How do you organize notes (and/or files, e-mail, tasks, ideas, etc)

There are so many ways and methods to get organized, both for files and notes, tasks and ideas. What works for you might not work for me and visa versa.

I have broken down organizing in a couple of ways and I wonder how do people organize. Is it one of the ways mentioned in this post, or a combination or something completely different

1. Search

Who needs to organize their files, notes or e-mail when you can search?

Advantages: Quick and easy, no need to think of plan, worry about it later when you search
Disadvantages: Search is not always reliable, requires much knowledge of your content, can be frustrating/requires multiple actions for find your file/note

It’s probably the easiest and quickest way to “organize”. Just dump it all in one place, don’t think about it and use search when you need something. Some people are pro’s at this, others can’t find anything this way. Personally it is a “last resort” option.

2. Search but with Keywords

For those who take their search seriously!
Advantages: Quick and easy, worry about it later, some light planning while making files/notes
Disadvantages: Requires much knowledge from the user and requires consistancy when using keyword

Adding keywords to your notes/files makes finding them easier when you use search for these words. While this levels up your searching it does require a lot of consistancy from naming and using keywords but lacks any overview or structure outside your own consistancy.

3. Folders/notebooks/Types

It’s cool being old school.
Advantages: Can be used in (almost) any note taking app, task manager, e-mail or file manager. Having a constistant folder structure makes finding your files/notes quick and easy anywhere. The longer you use it, the faster you find and organize what you need.
Disadvantages: Requires setting up your a folder structure ahead of time and requires you to think what goes where with every file/note. Can only place a file/note in one folder making those that fit multiple locations troublesome to organise.

Folders or notebooks (types for Anytype) are probably the most familiair way to organize. If you have a solid folder structure/workflow you can use it just about anywhere. While many might feel that folders are out of date I feel they still have a solid place when it comes to organizing but is does have it’s drawbacks mainly not being able to show files/notes in multiple locations and having the think ahead where to place your items (can be mitigated with an inbox type folder to quick dump files/notes).

4. Tags

A folder but better or … different!
Advantages: Being able to place multiple tags on the same file/note. Very flexible to use (ratings, topics, types, folders, to-do’s, etc). Sometimes possible to tag specific lines or blocks. Can often be used with search/filters to create organized views.
Disadvantages: Can grow out of control, to tag or not tag, that’s the question! Requires consistancy and setting up beforehand. Not every app supports tags.

Tags are almost a must-have for organizing these days. They can be used like folders but without the limit of one location for each file/note. A good tagging system often means limiting what and how you tag. It’s easy to fall in the trap of overtagging your files/notes since tags are so damn easy to apply.

5. Links, connections and Maps of Content (MoC)

It is all about the journey to connect.
Advantages: Top level overviews with MoC, organic organisation while linking topics, unique visualizing with graph view
Disadvantages: Like tags, can grow out of control. Requires MoC’s to organize. Requires possible the most maintainance from the user. Not possible in file systems.

Links, backlinks, connections or anything simular is the new shiney think in the world of notetaking. They are powerful but can also grow out of control though it is the most organic way or organizing since while you take notes your links and connections start to appear! Some note taking apps only rely on links/connections (like Roam).

6. A complicated self build system of links, connections, databases and automations

When you have multiple PHD’s and are the smartest persoon in the room!
Advantages: It works (probably) for you. It’s cool and everything you need.
Disadvantages: Can get lost in building a system rather then being productive. Probably not for most people. High maintainance and requires lot’s of setup beforehand.

I joke about needing a PHD but a complicated self build system often made populair by youtubers can be great organisation systems but they most likely won’t work for the average joe and is something to get inspired by but not to follow to the teeth. Can only be used in that app it is build in (like Notion, Obsidian and soon Anytype ones more features are added).

Other ???

There are probably other methods of organizing, like categories or using dedicated tools and seperate files from tasks from notes from images. Often an organization system is a combination of all of the above, using the strength of each way to create your own system.

