However, I was wondering why he would need to date the notes in the title, when the date can already be seen in the “All Notes” context… in the note list. What’s more… we can toggle between the date created/ updated etc… and even in reverse order. So Evernote has given us this virtual Noguchi Yukio possibility from the beginning.

    Just as a side note… there is an iPhone/ iPad app which I tested out, which works beautifully: vJournal. Not sure if they have it for Android… basically like a run-on journal, keeping all activities in one note for a particular day… filing it in the vJournal notebook. On the app you can add a times tamp, include images, audio files etc,,, Pretty nifty. I don’t use it now… but I could see how this could possibly fit into Christopher Mayo’s filing system… breaking a day’s events down into time etc… It would basically be like Noguchi Yukio’s envelope idea… only that we wouldn’t have to organize anything… Evernote does the job.

    • Thanks so much, Frank, for the great insights in your comments. I will say that the one thing I like the most about Chris’ setup is that it makes it “future proof”. In other words, let’s say that Evernote doesn’t turn out to be a 100-year company after all – an export into another app would allow you to know exactly when you created it because something like this: 13-08-08 was in the title of the note. Take a look at one of Chris’ recent posts on his site where he talks about the value of plain text notes: I hope that helps and thanks again!

      • grumpy

        Thanks Daniel! I prefer YYMMDD over YY-MM-DD myself, but that is just to make sure that every search program will be able to return the expected results (sometimes dashes throw things off).

    • grumpy

      Hey Frank. Thanks for the comments. Indeed, an extreme minimalist would just throw everything into Evernote and let search sort it out. If that works for you, then stick with it!

      However, as Daniel said, I am looking to be future-proof here. I can export all of my notes from Evernote, import them into another app (nvALT, for example), and be up and running within a few minutes if I need to. The titles sort it all out for me. In fact, I don’t even need a particular app at all. Spotlight + a note editor will do.

      Client Limitations
      We cannot adjust the note-created field on some clients (like the iPad), so if you use that a lot (I do), then organizing by note-created is simply impossible for someone who future-dates notes or past-dates them in the case of information after the date it occurred. Reminders is a new feature that might take up the slack here, but it doesn’t do what I want, because it will not past-date, there is no sorting, etc.

      Sounds good. I will give it a try, but I have a vague memory of evaluating it last year under its previous name (?) of “My Journal” for the Evernote DevCup. Anyhow, I am fine just leaving a note open all day and sticking in information as I go along (put it into FastEver and you can enjoy speed and the ability to keep using Evernote for other stuff). Still, I am always on the lookout for different options that might make things easier for me.

      • Chris – thanks for adding the really great feedback. Notwithstanding how much I love Evernote and rely on it, I’ve been thinking more and more about true ownership over my data. nvALT and upcoming apps such as NoteSuite give you actual control over your data. With the apps shutting down such as Astrid, Catch and Orchestra, it pays to understand how your data is stored and what the exit strategy is just in case!

      • Frank Degenaar

        Hi Chris, you are absolutely right… One cannot change the created date in Evernote iOS. I don’t know to what degree that was a deciding factor in including the date in your note titles… But I can completely identify with creating workarounds for absent features in iOS that are musts for you.

  • Isn’t it amazing how different our minds and thought processes are? This system would never work for me because I don’t think chronologically but categorically instead. All my days blur together but I’m good at remembering tags/notebooks in Evernote.

    I’m curious to test drive this system and see how it fits me though if I can truly just use Evernote instead of multiple apps.

    • Frank Degenaar

      Give it a test drive and you will discover step by step that you can eliminate 90% of the apps you currently use. Simplify, simplify, simplify. One thing you can’t do away with just yet is a calendar insofar as it pertains to GTD.

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