Extropy

The key to using Evernote as a to-do list

64 posts in this topic

I just read this article: http://lifehacker.com/5982051/im-phil-libin-ceo-of-evernote-and-this-is-how-i-work and I have to take exception to Phil's own comment:

 

 
What's your favorite to-do list manager?

You know, I don't actually have one. I use Evernote, which isn't particularly great for to-dos yet.Yet.

 

I finally put my finger on why Evernote is such a phenomenal to-do list manager, at least the way I use it:

 

Instead of a list of things to do with no context, Evernote gives you all the information you need to complete the task right there, if you use it right.

 

Based on some concepts of GTD, and experience, here is how I keep myself organised in Evernote:

  1. All e-mails that need me to think about them for longer than 30s go into my default Evernote "Incoming" notebook (via redirect to evernote address - redirect puts less junk in the headers).
  2. If I have to remember something not associated with email, I add a short note (in Incoming) with the item in the title right there and then, usually on my iPhone. For example: "document grand unified field theory breakthrough". That's it - then forget about it.
  3. Religiously check the saved search "Incoming", which shows everything I haven't filed yet.
  4. File everything as one or more of the following tags: Now, Next, Later, Pending, Fixed Date, or if it is not something I need to do, put it in the "Notes" notebook.
  5. Retitle notes tagged "Fixed Date" to start with yyyy.mm.dd
  6. Keep two windows open on my Mac desktop all the time:
    1. Card View, sorted by last updated, descending, showing Now, Next, Pending or search results (shortcut keys cmd-1 through cmd-9 are great for navigating 9 shortcuts)
    2. List view showing "Fixed Date", sorted by title (puts the dates in the right order)
  7. Work through "Now", and move things up from "Next".
  8. Check "Later" when I'm bored being productive.
  9. Check "Pending" often. "Pending" is usually also tagged with someone's name and is often also a "Fixed Date". Move to "Now" or "Next" when I can do something on it.

The real beauty of this is that most of the information for each action is right there in the note, because they mostly come from emails. In other cases, I expand the note manually while I'm working on it, sometimes with checkboxes, links to other notes, external materials, etc. 

 

When I'm done, tag the note "Completed". If I ever want a log of when I did something, "Completed" sorted by date does the trick. I've noticed that notes tend to move roughly like this:


Incoming -> Next -> Now -> Completed

or Incoming -> Pending -> Completed

or Incoming -> Fixed Date & Pending -> Now -> Completed

 

The two key ideas that make this work are:

 

Don't think about things I have to do while I am doing one of those things.

Keep the information (or a link to it) I need to do each thing right there in the note.

 

There are many improvements that could be made to Evernote, but for managing to-do lists as above, there are only a couple of features that I would say I really need:

 

Shortcut keys for sorting (title, created, updated, ascending, descending)

Moving around the UI with the TAB key

Email links (mail://... to link back to a message in my email client when it is time to answer)

 

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I still think they (Evernote) should be in the market for To Do - whether in the base or as an integration with some other code. I'd have them buy Remember The Milk (which I also use).

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I'm with gazumped. Yes, you can make Evernote work for to do lists with a lot of working around, but it still won't be a seamless as a tool designed from the beginning for that task. I use and love Evernote as my resource library, checklist and template holder, and to capture ideas, but I use other to do list systems (GQueues right now) to manage my to do lists and projects.

 

I use my software tools for what they excel at rather than trying to make one tool do everything.

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I use Evernote as my to-do and "stuff" manager. I don't think my system for managing to-dos has as many parts as Extropy's, but it seems to work.

 

Evernote isn't a calendar or appointment book, and I don't think I want it to be. It's a tool for storing and organizing information -- and we can use it to manage our to-do lists how we want, rather than being locked into a particular method.

 

The only feature that comes to mind that would help me with to-do management would be the ability to do my date tagging with a calendar-picker interface. I could tag an item for next Thursday without having to look at another calendar to see that date.

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I don't have a 'to do' software and in some ways I don't want one. 

