Where did I put that?


I was at the DMV the other day to renew my license. I had the letter with the details in my pocket. 

Yeah, paper. 

It got me thinking about the notes app in my phone where I can call up most of my work and personal notes. I didn’t scan the DMV letter, but I if I had, I’d be able to retrieve it almost as quickly as the letter in my pocket.

And that got me thinking about the many ways we can organize our notes and docs and find them when we need to. 

So, I made a list:  

  • Search/Saved Search
  • Folders/Notebooks
  • Tags/Labels/File Number
  • Links/Backlinks
  • External Links, e.g., from a task manager or reminders app
  • Shortcuts/Stars/Hot List
  • Indexes/Maps of Content 
  • Alphabetically

Did I miss any? 

I use (or have used) most of these. Clearly, the more ways we have available to find things, the better. But to use these methods properly, we need to do something to our notes to make them findable, i.e., we need to add labels or hyperlinks, or add them our shortcuts. Even if you primarily rely on search, you need to make sure your notes have the right keywords or other metadata. 

Recently, I added another option, a WIP folder, which lives at the bottom of the list of folders in my notes app. I use this for short-term works in progress—writing, research, decisions I need to make—or for an upcoming call or meeting or doctor’s appointment. This is where I would have stored the DMV letter if I had digitized it. 

I generally keep only 5 or 10 items in this folder, which means I can quickly find what I need without adding tags or keywords in advance. 

What’s next? AI, no doubt, which should soon be smart enough to bring us things before we even know we need them.  

Like my secretary did back in the day.