Jump to content
kkathman

General Ideas Needed For Adapting EN as a ToDo Manager

Recommended Posts

i have been on the hunt for the optimal solution for my personal productivity system. Evernote is already a big part of this as my reference vault. I currently have four components that I'm looking to integrate:  Task/Project Management, Email, Calendar and Reference.  Right now I'm using Todoist for Task.Project management, Gmail and Gcal for email/calendar, and EN for the reference.

 

I want better search and presentation flexibility in my Task/project management than what Todoist gives, however. One thing that kind of system provides, however, is the staging of work by date/time.  While I can use EN to put in "actions to be done"  I don't want to put reminders on every note.  I need the capability to tie emails and tasks to projects, but then also see my "Daily" or "Weekly" task list of things to be done in a glance.

 

If you have experience in this, would you be kind enough to share how you do these things on a daily basis.

 

I should mention that I try to ascribe to Inbox-Zero and David Allen's GTD methodologies also.

 

Thank you for your suggestions and ideas!

 

Korky

Share this post


Link to post

This subject has been often discussed.  To see a list of similar/related threads, just click on the Forum Tag "todo" at the top of this page.

 

Evernote was NOT designed as a project/task management system, and so lacks many of the basic features needed for those systems.  Some have made Evernote work, but I suspect with a lot of work and ongoing pain and maintenance.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post

You're probably better off using forum search (upper right-hand corner of this page) for "GTD", which should locate topics where GTD is discussed. 

Share this post


Link to post

Search on "GTD" could be quite limited, as not all project/task management threads involve "GTD"

 

A google search on "Evernote project management" and "Evernote task management" should bring up quite a few articles, both within this EN forum and external blog web articles.

Share this post


Link to post

Using forum tag search for "todo" could be quite limited on the one hand, as tags are not uniformly applied to forum topics (there are discussions of GTD not tagged as such), and noisy on the other hand, as you will get a lot of useless hits on discussion of todo checkboxes. In other words, not a great search.

 

As kkathman actually used "gtd"  in their topic, a forum search on that is probably a good place to start. They'll get a good number of topics to start with, and they can broaden out as needed.

Share this post


Link to post

Since the OP, kkathman, actually entered the tag "todo" it seems like a good choice.

Turns out there are 23 very relevant topics found when clicking on this tag.

 

However, the most general search would be for the Google search I suggested in post #4.

This is broader than either "todo" or "gtd", and includes article from the entire Web.

Share this post


Link to post

Thank you for the suggestions. I've reviewed those formalized video sets like "The Secret Weapon", and a couple of others, but as you said, they didn't really address the issue. 

Share this post


Link to post

Thank you for the suggestions. I've reviewed those formalized video sets like "The Secret Weapon", and a couple of others, but as you said, they didn't really address the issue. 

 

I don't use Evernote for my personal task management... however, I have written about multiple alternatives to "The Secret Weapon"/ GTD-esque in a series on my blog. Here's the first post which showcases a setup that a number of people have adopted as their to-do system in Evernote:

 

http://www.productivitymashup.com/blog/2014/10/7/kanban-calendar-evernote-series-1-of-5

 

The setup is sufficiently different to make a break from the methods you've already researched. Ironically it is also pretty much GTD-centered in that it employs a tickler file of sorts. It also relies heavily on the Personal Kanban principles... and perhaps if you like the concept, you'll find that it carries over beautifully to any number of other apps, including WorkFlowy, Gingko, Trello, Mindmeister, etc. Evernote is just one possible incarnation of this system, with both its strong and weak points.

Share this post


Link to post

Thank you for the suggestions. I've reviewed those formalized video sets like "The Secret Weapon", and a couple of others, but as you said, they didn't really address the issue. 

 

I want better search and presentation flexibility in my Task/project management than what Todoist gives, however. One thing that kind of system provides, however, is the staging of work by date/time.  While I can use EN to put in "actions to be done"  I don't want to put reminders on every note.  I need the capability to tie emails and tasks to projects, but then also see my "Daily" or "Weekly" task list of things to be done in a glance.

 

I should mention that I try to ascribe to Inbox-Zero and David Allen's GTD methodologies also.

 

I had a similar problem and I have now found a solution that works for me. It includes just two tools: Evernote and Calendar.

