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How to Implement GTD Using Evernote: The Simpler Way

Most of the GTD implementations using Evernote get complicated given the flexibility of Evernote. But having a complex system of Notebooks and Tags becomes a big task to maintain in the long run.

Here is a simpler way to implement GTD using Evernote. You can use this system without getting overwhelmed: 

Evernote Overview

evernote

Evernote

Evernote is easily world’s best note taking app. Once you start using it, you will realize it’s much more than note-taking. It’s a versatile tool to collect and organize every type of information, right from screenshots, images, to entire web pages and To-Do lists. Evernote’s search is breathtakingly intelligent and help you find stuff in seconds. Another notable feature of Evernote is its instant syncing capabilities across all devices such as iPad, Android Phone, iPhone and Computer.

Getting Started with Evernote

Evernote is free and you can download it from here.

Once you download and install Evernote, you can register for a free account using their default desktop screen as shown below:

register for evernote

Evernote register

It is also recommended to download the Evernote App on your Android/iPhone/Tablets so that you can start using it everywhere.

Implementing GTD using Evernote

When you login to Evernote for the first time, it has already created “First Notebook” by default. You can re-name it as you like but that isn’t necessary.

Now, let’s create some Notes in your “First Notebook” by clicking on the “New Note” link in the File menu shown below:

new note

create new note

Create following Notes (in bold) by writing the name of the note in the Note Title section (it usually says “Untitled Note” before you write down anything):

1. Professional Projects – This Note stores list of all your Professional Projects. Maintaining a separate list of Professional Projects helps you get focused on your professional or business goals.

2. Personal Projects – This Note stores list of all your Personal Projects. Usually you do these projects if time permits or based on the need of the situation.

3. Delegated Projects – This is an optional Note. Sometimes, you don’t work on projects yourself but delegate them to others. If you are managing a team and responsible to oversee multiple delegated projects without directly working on them, you may need this list. But if you are a solo-worker like me, you probably don’t need this list.

4. @Computer – This note will store a list of all your “Next Actions” you will do while working on your Computer. If you have multiple computers and you do different types of work on each computer, it’s better to create a separate context for each computer such as – @Mac or @OfficeComputer

5. @Home – This note will store a list of all your physical actions you can do while at Home.

6. @Office – This note will store all your physical actions you need to take care when at Office.

7. @Call – This note will store all your “Next Actions” related to calling people using your phone (it is optional). I tend to forget calling people often and I use this list frequently. But many people I have seen don’t need it much. Take your own judgement.

8. @People – This note will store Agenda items you want to talk about with people when you meet them (personally, on phone or chat)

9. @Errands – This note stores all items you need to take care when you go out for Errands e.g. grocery shopping, bank visit, laundry etc.

10. @WaitingFor – This note stores all actionable items you have delegated to others.

11. Someday/Maybe – This note stores all your Incubating projects that you do not see in the next one month horizon. As soon as some of these projects mature, they will be a part of your personal or professional projects.

Once you create these Notes, drag each one of them inside the shortcut section of your side bar. At a later stage, these shortcuts will be highly accessible when you have plenty of Notes.

That’s about it. After creating all notes and adding them to shortcuts, Your Evernote should screen should look like the one below:

evernote final

final set-up of evernote

Using Evernote Everyday

You might have noticed, we did not create “Collection” Note in Evernote. I strongly recommend to use physical pen and paper as a collection bucket instead of Evernote. The other collection buckets are – E-mail Inbox, Phone and Physical In-basket. The reason why I do not recommend using Evernote as another collection bucket is because you could easily get overwhelmed with large number of notes and processing them will be time consuming. Anything into Evernote goes after “processing” your stuff, not before.

The idea of “Real Time” processing

Most of the times, we can actually determine what a “Stuff” is – whether actionable or non-actionable. If you are instantly clear about a “Stuff” and Evernote is in front of you, directly process it, don’t collect it. However, sometimes it may happen that some things are not clear. Write those things down in your spiral notebook and process the results in Evernote later. This will save a tonne of time instead of collecting everything in Evernote.

On a Daily Basis

Now that your Evernote GTD set-up is done, here is what you need to do on a daily basis:

  1. Review your Calendar and “@___” list and take actions. Ideal time to review your To-Do lists is once before you check e-mail in the morning and once before finishing your day.
  2. Copy/paste actions from Project List and add any new actions you identify on-the-go.
  3. Define MITs for the day – This step is very critical. Everyday morning or previous night before you go to bed, determine 3 to 5 most important tasks you will complete on a given day. Defining MITs will keep you happy and satisfied with what you are doing or not doing.
  4. Process all your collected stuff at the end of each day and organize it into Projects, Next Actions or Reference material. Do not pile up your collection buckets, otherwise, get prepared to spend more time in processing your stuff during the weekly review.

At the end of Every Week

Perform a weekly review preferably on Friday or Saturday and clean-up your Physical Notes and EverNotes. Review all your Projects. Define new projects, close existing projects and cross out action steps which are done during the week. Clean-up your action lists and ensure that they are clean, clear, current and complete.

Storing Reminders

Evernote does a decent job of storing reminders. But I still prefer to use iCal (configured with Google Calendar) for all my appointments and reminders. Some people I have coached still like to use Evernote for keeping reminders, it’s good either ways. The rational behind my choice of iCal is that, Calendar provides a decent view of time/day slots and it’s easy to send calendar invites to others, as most people use it.

Up next, I will be explaining some advanced usage of Evernote in context to your daily productivity. If you have any questions, concerns or ideas, feel free write a comment below.

I would love to know your insights and collectively develop a better productivity system. Do write me a line or two below!

About Hrishikesh

Hrishikesh Jobanputra is the Author of Productive Motion.com. He helps business owners and self-starters get ahead in work and life.

Comments

  1. Paula Maas says:

    So, you no longer recommend the EN-GTD system?
    “In fact, I ended up wasting a lot of time setting up filters, notes and notebooks, almost trying to hack my way to GTD. Eventually I gave up.” Do you mean that the projects and context tags failed you? How?
    Also – how did you get the notes to say “today”, (and presumably other days)? By adding an EN reminder?
    I’ve already invested in EN as my “everything” storage, for years now, which is simplifying retrieval. Trying to set up a better GTD using EN, and not spread out into other apps.

    • hi Paula, Interesting to know that you have set-up EN for storing everything. It does take a good amount of discipline to keep Evernote in order. The reason I find it difficult to manage EN for my To-do’s is because it distracted my focus on “information” instead of “decision making”. My criteria for a to-do app was to spend no more than 15 minutes everyday and make the best action choices in shortest amount of time. In that regard, I found dedicated to-do apps such as Things way more efficient. I was married to evernote for a while for GTD but then I found a better use of Evernote to collect information from the web using their browser plugin. I still use EN to store tons of material related to each of my project but not for to-do’s. I hope this helps.

  2. EN takes forever to open a notebook! Not worth it!

Trackbacks

  1. Depression Stories

    How to Implement GTD using Evernote the simpler way | PRODUCTIVE MOTION

  2. […] gathering and organizing all kinds of information. In a pinch, it can even double as a pretty solid GTD client. The trouble, at least on iOS, is the cumbersome process required to move content into the service […]

  3. […] GTD journey bumps across Evernote and start using it to store To-Do’s. I did the same too. After a brief stint with Evernote, I realized that it was not meant for GTD. Though, some people (productivity experts) make it […]

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