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Johnny McClung

productivity Ideas for Setting Up Personal Productivity System

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Although I've had my Evernote acount for several years, I have never truly used it to its potential. Often I would flip back and forth between OneNote and Evernote to keep notes or information that I did not want to forget. I have also tried several to-do applications, trying to accomplish more that what I am putting down.

Recently, I've decided to jump in and use Evernote for both my remembering and my to-do with the goal to go paperless. Ultimately it comes down to Evernote's ability to be access from all my devices. I know the basic functions of Evernote and the general ideas behind GTD. I've included The Secret Weapon (TSW) in the tags because I know nothing about it and could have benefits for my productivity system.

I can't put my finger on it, but I've always struggled with getting a GTD system running. It may be that I haven't read the book or that in my case it just won't work. Coming back to Evernote, I wanted to set up a GTD system because I've always heard the benefits of that methodology. I purchased the Evernote GTD ebook by Daniel Gold which helped me understand much more of the GTD methodology and specifically how to apply that to Evernote.

However, looking over Daniel's blog, I came across a very interesting article outlining the productivity system of Grumpy Monkey. Immediately his system made sense to me where GTD always seemed to allude my understanding. I was able to quickly implement his system without worrying where I had to be to do such a task or what project this task may fall under.

Don't get me wrong, GTD has some wonderful ideas that I intend to use. For example, just do a task if it will take under two minutes. This alone lets me get so much more done.

So here I am, trying to set up my personal productivity system. To learn more, I ask you, "What do you use?"

Is it a self made system? GTD? TSW? Or some variation?

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Hi Johnny. I am glad to hear that my system has provided you with some inspiration! One thing to note (or Evernote!) is that the system I use is pretty easy to implement in combination with other ones. Most systems don't care much about how you name a note, because their focus is on the tags, notebooks, and rules for moving things in and out of them. Although I don't make much use of tags and notebooks, a lot of people swear by them, and they are certainly powerful tools. You can try some of these systems out, and if they don't work, delete all of your notes and tags later; that's what I did :)

Anyhow, I look forward to hearing some of the ideas offered by others on this forum. If you are interested in GTD, be sure to check out some of the sites here:

http://www.princeton.edu/~cmayo/evernotelinks.html

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I've been trying to read as much as I can in the forums here and it seems only one thing that everyone can agree on: productivity is very personal. I've definitively got inspiration from your way of doing things, but I hope to hear others pitch for their system. As I am currently trying to set up my system, now is the perfect time for me to get input from many sources so that I can take what works for me and make my own personal system.

Basically, I'n trying to get a discussion going about what everyone uses and why it works for them.

Thanks for replying.

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I've been trying to read as much as I can in the forums here and it seems only one thing that everyone can agree on: productivity is very personal. I've definitively got inspiration from your way of doing things, but I hope to hear others pitch for their system. As I am currently trying to set up my system, now is the perfect time for me to get input from many sources so that I can take what works for me and make my own personal system.

Basically, I'n trying to get a discussion going about what everyone uses and why it works for them.

Thanks for replying.

Hi Johnny. Productivity certainly is personal!

There has been a lot of discussion over the years (the most popular topic of all?), and I would recommend:

1. going through the forums to get a sense of the different issues involved, talk about the ones that you like/have questions about (hopefully with links to get people up to speed)

2. take a look at those links I posted and do the same thing (posting about the details you are interested in exploring more)

3. telling us more about you and your use case

The more specific you are, the better people can help :)

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GM - Do I simply clip a website to Evernote to avoid the dreaded 404 and missing pages? I'm referring to this quote from your link from above:

"Philippos Savvides wrote a blog post on how to use Evernote with a literature review (he has removed the post, and the link leads to a cached page, which you'll want to clip for your Evernote account before it disappears)"

In other words, even if someone removes their page from their website I will still have access to it in my Evernote?

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johnny mcclung,

Why not just read the book? And then ask more specific questions as you go through it?

I mean do you expect anyone to really just explain their whole systems from A to Z in a forum post? When it takes book(s) to explain it?

GTD is not really about to do lists...