What do I use?
I try to maintain a universal folder/notebook structure so I can quickly find/organize files, notes, e-mails and tasks in any app. This is my top level organizing and inspired on the P.A.R.A. method but heavily modified (the para method is very flawed in my opinion).

I use an inbox folder/notebook, then “area’s of interest” (like administration, gaming, health, notetaking, sport, etc.) and I have a resources folder that store things I didn’t make (images, inspriration, research, etc). I compliment this structure with tags and links depending on the app I use to either organize in greater detail or for quick acces and overview.

I prefer to keep it simple and free of friction while maintaining some universal consistancy accros all my apps. Though I love getting into advanced features and be number 6 haha. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

The question is: What do you use?

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Nice post!

For adding content, I need folders - otherwise I’d have a huge mess very soon.
To keep it flexible, use tag-based folders, so content can live in more than one place

For accessing content, Search works 90% of the time. But I would never have it as my main system because I’d always be wondering if I’m forgetting about something. So the aforementioned structured is a must.

Unfortunately I don’t have the above yet. My stuff is scattered across a few places, in different systems, with some overlap (more or less like you).

What’s PHD?

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Usually written like PhD: Doctor of Philosophy (academic training)

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Being able to drag and drop files is great. I think what’s missing currently is the possibility to connect these files with other objects using relationships.

Say I drag and drop an email, would be cool if I could then link it to a task (via “linked task” relationship) so that in the task itself I can then refer back to this email (or answer once the task is done)

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Insert a GIF of Homer saying doh here. :smiley:

The similarity to PKM and the upper case H broke my brain.

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I use most methods you mentioned: 6>5>2/1>3.

6 A few reasons I use self-build the most (definitely not the smartest person in the world, knowledge organisation methods are infinite 學無止境):

  • Never found the one app that organise my thoughts properly, so I end up spending lots of time building in my brain - the random messy way. Now I need so much effort to organise and reproduce the contents :sweat_smile:, so others and myself can understand (Hope Anytype will be the one)
  • Greatest flexibility and creativity: different contexts, different things matters differently hierarchically and structurally, relationally. Visualised, audio, art, mentality etc. are hard to organise in simple texts… (that’s why Obsidian is not good enough for me)
  • Overlapping contents need complex method to organise.
  • Hope one day I will do PhD and do more contributions to the knowledge and thinking world

5 “Journey to connect” - I like how you present it. This is exactly the fascinating part about life and process.
Most of the time I don’t use MoC though… things change too much to have a MoC… Journey is still and will continue to be occurring. This is the best way for me to find things when it is just a feeling or guess.

2 or1. Search is the easy way after all. Hope global search will be on Anytype… many times I can’t remember the title or keyword

3 Too much time trying to organise with folders… end up with folders everywhere, especially in backup disk, I don’t want to touch them… so untraceable that whenever my computers die on me, I would rather start over :smiling_face_with_tear: Folders still exist in my bulky system because I will continue to ignore them :rofl: and one day find some random things useful there

4 I am really curious to see how people use tags to organise system. These days, on social media, tags are more like a eye-catching thing and everyone use tags so differently… I end up giving up on it.

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For now, my primary choice is Folder, which can guarantee I can find anything I want according to its type/category/etc.

My secondary choice is Search, which provides a quick way to access some objects at a deep level, and also fills the gap that I forget how I categorize them in folder, sometimes.

Links, connections and Maps of Content is more like a tool to review or discover something for me. If let me use it for indexing, I suppose it would be a little arduous.

As for Tags, I’m kind of in a wait-and-see situation because of my personal reason, but I will definitely use it later.

I’m willing to create a Complicated self build system, but Anytype is still in an Alpha phase, which needs many manual works to make it an ideal and automatic PKM app. Once I get the API (even source code), I’d love to play around with it and figure out the best plan for me.

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