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freyja313

Best Practices / Tips & Tricks for Using EN as a To-Do List?

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Hello all, 

 

I am notorious for making lists of things to do and then shoving them into my bag and never looking at them again so up to now the "keeping it in the brain" thing has mostly worked for me (please don't turn me in to the GTD police!) However, as I'm getting older and busier there's too much to keep track of and not only do things fall through the cracks more often, I feel like my current methodology (?!) is severely impeding my personal growth. Over the years I've tried various paper and digital methods and can't seem to make any of them stick. The one constant I have is EN since I almost always have the desktop client open all the time at work and at home so...I would like to try to attempt to use it as a to-do list. I've toyed with this idea the past few months and read a number of posts here as well as external blog posts about how people organize EN in general and also organize it for tasks. I have some ideas but haven't quite settled on anything that I think will work for me. I love gathering information from multiple sources and then piecing how-to ideas together in a way that is agreeable with the way my brain likes to work. If you use EN for tasks/to-dos would you care to share your setup? Do you have one giant task note? Separate notes by project/subject? One note for each individual task? Templates? Tagging? Reminders? Feel free to be as simple or detailed as you want in your explanation and also share links to any favorite article, blog post, shared note/notebook (because Evernote!) resources you may have. 

 

Thanks in advance!

 

 

 

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I have set up the following Notebooks:

 

To-Do List - Action To Be Taken - 01 (I have one note in which I put a date, then action to be taken)

To-Do List - Action To Be Taken - 02 (Where I keep all the e-mails to do with the actions to be taken)

To-Do List - Awaiting Responses - 01 (I have one note in which I put all the actions I have taken from the above note and change the date to one when I expect an answer by, so I can follow up if no response)

(When I come to check the responses, I put a new date if I have sent a reminder or a new response is required.  If the action is complete, I move the action to the following Notebook - To-Do List - No Further Action - 01 note.  I keep them for a period in case I need to refer to the note again.

To-Do List Awaiting Responses - 02 (Where I move all the e-mails from the above Notebook that have been actioned and I am awaiting a response)

(One I have finished with the action, I move the e-mail(s) to the Notebook To-Do List - No Further Action - 02.  After a while it is worth reviewing if you need to keep the e-mail(s)

I have also set up two further Notebooks - To-Do List - Publications To Read - 01 in which I put links for blogs, newsfeeds etc and To-Do List - Publications to Read - 02 where I attach documents that I need to read in relation to any projects I have on the go.

 

Hope that helps.

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I use EN for all of my tasks and to-dos, I like to keep stuff in one place if I can.  Generically I break tasks into three categories; date specific to-dos, not date specific to-dos, and items to review.  I use my incarnation of The Secret Weapon (TSW), EN reminder functionality, and saved searches to manage the process.

 

For date specific items I use the EN reminder functionality with saved searches for !Today, !Late, !Tomorrow, and !Next.7.Days.  I keep !Today and !Late in the shortcut bar for quick access.

 

For not date specific to-dos I use TSW.  The tags I use are !1-Now, !2-Next, !3-Soon, !4-Later, !5-Someday, and !7-Read.  I periodically review the notes and adjust the tags to represent the priority and move things to !1-Now as tasks are completed.  I have a tag !LM for phone call follow up.  I keep !1-Now and !LM in the shortcut bar for easy access.  I also use !LM for follow up, that's why !6 is missing.  ;)

 

For review items I use tags of !Daily, !Weekly, !Monthly, and !Quarterly on notes I want to be sure and glance at on a periodic basis.  I also use a recurring reminder generated by FollowUpThen as a back up trigger so I'm sure to review these items.  Typically these items are more thoughtful, but can also include a credit from someplace that I have a period of time to use and just don't want to deal with it re a date or TSW.

 

Some tasks require a note to be created to support the reminder or tag.  Sometimes the reminder or tag is applied to a note that already exists (a statement for example which requires followup of some sort).  I avoid putting multiple to-do's in the same note and then it has to be one that is already existing.  I do not create notes that only contain check box to-do's.  However, most, but not all of the task notes have a check box(es) followed by the action in the note.  Some notes move from TSW to dated should the priority change.  Dates trump TSW in my scheme.