 

I followed The Secret Weapon and used their setup for the start. After a while I decided I need more flexibillity and fewer categories, so now I only have 4 time-related tags:

  • Scheduled - when doing my weekly review I put things to do into calendar just like meetings. That way I plan every day and prevent others from planning it for me. Each to-do that I put into my calendar I tag with "Scheduled" tag.
  • This week - these are to-dos to be done as soon as possible when I have time. Maybe the name is not the best but I could not find a better one. If I am not doing my Scheduled stuff and have time to do something I look at this list and pick something.
  • Later - these are things to be re-reviewed at next weekly review. I try to put as much new stuff into it as possible.
  • Waiting-for - the name explains. When I am waiting for someone.

Each of these tasks has a saved-search (notebook: Actions Pending, tag: scheduled / This week / Later / Waiting) and they are in my shortcuts column for easy access.

When I click on "Scheduled" shortcut I see everything to be done this week. Once a to-do is completed I move it to "Completed Tasks" notebook so it disappears from the search. 

When I do my weekly review I simply change the time-related tag from Later to This week or Scheduled.

 

 

evernote-time-setup.png

 

Now you only need to work on your habbit to put things to do in your calendar and tag them properly :)

 

Some additional tips:

  • if you use Sunrise you can make reminders show up in your google calendar. So if you put reminder on just the Scheduled notes you do not have to put them on your calendar yourself. Plus, they will show up in time order as a list.
  • I only use one category for all things to be decided. I call it Later. Just one, because I need to look at these things every week anyway so why create a dozen of categories. It may look too basic but works like a charm. When I so my weekly review I just scan the list (takes 30 seconds) and can decide if I can do something about any of the tasks this week. After 2-3 weeks I know them all almost by heart anyway.
  • the Weekly Review is key to happiness. Allen's book should titled "Reviewing Weekly" to emphasize the importance of this one habbit. Everytime I slip on doing it things start to get out of control and I am behind.

Hope that helps.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

Why not create your calendar in Evernote, in kanban style? The problem with using an actual calendar, is that your tasks then become time specific. That's what David Allen wanted to avoid like the plague, because he stated that the calendar was sacred… And only thing set in stone for specific time schedules should go on your calendar.

What one needs is a date-specific setup in Evernote (not a time specific one). There are a number of ways to achieve this, without setting reminders. You can set up a tickler file in Evernote, one day for the next 30+ days represented either by notebook, tag, a table list within one note, etc.

I like to call it kanban calendar... A little bit of work initially to set it up... But very little maintenance thereafter… And very intuitive.

Still… Not as fast as other dedicated task manager applications... But it does have its strong points.

Share this post


Link to post

The problem with using an actual calendar, is that your tasks then become time specific. That's what David Allen wanted to avoid like the plague, because he stated that the calendar was sacred… And only thing set in stone for specific time schedules should go on your calendar.

 

But that is the point of scheduling tasks in a calendar. To make them time-specific so that they get done. Just like you plan a typical meeting, you can decide that you will be working on Task X from 8am to 10am on January 30, 2015.

Having an always growing list of tasks with all of them to be done ASAP does not help, while haveing a process that moves tasks from sometime to this week to scheduled to done gets the stuff done on time. Tested on humans!

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

 

The problem with using an actual calendar, is that your tasks then become time specific. That's what David Allen wanted to avoid like the plague, because he stated that the calendar was sacred… And only thing set in stone for specific time schedules should go on your calendar.

 

But that is the point of scheduling tasks in a calendar. To make them time-specific so that they get done. Just like you plan a typical meeting, you can decide that you will be working on Task X from 8am to 10am on January 30, 2015.

Having an always growing list of tasks with all of them to be done ASAP does not help, while haveing a process that moves tasks from sometime to this week to scheduled to done gets the stuff done on time. Tested on humans!

 

 

I totally agree with you on the general concept of being able to visualize up-and-coming tasks in a calendar of sorts. In my own experience having done this for a number of months... inevitably one is going to have to shuffle tasks around quite a lot when each day comes around, since most people will not be able to predict or commit to a specific time for all tasks they intend to do in the near future many days prior. Also, for the same reasons that David Allen goes into, it doesn't allow one as much flexibility to adjust to unforeseen circumstances. Of course one could see your calendar as a holding bucket for general tasks and disregard times (unless your days are perfectly mapped out and predictable). That would work. I've done it.