It took David Allen 20 years to figure it out and externalize it, and it takes at least a year or two for anyone to really GET the methodology and implement all of the habits...

GrumpyMonkey system is only about 1 phase of workflow, at least the way it was presented in Daniel's blog post, i.e collect. There isn't much to talk about. You just capture everything and evernote organizes it automatically for searching - because it has good search capabilities. You don't even need any specific system or approach for this...

It's a great start but there are still 4 phases left, i.e.

process

organize

review

do

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As I look around the forums and gather up some links and questions, I thought I'd give you guys my use case.

I'm a stay-at-home dad. My biggest use in Evernote would be running the household, if that makes any sense. Right now I'm working on getting past statements/bills into Evernote. Of all my bills only one still needs a check wrote every month, one I need to pay every month and the rest are on autopay. All, except the one I write a check for, is paperless. So all the old electronic statements that I've kinda ignored are now being put into Evernote.

Soon we are looking to purchase a stove and a deep freeze, I will probably use Evernote here as well as I have seen several mentions of doing this in the forums already. Along with the research, the receipts will also be scanned.

I working to be as paperless as possible. Any information that needs remembered is being scanned into a jpg and then shredded. I've seen a lot of talk about scanning to pdf, but little about jpg. I do not (as of yet) have a premium account so I am scanning to jpg to get the search benefits.

I'm just finishing up a quarter in college with a lot more head of me. This last week I've used Evernote a couple of time to record some notes. But next quarter, I plan to be using Evernote in my college classes much more extensively. I am taking online classes and if the past two quarters tell me about future classes, I will be downloading my assignments in Word format, doing a worksheet, and uploading the worksheet back up to the website. Not sure how I'm going to incorporate Evernote in this whole process. Any ideas would be welcomed.

Well, that's what I see myself using Evernote in the short term. But if you have other uses that are just invaluable to you, please let me know as well.

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@may, No I do not expect someone to explain their whole system to me in a forum post. I was looking more for generalities. I'm hearing so much about GTD, but have little success at it. Does everyone in the forums here use it? If so, then maybe I need to work a little bit harder at trying to understand its processes. As for the book, I'm not sure if that is the best methodology for me. I was hoping to get some varied information on it and other's systems. How does GTD work for you? Are you hardcore GTD or partially use GTD? These questions are not directed specifically at you, but to the general forum as what I was hoping to get out of this thread.

About the phases. Do all systems have those same five phases as GTD? I know the basics about GTD, but wanted to see other systems as well. GTD just seems to rigid and complex for me right now. If I was going to write down everything I do and all my projects, I would never get anything done. Do I really need to schedule "wash dishes" every day? As I understand it, GTD was set up for the corporate world. How am I to take that and apply it to my life?

I hope this helps you understand what I am looking for. Thanks for the reply.

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You definetely don't need to apply the whole GTD model!

A lot of people do perfectly fine without it, GTD works best when you have a lot plates spinning at the same time but still want to feel relaxed about everything.

I think it's still worth reading the whole book though in any case, just to get an idea what GTD is about overall - and then just implement some of the practicies and tips&tricks instead of the whole system.

E.g. The inbox concept would be useful in any case imho

There aren't many other wholistic systems similar to GTD. Most other materials are just collections of tips&tricks.

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If I was going to write down everything I do and all my projects, I would never get anything done. Do I really need to schedule "wash dishes" every day

The only thing I do consistently each day is wake up! LOL

You don't need to "schedule" anything in GTD, it's not rigid at all unless your life is rigid...

You schedule only the stuff which must be done at a certain time and which can be done ONLY at a specific time, and if it's not done then it will die, e.g. Meetings, going to colledge and etc.

This is your hard landscape. It goes on calendar.

Everything else is just next actions and they're done whenever you feel like. There is also Someday/maybe list. You can put everything on Someday list and keep only 1 active project if you wish.

There are no rigid daily to-do lists in gtd. Quite the contrary.

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Does everyone in the forums here use it?

Heck, no.

