Getting Things Done with Evernote—Tags

by Brandon on October 11, 2011


In the last post we created notebooks; now it’s time to look at tags. There are two main categories of tags: tags for Reference Materials or Someday/Maybes and tags for Next/Action items.

Before taking an in-depth look at each of these categories, let’s talk a bit about creating and organizing tags.

There are several ways to create a new tag. In Evernote for Windows, you can simply right-click on ‘Tags’ in the left panel and select ‘Create Tag…’ or, when creating a new note, you can enter the name of the tag where it says, ‘Click to add tag…’.


ScreenClip [1]

Tags can be nested inside other tags, and you can create as many layers of nested tags as you want. If you create too many, however, you may end up in limbo. To nest tags, drag and drop one tag onto another.

ScreenClip [2]

Nesting allows you to organize your tags so they are easier to find, though it does not provide any functionality—it’s merely cosmetic.

Reference Materials & Someday/Maybe Tags:

The Reference Materials notebook is like a virtual filing cabinet to store anything you find interesting or useful. I like to organize it using two types of tags:

Primary/Category Tags (#) – These tags represent the ‘folders’ in the filing cabinet and are denoted by the # symbol. Examples: #Books, #Career, #Finance, #Food/Drink, #Health, #Movies, #Music, #Tech, #Travel. Tag names are arbitrary—feel free to use whatever symbol and names you desire.

ScreenClip [3]

Subset/Subcategory Tags – Many of your primary categories will have at least one subset of topics. These tags are not denoted by any special symbol. Again, tag names are arbitrary. Here are some of the tags I have nested inside #Tech:

ScreenClip [5]

Someday/Maybe items—things you may want to reassess in the future—are tagged in a similar manner. For example, if I find a book I would like to read, I’ll clip it into Evernote, tag it (#Books; To Read), and move it to the Someday/Maybe notebook.

ScreenClip [6]

Other tags that apply to Someday/Maybe items include the following:

  • Future Projects
  • Gift Ideas
  • Wish List
  • Coupon

These tags are nested under #Misc.

Next/Action Item Tags:

The Next notebook contains all of the Next-Action items, Waiting-For items, and any Read/Review materials, and the tags used for these items represent the second major category of tags used in this system.

A new note is created for each Next Action (single next actions, not next actions associated with Projects—I’ll discuss Projects in a future post), and this note is tagged @Action. Since most Next Actions require a specific location or tool, this note is also tagged with a context tag. Here a some examples of context tags that I use: @Agenda, @Anywhere, @Calls, @Computer, @Email, @Errands, @Grocery, @Home, @Shopping, @Work. I nest the context tags under the @Action tag:

ScreenClip [7]

Let’s look at an example. Perhaps my printer is running low on black ink. I would create a new note, give it the proper tags (@Action; @Errands), and move it to the Next notebook, as seen here:

ScreenClip [8]

Similarly, each Waiting-For item—things you’re waiting to get back from or get done by others—has its own note, which is tagged @Waiting For. Use context tags here as well if appropriate.

To-read items that have been clipped or scanned into Evernote are also placed in the Next notebook. I label these FYI-To-Read.

That covers everything you need to know about tags. In the next post, we’ll look at how to create lists to manage all your actionable things.


{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

mokelet January 6, 2013 at 1:45 PM


very nice post collection about Evernote and GTD!

I have one question about the tag @Action. All simple next actions (no project next actions) are in the notebook “2. Next”. Why I need the tag @Action? Is there a different between these two things?

Thanks for the posts an the answer 😉


Brandon January 6, 2013 at 1:56 PM

I also put FYI-To-Read materials and notes tagged with @Waiting For in the “2. Next” notebook. I suppose it’s not entirely necessary, but it just makes it easier to create a saved search that mimics a list of all your simple Next Actions.


Halsted March 22, 2013 at 8:25 PM

Hi, Brandon. I’m really enjoying this series and hope you continue. One question, out of curiosity, how do you use the @Agenda tag? Do you create a note for someone you need to meet with face-to-face, tag the note with @Agenda, and then list in the note all the questions you have for them?


Brandon March 23, 2013 at 2:03 PM


Yes, that’s exactly how I use the @Agenda tag. In addition to the @Agenda tag, I also tag the note with the person’s name.


Halsted March 25, 2013 at 8:33 PM

O, good. That’s how I was doing it. 🙂 Thanks for your response!


nicky April 16, 2013 at 7:46 PM

Hi. I think using tags with starting with # can be a problem if you use the send to evernote email functionality. It allows to put tags and notebooks names in the email subject so your email is correctly routed and trashed. But if your tag starts with # this won’t work since they expect #to mark a tag in the subject. Example:

Here’s a tip: you can send notes into specific notebooks and assign tags by adding some simple information into the subject of the email. Here’s how:Notebook: Add @[notebook name] to the end of the subject line.Tag: Add #[tag name] at the end of the subject line. This feature works with existing tags in your account.Be sure to follow this order: subject, notebook name, tags.To add some text to an existing note, put a ” +” at the end of your subject line and we’ll place the body of the email into the most recent note with that title.

Example subject line:

Fwd: Recipe for Bouillabaisse @Recipes #soup #fish #french


Brandon April 16, 2013 at 8:15 PM

Thanks for the heads up. When I email notes to Evernote, I don’t use that feature. I simply email it to my default notebook and process it later. If you want to use that feature then you’ll need to choose a different symbol to replace #.



Andy February 19, 2014 at 12:34 PM

I am well into the process of transferring my GTD system to EN so, as you can imagine, I am now reorganizing everything according to your system. I created a notebook ‘6. Someday/Maybe’ and I have two notes so far that are reference material for a future project. Not sure how I should be tagging the notes and if they go into folder 6 or 5 (Reference Materials). Help!


Brandon February 19, 2014 at 1:13 PM

Hi Andy,

Future projects are tricky. I ran into this problem as well, and the blog isn’t updated with how I currently handle future projects. I fooled around with tags for a bit, but in the end, I ended up creating a new notebook stack, 7. Future Projects, and each future project is a new notebook in this stack. I tag the project template note in each future project notebook with the tag “Future Projects”.

I hope that helps.


Andy February 28, 2014 at 6:25 PM

I suppose I will get a better idea when I get further along with tagging and these saved searches you frequently mention. Speaking of which, do searches have something to do with why you tag a note (for example) @action @call instead of just @call since it is already nested under @action? Is this still how you do it?

…or maybe it is because @waiting for and @read/review are not nested? Any clarification would be great help.


Brandon March 3, 2014 at 12:11 AM

Correct. @Action makes it easy to search for all Next Actions. Context tags such as @Calls allow you to filter Next Actions by context.


Pernille April 9, 2015 at 3:55 PM

Hi, This is a great series.
Anyways. Is there any reason that you use same tags for “someday/maybe” and “reference”, and not use a stack in those?


Pernille April 9, 2015 at 5:28 PM

Hi again.

I also wondered where you place the different tags that are multipurpose – ex. To Read or Inspiration

Thankyou for your help! 🙂



Brandon May 16, 2015 at 8:45 PM

Hi again. How you organize your tags doesn’t really matter. It could be just one big flat list. Or you can nest them to keep the tags view tidy. Personal preference I guess. I tend to nest tags. If they are multi-purpose, just pick one and go with it.


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