 

One way around this is to have a holding date for each of the days ahead - date specific but not time specific. Similar to a tickler file. One can of course, say, use Google calendar and plot non time-specific items in the "Tasks" section, which may do for one or two tasks... but it is kind of restrictive. Instead, one can try a number of task-management apps out there that allow you to organize tasks according to date but not time. One of the most intuitive that I've seen is the TeuxDeux app. It's a sort of date-specific calendar without having to commit to specific times for many of your tasks which are not necessarily time sensitive. Very similar to that, I've set up at least 5 different ways to achieve the same thing in Evernote, the link to which you'll find in my first post above. It allows one to group tasks by date in a tickler file of sorts... and if need be can get plotted on an actual calendar at a later date (or one can also use Sunrise Calendar which integrates with Evernote Reminders to visualize time-specific reminders on a calendar, where you can also integrate any other calendars you might have).

 

But yes... I totally agree with you that having a growing list of tasks under certain categories (soon/ next week, etc.) is not the most intuitive. It's more work than it's worth. It's definitely not a lean system. The system I am proposing is very little known... and in fact, the way I set it up may not be found elsewhere on the internet. The closest I've seen is the TeuxDeux app. If you have the time on your hands, you'll see on my blog that I've implemented the same system in other apps, by foregoing most of the features those apps put out. You can use the system proposed in just about any app you might currently be using. It would just require some reshuffling. No weekly reviews, no maintenance whatsoever. You can totally skip constant or periodic list revisions... and focus on just doing your tasks when they need to get done without the overhead. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

Stating the obvious, but so much of this  depends upon personal style.  I break tasks down into those that are date specific and those that aren't.  

 

I use EN reminders for the date specific and my version of TSW tags for to the not.  My TWS tags are !1-Now, !2-Next, !3-Soon, !5-Someday, !6-Waiting and !7-Read.  I dropped !4-Later because it never got used.  I precede the TWS tags with an ! so as to facilitate tag searches.  As the need arises notes are tagged in this ladder.  i triage these notes at least weekly moving them up the scale as tasks get completed.  

 

The !1-Now  tag is multipurpose as I have it in the shortcut bar and will add it to any note that needs focus, including a note with a reminder, whatever the date.  So with a simple click I can view all these notes.  

 

In a like manner I have created hot key dynamic date searches for reminders.  I mostly use the Today, All Due, Tomorrow and Next 7 Days hot key searches that I have created.  I use PhaseExpress to create/maintain the hot keys.  I tend to view the reminder searches in snippet mode using the Reminder drop down.  Though List view works as well, thought the reminder dates aren't visible.

 

I do end up with two action lists through this process which I toggle between as the opportunity arises.  My objective is to maintain two views of what is important - date constrained tasks and other important tasks.  Again, so much depends upon how we all like to deal with work.  FWIW.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

Cal, I wish there was some way I could tinker with your system. Also, I assume you're on Mac with the hot keys you've set up? Would it put a dent in your workflow if you were to use Windows?

 

I like that you've distinguished between TSW tags for non-date-specific tasks and reminders for date-specific tasks. I think I can sort of visualize it...

 

Have you got a template or could you provide a watered down version of your system via a shared notebook, complete with tags and reminders? I'd love to see it in action... maybe write a blog post about it. Something about it just feels smart  ;)

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

Frank, thanks for the kind words.  I actually do use Windows, so no dent in the workflow.  I use a text expander tool called PhaseExpress for the hotkeys.  It has a nice set of features for creating dynamic text streams.  I can advise as to how I created the searches.

 

The process is based solely upon the ! tags, reminders, and the hot key searches.  It is Notebook agnostic, the context for all searches is All Notes.  In my view It is a simple system that I morphed to across time that works for my use case.  So simple I don't know how much action there would be to see!  

 

That being said, rather than eating up Forum time I would be perfectly happy to PM to discuss the process and create whatever screen shots you might like.

Share this post


Link to post

This subject has been often discussed.  To see a list of similar/related threads, just click on the Forum Tag "todo" at the top of this page.

