There generally are two problems when it comes to productivity: managing our action items and storing reference items.
The former requires a todo application that allows us sort all of our actions out by projects, sub-projects, and if you're a subscriber to the Getting Things Done methodology by David Allen, they need to be separated by contexts and areas of focus. You need a way to easily search these tasks and get rid of them when they're done.
The latter requires a tool that will capture everything, allow you to process it, organize it, and review it when needed.
The challenge for so many of us, is finding the tool that fits our system.
Well it was not too long ago that I hit the productivity wall. Turned out I loved tinkering so much, I forgot the whole goal was to be doing. I took a large step backward and examined the problem: I was letting application designers dictate how they thought a strict GTD system should look like.
I have always thought of Evernote as a life management tool; as more than just a note taking application. So I started to plan how to leverage Evernote to capture everything and help me get things done more effectively at both work and at home.
1. Map Out Your Plan Before You Get Cracking
There's a lot to be said for strategically designing and then implementing your plan. It might sound odd to create a "strategic plan" for your action items and reference files, but the reality is the more you can plan out how you want to organize your life the better.
Personally, I've adopted a tiered approach wherein I collect everything from the important e-mails in both Outlook for work and Gmail for everything else, PDF documents, PowerPoint decks, Word documents, spreadsheets, customer videos, everything I scan in with my amazing Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100 scanner (which is seamlessly integrated with Evernote), web clippings, photos I've taken that are actionable or just want to keep to remember something, Twitter posts, and of course all of my todo items – and it all goes into my Evernote inbox. From there, I process what is actionable and what is not.
Then I organize into projects, tag my notes accordingly, and review everything so that I can begin becoming more productive. Again, the more you plan on the front end, the more successful you'll be moving forward.
2. Todo Lists
Reality is you can use Evernote for both- todo items and as your digital repository.
It's about planning and figuring out how to maximize the program to the fullest extent possible.
How did I do it?
I'll tell you that one of the best how-to's I ever read was Ruud Hein's post on GTD & Evernote. I ultimately watered my system down a bit from his, but if you haven't read it – read it! It opened my eyes to the possibilities of what you can do with saved searches.
Between Ruud, David Ward of the Attorney Marketing website, who wrote out his 3-part series on how to organize his life through Evernote, and my own system, I realized that it is possible! It's a huge breath of fresh air and it feels great knowing that I can organize everything through Evernote. My eBook explains a whole lot more, but at its core, it's about knowing how to tag your way to GTD success!
3. Note Linking! Note Linking! Note Linking!
You can tell, I particularly excited about this one! No really, this is just pure awesomeness. No matter what you do, what industry/profession/job (including being a stay-at-home parent) you have, this is for you! Evernote rocks for developing this feature.
Let's take a look at a typical master file such as on a project or client. I use the GTD project planning template, but even if you don't, open a new note. Call it your master project note where you map out the purpose, process & payoff.
From there, create your various action items, notes for contracts, notes with photos, whatever it might be.
You can copy the link for each of these notes and then paste it into the master project file so you can easily go to all relevant notes! With the history arrows in Evernote, just like a web browser, you can go backward and forward, too! You can use this same exact idea for travel itineraries, vacation planning – and the list goes on.
In my eBook on Evernote & GTD, I've got a lot more great examples in the book! Evernote is a life management tool. It helps you capture everything and, after creating a plan, it can help you get things done more effectively to help you become more productive no matter your role in life!
See also: ebook giveaway contest
Author of Evernote®: The unofficial guide to capturing everything and getting things done! Blogger at dangoldesq.com. Lawyer. GTD geek. Presentation guru. Lover of gadgets. Owner of backyard chickens