Evernote and the Google problem

We’ve all seen the new Bing commercials showing people suffering from search engine overload. I can identify with those thus afflicted, since I go through that every day. Only it’s not hitting me when I search Google; it’s hitting me when I search Evernote.

Earlier this week I hit 6,000 notes in Evernote. That’s a lot of notes. That’s a huge, thundering herd of notes, the likes of which used to roam horizon to horizon on the Colorado plains. Wait, I think that was buffalo. But even so, my notes were out of control.

This isn’t Evernote’s fault. It does a dandy job of collecting and keeping all my notes. Things, perhaps obviously, go into the system rather easily. Getting the particular stuff I’m looking for back out at any particular time can be a problem.

Like Google’s index of the entire interwebs, once you hit a certain critical mass of notes, any search brings back too many matches. This forces you to browse through the list of matches to your search term when browsing a list and finding what you want with a Mark I eyeball is exactly what you’d hoped to avoid. Evernote provides lots of ways to narrow the search by content, time and place created and all sorts of other metadata, and allows you to save that combination of search criteria if you need them again in the future. But even so, there’s lots and lots of stuff in my Evernote database that doesn’t strictly need to be there. More to the point, there’s lots of stuff in my Evernote database that I’ll never see again. So why lug it around, even digitally?

I think the source of my issue is that Evernote is so free-form that I’m inclined to use it for everything so that I have all of my data in one place, even though other solutions would work better for certain kinds of content. I should keep my image files in Picasa or Flickr instead of Evernote. I should store my to-read-later articles in Instapaper instead of Evernote. I should keep my drafts in Google Docs, Writeroom or on a flash drive rather than in Evernote. I should keep my tasks in ToodleDo instead of Evernote. I think if I put into Evernote only what I knew I planned to keep so I could use it later, the data size would be manageable and it wouldn’t take nearly as long for the iPhone version to finish syncing and let me look up whatever I opened it for.

But before I go and do something rash (I have an inner R2-D2, and I’m not afraid to use it!), I thought I’d ask my readers (at least the ones that use Evernote, and I know there are a few of you). What do you store in Evernote and what do you store elsewhere? Why?

5 thoughts on “Evernote and the Google problem”

  1. Jeff, I use Evernote for stuff I want to keep permanently. I use ToDo for to-dos, I don’t keep photos on my iPhone at all, and I don’t have a “read later” category.

    So I store stuff like notes from work that I’ll need to refer back to constantly, software serial numbers, receipts, Bible study and Sunday school notes, devotional material, tech hints that I’m likely to forget, etc. But the main crux of my “system” is that it only goes into Evernote if I want to keep it for a long time or permanently. Basically, I use it the same way I used PhatNotes when I was using a Pocket PC.

    Trying to use it the way you do would be way too unwieldy for me. I’d have to invest too much time in managing all that stuff. I’ve long since learned that no system is good if you have to spend more time managing it than using it.

  2. I have two primary purposes for Evernote. One is to house my GTD system (you can read about it on my website), and the other is for reference material. This includes stuff like account information, real estate details, debt tracking, goals, recipes, online resources, and a host of other things.

    Like you, I keep writing drafts in Google Docs, Read/Review items in Google Reader, and photos in Picasa. Then of course there’s a bunch of stuff that stays in Gmail/Gcal.

    I am using Xmarks, now that they’re offering Chrome support, I can go back to using it as my organizational system for bookmarks.

    Recently I’ve been playing with Mind Mapping software. Something like Xmind that allows linking to files or webpages and lets you link them graphically to different ideas. Not sure how that’s going to go however…

  3. Jeff,
    I always read your stuff – and like it even when I do not like it. 🙂

    I use Evernote for everything, but have a tag called “Temp”, for “Temporr”, in english: “Temporary”. Which I use for all things – you guessed it – which when creating the note, I feel is not to be kept for ever.

    Regards,
    Anders Holt

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