 

For me the idea of running most of what I do in one place seems a far easier and simpler way of operating. I like Extropy's idea of making Evernote work for him. It is what I try to do with every bit of software I use, including Evernote.

 

Fortunately (or unfortunately if you are of gazumped's thinking!) I am probably dealing with over 200 things at any one time. This means as I tackle a task I don't need to spend any time on placing information in any other location than were it started. If that doesn't make sense, what I am trying to say, I only want one place to deal with my tasks. In some ways I do use Evernote as my to do, but not by applying a specific title to the task. The task starts in my diary Note, gets worked on and then once completed I can tick it off and it will then end up being archived.

 

My system, which I have mentioned before, is not necessarily perfect, but it seems to work. I am keen, as always to find simpler ways of making it work for me. With this in mind my Evernote experience evolves on a day to day basis. I read what others are doing and take a bit of info from here and an idea from there. 

 

If and hopefully when, Evernote introduce a to do function, it will be a great feature that I will warmly welcome. I have, you see had a quick look at a lot of the software that will add a to do function to my day, but it all seems like extra work. In that, I am with gazumped all the way. It needs to be easy!

 

Best regards

 

Chris

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If Evernote were to rev the ENEX format to support both calendaring and todo's that would be a good thing: Third parties (and maybe Evernote) can then build apps that use it.

 

Maybe it's already usable that way but my guess is semantics like structured dates in the body of a note are currently missing.

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There actually is a somewhat hidden date field used in ENML: subject date. It's generally not available to Evernote UI users, though the Windows client knows about it (you can sort on it) and the search grammar supports it in the same way it supports created and updated dates (e.g. subjectdate:day-30). It's actually a note attribute, like latitude, longitude, source URL, etc. and it's available through the API, and it comes out in a .ENEX file, if there is a subject date attribute. Truth be told, I don't know how a note gets a subject date at all, but some of mine (a small percentage) do.

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I still think they (Evernote) should be in the market for To Do - whether in the base or as an integration with some other code. I'd have them buy Remember The Milk (which I also use).

Oh careful now, they might EgretList one more useful app.

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All, I have tied the AnyToDo app with Evernote.  AnyToDo is a good to-do list tracker and you can add items from Evernote to the to-do list app by tagging them with AnyToDo.  Only downside I see is that you still have to add the reminders from the AnyToDo app screen on your "i" device.

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In Evernote I have each task as a note.   Then I share the note with @followupthen.  At the time I specify an email shows up reminding me.  If I code the share as a task it will send reminders until the task is marked complete.

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Hi CRJones,

That looks a useful app!

Regards

Chris

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That's a similar service to followup.cc,  although I do like the 'share as a task' option..  Only drawback I can see for both of these is there's no way to add lists for urgent / soon / sometime tasks. 

 

I subscribe to the "get it out of your head and onto a list" style of task management,  and if you have too many tasks scheduled for specific dates,  your management process rapidly devolves into re-scheduling things you don't have time for any more.  Better to schedule a few and divide the rest into priorities so you can pick your next task for scheduling when you have free time.

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actually why dont they do that? evernote is already a repositary so why cant they add such functionality. in short i feel they can extend their api with the following functionality:

 

  1. Task Description, Notes, Due Date, Status
  2. Repeating or Recurring Tasks
  3. Sub-tasking or parent child concept (preferably unlimited)
  4. Tagging
  5. Extensible API
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<massive understatement alert>

It's been mentioned a couple of times before...

<end alert>

 

Actually Evernote (or more specifically,  Evernote's CEO Phil Libin) said that they'd be launching something in that area in the first half of this year. 

 

Only three months to go now...

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oh is it? i thought they have said that 2 years ago?

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Sorry - should have added "in December of last year..."

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I use Cloud Outliner on the Mac and iPhone to generate to-do lists, and then sync it with Evernote.  Cloud Outliner gets its own notebook in Evernote, with all the lists that I've chosen to sync added into the notebook.  I like the redundancy that this allows, as CO and EN become backups for each other.

