How do you keep all the information in your life organized...

I have a shitty memory. This question is mostly about my work life.
People send me emails about various topics, so I make folders that try and relate to the topic of whatever it is the email is about. However, many times this is ambiguous and the email could fit into one of many folders.

Then sometimes people send word documents, instant messages, pdf documents, or perhaps even a url to a website.

I got tuns of this crap saved all over. I have no idea what I have anymore. I do not know what I know.

Its the worst when you spend an hour or two researching some obscure thing on google, and then you finally find it so you decide to bookmark it only find that it is ALREADY BOOKMARKED.

I want one searchable way to all the stuff I have collected on topic X to find what I need.

My solution, which is a poor one, is to create a single giant google document on all things under the sun. Cut and paste city.

Is there a better way to do this and if so, what is it?

There’s solutions and there’s solutions.

Essentially, once you get to a certain age, the work you have to put in to learn a new system to keep things organized becomes as much work as the thing you were doing, inefficiently, to keep things organized. There’s also a kind of tactile memory in the act of making thing; the thing you hand write on a yellow pad doesn’t disappear, and writing it down commits it to memory. It sucks, it’s slow, it’s obsolete; but it works.

If you just have an overwhelming amount of stuff and need to categorize it by job, you might try OneNote. You probably already have an Office 365. If you already spending all that time cut and pasting links, might as well organize it in OneNote.

But… .here’s the thing. You’re probably going to hate any other solution than what you have now. You’re used to being able to Ctrl+f for keywords or see a giant list of things, or being able to color columns or rows. By putting it all into a document (Excel?) you’ve got the power. Any other sorting system is going to take that messy, inefficient but broad and deep power you have and squeeze it, shoehorn it, and constrain it into a system they created. And it’s not going to be the same, and you’re not going to like it.

Now that said… you might look into something that allows you to set custom Tags on data topics. If you’re willing to put in the even more time required to tag everything you enter.

I’ve had similar problems with keeping things organized. I’ve tried OneNote and EverNote. Ultimately, I looked at the amount of work it would take to stay organized (depending on what you’re using, you’re maintaining folders, or tags, or pages, or documents, or whatever) and just said screw it.

Now I just have a big, unorganized e-mail inbox. I read everything, but I never delete anything. I just trust Outlook’s search. So far, it hasn’t caused any issues for me. But anytime I tell someone about it, they can’t understand how it works for me.

I tried Evernote and Onenote and bounced off. They’re too heavy for my needs.

I keep text notes in Simplenote. Extremely fast, instant search, and well, simple. They have clients for every OS, but I prefer nvALT on MacOS and Resophnotes on Windows.

I basically live in Simplenote. For example, I have a “Books” note about books I want to read someday. I have a “Serials and Keys” note for game serials. “ESO” for elder scrolls online notes and to-dos. And so on.

I use Trello for to-do and checklists. Anywhere I need to keep track of many moving parts over an extended time period, Trello is the spot. I find the card and stack paradigm very useful for organization.

Confidential documents, finance, credit cards, and passwords go in Lastpass.

I scan important paper documents with iOS Scanbot and store them in Dropbox. I don’t have a lot of this stuff so just popping them in reasonably named folders works fine. Supposedly iOS11 Notes will do this too, but I don’t want to store documents on iCloud, so we’ll see. Scanbot is truly a great app.

I use Pocket to save URLs and stories.

I am a very organized person who to date anyway still has a good memory. However, I have taken to keeping lists of my various passwords and e-mail info at my office and at home. Sites (for security reasons no doubt) have started doing some really annoying things requiring that I actually change and revise my passwords on a irregular basis. I hate that.

And anything important is printed out and filed.

I may want to check out simplenote, although I do not permissions to install anything for my work computer. Does it support rich text, pictures, etc? And it uses keywords? That could be really useful if I could have a bunch of “notes” that have a list of keywords. Of course, Ill have to pick those keywords wisely.

Printed out things are not searchable. At least with my google doc, I have a table of contents and ctrl-f.

Sure they are if filed correctly. :)

As an old fart who has maintained an office for 30+ years I can generally find any piece of paper in just a few minutes. Even jobs that are 25 years old can usually be located in 5-10 minutes.

Simplenote does support rich text through markdown. It does not support any sort of pictures, video, or attachments of any kind. It’s just text notes. It’s super simple and instantly responsive. Two panels, list of notes on the left, note content on the right. That’s the attraction.

It does fully support tagging and keywords, so you can tag notes “work”, “personal”, specific clients at work, “Billy” for stuff to do with your brother, etc.

If you can’t install anything at work, I guess you could use their website, but that would kinda suck. I’d probably just use my phone. Simplenote clients for iOS and android are great.

I used DevonThink for a while and found it really useful. That was a few computers ago… now I just find myself often saying, “I don’t remember.”

There’s a notetaking version called Devonnote:

I need to have image support. A lot of what what I need is to work through complex UIs and a picture, as they say, is worth a 1000s words. Still though keywords would be of great use. To bad google doesn’t have a product like that.

