To tag or not to Tag

Published -  2021-03-12

To tag or not to Tag

If you are an organization freak you may have asked yourself if and when to use tags and how. In this article I try to spotlight my thoughts and experiences I have collected over the last years.

Folders

When working with multiple documents organization is needed. Use nested folders is the simplest solution. Have a good structure of folders helps to find the documents.

The folder structure should make it easy to decide, where to put a document. There should be one place for the document.

Imagine you have a folder structure like this:

  • work
    • concepts
    • meeting minutes
  • private
    • invoices
      • by amazon
      • by Otto
      • others
    • letters

You put your invoices under private/invoices/others. How do you know if the invoice is to be paid?

One solution could be to make a separate folder structure like this:

  • private
    • invoices to pay
    • invoices
      • by amazon
      • by Otto
      • others

When an invoice comes in and need to be paid you put it under „invoices to pay“. But it is obvious, when you are searching for an invoice, you have now two different places to look for.

Similar for your work/concepts. You want to differentiate, which concepts are final, which ones are drafts, which are approved or not, or is deprecated?

You could create a folder structure:

  • work
    • concepts
      • drafts
      • final
      • approved
      • deprecated

To find the concepts you need to look into 4 different folders.

Tags

To solve these problems, Tags could be the „magic“ to answer the questions.

Instead of having the „invoices to pay“ folder put the invoices to the location where they belong to. Then tag the invoice with #to-pay Tag.

Instead of having 4 different folders for your concepts put all into the one folder and tag with the different states #draft, #final, #approved, #deprecated. This allows to use multiple tags for one document: a document could be #final and #deprecated.

Tags are good to „mark“ or „label“ a document with an information, which is not obvious by the document or by the folder structure.

Tags could represent a state. Examples: #todo or #ready or #important, #draft, #deprecated.

Tags should be used consistent. If you are using different Systems, e. g. the Tags in „Finder“ on Mac OS-X and Tags in another Notes App, then try to have a consistent naming and usage.

Use the same writing for all tags, e. g. all lower case or upper case.

Don’t use too many tags, do not use more than about different 10 Tags, you should be able to remember the tags.

If you are starting to tag all documents with one or more tags then you are doing something wrong.

Try to tag as less documents as possible.

Example: You could have a #todo tag but not have a #done tag. Remove the #todo tag, then it means it is done.

Do not use Tags for the same informations you have in the folders or filenames. Example if a document is put under private/ folder do not tag it #private, if a document is an invoice in the folder invoices/ do not tag it as #invoice. Avoid to having this redundant information, because when you move a document into a different folder you may need to update the tags.

Conclusion

To be able to find „special“ documents which are organized under a folder structure tags may be the solution. Tag the documents and have a search by tags to generate lists.

Best is first to have a useful folder structure and good naming for the documents and use the tags for additional, temporary, informations.