How to effectively organize digital information

All good things come in threes, right? I sure hope so, because I’ve got three pillars to my digital organization system: Evernote, Dropbox and Google.

Each pillar in my organization system has a distinct purpose. Each content piece and information type is only stored one place.

Evernote:

All notes, correspondence and key information to remember. This includes both personal and business information for my own business. I do have a separate Evernote account for my corporate job for security and separation.

A few of the information types that I store in Evernote:

  • Medical records. Fantastic for growth charts and immunization records for the kids, along with your health insurance cards and key numbers! With Evernote, that information is right at my smartphone fingertips. It’s glorious.
  • Auto information. How many times are you asked for your license plate number and can’t remember it? I’ve also had more times than I would have expected that I was asked for my VIN number. See above. Glorious information when you need it.
  • Journal. I can type so.much.faster than I can write by hand. I know purists cringe, but better to have ideas recorded somewhere than not at all, right?
  • Food. I’ve got both recipes and restaurants listed with a boatload of tags to easily find what I’m looking for at the drop of a hat — or when “What should we do for dinner tonight?” strikes all too often.

Dropbox:

Any document that’s already formatted in a specific file type (basically anything that’s not a text note). This includes PDFs, Word docs, Excel docs, images, etc.

Evernote has the capability to add attachments to notes, and Evernote Premium includes the ability to search within those documents, but I haven’t managed to give up the folder structure and ease of Dropbox, along with the sharing capabilities.

How I make this work seamlessly with Evernote: I include a link to any Dropbox files or folders in an Evernote note, making a Dropbox file just as easy to access as an attachment in Evernote. Why, yes, yes, that is a good idea, thank you.

Google:

Specifically, Gmail and Google Drive.
 I heart Gmail. Email is a fantastic communication tool, but should not be used to store information for reference. Any emails or emailed information that needs to be referenced get saved to Evernote (the email to Evernote feature of Evernote Premium is a fantastic easy way to do this).

I love Google Drive for the ease of collaboration. Evernote and Dropbox can’t come anywhere near the ease of Google Drive for collaboratively building work and quick and easy updates. Google Drive has far fewer documents than either Evernote or Dropbox, but I’m not willing to give up the functionality to cut out one more system.

How I make Google Drive work seamlessly with Evernote: Same as Dropbox, I include a link to any Google Drive files or folders in an Evernote note.

The two keys to making it all work together:

  • Link documents where relevant.
  • Use the same folder structure in each system. This makes it super easy to see at a glance what you have where, and easy to find what you’re looking for.

As I mentioned last week, my journey to effective digital organization is an evolving work in progress, as I’m sure it is for many of you. I tend to be skeptical of anyone who ever says they have a one-and-done solution (with all due respect to Marie Kondo, of course).


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Sarah Parsons writes at StrategySarah.com on making it easier to get business and life done. She is an MBA with 13+ years experience with multi-national corporations and small business owners.

Originally published at strategysarah.com on January 29, 2016.