 

When I complete an item I have a PhaseExpress hot key that inserts _Completed mm/dd/yyyy hh:mm:xM in the note.  I use the _ because _completed makes for a unique search.  Same goes for preceding the TSW tags with !.  I mark the reminder as done or remove the ! tag when the task is done and just leave the note in the same notebook.  Check boxes are checked when the action is complete.

 

Net of it all, three clicks on the shortcut bar and I can very quickly see the list of today's dated items, !1-Now items and any !LM items.  On the desktop I typically use EN without the left panel showing (F10) with the left panel in list view (Shift-Ctrl-F5).  This gives me note titles on the left and the note content on the right..  I put the searches on the front of the shortcut bar so that they are visible on my IOS devices for easy access there as well 

 

FWIW.

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freyja313 - So much of what I have read over the years about task management focuses on the capturing all the tasks and organizing them somehow. Evernote users have pretty much mastered that part of it. However, that can be a daunting task because there can be so much to do. Even you said, "there's too much to keep track of".

So, I'd like to suggest that you consider changing your perspective and begin focusing on prioritizing your tasks. - - - Here's an approach.

Many years ago, a boss taught me a simple scheme for prioritizing tasks. It goes like this:

Categorize every task on the basis of two factors: Importance and Urgency. Here is the sequence in which you then work on the tasks.

- First, work on those tasks which are Important and are Urgent.

- Then, work on those tasks which are Important, but not Urgent.

- Then, work on those which are not Important, but are Urgent.

- Never spend any time on tasks which are not Important and not Urgent.

One way to apply this scheme with Evernote is to create 4 Tags:

- ImportantYesUrgentYes

- ImportantYesUrgentNo

- ImpotantNoUrgentYes

- ImportantNoUrgentNo

Whenever a new task comes your way, immediately apply the tag that is appropriate.

To determine what to work on next, have Evernote search for the appropriate tag, per the list above.

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On 8/29/2015 at 2:56 PM, csihilling said:

I use EN for all of my tasks and to-dos, I like to keep stuff in one place if I can.  Generically I break tasks into three categories; date specific to-dos, not date specific to-dos, and items to review.  I use my incarnation of The Secret Weapon (TSW), EN reminder functionality, and saved searches to manage the process.

 

For date specific items I use the EN reminder functionality with saved searches for !Today, !Late, !Tomorrow, and !Next.7.Days.  I keep !Today and !Late in the shortcut bar for quick access.

 

For not date specific to-dos I use TSW.  The tags I use are !1-Now, !2-Next, !3-Soon, !4-Later, !5-Someday, and !7-Read.  I periodically review the notes and adjust the tags to represent the priority and move things to !1-Now as tasks are completed.  I have a tag !LM for phone call follow up.  I keep !1-Now and !LM in the shortcut bar for easy access.  I also use !LM for follow up, that's why !6 is missing.  ;)

 

For review items I use tags of !Daily, !Weekly, !Monthly, and !Quarterly on notes I want to be sure and glance at on a periodic basis.  I also use a recurring reminder generated by FollowUpThen as a back up trigger so I'm sure to review these items.  Typically these items are more thoughtful, but can also include a credit from someplace that I have a period of time to use and just don't want to deal with it re a date or TSW.

 

Some tasks require a note to be created to support the reminder or tag.  Sometimes the reminder or tag is applied to a note that already exists (a statement for example which requires followup of some sort).  I avoid putting multiple to-do's in the same note and then it has to be one that is already existing.  I do not create notes that only contain check box to-do's.  However, most, but not all of the task notes have a check box(es) followed by the action in the note.  Some notes move from TSW to dated should the priority change.  Dates trump TSW in my scheme.

 

When I complete an item I have a PhaseExpress hot key that inserts _Completed mm/dd/yyyy hh:mm:xM in the note.  I use the _ because _completed makes for a unique search.  Same goes for preceding the TSW tags with !.  I mark the reminder as done or remove the ! tag when the task is done and just leave the note in the same notebook.  Check boxes are checked when the action is complete.

