One way to effectively organize digital information

Does your computer often feel like the digital equivalent to endless piles all over a desk? You know what you’re looking for is there, but you just can’t find it. 

We’ve all been there at some point. The good news is that you don’t have to stay there. Just like a good physical organization and purge, there is one effective way to organize digital information.

All good things come in threes, right? I sure hope so, because there are three pillars in my system to organize digital information: Evernote, Dropbox and Google.

The system to organize digital information that's currently working fantastic for me

How to organize digital information effectively:

Each pillar in my organization system has a distinct purpose. Each content piece and information type is only stored one place. Evernote, Dropbox and Google all have unique strengths and weaknesses. For the most effective organization system, we are going to use the strengths of each system and layer them together to avoid weaknesses.

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.

RELATED: How to save hours each month with Evernote Web Clipper

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.

RELATED: What is the best (digital) organization system?

 

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11 thoughts on “One way to effectively organize digital information”

  1. Wow thanks so much for this! I’ve used all three of these at some point but never really got the hang of using them all together in tandem and having it actually be effective. Definitely planning on implementing your tips!

  2. I am trying to sort, scan and organize photos digital and scanned and can’t figure out the best way to do this. I use Dropbox and Google photos. Good idea to use Evernote for the important docs. Any ideas for me?

    1. To be honest, photos are one are that I could use some additional organization! I have a folder set up in Dropbox title “Central Photo Storage” and then, in theory, have organized photos by date and/or event within that folder. I also have my phone set to auto upload to both Dropbox (via Carousel) and Amazon Prime. I know for sure that I’m saving and backing up my photos, but they’re not necessarily the most organized! I do have some articles pinned on Pinterest about photo storage and organization that may be helpful.

  3. Great to find someone that agrees with me! I’ve used these three very heavily since their beginning, and could not get by without any of them. One Evernote tip I find helpful is to add the date YYYYMMDD in front of EVERY Note’s Title. This helps, for example, when trying to find a Note you saved and can’t think of a good search term to find it. It also helps when wanting to weed out Notes that have “expired” or are no longer relevant. This can be facilitated by simply sorting the Notebook’s Note Titles in descending order. Note, it is very important to use 4 digits (YYYY) for the year!

    These three products are the perfect software program “Triad”.

    1. Leslie – Personally, I find the file organization and accessibility of non-text-based file types easier to manage in Dropbox vs Evernote. If Evernote is working for you, stick with it!

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