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Extropy, could you please explain in very simple terms (!) how you keep two windows open in Evernote with different views. And what is that about cmd1-9? I really like the idea of sending in the emails, but you've lost me. Thank you.

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Two windows for Evernote (Mac OS X)

 

Evernote Menu -> File -> New Evernote Window (CMD-OPTION-N)

These windows can be sorted and filtered independently.

 

CMD 0-9 for quick access to shortcuts

 

You can drag items such as saved searches to the "Shortcuts" section of the sidebar

The first 10 of these can be selected by pressing CMD-0 through CMD-9, even if the sidebar is hidden

 

Email

Any email that I want to reference later or requires action, I forward to my Evernote email address and archive in my mail client

You can find this address under "Account Info", either from the main screen or Evernote Menu -> Evernote -> Account Info...

 

I have started using Veritrope's applescript on my Mac. 

This has the advantage that it includes a link in the note (accessible from the "I" button for each note). This link then takes me back to the original message in my mail client, from where I can answer it, forward, etc.

Unfortunately, I haven't found anything similar for iPad or iPhone.

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Thank you so very much for such a clear explanation, Extropy. I'm off to experiment now. 

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Hi 

 
I'm Ed the founder of a task manager, Dooster.net

Very interested to see this discussion because we've had a few questions from users about integrating Dooster with Evernote.
 
We welcome any suggestions as to how we could best make Dooster work for EN users - ie for those who want to set "tasks" for their notes with benefits such as giving them start / due dates, being able to assign them to others or grant them recurring reminders - and so on.

An immediate idea is that you could simply attach a note in a Dooster task (ie using the url you get in "Share note"). When you open the task and click on the link this would open a new window showing your note.

Is this worth pursuing?
 
Please note that we've built Dooster from user recommendations and will take any suggestions / requests very seriously. Please make any suggestions here or mail me directly at ed at dooster.net

Thank you

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This has bugged me for a while and I finally set about in earnest to figure out a solution.

 

At one site I found out about Evermind and, once I started using it, I realized I could "share" any note with any calendar (I use Business Calendar) or to-do app (I have GTasks and now Evermind installed) in order to get some kind of reminder/notification functionality. Evermind is nifty in that it provides several different outputs. I can: pin to the navigation bar; schedule a notification (similar to the GTasks look and feel); or create a calendar entry in the calendar app of my choice.

 

From this first foray into the space, I see two drawbacks:

  • first is that I'd now have at least two separate instances of one item; the primary in Evernote and any additional I may have shared into Evermind or BizCalendar; as such, in order to maintain integrity, I'd have to determine as part of my method to only make revisions to Evernote, and only use the other apps as output for time-oriented function;
  • second is that I don't have Evermind on my desktop or in a browser when using Evernote on a computer. So, any notes I set up from at my desk or on a laptop that require time functions require copying a link to Google Calendar or Google Task.

These aren't deal-breakers, and it's amazing to see how people creatively create solutions, work-arounds and methodologies in order to stay productive. Having said that, yes, I'd agree that it'd be most ideal if Evernote provided time-functions natively within the app, and I don't think it would lessen each person's chance to maintain a personalized system, I think it would create one less set of steps even as it doesn't preclude the use of any additional apps (I'd imagine sharing will always be available).

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Hi again

 

We've just launched a new feature which gives you Dooster's powerful task and project functions with your Evernote files. For example you can give them start and due dates, priorities, assign them to colleagues and more...

 

Basically you have a link in your task to the evernote file that opens a new window where you can see your EN file

 

(this prevents the issue mentioned above >> two separate instances of one item; the primary in Evernote and any additional I may have shared into Evermind )

Hope it helps !
 

Full details at https://dooster.tenderapp.com/kb/files/sync-with-dropbox-evernote-google-amazon-and-other-file-sharing-services

 

 

You can quickly road test this by signing up at dooster.net - no card required.

 

Please mail me at ed at dooster.net if you have any comments or questions

 

Best wishes

ed

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