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Monday, December 14, 2009

An(other) Evernote "Getting Things Done" System

There are loads of great guides to setting up a GTD system in Evernote, but I found none quite suited my needs. In particular, I wanted something that would stand out within Evernote and have all my actions and items easily searchable, but still allow me to use the note-taking tool for the millions of other things it's great at without getting in the way. Here is the solution that I'm finding works well for me, it's a mashup of other solutions with modifications to suit me better.

Folders and tags
My solution hinges on five main notebooks and three (possibly four) tags that have subtags under them. Each of these is prefixed with "." to ensure they stay at the top of their respective lists (and stand out from non-GTD stuff), and kept to a single word for composing searches more easily
.Actions notebook - Where next actions are kept.
.Projects notebook - Where project actions that aren't immediately applcable are kept.
.Maybe notebook - Anything you're note sure you want or need to do (eg. cool project ideas) goes in here.
.Reference notebook - Where items that are for reference rather than actionable.
.Archive notebook (optional) - Not strictly a GTD container, I use this to still have past actions searchable, in case I want to look them up for timesheets, etc.
.Projects tag - While this may seem redundant with the .Projects notebook, it just serves to group all  GTD project tags in one place, so they don't clutter the tag view. These individual project tags can optionally also be prefixed with "." to group them in (for example) the tag editor.
.Contexts tag - Again the purpose here is to keep things uncluttered. All context tags (prefixed with "@") are subtags of this one.
.Waiting tag - Another grouping tag, contains subtags for each entity that is responsible for an action you're waiting on.
.Tickler tag (optional) - This is for those GTD practitioners that like to use ticklers, I did give it a try myself, but found that just setting reminders as events on Google Calendar (which I have everywhere thanks to syncing) suited me better. This is also a grouping tag, with 43 subtags, one for each month (Jan..Dec) and one for each day of the month (1..31).

Collection happens in whatever form suits you. Whatever you prefer, chances are Evernote has a tool to import your captures. For PC based captures, use one of the clipping plugins or the global "Add to evernote" keyboard shortcut. For paper captures, a scanner combined with Evernote's "File Import" settings does the trick nicely. Most other cases should be covered by whichever mobile client is appropriate to your cellphone.

Process & Organize
When processing inboxes or "buckets", consider each item in sequence:
  1. If the item can just be discarded, do so.
  2. If the item can be delegated, do so. If it is part of a broader project and will need to be followed up on, add it to the .Projects notebook and tag it with a relevant project tag (from .Projects) and a tag indicating the person responsible (from .Waiting). Optionally add tickler tags (from .Tickler) corresponding to when the item needs to be followed up on.
  3. If the item can and should be done and will take a very short time (GTD guideline is two minutes) do it immediately.
  4. If the item can and should be done and has no preceding actions or dependancies, add it to the .Actions notebook, tagged with a context (from .Contexts) such as @home or @work and optionally tagged with a relevant project tag (from the .Projects tags).
  5. If the item can and should be done, but has prerequisite actions or dependancies, add it to the .Projects notebook, tagged with relevant project and context tags. Optionally also add waiting and tickler tags.
  6. If the item is just for reference add it to .Reference, possibly tagged with project tags.
  7. If it's unclear whether the item can be or has to be acted on, add it to the .Maybe notebook, optionally tagging it with appropriate project, context and tickler tags.
Weekly review is straightforward. Just select the .Projects notebook and work through the items in it. Selecting one of the project tags will limit the view to items for that project, and if any of the items in the current view have been delegated, one or more waiting tags will be highlighted in the list.
If you're using the tickler tags, daily review is very similar, just select the .Projects notebook and both the appropriate month and day tags and all items you deferred to this day are displayed.

To determine the next appropriate action in any given context, simply select the .Actions notebook, and the appropriate tag in .Contexts. So as an example, to determine what your first task is when you get to work in the morning, select the .Actions notebook and the @work tag. As tasks are completed, simply archive or delete them.
This can be greatly simplified, especially for access on mobile clients (think @shops) by adding saved searches in Evernote. For the above example just add a saved search with the query  notebook:.Actions tag:"@work". Completed actions should be moved to the .Archive notebook or deleted.

Posted via email from Matt's posterous

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