 

Net of it all, three clicks on the shortcut bar and I can very quickly see the list of today's dated items, !1-Now items and any !LM items.  On the desktop I typically use EN without the left panel showing (F10) with the left panel in list view (Shift-Ctrl-F5).  This gives me note titles on the left and the note content on the right..  I put the searches on the front of the shortcut bar so that they are visible on my IOS devices for easy access there as well 

 

FWIW.

What is the syntax for your Late reminder search?

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Here you go.  Yields all open reminders with dates prior to today.

remindertime:* -remindertime:day -reminderdonetime:*

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1 hour ago, csihilling said:

Late Reminder Search

remindertime:* -remindertime:day -reminderdonetime:*

Thanks - I missed that on the original post

I'm not a big fan of the Evernote reminders, but I can see using this to implement this for a Due Date

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You are welcome.  Per the above post I have a saved search in my shortcuts bar named !Late in addition to !Today (remdindertime:day -remindertime:day+1 -reminderdonetime:*).  I use PhaseExpress hot keys for the other reminder date searches.  Suits my needs for task management in any case. 

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On 1/20/2016 at 9:34 AM, csihilling said:

Here you go.  Yields all open reminders with dates prior to today.

remindertime:* -remindertime:day -reminderdonetime:*

Thank you.

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On 8/29/2015 at 9:34 PM, freyja313 said:

Over the years I've tried various paper and digital methods and can't seem to make any of them stick.

Haven't we all?  :)

The problem with using Evernote as your primary ToDo list manager is that, IMO, it requires too much work, too many manual steps that have to be repeated day in and day out.  I believe that translates to ultimately "making lists of things to do and then shoving them into my bag and never looking at them again".  Evernote will not change your basic habits or discipline.

I really like IQTell.  It can easily handle simple ToDo tasks, like grocery lists, as well as more complex projects like home remodeling, travel planning, event planning, and traditional business project management.  It tightly integrates with Evernote, so you can create/initiate actions/tasks from Evernote with a simple tag, and use Evernote notes to support IQTell tasks.  IQTell also has easy-to-use, built-in support for teams, like your family, club, or business.

You can, of course, review the IQTell site, but maybe the best, easiest way to get an overview is this video:
Get Started with IQTell - short video 

One of the IQTell features I really like is the Home screen, or Dashboard.  It shows:

  1. List of Actions you have selected to work on now
  2. Watch Llst of Next Actions, Overdue, Today, This week
  3. Upcoming events

They have a free trial that syncs with Evernote.

Good luck, and let us know how it goes.

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I don't use Evernote for my to-do items or tasks, I use Todoist for that. For the simple reason that Evernote in the first place is for taking notes, and while it has some basic task functionality, it isn't suited for it.

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Should have mentioned in my first post, I use Wunderlist for simple lists, like groceries and the like.  But any other task/to-do related stuff is in EN, where the source of the need is.  One stop shopping in that regard.  Not for everyone I am sure, but fine for me.  YMMV.

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34 minutes ago, csihilling said:

I use Wunderlist for simple lists, like groceries

Can you give us some insights as to the benefits of using Wunderlist over Evernote

I like saying ... Hey Siri, Add xxx to my Shopping List :)

I did use an external app (Anylist) for my shopping list.
It was easier to get my housemates on to this app.
I liked the checkbox management features.

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Wunderlist has a share option as well and is very easy to use.  Also, it works on the PC and IOS, our environment.  My wife and I share the grocery list so whichever of us gets to the grocery store first can do the shopping.  Relative to EN, grocery lists are transient and not really needed in my second brain.  My use case, FWIW.

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I'm the founder of TaskClone, a service that extracts tasks from Evernote and sends them where you want.  We got started because we didn't feel Evernote was a great place to manage tasks even though it's great for capturing them.  However, if you're stuck on working within Evernote, our free version takes tasks from any note and aggregates them in a single note.  You set a designated tag as the trigger to send the tasks.  On our Premium plan can also set up to 5 different notes/categories and send different tasks to different notes based on the trigger tag.

