Here’s how a simple guide on how to make Evernote your ultimate task management tool for getting things done (GTD).
1. Empty your head
Every task, goal, dream, thought, email, photograph conversation that needs acting upon goes into Evernote as new note.
It’s enough to just create a note with the task as the title, without any information in the actual note itself unless you really need it. For Example, I create a new note in the notebook “Action Pending” with the title:
Write a blog post about Evernote task management for danielshaw.sk
2. Tag the task
Every note is tagged accordingly:
- Who does the task involve, who is it done with, who is it done for?
For example the task above “Write a blog post about Evernote task management for danielshaw.sk ” is tagged with:
“me” “blog post writing” “2-next”
as it’s a task to be done by me, involves only me, is blog post writing, and should be done once I have my “1-Now” most important tasks done for the day.
3. Mind Like Water – All your tasks in one place.
If you keep this notebook in Evernote updated, by adding every task that pops in your head (I create notes automatically on the fly by sending any emails that have a task I need to do, photographs of objects, voice recordings, web clippings, scanning any paper to-dos) into your Evernote account, you’ll finally have a list of all the task that need doing.
Checking and updating this list is a core part of my morning routine.
4. Once any task is complete, it’s then moved to the “cabinet” notebook, just in case I need it for later reference, and to see all the tasks I’ve done in the past.
Douglas L. Stipes says
Daniel, I wanted to thank you for your writing on Productivity but had problems getting it all printed out and was hoping that you have something more that I could access and that may have more detail on your use of Evernote for Task Management. I was a FranklinCovey day planner user and since I have moved to an iPad I have been very disappointed in other task management software. I tried to adapt Evernote to the system I used but I really like what I saw in your writings. So I hope this finds you well and that you could let me know where I need to go. Thank you – Doug
Daniel Shaw says
Thank you very much for taking the time to comment. I was also a “planplus” user from Franklin Covey, and had it integrated with my Outlook account until a few years ago.
My evernote “getting things done” system is a simplified, loosely based version of “the secret weapon” which I came across here:
I hope that helps!
Douglas Stipes says
Daniel, thank you so much for your quick response and reply. It was a great help and I have enjoyed TSW. It will take a little bit to convert and adjust my process because I have so many tasks already pending and they could use a very through review but I can’t let myself get behind so only have a small amout of time to work on it each day. I was quite suprised when you mentioned PlanPlus and got a pretty good chuckle out of it. Well, thanks again and I look forward to our correspondance. ~ Doug
Daniel Shaw says
Yes, unfortunately getting all the “action pending” tasks in one place is the thing that takes up the most time initially.
David Allen advocates setting aside a chunk of time (a day or more) to do a mental dump into your chosen container system when you first set up your GTD system, and provides some helpful lists of prompts for doing this that span across all areas of your life. I tried to do this, but honestly did not find the uninterrupted time to do it to the extent that he suggests. What I’ve done afterwards, is to try to be pretty rigorous about capturing any stray items that subsequently pop into mind. I think it gets you to the same place, just not as fast.
However, it is certainly worth it, and has been my 2nd productivity breakthrough in my life since working on “big rocks first” from Covey.
During that “action pending” capture session (I flash through my whole list once a week now) I can triage out anything that isn’t relevant anymore, and add the 1-important, 2-next etc. tags to things that I need to prioritize.
And of course it helps you to feel on top of things when you really have every task you ever wanted to do in one place before your eyes.
As David Allen says, the job is not to have all the “action pending” tasks done and the list empty (you’ll always be adding new things) but the aim is to ahve it all out of your head into a place that is manageable, freeing up your psyche for creative thinking.
Douglas Stipes says
Understood, I do not think I could get the huge block of uninterrupted time either but over the years that I work in the Franklin system, before Covey, I made some great strides. I took me close to 15 years to refine my Governing Values, Mission Statement, and the Roles I live and have not had to change or amend them in 20 years. Of course some of the language I used has taken on different meanings in the world today but translates fine in my mind.
I am taking some time out every day to review where I am and build on what I used before. I am a creature of habit and also need for quality boundries to exist, so do spend more time than I should probably working in structure and uniformity. I think I read that you did not need tasks for things that should be part of a routine but I haven’t figured out the best way to define and develop a good quality routine. I have the old Daily Tasks that are repeated but can easily get distracted with higher value / more urgent challenges that will love to break up any routine that I am in no matter the importance.
I am just going to continue the excellen resources you have advised me to use and build on it each and every day. I can see real value and progress in this and my even try picking up a book or two that was recommend, or mentioned, in TSW. Thanks again Daniel, visit with you later.
Daniel Shaw says
I’m happy to hear that Doug. I recently finished reading the summary of daily rituals of 150+ influential people (I did a summary here: ) that I’m sure you’d find interesting too…
Thank you for you valued input, until our paths cross again,
live, love, learn & leave a legacy 🙂