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@may, No I do not expect someone to explain their whole system to me in a forum post. I was looking more for generalities. I'm hearing so much about GTD, but have little success at it. Does everyone in the forums here use it? If so, then maybe I need to work a little bit harder at trying to understand its processes. As for the book, I'm not sure if that is the best methodology for me. I was hoping to get some varied information on it and other's systems. How does GTD work for you? Are you hardcore GTD or partially use GTD? These questions are not directed specifically at you, but to the general forum as what I was hoping to get out of this thread.

About the phases. Do all systems have those same five phases as GTD? I know the basics about GTD, but wanted to see other systems as well. GTD just seems to rigid and complex for me right now. If I was going to write down everything I do and all my projects, I would never get anything done. Do I really need to schedule "wash dishes" every day? As I understand it, GTD was set up for the corporate world. How am I to take that and apply it to my life?

I hope this helps you understand what I am looking for. Thanks for the reply.

no gtd for me either. i think it is interesting, and certainly worth a look, but a waste of effort in my opinion. obviously, i have an odd organizational system, but it works for me, and i have to wonder how many people using gtd now will be using it at this time next year. it's like that big piece of workout equipment in the basement you bought and used for a few days, but never made into a habit, because it is too troublesome to use.

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The thing with GTD is that you can use as much or as little as you need whenever appropriate.

There is a misconception that you have to keep doing it all the time like an exercise routine otherwise it won't work and it will be useless. In fact it's quite the opposite. You stay off the GTD wagon for 99% of the time but it's very easy to get back on whenever and if you want to. That's how it really works when you really get it, that's the whole point of it - is you can get relaxed and focused in any moment because you understand what it takes to get there - not because you try to maintain it all the time... You just have more control over your mind, that's all... Use it when you need it, don't use it when you don't need it - there is no waste of effort unless you choose to.

Too much control is the same as out of control

A better example would be a fridge in your kitchen. You don't have to sit there and stare at it all day for it to be useful. If you do this - then yes, it's a waste of effort, but don't blame the fridge for this :)

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I sat down and typed out what I am using and plan to use in Evernote for my productivity system. It is heavily based off the keyword and journal system that Grumpy Monkey uses. Again thank you for sharing your system.

Here is the link: https://www.evernote.com/pub/jdmcclung/productivity#b=0c9b34de-6cc8-48db-a2e0-c0b6fb6c434d&n=52d8e6df-9a3b-4a75-ab84-4abfedfa3875

Start with the "My System" note as it has the over view. Then each note goes more in depth.

Thank you and let me know what you think. Or if you have any suggestions.

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it looks good to me! of course, that would be the case, since it is so similar to the method i am using as well :) let us know how it goes, and make sure to read some of the comments by may, jimichael, and others about the limitations so that you have some options if you need to tweak things here and there.

i think the most important thing (as you already evernoted) is to become familiar with the search function as a tool for filtering information. it is quite impressive how easily you can pull up all of the information on a topic without the need to actually step in and impose a complicated organizational system.

anyhow, going forward you'll want to keep adjusting those notes as a kind of "style sheet" to help maintain consistency and customize your methods to fit your needs. enjoy!

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looks like a great system, can't really go wrong with consistent naming and relying on search.

I'd simplify it personally... Using journal notes and generating a daily to do list for each day separately is much more rigid and inflexible compared to a standard GTD approach.

This would be exactly like something that you'd have to maintain all the time. I know it wouldn't work for me, as I've said - the only thing I do consistently each day is wake up!

"< done before this date

> postponed until tomorrow"

Moving/naming tasks like that seems like too much work to me. Maybe I just don't get it exactly though, I'm not sure. I would get rid of the whole journal aspect :)

Why bother with trying to plan a to do list for each day? When you can just have a list of all your actions independent from any day in particular?

To keep things ultimately simple, why not just have only a single note with all your tasks? or keep each task as a separate note and group them with keywords. You can keep due dates in your task notes as well. Or even just keep a separate note with all your due dates for everything.

This is not what I'm personally doing though, but only some suggestions to your actual system.

Those are just my thoughts anyway, if the journal system works for you then that's all that really matters at the end of the day, I'm just providing my perspective

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@Johnny,

I read through this thread and your notes. I will add a few thoughts of my own..in no particular order...

