I cautiously waded into Evernote territory last fall but eventually fell out of habit with it. Part of the problem I had with it is that it isn’t designed as a task manager, just a repository. That’s fine, but I still needed a task manager and I ended up using Google Tasks as well. And when things started to overlap – a note in Evernote might have more information about a task in my Google list – I grew frustrated with having to use two services to manage one project. Slowly, I quit using Evernote.
I’m giving it a second try having read more tips for using Evernote, and I’ve devised a way that turns it into something that can manage my tasks as well as reference material. Here’s my setup:
The first time around, I used just one notebook. Now, I keep seven.
- @inbox: Everything comes here first and is processed
- @next: One-step next actions. I only keep things in this notebook that need to be done within the next week
- someday/maybe: Anything I need to do at any point beyond the next week
- wait wait: Anything I am waiting on (someone’s reply to a question, etc) goes here
- lists: Books to read, movies to watch, things I want, etc
- reference: Information I don’t need immediately but want to save
- done: Completed tasks
The benefit of seperate notebooks is that, true to GTD, I can empty my inbox every day. I can look at what needs to be done next, what I’m waiting on, and immediately tell what needs to be done first.
My tags list hasn’t changed much from my first time around, except I added Tickler tags.
- Context tags: Tags like @calls, @computer, @errands, @home, @work. Anytime I am at my computer, I pull up my @computer list and see what I can do on that list. Same with the rest. I also have tags based on people I interact with regularly.
- Project tags: I don’t do project tags for every single project, but overarching areas. So I have a .dth tag for my work at The Daily Tar Heel, tags for classes I am taking and tags for personal records.
- Goals: I have notes here for my 10,000, 20,000, 30,000, 40,000 and 50,000 foot goals. I look at these regularly and update as needed
- Tickler tags: The core of how I use Evernote as a task manager.
More on my tickler tags: I have one for every day of the week, a “next week” tag and tags for every month. I only tag things that have to be done on that day. At the beginning of the month, I check the month file and evaluate items in the list. At the end of the day, I empty that day’s folder – either moving unfinished items to the next day or reevaluating them entirely. I also have one tag for critical items to alert me to tasks that need to be done immediately. I process these first.
The title of each note is the next action of a project. When that action is complete, I replace the title with the next action. (So, “buy books for class” replaces “find out what books are needed for class.”) This works well for smaller, several step projects. As soon as the project is complete, the note is filed in my “done” notebook. I keep interview notes, copies of Google Voice voicemails, calendar reminders, important documents, recipes, etc. among my notes.
So far, this Evernote set up is working really well for me. I know there are other dedicated task mangaers. And I’ve tried out Springpad, which looks like the best out-of-the-box combination of task management and note-taking. But I’m wary of buying a task manager app I might ultimately abandon, and Springpad has many features I don’t see a need for (keeping track of favorite restaurants, for instance) that add clutter around the things I do need. Evernote is easy to use, accessible (I have the Blackberry app, the iPad app, the Windows desktop client and can access the web-based version as well) and free. I’m able to keep documents related to tasks connected with the tasks, and able to quickly process through what needs to get done each day. I can email things to Evernote to add them as a note. Hopefuly this will be something I can stick with.