How I Find Things With Keywords/Tags

There are two basic philosophies as far as I can tell relating to storing and retrieving information.

One is to store it in a highly classified hierarchy of folders, subfolders, sub-subfolders, etc. When I want to find something I start at the top and work my way down the chain. The other is to throw it all in one big bucket and let the computer search it out when I want to see it again.

Neither is wrong. The bottom line is always do what works for you. I happen to be of the latter persuasion. How do I find my documents/photos/etc? I use a hierarchy of keywords/tags. (I’ll call them tags from here on for brevity. ) By the way, I used to create Notebooks and Stacks for the “filing” but for me that just doesn’t work. The reason is that I can have a photo of Mom at a birthday party in Kentucky and I’ll have to sit there for 20 minutes wondering if it goes in the Mom notebook or the Party notebook or the Kentucky one. Since a document can only be in one notebook, I chose to use tags so I can put as many as apply on there, have autocorrect keep my spelling consistent and still have everything quickly entered. I’ll give the example of scanned documents, but realize this is the same system I use for photos and other similar situations.

I create a tag for the year(s) involved. Let’s say I’m scanning documents from last year and this one. I create the following tags: 2012, and 2013. I then create a series of 12 tags for the month. 01 – January, 02 – February, etc. The 0 is important because it makes 1 and 10 sort where they should be rather than next to each other; a common computer challenge. Then I’ll create a series of tags for general categories: Fun, Read Later, Medical, Work, Vacation, etc. Finally I may add another tag for Labs under Medical for example for all my lab results or Affordable and Expensive under Vacation – one for dreaming and one that may actually happen. I also have another modifier since my Mom lives with me, Jim and Mom so when I scan things I can keep them separate.

Then it is a matter of picking tags and letting autocomplete work for me. Let’s say I get bloodworm back from the doctor’s office. I’ll name it 2013_10_28 Labs or something – the name is not as important with my system and I sometimes leave it the cryptic name ScanSnap gives it. Then I’ll tag it 2013 10 – Oct Medical Labs Jim. This gives me complete visibility on it. If I search Jim Labs 2013 I’ll get all blood work reports for this year.

This is a system I came up with after reading about different tagging systems on the Internet and discussions in the Evernote Forums. It suits me and I hope it can help you invent the system that works for you!

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