How I user Bear Notes

| 3 min read

Part of every new year I enjoy is people re-evaluating and writing about the tools and apps they use to get things done and practice their craft.

This often turns into discussion of note taking apps. I tend to get involved in those conversations on various social platforms because I’ve been a longtime Bear Notes user and have evolved a system which people seem to be interested in.

So here it is.

The way I use Bear is a combination of Tiago Forte’s PARA method, and a digital Bullet Journal, and I use the nested tag feature extensively to do it.

This is what the top level sidebar of my notes looks like:

Top level tag folders

If you’ve not read Tiago’s "Building a Second Brain" or his PARA book, definitely go and check those out. It’s a great approach to capturing and structuring your information.


But I’ll start with my daily note.

I have a small app I built for doing templated posts and creating them using the x-callback API that Bear offers. Every day I run it to create a daily note. You could just as easily do this with an iOS or MacOS Shortcut.

This gives me a note that looks like this:

A new note with some Journal, Today, and Log sections, plus some hashtags and timestamps

In here I spend a few minutes writing a short (or long, depending on my mood) journal entry about what’s going on, how I’m feeling, or anything else I feel like putting into words.

I then do some dot points of what I hope to achieve that day. I use Todoist to keep track of my longer term to do list but I’ll write my day’s tasks in here.

In the Log section I keep snippets through the day, what I worked on, things that happened, interesting links I've found, code snippets etc. It’s my scratchpad for the day.

A lot of those things will get spun out into their own notes. Helpful articles I've found, code I'll put in a knowledge base for later, or details of things like server configuration as I work on various bits of infrastructure.

This daily habit has been enormously helpful for me.

On a practical level it’s saved my butt countless times remembering some technical detail of some client infrastructure or not having to go and re-work some set of command line steps to get something done.

It’s also been good to look back and go “what did I actually DO last week”.

Lastly, a journaling habit, as minimal as mine is, is amazing to go back and look at how I was feeling at various stages of my life. I have this dating back to 2017 now. It’s also handy when trying to remember when I did something in the past, or what was going on at a period of time.

Because of the nested tags in Bear, I can pinpoint a day in time very easily.

Bear tags expanded to show year/month/day


Tiago Forte’s PARA method has four top level headings or “folders”.

  • Projects. These are notes about a current project you are actively working on.
  • Areas. Longer term responsibilities in your life.
  • Resources. For pieces of information you’ll want to remember for later
  • Archive. Not current, but stuff you want to hold on to.

Because of Bear’s nested tagging, you can essentially create “subfolders” to contain all the notes under a topic area.

For example I have a handful of current projects with notes, I have notes for each of my consulting clients under #areas/clients/clientname as well as sections for things like Stack Mechanics, finance, music, and my coffee instagram account. Then my resources section has whole lot of notes on how to do various tech things under something like #resources/docker, dotnet, aws, and software architecture.

Project folder in bear tags, with most of the actual project names redacted

I also have a heap of recipes under the resources tag, because Bear syncs so nicely across all my devices it’s easy to access them on the iPad while I’m cooking. Or be able to quickly share one with somebody.

Unfortunately I’ve had to stick some numbers in the tag names to get the ordering right, Bear doesn’t allow custom ordering for tags. It’s slightly annoying, but mainly cosmetic.


I love Bear. I’ve tried a bunch of other apps over the years, and the speed, simplicity, and flexibility of Bear has brought me back each time. It syncs fast, and the search is great, so I always have my notes wherever I am. It’s also gorgeous, with a little bit of whimsy through custom tag icons and cute bear illustrations.

The Markdown support is excellent, and it’s a huge win to be able use code formatting to keep little code snippets without it mangling characters (which a lot of other apps do very badly).

My system has been the only thing that has really “stuck” over the years, and it’s one that really gets stronger over time.

So there you have it, my system for Bear. Feel free to take inspiration, or tweak it however it works for you.