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Productivity hacks weekly in bite-size chunks. Just up your alley if you're at least slightly geeky or a tad bit obsessed with Evernote or WorkFlowy!

Kanban Calendar: Evernote Series - 4 of 5

Frank Degenaar

This post is the fourth in a 5-part series, featuring Evernote as a Kanban Calendar setup.

Preamble Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Tags, tags everywhere

For those of you who are already fans of tagging in Evernote, you may appreciate the analogy below ... and would no doubt already have a few tricks up your sleeve. I simply wanted to point out that the possibility exists... and briefly discuss a few of the pros and cons that a tag-based task-management system in Evernote presents (compared to other Evernote setups), especially related to the Kanban Calendar system. If you'd like to delve more into the possibilities that tagging in general affords one, here is a great thread on the Evernote forums: The Benefits of Using Tags. On that note, this post is one for those who already have a working knowledge of tags in Evernote. 

Have a chat about tags, we will...

When one tags a note (or in this case a task) with more than one tag, that note takes on a super power - the ability to be in more than one place at the same time. Kind of like "The Force". If this is too cheesy for you: hit the space bar once (on desktop). 

For those Star Wars fans: An extract from the Star Wars Wiki:

The Force was a metaphysical, spiritual, omnipotent and ubiquitous power that held enormous importance for both the Jedi and Sith monastic orders... Though the Force was thought to flow through every living thing, its power could only be harnessed by beings described as "Force-sensitive." This Force-sensitivity was correlated with, and sometimes attributed to, a high count of internal microorganisms called midi-chlorians that were found in a Force-sensitive's blood: the higher the count, the greater the being's potential Force ability.

By the way, "ubiquitous" is a fancy word I learned a little over a year ago - meaning "to be present or found everywhere". For our purposes here, I would liken tags in Evernote to these midi-chlorians: The higher the count, the more "contexts" your notes/ tasks can be found in.

Nothing to show... just a few things to tell

Lately I have done a lot of tinkering with tags. I did my homework... I swear! But I'm going to have to pull a Calvin on you and just do the telling part this time 'round - apart from the accompanying image of the nested tag hierarchy.

In its essence, the basic tag structure setup here is a mirror image of Part 2 in this series - in other words, each tag context seen here, is an exact replicate of its stack/ notebook counterpart, containing the same tasks. Except that the BACKLOGGED, TODAY and CALENDAR tags are simply place holders under which to nest (drag and drop) the component section, priority and date tags. They do not contain any notes - they are there simply to create structure. 

Before I go any further (and this might be an anticlimax to many) - the previously mentioned advantage of using tags to have a task appear in more than one context, is pretty much redundant (or very minimal) here. Sorry to get you all excited about it and then drop a bomb on you. I say this for one simple reason: if you've been following how I set Kanban Calendar up in a variety of wildly different apps - by now you will have caught on that the actual strength of this system lies in any particular task only really appearing in one context. To have a task appear in more than one main context would detract from what makes it such a low-maintenance, fuss-free system.

You see, any reference material you may have in Evernote is a completely different ball game: You may wish to tag various kinds of documents, web-clippings, ideas, etc. with multiple tags, which would be very helpful indeed - but when it comes to tasks, other than having "GTD" contexts similar to @desktop, @store, @home, etc.  (which are secondary contexts)  it's best to keep it simple and have a task in one context. In fact the Kanban Calendar structure intuitively strips all of that duplicity away. 

When we consider a huge core concept of Kanban - "Visualize your workflow" - in so far as a single task relates to all others, it is helpful to have it appear in just one place when looking at the scope of your tasks - the bird's-eye view.

The dark side of the Force 

When compared with the Notebook/ Reminders list setup in Part 2, here are some notable minuses of the tagging dynamic:

  • When moving a task from one category, priority or date context to another, one not only needs to drag and drop a task to a new tag (or tag it as such on mobile devices - from within a note) - one also needs to un-tag the previous tag, lest the task fall under conflicting dates, priorities etc... or simply for the purpose of archiving. One has to have the proper tagging protocol in place. On the other hand, when a task is moved from one notebook to another, that involves one action - the deed is done.
  • As far as I know, one is only able to view this nested tag structure on Desktop clients and Android. It is not (nor may ever be) available on iOS or the new Web Beta. So just keep in mind that nesting tags is not possible on all Evernote clients.
  • One cannot arbitrarily reorder/ shuffle tasks as can be done in all other setups in this series.

The light side of the Force

  • If it's a toss-up specifically between a notebook-based setup and a tag-based setup - remember that the Kanban Calendar system (Reminders list setup) may require up to 50 notebooks out of a max of a 250-personal-notebook limit (mainly due to the calendar section). If you're going with tags, there's a 100,000 tag limit. This may be the determining factor if you're running low on notebooks!
  • One can easily show notes (tasks) from multiple tag contexts together in the Note List. It is easiest on the desktop clients, where one can select any tag combinations in the Left Panel:
    • Ctrl-click-click-click (Windows Desktop)... AND then add the "any:" syntax to the search bar after the string of tags . This will include all notes from all tag contexts chosen.
    • You can then "Sort notes by" > "Tags" in the Note List sorting options: Tasks with the same tags are grouped together.
    • One can set any specific combination of tags up as a saved search, making that search more accessible on mobile devices.  
  • One can batch tag/un-tag multiple notes (on desktop).
  • You may already be comfortable and well-acclimated to a tag-based system for task management - and so it would be a natural extension of the system you already have in place if you're a fan of tagging. 

One final point to ponder: all other setups may also use tags as a layer on top of the existing setup - if one so chooses. 

Now, for those crazed Evernote gurus out there - please, please, please - add to the above lists anything I may have overlooked... or even a different perspective (as tagging relates to the Kanban Calendar system). Something more to this, there's got to be!