I was thinking about some kind of wiki, but we have one, and its just a mess to find anything in it.

This is basically me, though I do use a few apps for a handful of specific organisational tasks. I use Asana for my leads at work, and Evernote to keep lists of films to watch, books to read and things to research. I’ll use OneNote now and then for clipping something I know I’ll have to look at soon on another device.

For emails, at work I use ‘categorize’ in Outlook rather than folders, then you can tag stuff that falls under multiple categories rather than have to fit into a single folder. I used to try and keep ‘inbox zero’ as well, but it’s too much work. :)
I still end up mainly just searching for key words though!

I use OneNote for categorising pretty much everything; saving game tips, recipes, hardware and software lists, music, planning personal projects, etc. It has great freeform editing, media support, and tagging and searching.

For quick notes and reminders and stuff I just use Google Keep.

Bookmarks is tougher; I like that Chrome syncs them as well as tabs but they’re a mess, so I’ve recently taken to using Pocket.

I do use Evernote, and pretty much do all those things in that app. That’s where I live.

Evernote revamped their in-app camera app to incorporate document scanning about a year and a half ago. The Evernote webclipper chrome extension is amazingly great and basically replaced Pocket for me. Evernote supports all sorts of lists, check boxes, to-do’s etc.

Except for the Lastpass password/credit card/form fill stuff, which I also store in Lastpass.

OneNote at work, Google Keep for home. One is fantastic at work organization, the other is fantastic at quick and easy lists, numbers, names, and small notes.

I tried using Notability, without much success.
It all ends up being a mess, and I have to get through all my notes every time to find that reference I need.
The same was and is still happening with post-its, so I guess, like DeepT and Ginger_Yellow, that’s more of a personal problem than a tool issue.

I use Evernote and document everything. It’s a great feeling when some task or problem comes up and work that I know is going to be deep and hard to solve, but then I remember I did it a year or two ago and documented everything in Evernote.

I also use it for home. I recently switched from Comcast to ATT U-Verse, which required a ton of new information about the ATT web site, their shitty router and how to log into it, etc. I may never need to do it again, because I don’t tinker like I used to, but if I need to I have it all documented.

Simplenote sounds interesting, but my documentation includes lots of screenshots.

If you find tools that really solve the problem of categorization and search for all the various kinds of information available in this digital age, congratulations, you’re going to be a billionaire. :) In my years as an IT professional, I must have run across a dozen different offerings from as many major companies trying to address this exact issue (plus collaboration, in most cases). Most of which barely made a blip on the radar before disappearing. Anyone remember Lotus Beehive, for instance?

As is obvious from the posts thus far, everyone tends to find their own tools and methods. Once someone gets a system going, it doesn’t really matter how good or bad the tools are since the majority of the work is the information setup.

Myself, I used simple text documents to track info and to-do lists during most of my professional career, with the occasional reference to a folder full of external files when I needed something graphical. Originally it was just on my work computer and I had to manually back it up to a network drive, then when tools like Dropbox came along I moved it all there for easy access. I still have most of it, though I’d be shocked if anyone other than me could actually make sense of most of it.

I do, I do! Man I do NOT miss the Lotus days.

To what you said, @DeepT, if you stick with a major platform, then you’ll have options if you ever choose to migrate off of it, as most of the startups allow import of notes from larger and more common providers (OneNote, Evernote, etc.) The key is to pick the right tool for the job. If you want media to be able to be stored within the note system, that’s a big checkmark. Searching is another, though most do searching within notes and to all notes.

I’ll give you an example workflow for OneNote, but it’s similar for Evernote as well:

I have a new issue on a system at work, I get a ticket for it. If it is something entirely new, I’ll copy that ticket email into OneNote under a tab I have for that system, under a folder marked by where the system is. Let’s say that is in a datacenter we have somewhere. I might also communicate to the person having the issue, then copy their contact details onto that same note I have open. At that point I might be working on something on the system, so I’ll save a screenshot of what I’m seeing on that same note I have open. Perhaps I visit the vendor website and find an applicable bug or support issue mentioned there. I’ll copy part of the page (and associated link) into my note as well. I might also clip part of a worksheet line or two on details for that system into the note. I might involve someone on-site to get me a picture or two of indicators or status lights currently displayed. I put those pictures into the note.

Now lets say I solve said issue. I’ll copy the final solution and communication details onto that same note. Six months from now, let’s say this happens again, but with everything going on, I don’t remember very much about it. One search on OneNote and I’ll most likely land on that note.

The thing you really want to remember though is that you aren’t always at your desk. Many of the solutions recommended here also have mobile apps, allowing you access to all of that same information, while having a beer at the pub. To your coworkers, it will seem magical that YOU are the one that remembers everything with detail and clarity enough to prevent time loss on recurring issues. But all of that is really based on a detailed, searchable, organization app.