As many of you may know, I am one of the productivity geeks here at TiPb. I am always looking to use tools to help me be more productive and save time. I have used most of the major task management platforms available for iPhone and iPad, but I have secretly longed to do it in Evernote.
There are many ways use GTD and Evernote and a quick Google search will usher many results. However, I have adopted and tweaked Jeff Kirvin's GTD concept in Evernote. Let me explain how it works. Getting Things Done (GTD) is a methodology for complete task management. Evernote is suited well for this as it has folders, tags and custom searches; this is my setup.
First, I only use one notebook, that's right, only one. I use the ingenious title of "My Notebook" for its title. From here I start to add tasks, articles, whatever- things I need to get done, into my the folder. From there I have an "All" tags category with literally hundreds of sub tags for just about anything I can think of from "Humor" to "Science Fiction". Once I place a note in my notebook, I tag it with as many tags as I feel it needs. Next I determine if the note is actionable; if it is, do I need to do anything with it? If the answer is no, I don't do anything and save the note making it instantly searchable later if I need it. If the answer yes, then I give it a Context. A Context is typically labeled with an "@" (ampersand) and can mean different things, but I equate it to location or state of mind. For example, I use @Home, @Computer to indicate a place to do something. I have contexts like @Internet, @Read and @Evernote that I use to tell me I need to read or write something, but that could really be anywhere. I typically assign the @Evernote or @Read context for schoolwork or articles I send to Evernote that I want to read later or for writing a blog post (like this one).
After I have assigned the context tag, I save the note. If you work on Projects, you can create those too (as a tag) and assign notes as appropriate. However, I use a method similar to Jeff in a sense that I borrow the methodology of the AutoFocus system by Mark Forester and simply pick what I feel is appropriate at the time. If something is date-sensitive, I will add a date to the title so I see the date first, then the action name. Others may add these items to their calendar.
Now at this point you are probably saying to yourself, "That's great Chad, but how do I find something in this big bucket of notes?" Ah, that is where the power of Evernote comes alive.
You see, the secret with Evernote is the Custom Search. You can enter search criteria and Evernote will return the result. So, let's go back and look at my action of @Evernote, Blog Post for GTD. When I complete this task, I add a !Complete tag to the note and remove the"@" context. This will allow me to see that is completed while removing the fact it is an action item. In Evernote there is number that appears next to the context. I use this number to determine the volume of actions I have in any given context. So, by removing the context from a completed note, I am able to keep the number limited to only items I need to get done while having the !Compelte tag allows me to track what I have done.
So If I want to create a search from completed tasks, that is east I use: tag:!Completed -tag:@. This will display every note that is done but that does not include a"@" context. If I want to see how many tasks I have compelted in the last week, I can use this: tag:!Completed -tag:@, created:week-1. This works really well. I use different variables of this logic to architect my Evernote custom searches to only display what I need. For example, if I want to find notes that I haven't tagged (sometimes they slip through!) I created an "!Inbox" search. This criteria is simply -tag:. This tells Evernote to show me everything that doesn't have a tag. I also use an !Active Tasks search to show me all actionable tasks with an "@" context. This search looks like this: tag:@. Since I don't really use dates for my tasks, I also need a way to mark a task as something I want to do today. For this, I use !Today tag and create a custom search like this: tag:@* tag:!Today. The other benefit of these searches is that they sync from platform to platform. Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Web, it appears everywhere. Also, you may be wondering why I am placing an exclamation (!) point in front of my custom searches. Evernote sorts searches, tags and folders by name so adding interesting characters such as an @, !, # and . elevate them to the top of the alphabetical list.
So far I am enjoying this system; its seems to be working well. Sometimes I feel tempted to go back to using OmniFocus or ToDo, but I am about two weeks in and I have little adjustments here and there for the custom searches trying to really nail what I need for retrieval. One of the other main benefits of using Evernote for GTD is that you can email items directly into Evernote. For example, you have some work emails you need to follow up on or some emails with useful attachments. You can send that email with attachments to Evernote for reference or action (attachments beyond images, audio, ink and PDFs require an Evernote Premium account, but it is totally worth it).
If you are looking to learn more about the system I have described, here is Jeff' Kirvin's original post as well as links to David Allen for GTD and Mark Forester for the AutoFocus system.
Evernote for iPhone and iPad is available in the App Store. [iTunes link]
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