Using Personal Roles to Organize Files and Evernote Tags

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This is a guest post by Ernie Hayden. Read more from Ernie right here and see his photos here.

In the early phases of my productivity journey I read Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, listened to Getting Things Done Fast CDs by David Allen, and listened to Tony Robbins’ The Time of Your Life cassettes. Please note this was circa 1998 or so and the Internet was not an active idea and there was no such thing as YouTube, streaming videos, productivity websites, etc. Basically, if you wanted to develop your productivity skills you needed to listen to cassette tapes, CDs, maybe watch some VHS videos, and of course, read books.

Sounds pretty amazing, doesn’t it?!

Tony Robbins’ program, The Time of Your Life, included and idea that has stuck with me for the past 20 years that I still use today. The idea revolves around what your key roles are in life.

YOUR KEY ROLES CAN BE AN EFFECTIVE WAY TO ORGANIZE YOUR SCHEDULE

Tony’s idea regarding roles is centered on developing a weekly plan. Tony tasks the listener to make a list of all the roles you are “assigned” either voluntarily or due to your position in life. Then, using these roles, actions can be assigned to each identified role with associated outcomes. Then, as you look at your weekly plan you take each role and assign an outcome/action to each day of the week.

In summary, the weekly plan has a general structure as shown below:

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The matrix above is to help you schedule your outcomes/actions based on your roles.

Admittedly, I’ve not been a disciplined follower of this approach, but I’ve carried away an organizational approach using roles that I thank Tony Robbins for even today.

STEP 1: IDENTIFY ALL THE ROLES YOU FILL

The exercise is actually fun but not as obvious as you think. The task ahead of you is to make a list of every role you fill in your day-to-day life.

Below I share my current list of roles (with some minor editing) to give you some ideas.

EXAMPLE ROLES

Employment Related

• Employee

• Consultant

• Leader/Manager

• Salesman/Seller

Personal-Related

• Husband-Father-Son

• Citizen

• Consumer

• Family Historian

• Friend & Mentor

• Home — Auto Owner

• Learner/Student

• Medical-Patient

• Money Manager

• Pet Owner

• Photographer

• Spiritual/Religious

• Teacher/Speaker

• Traveler

• Writer/Author

In my case, this is a general list of my current roles that I’ve been referencing over the past 10 years or so. These roles have become the foundation of my computer file system as well as my Evernote Notebooks/Tags.

USING THESE ROLES AS A FOUNDATION FOR FILE ORGANIZATION

So, how do I use these roles for filing? Organizing?

The approach is quite simple.

I use the list of roles identified above and simply make folders in My Documents in my computer (pre-Evernote) titled with each role. I then put sub-folders into each role folder for related files and information.

Below is a screen shot of the actual list of folders in My Documents reflecting my roles:

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Of note, the numbers are used to organize the folders in an order I prefer based on my activity and use of the folders. You can use numbers or “@” or “#” or “^”, etc. to help sort your folders to your liking.

USING ROLES IN EVERNOTE

In my productivity journey, Evernote is relatively new, even though I’ve been using Evernote since June 2011. That said, I initially began Evernote in a haphazard manner and failed to realize the strength of the tags and the search engine. But, thanks to Carl Pullein’s YouTube videos on ways to use Evernote I’ve learned a lot and was awakened to the possibility of using my “roles” for tag assignments in Evernote.

Admittedly, I’ve got some ways to go before I’ve made a complete integration of my roles into Evernote, but it is on my Todoist list!

AN ORGANIZATIONAL SIDE NOTE

You may be wondering how I use my “roles” for reference files. Well, I don’t. Instead I have developed a series of reference or “REF” folders strictly for reference materials. However, I tend to use these folders less and less as I move my reference materials to Evernote.

In case you are interested my REF folders are in the screenshot below:

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EXAMPLE USE

So, how do I use this system? I literally began by taking each item in my “Collection System” (thanks to David Allen!) and ask the two questions: “What is it?” and “Is it actionable?” Yes, I still have my project folders but generally for any reference materials or incubation or archiving I think about what “Role” the paper/email/document belongs. Then, I will file the item into the Role file/Role Sub-file as appropriate.

Later, when I am wondering about the location of an item I simply think about what “Role” the paper/email/document belongs then do a focused search in My Documents and/or Evernote or GDrive if needed.

CONCLUSION

Please understand that this article is simply to give you some ideas on ways to organize all the myriad of “things” we collect in our lives. This is one way I’ve used for at least 10 years and I will admit that as I learn new ideas on using Evernote from Carl and Francesco, I make some edits and tweaks. Overall, though, my structure and approach to file management is still a role-based system.

I hope you find this useful and if you wish, please send me the Skype number and email of your favorite psychiatrist!

Notes:

1) The graphics are developed using SnagIt 2018.

2) The Getting Things Done Fast CDs produced by David Allen are no longer available; however, if you ever have a chance to listen to them, do it! They are a fantastic resource.