Organizing My Notes in Bear

Organizing My Notes in Bear

It’s hard to organize notes. If you’re anything like me, you want to capture everything, shove it somewhere you can easily find it, and then maybe reference it later. But just in case, right?

Evernote use to be my go-to note-taker. I had a 3 or 4 notebook system set up with nested tags. It worked for a season, until I really started pushing it. At that point, something felt clunky.

I decided to look around and tried OneNote, Apple Notes, and other apps. Finally, I rested on Bear. And Bear has stuck.

I love how Bear gives you basically a database of notes you can slap tags on. These tags can nest, be added in easy and seamless ways to notes, and ultimately act like folders to find all the fanciful information I’m storing away for potential future use.

Here’s a high level look at how I organize my system.

When first moving to Bear, I did a direct import from Evernote. It’s pretty easy to do, and that brought along a lot of tags with it. The tags looked… usable in Evernote, but once I brought them into Bear, I knew it was too much. I whittled it down to a few main categories, and started from there.

I’ve been using Bear for a little over six months, and I’ve done something different with it than previous note-taking applications. Christian Tietze put it this way:

So if you model your knowledge management system to fit the way your brain works, you better not start with inventing a hierarchy of categories, top-down. Instead, you’re better of starting to collect notes and see what happens. Let things grow in your Zettelkasten as you let your brain do its work or organic growth.

Previously I would try to organize for every case up front. With Bear’s easy-to-use tags, I started organizing for every new note that cropped up. In doing so, I have an organization system that makes sense to me. When I need new organization, I can create new tags and add whatever notes I need to them, all without breaking my current organizational structure.

This is why I really enjoy using Bear. It has the structure I need while being flexible to my needs.

For those of you interested, here’s a running list of my major tags:

  • !Important - notes I need fast access to
  • business - notes related to the side business/projects I have
  • commonplace - where I store my digital commonplace snips for articles, quotes, and books
  • home - notes related to home, like car VIN numbers, measurements, etc.
  • ideas - my idea lounge
  • music - production notes and song ideas
  • notes - all sorts of non-work notes I take
  • personal - personality test results, encouragement people have given me, other things I track for myself
  • podcasts - notes from any podcasts I’ve guested on (just one for now!)
  • principles - inspired by Ray Dalio, this is a collection of notes around life principles I’ve found or am developing
  • reference - manuals, kiddo Tylenol dosage charts, etc
  • system - info on my devices, GTD stuff
  • thoughts - a place I can store blips of thought that aren’t full-blown posts or notes
  • topics - a nested list of topics for quick reference, usually tagged on notes in my commonplace section
  • worship - I lead worship sometimes at my church, so these are set lists and other misc info I need for that

Even in six month my usage of Bear has evolved a lot. I use nested tags like crazy, and I love how easy it is to tag notes anywhere in the body with a simple hash sign. My only wish is I could use it for work notes and have one system. But I can’t. I use OneNote for that. 😆

I’ll be okay.


How exactly did you do this? Is there a Bear to Evernote importer out there or did you do this by hand?

This has to be one of the best reasons to either move systems or re-evaluate them. It gives you a great opportunity to clean house and streamline your thinking.

This is awesome! :clap: I started doing something similar with my notes experiment: A New Experiment with Discourse. Just get things in and worry about organization later. It removes a lot of barriers.

How is **reference** different than **thoughts** or **notes** or **topics**? These all feel very similar to me.


You export Evernote notes to an .enx file, and import them using Bear for Mac. Works pretty slick.

Reference is a library for procedural or informational type notes. Thoughts is for random connections I make between ideas or revelations I have that don’t warrant a full huge note.

Notes is a high level library for different types of notes (sermons, bible notes, classes, coaching sessions, etc.). Topics is really only a metadata tag set. It functions as a topical index across my notes and commonplace sections.

Re: Discourse - you almost have me convinced it’s a decent idea. But I’m hesitant to make the jump because what I have works now. And work is picky about data locations. As they should be.

Got it. I had no idea they had this but it makes perfect sense that they do.

There are no apps to install. :wink:

But there is still a database on someone else’s computer :slight_smile:

Just a web server. But you (or they) can retain ownership of that.

I’ve been trying to sell them on Discourse as a KB. :ok_hand:

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