  • First, I view GTD as completely experiential, like riding a bike or hitting a golf ball. There is only so much reading and research that can be done. It is, at its core, trial & error. This is what leads to people constantly tweaking their "systems" and personalizing them to their purposes and circumstances. The real "A-ha" moments for people come when they see that what they thought would work doesn't (and it doesn't for any number of reasons; e.g. Tools, Personality, Environment, Bandwidth, etc.).
  • David Allen's work added to others before him and introduced a number of new or sharper views into certain aspects of Personal Productivity. Namely, the idea of "Next Actions" was a GTD-ism. That these are next physical actions. The "new" definition of what a "Project" was. How this list should be separate from a Next Action list. That a Project list needed to be monitored regularly, pruned, and driven forward. This dichotomy of NA's and Projects has been, I think, a large part of the frustration people feel as they adopt GTD. Most people want to be able to zoom in and out of their various views of projects quickly and seamlessly. It is this desire that sends most on the hunt for "the perfect GTD tool". How can I see a list of all my projects? How can I see where each project is at? How can I see all my tasks associated with that project to give me a sense of the overview of this project, specifically, AND to make sure there are no tasks missing from this list? How can I see only my next actions? How can I see only my next actions relative to my context?
  • This leads to the other GTD-specific concept- the idea of Context as a way of parsing/prioritizing next actions. In theory, David talks about being able to "crank widgets"; i.e. to only focus on a single type of task and thereby create some momentum or "get in a zone". Therefore, the idea of cranking out a bunch of calls is a Phone Context, the idea of cranking out emails is the same. This new concept is a second principle unique to GTD that causes some people frustration. It's because the theory of Context is better than the reality for most people in most use cases. There is tremendous value in the concept, but the practical outworking can be counter-intuitive and most people 'feel' this disconnect. What this feels like is you are cranking phone calls and there is a logical next action to document the call or immediately walk over to someone to update them or to get online and upload or send a document, blah,blah blah. In my experience, people don't build a house by cutting all the lumber, then stacking it all in place, then hammering all the nails. There is a natural shifting of context related to the task or project at hand. Sometimes, a rigid adherence to the concept of context can become a stumbling block for GTD adoption.
  • Finally, the last GTD-ism was "the weekly review". David Allen "created" very little in the way of "new" information. What he did was verbalize an idyllic workflow. The idea of a weekly review was not a new invention, but its critical importance to being able to achieve some peace of mind was powerfully articulated. I still believe that the weekly review is the only thing that one needs to have. Everything else is negotiable in my mind. That and a list to look at and add to daily is the whole thing. But the idea of taking time every week to check the boat for leaks and scrape off the barnacles and check the compass heading is just a no-brainer.
  • You mention your use case, which is helpful. What you have not mentioned is what type of problems/challenges/obstacles are you trying to solve/overcome? Do you have trouble keeping everything straight? Where at? School? House work? Are you unfocused or prone to distraction or procrastination? Why is going paperless such a critical need? Virtual access? Going green? Sharing?
  • As you move through this journey, I will share a couple of resources that are "outside" the typical GTD-box. The first is Autofocus by Mark Forester. Mark's systems (he has several) are very unique and intuitive. They, too, have their limitations but, as I read your Evernote approach I was reminded of how Mark's Do It Tomorrow book would dovetail with what you are doing presently.
  • Another that I consider to be one of the unique and overlooked treasures of personal productivity is FlyLady. What David Allen is to personal productivity, FlyLady is to homemakers. However, most people miss the HUGE lessons that FlyLady's systems teaches that have nothing to do with homemaking and have a ton to do with creating structure fo those whose days have none (freelancers, sales people, musicians, artists, writers). The power of Habit and Routine as it relates to personal productivity is largely ignored. Her philosophies of "starting where you are"; of "baby steps" (Not the Bill Murray/Richard Dreyfus Movie); of overcoming perfectionism and procrastination. Tons of great stuff for a stay-at-home Dad. If it appeals to you, then make sure to look at the unassociated-with-FlyLady-but-based-on-her system iPhone App called HomeRoutines.
  • Another system is Agile Results. Great book. It takes the concepts utilized in Software Development environments that utilize Agile Methodologies and applies them to personal productivity. He even has a post on his Blog about how he uses his system with Evernote. Here it is.
  • Another is Zen-to-Done.
  • Another is the Pomodoro Technique. The ideas of the last two are more about focusing on what is important now. Pomodoro is elegant in its simplicity (Just start timeboxing your tasks), yet profound in its application (you can get really really good at figuring out just how much work you can *really* get done in a day. Or how long a project or task is *really* gonna take.

