A "tag hierarchy" is what we call a tag when it's name contains words separated by the
personal/friends. Technically a "tag" can be a single word, as is the case with this note, which has two tags as of initial authorship,
link👩🔬 Choosing a tag hierarchy name
Picking an enduring tag name is really hard! Don't feel bad if it takes you repeated experimentation to end up with something that serves your desired ends. Here are a guidelines we've developed from years of creating tag names.
link1. Don't get fancy
Few have sustained willpower to pursue productivity for its own sake. Any "productivity system" that needs to be learned isn't built for the long-term.
Suggestion: Use 10 or less tags at any level. This maxes you out at 100 second-level tags. No tag in a two-level hierarchy feels too overwhelming. As far as specific tag names and organizing principles, don't subscribe to any one methodology.
prefer/short/path and prefer non-pluralized words
Tags aren't going to do you any good if you create elaborate hierarchies that are never seen. I've yet to meet anyone productive who regularly uses tags that go more than three deep. Nested tags are at their finest in the second level of the hierarchy, but third-level tags make sense in domains where your interest runs deep.
Whenever possible, we recommend using the singular form of words in your tag hierarchy, so you don't end up with a mishmash of arbitrarily pluralized and singular words.
Suggestion: Prefer keeping tag hierarchies that are three or less levels deep. Prefer cumulative words in a hierarchy to be five or less total words (examples)
Suggestion: Use the singular form of words when naming tags, so your naming remains maximally consistent. I.e.,
homework/example instead of
link3. First-level tags are buckets 🏀🗑️
Since we want to shoehorn life into ten or less items at any given level, it's important to choose the 10 top-level buckets wisely.
Suggestion: Try some popular "top-level buckets" that we've seen often used...
todo stores notes that contain tasks that should actively be worked on
[some project name]: if your life can be divided into 5 or less projects, why not create a bucket-level tag for the project, since you'll probably have a lot of sub-tags to apply?
[your principle hobby]: Similar to naming buckets after work projects, your principle hobby (or two) are likely to be areas where you spend a lot of time, so it will be easy to know where to place resources that apply to this hobby.
[your city/college]: Especially if you're going to school, it's useful to have a bucket dedicated to collecting all the notes you generate for school. Sometimes it's useful to have a bucket tag for your city.
archive a well-curated knowledge management can use a place to relegate less-useful content
daily) notes that you create every morning that may or may not get tagged elsewhere, depending on what comes to mind
travel if you generate a lot of content around planning for, or writing during, travel, then this can be an interesting way to aggregate your thoughts
pkm) if you want to keep a personal knowledge management system, so you don't forget people with whom you once had a strong connection
biz) if work/business aren't your primary note taking use case, this tag can be a catch-all for whatever incidental content you want to capture surrounding work
me) if taking notes for personal purposes isn't your main use case, this bucket can capture sub-tags like
shared if you want to track which notes you've shared with others. Useful if you can figure out a few subtasks that represent projects around which notes are shared.
Maybe don't: Name buckets after the thing you just read about and are really excited about right now. It will sow guilt later if your interests should change.
Over time, to keep your buckets at 10 or less, you'll need to move the "[some project name]" and "[your principle hobby]" tags into
archive as sub-tags so that you can keep your top level manageable as life circumstances happen.
link4. Second-level should serve a contextual purpose
Soo in the previous points we made a rule to give each tag 10 or less child tags. If ever there were a strategic opportunity to violate that advice, it's at the second level. We'll assume you picked a sensible top-level bucket. It's tempting to celebrate and create a sub-tag for every possible type of content you create. Soon, you end up with a second-level ahem situation like the Amplenote CEO. 😬 If you use an app like Amplenote that allows for tag merging, you can float provisional tags and see if they compel you to create more content that follows in the trail of the original. But you need to consider a few lessons.
Suggestion: Don't keep a second level folder that accumulates less than 5 notes per year. You can always keep track of small groups of notes using Amplenote Help: Using Double Brackets [[ for Note Creation/Linking, basically creating a web that connects each note via backlinks.
Suggestion: Consider it an opportunity to inspire yourself. Since you need to generate 5+ notes/tasks per year to warrant the existence of this tag, what type of content is most unexplored and provocative to you at the moment?
link5. Third-level when you need to go deep (esp
If you follow the advice above to create a bucket (first-level tag) for the notes that contain tasks that need to get done, then you'll probably end up with second-level tags for the projects and hobbies/vocations in which your tasks accumulate. In these cases, it can be useful to subdivide further still if you believe that future you will be a responsible individual. For example, reasonable uses of third-level todo tags might include
Some other types of deep-knowledge three-level hierarchies might include
Suggestion: Pare back third-level tags that don't accumulate 5 notes per year.
Suggestion: Remember that with newer note taking apps like Amplenote, you can tag a single note with many different tags, so a note can be both
link🚛 Evolving your tag hierarchy
Good news: Amplenote makes it easy to change your mind about you want your hierarchy structured. We describe in detail on our Tag Renaming & Reorganizing help page how it's possible to:
Rename a tag hierarchy
Merge two tag hierarchies
Delete a tag hierarchy without deleting the notes within
Delete a hierarchy including all the notes within it
Go check out that page now if you're ready to restructure your tag hierarchy.
linkWhen to update your tag hierarchy?
If you take notes every day, we recommend trying to make time at least once per quarter to open up your tag hierarchies and evaluate whether you're still using your leaf tags. If there are less than three notes in a tag that has existed for a few months, that is a strong signal that you may be able to remove the tag.
Looking at an example hierarchy,
The tags in yellow are good candidates to be merged or removed, especially if these have existed for more than 6 months
It's clear that very few notes from recent times have touched on the topics in these tags. Perhaps life has evolved, so this project is not top of mind anymore. Or perhaps you misjudged how many notes of these types you would be creating. At any rate, tags with 1-3 notes in them serve little purpose, since their content can be accessed any time by choosing a descriptive note name that can be found using Quick Open.
There is no right answer to how to create the best hierarchy, but it's possible to piece it together with enough real-world use cases. If you'd like to share how your tag organization system matches or diverges from the suggestions above, drop a line at our Discord server? We will continue to update this article as others share their methodology for tag naming.