 

Evernote was NOT designed as a project/task management system, and so lacks many of the basic features needed for those systems.  Some have made Evernote work, but I suspect with a lot of work and ongoing pain and maintenance.

 

I'm totally impress how creative some guys are to fix EN to do the work.

 

Alternative solution: Syncing notes into more simplified and task oriented environment.
Recently we put a lot of efforts to smooth and automate the process of pulling tasks from Evernote into our to-do app.
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

So, I didn't invent this system (but probably tweaked it a bit) and I can't remember where I found it so apologies to the original creator . . . 

 

However, here's what I did:

 

I have a notebook called "Cabinet" which is where stuff gets filed.

 

Another called "Inbox" where new stuff is received.  This is my default notebook.  Anything I email to EN ends up in here, things I clip end up here, etc.  This is where I sort everything.  It either gets filed in the "Cabinet" or it gets set up in "Action Pending" somewhere.  Anything in my email inbox that I need to either keep or act on is forwarded to my EN inbox and then deleted from the email inbox.  It's an extra step to move it but it's too difficult to have multiple inboxes and multiple "Cabinets" to try to work out of.  So, an email comes in, I read it and take care of it if it is a 2 minute task, delegate it to someone else (with a cc to my EN inbox for followup) or move it into the system (1-Now, 2-Next, set a date for it or whatever) to be dealt with at the proper time.

 

I have "Action Pending" and finally, "Completed Actions."  I originally used "completed actions" for items that were completed but I found that I don't really need to keep an inventory of every single task I've ever completed so what I do now is either delete the note when completed or I tag it by topic and file it in "Cabinet" instead.  Action pending is where things that need to be dealt with end up.  Anything in "Action Pending" gets tagged using one or more of the following tags:

 

I have tags for 1-Now, 2-Next, etc. which I nest under a tag called "When"

 

I have tags @work, etc. but I don't seem to use them as much as I should but they are nested under "Where"

 

I have tags for each month "01-Jan" "02-Feb" and so on and nest them under "Non-current month"

 

I have tags for each day of the month - "01st" "02nd" and so on which are nested under "current month

 

Both "current month" and "non-current month" are nested under "Deskfile" (remember those files that would sit on your desk and have a pocket for each day of the month?  That's the idea here.  I thought about trying to send stuff to my calendar but it seems more work than it's worth.  The only thing on the calendar is stuff that has a specific date AND time.  In other words, scheduled meetings and so-forth.  

 

For things that require follow up or work on a particular day, I tag them with the "01st" or "15th" or whatever if it is for the current month and I tag it with "03-March" or whatever if it is for a different month.  Toward the end of the current month, I re-file things slated for next month into a particular day.  BTW - "01st" is better than "1st" because of how things display in a list.  If you left off the leading zero, the list would display 1, 10, 11, 12 instead of 01, 02, 03, etc.  Same with the months which is why I start with the month's number ("01" for Jan) instead of its name ("Jan").

 

For recurring tasks (take out trash on Monday or file taxes on April 15 or whatever), I use FollowUpThen. (See www.followupthen.com)  Here I can set recurring reminders and have them emailed to me.  I set a rule in Gmail to forward them to my EN account.  When I set them up at FollowUpThen, I tag them and set the notebook to "Action Pending" so they skip the EN inbox and end up where I need them (1-Now, 12th, or whatever).  Since they are recurring and FollowUpThen sends another one at the appropriate time, I can just delete them when I've acted on them instead of moving it to the next appropriate date (eg. I get a FollowUpThen reminder every Monday for trash so I don't have to move the reminder to the next Monday after I act on it).

 

From here, it works very similarly to typical GTD.  Paper stuff gets scanned and emailed to EN so it ends up in the system as well.  I also set up a recipe with IFTTT (www.ifttt.com) that creates a note in my inbox for missed phone calls so they're tagged @phone and sent to the inbox and this way, I remember to call them back since it's in the place where I'm thinking of things I need to do!

 

I'm sure I've left some stuff out but I'm happy to elaborate if anyone is interested.  This has been working for me for a few years now and while it took a little work to set up (making tags, etc.), it's easy to maintain and was well worth the effort.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post

×
×
  • Create New...