Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Evernote: Tags

I wasn't convinced by tags at the beginning, but using a notebook-only approach wouldn't work due to Evernote's rather simple nesting capabilities (notebooks can only go one level deep). I actually see some advantages of tags now too - for example I can have a bunch of notes on a program (e.g. Evernote!) in lots of different notebooks (Blogs, PhD Advice, Programming). I can easily have a look at them all (across notebooks) using the tag, but I can also look at those notes linked to programming (both Evernote and non-Evernote related) by just checking the relevant notebook.


I organised my tags by using parent-tags (normal tags can be nested within other tags by simply dragging and dropping). I don't actually use those parent tags for tagging notes, they are just there to help me group other tags, so that I can find them easily. When on a computer I often tag notes by dragging them onto the tags, so being able to locate each tag quickly helps.

For example, I have a parent-tag "Activities" within which I have (not surprisingly) all my activities, such as writing, climbing or programming.

The only exception to the rule is my "tools" tag - it's nested within a parent tag and there are tags nested within it, but I do use it to tag notes that talk about a whole bunch of programs I might want to check out (but don't want to have a tag for each of them). 

You can see that each of my parent-tags has ... in front of it. This is so that I know which tags are the parent-tags and don't tag any notes with them when tagging by starting to type the tag name (which I do when I'm away from my computer, tagging on a mobile devices).


I decided to create a whole bunch of tags at the beginning and then try and stick to them, i.e. avoid creating new tags on a whim, so that I don't end up with each tag only being used once (which would render tags useless).

I also keep my naming consistent. Anything that is an activity, that can be written with an ing ending gets written like that, i.e. travelling instead of travel, meal planning instead of meal plan. Similarly, I keep the names in plural, for example definitions, books, conferences. Those rules arbitrary, but easy to remember, and they help to ensure that I don't accidentally create multiple tags for the same thing (i.e. so I don't have "book" and "books", which again, would make searching via tags less useful).

Sometimes I wonder how necessary the tags actually are - the search function in Evernote is excellent and most of my notes can be probably found relatively easily without tags. For instance, most of my Scrivener notes have the word Scrivener in them, so using the tag "Scrivener" doesn't really add much. However, there are also instances where tags add some extra information, for example if the note is based on something I found on Twitter it gets tagged with "Twitter" (and it happens automatically when done through IFTTT). The note doesn't actually have anything to do with the Twitter as a platform, so won't have the word "Twitter" in it and couldn't be found this way - but thanks to the tag I only need to remember that this thing I'm trying to find was initially spotted on Twitter. So I will use tags for now, even if only to figure out in what scenarios they are actually helpful!

Side Note: I do wish there was a way to automatically tag notes with a parent tag, e.g. if I tag something with "Twitter" it should also get tagged with "tools" automatically. As far as I know there is no way to achieve that easily though.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Evernote: update on the way I'm using it

I am taking some taught courses and have decided to create a separate notebook called Courses. I initially put notes on the courses in the Meetings notebook, but for some reason it didn't sit well with me, it felt like those notes didn't belong in Meetings.

I might also get rid off PhD Concepts & Definitions, Ideas & Notes notebook - I have created a document in Scrivener that keeps the definitions important for my PhD, so most of the basic things went there. This notebooks currently contains notes about my ideas linked to organisation of certain project, but I wonder whether those couldn't live in another notebook (e.g. PhD Advice & Resources or Lab Journal). I will see what happens, if it doesn't get much use it will need to go.

Monday, 8 September 2014

A new beginning: PhD

I have started a PhD.

Starting a new job, in a new city, new apartment, new flatmates, new department, office, colleagues… Almost everything in my life suddenly changed and changed quite drastically.

This is the sort of change that brings chaos, along with new challenges.

In an attempt to deal with this change and protect certain important aspects of my life I started planning and organising (how I love organising!) ahead of time in an attempt to mitigate some of the unavoidable uncertainty that comes with such a Big Move. I'm organising everything, from my belongings, through computers, to streamlining the way I work and keep track of projects and tasks.

I'm curious to see how it will all work out and whether systems established ahead of the time will actually work out. How much have I managed to predict? How right (or wrong) was I about the type of life I will lead during my PhD?

Who knows, maybe I will find that the steps I undertook made my life a thousand times easier. But then again, maybe after a month or two I will throw my hands in the air and start from scratch.

Time will show.