Well, Johnny, Good Luck with your journey. As you see from the responses you've received, the over-arching principles are universal. But the implementation is all yours.

I hope these resources are helpful for you. Trust me when I say that all of them are pertinent to the discussion even if they don't seem so at first glance.

-Dan

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This leads to the other GTD-specific concept- the idea of Context as a way of parsing/prioritizing next actions. In theory, David talks about being able to "crank widgets"; i.e. to only focus on a single type of task and thereby create some momentum or "get in a zone".

Contexts are not a way to prioritize actions, they're just one criteria and a way to group them. You can have only a single context.

"Remember that you make your action choices based on the following four criteria, in order: 

1 | Context 

2 | Time available 

3 | Energy available 

4 | Priority "

Context is the only criteria (in most cases) that is written down, everything else is figured out on the fly.

Again, as I've said - The thing with GTD is that you can use as much or as little as you need whenever appropriate.

You don't have to use only contexts to sort actions, you can view actions by project or by context whenever appropriate. You can have only a single context, i.e. "actions" and that's it. If all you do is stay at home everyday then you might not find contexts as useful as someone who switches locations a lot.

Gtd doesn't imply that you have to use contexts at all, they're there as an option but not an essence. Not everything we do is "crank widgets", that's just, again, only one type of activity.

In some cases you need to have enough time to get into certain actions/projects you can't just switch them all the time without cost

you need to build and use the system based on your own needs instead of trying to 100% copy any particular example which is described somewhere.

This dichotomy of NA's and Projects has been, I think, a large part of the frustration people feel as they adopt GTD. Most people want to be able to zoom in and out of their various views of projects quickly and seamlessly. It is this desire that sends most on the hunt for "the perfect GTD tool". How can I see a list of all my projects? How can I see where each project is at? How can I see all my tasks associated with that project to give me a sense of the overview of this project, specifically, AND to make sure there are no tasks missing from this list? How can I see only my next actions? How can I see only my next actions relative to my context?

It's only a problem of a paper based system.

In a digital system it's easy to do by utilising tags/keywords, you can slice and dice and view information in as many ways as you want without any problem as long as you understand how tags/keywords and searching works. Frankly all you need are actions, everything else is metadata, how much and what metadata you apply is up to you, not to the tool.

If you design the system yourself based on your own personal needs then you can make any tool work. The tool matters only when you know exactly what you want from your system.

Just some of my thoughts :)

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@Johnny,

  • You mention your use case, which is helpful. What you have not mentioned is what type of problems/challenges/obstacles are you trying to solve/overcome? Do you have trouble keeping everything straight? Where at? School? House work? Are you unfocused or prone to distraction or procrastination? Why is going paperless such a critical need? Virtual access? Going green? Sharing?

-Dan

First, I want to thank you Dan. This was exactly what I was looking for. Some insights into GTD and some other methodologies for me to investigate. I will look over the links and continue to post in here, on the forums and/or change my approach that I shared with all of you.

Second, to answer your questions that I quoted, I would have to say a little of all of the above. I know that probably doesn't help much so I will elaborate as much as I can. I am terrible lazy, procrastic and unorganized. I also have a very bad memory which is why I was turned onto Evernote in the first place. I do well in school, but with a little organization and note taking, I was hoping it would be easier and less time consuming. Procrastination would probably be the biggest reason I don't get many of the projects around the house done. I look at the overwhelming list of ever project. That is what attracted me to GTD in the first place. Instead of several large project list you have one list of each Next Action in each project: a much easier to handle list. And not so overwhelming. For as long as I can remember, I have considered myself a geek. I love computers. Although I can't buy them all, I want each new little gadget that comes out. And the idea of storing all my information in a digital format just seems to fit with that. Being able to do so (or trying to do so) intrigues me. Plus the convenience of it. Why have a huge filing cabinet of paper that is difficult to search through instead of a digital system on my computer that is infinitely smaller, easier to search and portable?

