Using Evernote as the foundation of your GTD system

EvernoteI use Evernote as the basis of my GTD system and it seems like many others are doing the same.  It is interesting to see how people use it is different ways.  The most obvious is the use of Tags or Notebooks as the primary way to implement their system.  Here is a great example of a tag-based system that leverages Evernote’s Saved Searches feature.

My system is notebook-based and I have separate Evernote Notebooks for each of the analogous folders in my system.  I initially, started with a Tag-based system but abandoned it in the name of simplicity.  I view this as a “less is more” type of thing and have optimized my system for data capture and processing.

Initially, I started out using tags and got carried away with them to the point where they were distracting me. It took too long for me to figure out which tag or tags to assign to a note. This is similar to having an elaborate system of folders in email and filing them in the appropriate folder.

For email I only have one folder called “Archive.” My inbox represents unprocessed emails and then as I process them I 1) delete them, 2) use the 2-minute rule, 3) send them to Evernote. Then if I think I may want the original email for some reason like CYA or to reply to the original or whatever I put it in my Archive folder. Then I use the email program’s search capability to find things. All actionable items are sitting in my “- Unprocessed” folder in Evernote waiting to be processed.

I used to try to assign tags at that time and it really bogged me down. Similarly to capturing ideas or “stuff” on the go. Now I just click on FastEver type the stuff in and click on save and it end up in my “- Unprocessed” notebook. No tagging, no thinking, just the minimal effort to capture the “stuff” into my trusted system.  Then, when I am processing I clarify the item to define what done looks like and just switch the notebook from “- Unprocessed” to the appropriate notebook.  That is as simple as I can make my system.

I do have a few tags and saved searches that I use for special situations but have really tried to minimize their use. I suppose each of us needs to use trial and error to see what works best for how we work and implement GTD.

Check out Evernote’s Blog on GTD for a great discussion of how people use Evernote to implement GTD.

About Michael Keithley
Digital Transformation CIO and Public Speaker. Previously, CIO at Creative Artists Agency

3 Responses to Using Evernote as the foundation of your GTD system

  1. I handle Due Dates in two ways. First, if it is a hard date I add to to my calendar as a “All Day” appointment so it shows up on the top of the day where I am sure to see it. The second way is I put the due date in the first line of the note so I can easily see it when I scan my Next Actions. Also see my post on the Daily Review to see how I process due dates.

  2. Rich says:

    I agree and think notebooks are the better way to handle stuff – it is easier just to drag tasks (notes) from one NB to another. But how do you handle due dates on tasks?

  3. Pingback: Restarting GTD with Evernote | restartgtd

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