Getting things done with Evernote

Update: In the meanwhile I moved to OmniFocus. While I think that OmniFocus is slightly better task manager, I still recommended Evernote for GTD, especially for people who don’t have Mac or people who don’t want to dish out high price of 140$ for the entire ecosystem (or 80$ for desktop client).

After a lot of hassle with trying to find the perfect program for my daily planning, list keeping and such, I haven’t been able to find a single one that would fit my current device setup in terms of software support. So, finally I gave up, and said, “I’m going do what I think is best, and stick with my favorite tool, Evernote“.

Remember everything

You all know that I am such a huge Evernote junkie already, but today I have revamped the entire notebook, and tags structure to fit my planning needs. There are many pro’s of Evernote compared to other productivity tools out there, like Omnifocus, Toodledo, Remember The Milk, Wunderlist… All of these are great tools, but none of them are good enough to fit my needs in terms of covering my devices. Seems that the developers of productivity applications on iOS don’t want to make an extra effort to make Android version, and vice versa. So, the only tool that I know is working properly on both eco systems is Evernote.

I didn’t see Evernote as a reliable tool for handling my tasks, until I finally found a solution on proper tagging, and advanced use of notebooks. I was always reluctant to use Evernote for my workflow, because it was my primary memory dump. All the information that I thought was useful at some point of my life ended up in this great database called Evernote. Fear of messing up my neatly, organized notebook was preventing me from polluting my Evernote with additional notes. But, then I remembered that my database is just gonna grow with time anyway, so I made it.

So, apart from your current Evernote usage, you will need to setup the notebooks that will cover your workflow. Let me give you a sneak preview of what my productivity notebooks look like.

NOTEBOOKS:

  • !1 Inbox
  • !2 Next Actions
  • !3 Alpha Efficiency Tasks
  • !4 Some Day
  • !Read Listen
  • #Archive

If you noticed I am using exclamation mark in front of name of every notebook. Why is that so? As in Windows and Mac, when you type ! in front of the word, it immediately sends it to the top of the files, if you organize them by name. This is pretty neat, because all of your notebooks behave according to this principle. This folder structure is similar to the way I’ve kept lists in the Google tasks. Reminders of my notebooks proceed normally, and hence appear under my workflow notebooks. The Inbox is your default notebook and all the information you gather throughout the day end up here. In the evening, or whenever you make time to organize, and sort out information, you then send files from this notebook to other ones.

I don’t mind dealing with different kind of information in this section, because I am sorting this notebook anyway, so all my tasks, and clippings go here first, then go to other notebooks. Next actions is the notebook where I handle all the tasks immediately, these are the tasks that are most critical to complete and if not executed, there are consequences involved.

Alpha Efficiency tasks are mostly related to all the effort and energy I invest in my blog. Being the biggest project I’m currently working on, that area of my life deserves a dedicated notebook. Number 3 workflow notebook is called !4 Some Day . The point of this notebook is to fill it with all the great actionable ideas that you don’t want to do, or you are lazy to do right now.

And my final notebook is called !Read Listen. All of my most important, and vital reads end up in this notebook. Why is this notebook so special when I use Instapaper? Instapaper is not the utility in which I am trying to read important things, and in all probability, if I sent something to Evernote, it’s gotta be important, and for later reference. Also, I store my podcasts in this notebook.

Now for the locations on where tasks are happening or if they have some other correlation I use tags. In GTD, people call this Contexts. So here is my list of

TAGS:

  • @automobil – for all the tasks that I can’t complete at home, I always use the tag automobile, because I know I will have to get into my care in order to achieve it
  • @completed tasks – whenever I complete a task, I remove all the other tags and put in this one instead and move the note into Archive notebook
  • @iPad – all the tasks that I can complete while using iPad, see how I write on it
  • @Home – all the tasks that I need to do, while at home
  • @MacBook Pro – all the tasks that I need to do on the laptop
  • @Samsng Galaxy S – all the tasks that I can complete while using my phone

These are my basic tags, because I’ve just started using Evernote. I don’t want to clutter up my environment, so I’ll take it from there. In all probability, there will be a lot of tasks that I will have to do while sitting at the computer, so I’m thinking of diversifying the @MacBook Pro tag into different sub tags that I can nest under this tag. Good examples would be: @Chrome; @Photoshop @Evernote …

Now that you stated the tasks in the headline of the note, tagged it properly, and appointed it to the appropriate notebook, there are other things that we can do with those notes. If we water things down, we can make this entire process smooth and slick, like no other device offers. We can add content, and information required for achieving a certain task. Additional information can include, picture, a voice memo, a scan of a document that you required for completing that task. All that in one application, and in one place.

If you want more detailed information on how to setup Evernote for GTD, Evernote Unofficial GTD Ebook is cutting to the very core of it. You should check it out, if you are serious about your productivity.

Okay, so Evernote is not perfect, and I know that. There are flaws that we can’t evade with it, so we need to supplement these with some additional applications, or accept that we don’t have native reminders, which is a huge minus, but it’s not the end of the world. While wait for the @zendone application to be completed, I’m supplementing Evernote with reminders on iCal or Google Calendar.

This is how I organized an entire system for my activities inside of a single app, that can be synced across all my devices. How do you setup your activities for each day? What is your favorite list keeping software? Would you consider switching to Evernote after reading this article? Your answers are greatly appreciated in the comments section.

Comments

  1. says

    You probably know already that Omnifocus is the best, but it’s worth repeating  :-)

    All joking aside, I think this does no justice to Evernote. It’s really a great app but I honestly can’t see why you would use it for managing tasks. Fine, one note where you write down what you want to do is fine. You can even add checkboxes to make it look better.

    Other than that, it’s really limited. The above can be done on stickies or any note program. The advantage is that Evernote will sync with the cloud, but that’s about it. I’d rather use Evernote as a full fledge personal information manager than a to-do list, but to each their own.

    • says

      There are two reasons behind this.

      First: I am on Android powered phone.

      Second: I am waiting for ZenDone,com to open up their beta and than it’s gonna be worthwhile and all the limitations that Evernote have are gonna disappear and integrate with iCal/Google calendar.

      Evernote is personal for me. It already has a lot of information stored in it, so I have everything within my reach. Writing blog posts on cell phone that I finish up on the computer or iPad.

      Sync is crucial for me, and Omnifous is just to limited, because of lack of support for other platforms.

  2. Japon_doll says

    Hi! If you’re looking for a scheduler/calendar that syncs with both EN and Google calendar try SnapCal. It syncs with multiple Google calendars, plus Twitter and more. I use it on my iPhone but I understand that there’s also an Android version (I don’t work for them, I just find it useful).

  3. says

    I just found and read your article about Evernote. I was wandering if I could link to your article from mine for those who need more details. You did a more in-depth review and I think my readers will find even more information here.

  4. Hilda (the Netherlands) says

    Thank you for this article! I’m using EN every now and then, but the more I learn about it, the more organised I will be. This was just what I looked for.