There's also The Secret Weapon system and Evernote Ambassador Stacey Harmon has a comprehensive review on How to Manage Tasks with Evernote.

Our paid plans also allow you to send tasks to task apps like IQTell, Wunderlist, Todoist and 40+ others.

We find that task management workflows are highly individual and evolutionary.  

Good luck

 

 

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8 hours ago, TaskClone said:

We find that task management workflows are highly individual and evolutionary.

Love this quote, thanks.  :)

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8 hours ago, TaskClone said:

We find that task management workflows are highly individual and evolutionary.

Love this quote, thanks.  :)

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17 hours ago, TaskClone said:

I'm the founder of TaskClone, a service that extracts tasks from Evernote and sends them where you want.  We got started because we didn't feel Evernote was a great place to manage tasks even though it's great for capturing them.

I definitely agree that Evernote is not a great tool for task management.

I can see how TaskClone would be useful for a lot of people, especially those that have a lot of ToDo checkboxes in one note.

But, the user will still need an actual Task Management app, like IQTell.  IQTell already has an excellent method to create an action, task, or project from an EN note, and keep that note tightly integrated with it.

BTW, I really liked your overview video.

17 hours ago, TaskClone said:

We find that task management workflows are highly individual and evolutionary.

While there can and will be many minor variations, the basics are the same if the workflow is to result in actually getting the task done.

IMO, the main reason tasks don't get done, or don't get done on time, is discipline.  Pick a system and stick with it until it becomes second nature.  Having said that, using the right tool definitely helps.  Using a word processor or image editor as a task manager won't be much more help, and maybe less, than just writing down a list on paper.

Just my 2¢.

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I found peace of mind with http://www.thesecretweapon.org

However, I got rid of the "Tasks done" notebook and only have "Actions pending" and "Cabinet". It was difficult for me to decide where a note should go.

If you are into to-dos watching the videos is totally worth your time.

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23 minutes ago, mwlodarski said:

I got rid of the "Tasks done" notebook and only have "Actions pending" and "Cabinet".
It was difficult for me to decide where a note should go.

I gave up on notebooks for organization and now simply use tags
My notes go into my default notebook (cleverly titled @Inbox).
I go in and tag notes appropriately, Actions are flagged !Actionable.
After initial processing notes are moved from @Inbox to Filing

>>I found peace of mind with http://www.thesecretweapon.org
Agreed

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Thanks DTLow.

 

I use two notebooks for better efficiency. Here's my workflow.

  • I have two notebooks:
    • 1-Actions Pending - contains things to do
    • 2-Cabinet - contains things done and reference material
  • I have four tags.
    • 0-Now
    • 1-Next
    • 2-Later
    • 3-Waiting
  • I have created the following saved searches in my Shortcut bar. I paste the search recipe in bold.
    • !Inbox - notebook:"1-Actions Pending" -tag:* - any new note without a tag shows up here
    • 0-Now - notebook:"1-Actions Pending" tag:"0-Now" - if I decide this is a note I am going to work this week, it gets the 0-Now tag. This search is supposed to be empty by my next Weekly Review. I try to add reminderc to each note when planning my week.
    • 1-Next - notebook:"1-Actions Pending" tag:"1-Next" - if something needs to be done in near future, it gets the 1-Next tag. Reviewed weekly.
    • 2-Later - notebook:"1-Actions Pending" tag:"2-Later" - ideas for further future, kind of Maybe/Later. Reviewed more or less monthly.
    • 3-Waiting - notebook:"1-Actions Pending" tag:"3-Waiting" - things I am waiting for from other people. I usually send a request e-mail and add my Evernote email to the BCC field. I tag them with the 3-Waiting tag during the weekly review.

That's it. Now, whenever the task is done, I change the notebook from 1-Actions Pending to 2-Cabinet (ctrl+cmd+m shortcut for speed).  I end up with all stuff in my Evernote account.

