Getting stuff done with Evernote

The book; “Getting Things Done” often abbreviated and referred to “GTD”, by David Allen has motivated many to become better organised. The popular book has also given rise to countless applications, some of which integrate with Evernote to varying degrees.

David Allens book was inspired in the way it succinctly expressed a natural workflow and how if applied with diligence can lead to high creativity and productivity.

I say “natural” because most productive people have always been inclined to have an approach that included many of the principles of GTD.

Most of the applications that seem to have flooded the market have leveraged off the GTD workflow and the ever increasing focus towards productivity, to market themselves as the best new shiny solution.

In doing so the app developers have an unenviable challenge in my opinion as they try and cater for consumers all with varying needs; from a simple to do list to a system resembling a project management system.

Often the result is an app with an incredible UI, that tries to serve too many masters.

Often task management apps take on a dynamic that resembles more of gaming experience, which in my honest opinion, only reduces productivity by the obsession and complication that it creates.

For me, Evernote, which I like to think of as my second brain, is my go to system.

With my background in project management, I recognise that teams need to collaborate effectively, in realtime, with granularity and have access to contextual data.

Some of the approaches that I have studied (including one known as ” The Secret Weapon” or “TSW”) make extensive use of tagging. To me this adds complication and drives unnatural ways of connecting our brains to information.

My task management approach is based on David Allen’s GTD philosophy and uses Evernotes built in task management functionality in concert with a couple of other apps for projects that may need to be done collaboratively with others or that need a tactical framework.

In summary my set up:

  1. I use “GTD” to prefix my notebooks and stacks to highlight a call for energy and action.
  2. I review my GTD notebooks regularly but no less than once daily.
  3. I move notes to the appropriate GTD notebooks or to my reference notebooks.
  4. Evernote is a powerful tool to capture information inflows which come via many pathways. For email, I use outlook, which integrates well with Evernote to the extent that I can direct an email, (and even tag it) to a specific GTD notebook or reference notebook (Spark email is also very good in this regard). Outlook provides the added capability of linking an Evernote reminder to the Outlook calendar. Alternatively , by using the Cronofy Evernote connector or Taskclone, reminders can be sent to any calendar.
  5. My GTD notebooks are in my shortcuts for easy access and to give prominence.
  6. My stacks/notebooks naming convention utilises numerical prefixes to create the appropriate GTD hierarchy.
  7. I limit my tagging to people, or standing meeting names, so that when I turn up my agendas notebook for example, I can quickly attend to the matter at hand and have all the contextual information right there.
  8. For projects, I utilise the power of MeisterTask (Kanban system) or Smartsheet (gantt and kanban system) MeisterTask offers the uniqueness of being able to accomodate a team or solo brainstorm exercises using the companion mind mapping tool MindMeister. These tools all integrate with Evernote. As an added bonus, Outlook integrates with MeisterTask and Smartsheet.

For me, minimalism adds to high productivity and Evernote, as ”my second brain” takes care of business.