How to Keep Your Notes Organized –

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Readers had a great threadjack on how to keep your notes organized — and it’s been far too long since we’ve talked about this! What are your tips and tricks for keeping your notes organized, whether it’s notes about job-related matters or personal issues like healthcare? Do you use one system for work matters, and one system for personal issues?

For my $.02…

How I’ve Always Kept My Work-Related Notes Organized

Nothing I’ve found since has beaten the system I came up with when I was a lawyer working for a BigLaw firm… as I noted back in my post on how to organize your office:

I would keep one “general” folder with all of my initial notes from prior pleadings and general strategy notes, and then I’d start a new folder for each major assignment I was tasked with (memo, research, portion of a brief, whatever).

I would keep the recent and active folders near my desk in a folder tower or stackable paper tray (where each case had its own little slot … and then move them to a filing drawer or redweld once the case was Really Truly Over, or once the assignment got stale enough and I needed more room closest to my desk. (Oh, and I love my Brother P-Touch label maker.)

For my $.02 on the to-do lists, I keep a number of them. I keep a Post-It with my immediate tasks for the day, and I start a clean Post-It for every meeting to record action items for me and others. I also keep a longer to-do list on a notepad that I update about once a week, and consult in the rare event that I finish all of my must-finish-tasks for the day. I also keep a running big-picture to-do list…

If you wanted to do this with less paper, my newer system (which I implement more poorly) involves just straight text notes in the default Notepad app that comes with Windows. I like it because it doesn’t take any memory to detract from the 10,000 tabs I inevitably have open, and also because if I’m copying and pasting phrases from anywhere on the web, then the Notepad app strips all formatting so it’s plain text. Then I move it to a folder on whatever topic I’m looking at, along with any Excel spreadsheets or other related notes.

How I Keep My Personal Notes Organized

I’ve always been a huge fan of Evernote for my personal notes. I like that I can just as easily share things to it via my iPhone or email, or on one of my computers, and it has historically been pretty easy to find what I’m looking for.

I wrote about this extensively over at CorporetteMoms because this really became a Thing for me once I was juggling a lot of family-related notes… Each family member has their own big Notebook, with smaller folders for known issues that we’re watching or researching. (I have a default folder called “aaToFile” in each notebook so I don’t have to spend too much time thinking about where new items should go.)

Specifically, I keep these kinds of things in the family Evernote:

Articles (for me, mostly health-related research): I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve googled things regarding sleep hygiene, eczema, potty training issues, etc. — but now I send any interesting article with a link and sometimes even a quote to the relevant kid’s folder in Evernote. (One of my kiddos has a speech delay and some other sensory issues, and each of those issues have led me down a thousand rabbit holes on the internet.)

Facebook comment threads: If you’re a parent and you’re like me, you’re in a lot of Facebook groups for mom-related things (for me, business-related things, too), where you can find some fabulous threads filled with advice and tips. I just expand the entire thread and send it to Evernote, with appropriate keywords, personal notes, or brief takeaways at the top of the note so I can immediately remember why I wanted to save it.

Notes from conversations, calls, teacher conferences, doctor’s appointments, insurance discussions, etc.: You know how sometimes you have a conversation with someone about your kiddo and then write an email to your partner (possibly your caregiver, too) to relay the information and get you both on the same page? I send that kind of thing to Evernote, and then I have everything in one place.

(Having one repository is important — when I forget to send information to Evernote, we’re often wondering if we emailed it? texted it? printed something out? — and the information is frequently lost.)

{related: these are our best tips on digital journaling}

Readers’ Tips to Keep Notes Organized

Readers had a threadjack about this very topic recently — some great suggestions included:

  • I have one notebook where I number the pages and keep a table of contents, sort of like a bullet journal.
  • I take notes in pre-punched 3-hole paper pads. When the pad is full, I take out the notes and put them in the appropriate binder (one for non-profit, one for personal finance, specific ones for work matters). Fast. Easy to take notes. Easy to reference notes once they are taken while issue is alive. Can be scanned later once the issue is closed and you want a permanent record. (Kat note — I did this for college and law school and can vouch for this being a great system; I’m trying to get my eldest son to implement this now that he’s in middle school…)
  • I use my iPad Notes for this. I have separate folders for each thing, work, nonprofit, home, personal goal planning, etc. Then I make individual notes inside those folders. E.g. for work, I have a note for each client name, and then any time I have a meeting or a call or strategy session, I add to that note. Since I can also use my iPad for email, texting, internet, watching Netflix, etc., it is more cost effective.
  • I use a single notebook for everything. I put headers with subject and date when I’m on to a new topic.

Do tell, readers — what’s your system? How do you keep track of information?