@may

After reading your comment about you would get rid of the journal notes altogether, I started thinking of ways to do this. But, ultimately, I came back to my journal for one reason I hope to explain to you. One of the reasons, I think, I procrastinate is that I feel I don't get anything done so I don't do anything. With this journal method, I can use it as my daily and weekly review, looking over what I've done this week. For example, I could see that I called our gardener 4 times and he has not returned my call, maybe I should look for a new one. When I say bad memory, I mean BAD. In this same scenario, without the journal, I would forget how many times I called our gardener or even if I called him at all. Did I or was I just thinking I had to. To clean it up a bit and organize (prune), I was thinking about at the end of each week merging the journal notes. Then at the end of each month. Then at the end of each year. I hope this helps you understand my thought process better.

Please, anyone else reading this, question me. I will not be able to make a valid personal productivity if I don't question why I am doing stuff and if there is a better way.

Thank you.

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Johnny, the journal makes sense If you want to keep a log of what you have done each day... it's just going to take additional work to maintain. I personally can only really use the system if takes as little maintenance as possible otherwise I'd just avoid using it altogether eventually.

If you want to keep track of what you've done you could still use a journal, but instead of using a journal as the main way to organize and review your projects/actions - you can use it in addition to your "universal" project/action lists.

In other words you can keep track of what you've done separately, this way if you get tired of logging your activities all the time/each day - you can avoid it but still have a workable system which doesn't fall apart as quick.

But if generating a separate to do list for each day would be more helpful then, sure, do whatever works for you :)

I know it's not going to work for me because I want as little repetitive daily processes in my life as possible, but that's just me.

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Hi Johnny,

I use my own variation of gtd, in EN, based on what I saw others doing and my own work habits and preferences. What's important to me is that whatever system and apps I use, it must be simple and flexible. Most of the productivity apps I've tried were too confining. I was already using EN for reference material and decided to try it for gtd. After a lot of trial and error, I found a set-up that works for me.

I've changed my system a number of times. When I see something I like, I adopt it. When something's not working for me, I get rid of it.

In EN, I use one notebook (plus an Inbox which I use for processing new notes). I also use tags. But I've found I need fewer and fewer tags because of EN's search capability. I do my best to add key words in the title and body of my notes.

Most important (for me) is to make sure that any action-oriented note has at least one tag, indicating time--when I might want to do something or look at it again. Without that, there are notes I would never see again. (Perhaps I will be able to adapt some or all of GM's system, once I understand it better.) For projects, I assign a tag that ties all the notes together. I also use note linking. Context is not especially important to me but I know it is very important to others.

So, yes, read DA's book and also look at what others are doing. There are a lot of brilliant people here on the forum. Try some of their ideas, experiment and see what works best for you.

Most of all, relax. Don't worry about finding the perfect set up or method. I see people spending way too much time and energy tinkering with their system instead of getting things done. In the beginning, I did that, too.

Have fun and keep us posted.

David

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Johnny,

I like the energy you're putting into really thinking about your system, especially on the front end. But davidward makes a good point about getting past the planning stages and just getting things done.

I've read Getting Things Done. The two things that I really took from the book, and it's been a while since I've read it, is don't touch the same thing over and over and over again: file it, shred it, mail it, post it, whatever; just, if you pick it up, then process it. The second is focus on next actions. What must I do next to move my project forward?

As for using Evernote, I am a big proponent of simple systems. I'm tired of the endless levels of nested folders, such that I never utilize half of my system and keep forgetting to follow through with stuff because it's out of sight/out of mind.

I just began using EN, so I'm pushing the use of very uniform naming schemes for all my notes and files, OCR all PDF's prior to importing into EN, and using the search function as my primary means of locating documents and notes.