Of course I use other tags for convenience but these are my backbone. Now, if only the Reminders could work well with iCal, it would be a perfect solution :-)

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1 hour ago, mwlodarski said:

Now, if only the Reminders could work well with iCal

Thats the second time iCal has been mentioned this morning.
Can you give some more details on this?

Answered - see 

 

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I was going to ask for a way to isolate notes due today or prior to today, but I think I figured it out.

-reminderTime:day+1

This assumes to clear your done reminders.  There's probably a way to exclude the ones that are done (but not cleared).

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I know I should minimize my notebooks, but is there a way to wildcard a set of notebooks in a search.  I tried IUP* to get anything with a name starting with IUP.  Or, can I isolate on a notebook stack?

I got it:

Stack:[name of stack]

Edited by rwl
figured out the answer

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14 minutes ago, rwl said:

is there a way to wildcard a set of notebooks in a search.

Evernote search syntax can be viewed here https://dev.evernote.com/doc/articles/search_grammar.php

Short answer is No - only one notebook for search
Part of this is by design, tags transend notebooks, and thats where the wildcards are.
Note - if you're in a notebook, the search box has the option of restricting the search to just the notebook

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19 minutes ago, mb01915 said:

Look at Calendar Connector in the App center https://appcenter.evernote.com/app/calendar-connector/web-apps

This was also discussed at https://discussion.evernote.com/topic/93890-reminders-to-ical-required/?do=findComment&comment=397591
I've switched to this service (Reminder<>Calendar) and am happy so far.
There was some concerned expressed because you have to give them access to your Evernote notes, and Calendar events.

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1 hour ago, rwl said:

There's probably a way to exclude the ones that are done (but not cleared)

-reminderdonetime:*

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On 2/29/2016 at 10:58 AM, rwl said:

is there a way to wildcard a set of notebooks in a search

Using the "stacks:" qualifier in searches is the only way to filter on more than one notebook.  Unfortunately, there is no way to exclude a notebook.

That is one of many reasons that I have switched to using pseudo notebooks.

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On 1/20/2016 at 1:11 PM, csihilling said:

You are welcome.  Per the above post I have a saved search in my shortcuts bar named !Late in addition to !Today (remdindertime:day -remindertime:day+1 -reminderdonetime:*).  I use PhaseExpress hot keys for the other reminder date searches.  Suits my needs for task management in any case. 

I have both the today and late searches set up for the reminders.  I use a version of The Secret Weapon with TaskClone so any new todo results in a new note.  These notes are tagged Today, Next or Someday.  How do I change the !Today search to include notes tagged Today so I have one listing of critical items?  I am struggling with search.

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2 hours ago, mb01915 said:

How do I change the !Today search to include notes tagged Today so I have one listing of critical items?  I am struggling with search.

Your search problem is that Evernote search only allows two options: All items, or Any items. You can't combine items like you're trying.

Can you explain the advantage of a Today tag?

I don't use a Today tag; just the reminder date
For Current tasks, I use a shortcut pointing to a saved search
It is based on Reminder Date; no Today tag is needed, tasks filter in automatically
reminderTime:* -reminderTime:day+1 -reminderdonetime:* -tag:!Archive

>> I use a version of The Secret Weapon with TaskClone so any new todo results in a new note.  

If you're using Evernote for task management, where does TaskClone appear in the workflow?  My understanding is that it's an interface between Evernote and a task app.

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24 minutes ago, mb01915 said:

I have both the today and late searches set up for the reminders.  I use a version of The Secret Weapon with TaskClone so any new todo results in a new note.  These notes are tagged Today, Next or Someday.  How do I change the !Today search to include notes tagged Today so I have one listing of critical items?  I am struggling with search.

Unfortunately, you can't do an AND search of reminder dates and a tag of Today. 

Simple workaround would be to add the Today tag to the shortcuts bar .  You would have to click on each shortcut, !Today and Today though to get a sense of the work. 

If you wanted one list you could add a reminder date to any TaskClone created Today notes.  Out of interest do TaskClone reminder dates pass back and forth between Taskclone and EN, or just TaskClone and the to do system of record?

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