After getting some performance feedback, I began a journey to ensure that tasks and other “to do” items didn’t fall through the cracks.  A colleague was working on a Getting Things Done (GTD) strategy so I decided to give it a shot.  After initially starting with , a basic software that follows the Getting Things Done principles, I moved to Evernote after the same colleague raved about it.  By using the tips contained in this article you too can get started with GTD in Evernote and find a system that works for you.

Evernote touts itself as a way to “save your ideas, things you see, and things you like.  Then find them all on any computer, phone, or device you use.  For free.”  You can clip items from the web, take photos with your smartphone, and attach PDF files to notes.  In the paid version, you can attach any file type as well as get increased monthly usage, priority OCR processing of files (which makes them searchable), and a number of other services.

The GTD methodology involves setting up an inbox, followed by folders such as: Today, Tomorrow, Next Action, Someday, and Read/Review.  You then review the items in these folders and complete the tasks/items in each folder in a first-in and first-out method.

Evernote is the perfect mechanism for this!  Here’s how I did it.

  1. I renamed the default to “inbox.”  This is where everything captured in Evernote goes.
  2. Next I created tags to mimic the folders above, creating additional tags such as Reference, Waiting For, Completed, and others that I found useful.
  3. I then created tags for locations, such as @home, @work, @Computer – Work, etc.
  4. Finally, I created notebooks for the various projects I am working on, such as home improvement projects, blogs, clients, and non-profit organizations that I work with.

It sounds complicated, right?  Well, it really isn’t.  Here is the workflow:

  1. When i thing of a task or see something I might want to reference later, I add it to Evernote using whatever device is convenient at the time.  I do not worry about tags or notebook locations at this time.  The goal is to quickly capture the item and get it in to the system.
  2. At least once a day, I review the inbox and take care of “to do” items that will take less than two minutes, and tag/set the notebook on others that will take more time.
    Once the inbox is clear, I then look at the items tagged “today,” and sort them by creation date to adhere to the first in and first out principle.  Those tasks get attention before I move to the next step.
  3. I then check the “next actions” tag and see what items there can be addressed.  I also re-tag items as necessary and use the date/time stamp shortcut (CTRL+; ) to jot down why I moved it and what action needs to be taken.  This works really well, especially if I am brainstorming or happen to think of something that would be useful for that task during the day.
  4. At the end of the day, I check the “tomorrow” tag and move those items to “today” so that I can repeat the process the next day.

By utilizing tags and notebooks, you will be able to get started with GTD in Evernote and eventually find a system that works for you.