My first goal is to use EN to go 99.9% paperless or some such number very close to it. I've also installed EN on my iPhone and Hello too. I watched a couple videos with Phil Libin, founder and CEO of EN, and decided to focus on ways to implement notes that rely on intuitive forms of communication, not just text. I would like to use pictures to create to do notes rather than just lists.

A work in progress.

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i agree with a lot of what you said ghall. and, i like what you said about the visual todo. i'll think about it :)

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Thanks to everyone that commented. You have given me a lot to think about as I continue to work on my system. I do have a rough system in place that is outlined in the shared notebook that I linked to back a few posts. I have gotten out of the planning stage. Admitting, I usually get caught up focusing on designing the perfect system that I do not do anything. However, I also think that you can not design a system and just blindly stick to it. You need to evaluate its effectiveness periodically.

It's been almost a week since I've been using this system and it is working out well for me. I will probably tweak it a bit more before I'm completely happy (for now.) I will also keep the shared folder updated if you guys would like to check in on that.

@Ghall Why do you OCR your PDFs before adding to Evernote. Evernote searches within PDFs, right?

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Thanks to everyone that commented. You have given me a lot to think about as I continue to work on my system. I do have a rough system in place that is outlined in the shared notebook that I linked to back a few posts. I have gotten out of the planning stage. Admitting, I usually get caught up focusing on designing the perfect system that I do not do anything. However, I also think that you can not design a system and just blindly stick to it. You need to evaluate its effectiveness periodically.

It's been almost a week since I've been using this system and it is working out well for me. I will probably tweak it a bit more before I'm completely happy (for now.) I will also keep the shared folder updated if you guys would like to check in on that.

@Ghall Why do you OCR your PDFs before adding to Evernote. Evernote searches within PDFs, right?

Definitely agree with you about needing to update ones system periodically. It keeps it fresh and insures that one is not blindly plodding along.

As for why I OCR my PDF's prior to import, I like controlling which OCR engine I use and knowing that my documents are searchable on my hard drive. The documents OCR'd in Evernote lose their OCR when exported. If there is a way to keep the Evernote OCR, I would consider going with Evernote OCR. Thoughts?

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i agree with a lot of what you said ghall. and, i like what you said about the visual todo. i'll think about it :)

Thanks. I would very much like to incorporate visual to do's but the limiting factor is making them searchable. Evernote searches by text. Suppose I could put a Post-It note on a project, let's say a broken door for example, and then take the photo with my iPhone and import. Then Evernote would OCR the text on the Post-It note, which would then be searchable. The work flow on this seems a little clunky.

I guess the other obvious option would be to use tags, or add all visual notes to a specific notebook.

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@ghall and GrumpyMonkey: Do you put the OCR output in the same note as the PDF? The OCR that came with my scanner (I have a simple scanner/copier/printer.) creates a word processing file from the OCR output. Would it be best to just copy/paste this into the same note as the PDF?

As far as I know the OCR for both the images and PDFs are on the Evernote servers.

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@ghall and GrumpyMonkey: Do you put the OCR output in the same note as the PDF? The OCR that came with my scanner (I have a simple scanner/copier/printer.) creates a word processing file from the OCR output. Would it be best to just copy/paste this into the same note as the PDF?

As far as I know the OCR for both the images and PDFs are on the Evernote servers.

I do not OCR to text, which is what I think you are talking about. I OCR to PDF. Here's a link to a video about what is going on with that process.

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@ghall, That is pretty neat. Do you do that when you scan it or on an existing PDF? My scanner does not have this capability. If I pick OCR, it gives me option for text formats like Word, RTF, TXT or WordPerfect.

EDIT: I think I posted too fast. After a little playing around with my scanning and OCR software, I found out that I can make searchable PDF. I have to scan the document into a PDF, open the OCR/PDF program (Nuance PaperPort) and I can save the PDF as a searchable PDF.

This brings up the question of whether I should be scanning to PDF or image. I've been scanning to an image so that I can see the information from the web client. I don't have to open another program to see the information.

While I'm editing this post, I might as well give an update on my system. I've updated my shared notebook to fill in the gaps a little and make some corrections on how I am doing things. Feel free to look over it and give me your opinion.

https://www.evernote.com/pub/jdmcclung/productivity

Thanks again.

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@ghall, That is pretty neat. Do you do that when you scan it or on an existing PDF? My scanner does not have this capability. If I pick OCR, it gives me option for text formats like Word, RTF, TXT or WordPerfect.

EDIT: I think I posted too fast. After a little playing around with my scanning and OCR software, I found out that I can make searchable PDF. I have to scan the document into a PDF, open the OCR/PDF program (Nuance PaperPort) and I can save the PDF as a searchable PDF.

This brings up the question of whether I should be scanning to PDF or image. I've been scanning to an image so that I can see the information from the web client. I don't have to open another program to see the information.

While I'm editing this post, I might as well give an update on my system. I've updated my shared notebook to fill in the gaps a little and make some corrections on how I am doing things. Feel free to look over it and give me your opinion.

https://www.evernote...ng/productivity

Thanks again.

I'd definitely encourage PDF's for anything that you want to make searchable. Photographs could be TIFF if high quality archival purposes or JPEG for a compressed version of the photo.

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This has been an immensely helpful thread. Thank you to all!

I am a new Evernote user mainly because I just got an iPhone so I'm switching everything (moleskine, journal etc.) to digital. I've been reading incessantly about GTD and Evernote and I have decided to commit myself to this wonderful combo. Now the questions:

I am a self professing minimalist and that being said I hate clutter. I only have 3 notebooks (inbox, workflow, archive) but about 30 tags. I really would like to reduce the number of tags but I still want to use tags (although I learned a lot from Grumpy Monkey's setup). Specifically I am thinking in the realm of managing tasks well. I have this inordinate fear that I am going to completely miss an important task and have to bear the consequences (college student approaching finals week). Majority of my tags are for my reference material but my tags for tasks are as follows: (!today, .tasks, @calls, @desk, @errands, @read/review). My .tasks tag is applied to all tasks so I do not miss any, but this feels redundant (and not minimalistic). I don't think this is the best way of managing tasks and I could use help.

Does anyone have a very simple system for tagging tasks and reference material?

Also there isn't much talk about GTD + Evernote on the iPhone. I'd be interested in hearing some iPhone unique GTD ideas.

Thanks all!

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Also there isn't much talk about GTD + Evernote on the iPhone. I'd be interested in hearing some iPhone unique GTD ideas.

Evernote is great for storing stuff that happened in the past.

It has its weakness when it comes to stuff in the future (which is an important part of GTD)

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Jbenson's right, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. A number of users have set up well-functioning GTD systems in Evernote, using a few different tagging methods. I don't have an iPhone, so I can't help you with that, and I use more tags than it seems you want. But if you want to see other discussions on GTD in Evernote, you can sort of search the forums for that. The forum itself doesn't let you search terms with fewer than four characters, but by searching "site:discussion.evernote.com gtd" in Google, you can run the search. I hope some of the conversations you find there are helpful.

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Hi Johnny, I wanted to tell you one way I use tags because they help me handle my bills and information to store "for later" and may help you. I read this in a post somewhere and adapted it to my own thing and it works great for me.

I have tags that help categorize things. I have a "medical", "banking", "tax receipt", "Room" (building a storage room, etc. This lets me group things together but not discreetly as in a "it's either this or that" manner.

I also have tags for when - "2011", "2012" and "01 - Jan", "02 - Feb" etc. This lets me associate a time with everything I enter, if it is needed. If not then I don't struggle to figure out which group it's in. My Electric bill is easy - "04 - April" and "2012". If It's not obvious then I skip that.

Finally, I have tags for people who are heavily in my life - "me", "Mom", "[my girlfriend]", etc.

The way this works for me is when I get a lab report from the doctor for Mom's bloodwork (she's disabled and I care for her) I categorize it "2012" "04 - April" "Mom" "Medical" and I actually have a sub-tag for "Labs". Easy to buzz through them and like I said, it groups things together that I may want to look up: Mom's labs, all medical for this month, etc.

I hope this is something that you can use or inspires you to go your own way... that's what Evernote's about - make it your own and have fun!

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