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Evernote and Getting Things Done

February 3, 2011

This post is a bit different from the trading/economics/financial posts – so feel free to skip it if you want.

I discovered Evernote back in late September of last year, on a recommendation from my friend Ron.  Evernote is a program where you’re able to save little notes, tagged with topics as you like, and access them from any computer you like.  It also has an iPhone application that can access and create notes, and has browser plugins that allow you to save any page/link to Evernote.

All of these notes and little program sync up easily.  You don’t need to read the manual to get started with Evernote – which for me is the hallmark of good design, and tends to be associated with usefulness.

In the beginning, I just used it for remembering stuff.  I’ve recently been diagnosed with ADD, so I was really getting into just remembering things I wanted/needed to do, had seen, or wanted to think about. .  (ADD for me had been vastly limiting.  I cried the first few times after taking the medication – because I had tried so hard for so many years to be productive, organized, and otherwise “on it”, and here was a pill 1/2 the size of my pinky fingernail that allowed me to be all of that with seemingly zero effort on my part. )

After a few weeks of using it, I started to think there might be a more organized way to use Evernote.  Then I remembered David Allens’s Getting Things Done. Getting Things Done is commonly known as GTD. I had read the book before, and even got some folders and tried to do it, but with the ADD, the persistence to follow the program in a sustained and therefore useful manner wouldn’t have been possible for me.

But inability to focus had changed into an ability to create sustained and persistent action, and I had this cool new tool of Evernote just batting around.  I decided to do a bit of research and see if there had been anyone else to use Evernote with GTD.  Of course, people had.

It turns out that there was a large community that uses Evernote with GTD.  I read a few posts, and setup a GTD system within my Evernote.  I setup a bunch of contexts in the tag system using the “@” as a prefix, s I would be easily able to tag things with things like “@Kids” , and then know I wanted to do this when talking to the kids, instead of just “kids”, which could be just a photo of the kids, or something cool/funny they did that I wanted to remember.

Here is a current screenshot of my Evernote tag list with the GTD tags. I have a ton to do, but I have been slacking a bit the last few days.  But overall, this system of being able to capture things on the computer, being able to access them anywhere and then being able to return to the list has been a hugely beneficial productivity tool.  There is no way that I could ever maintain a folder system for all of these different contexts – but with Evernote, it is possible. I do “Get Things Done”.  Of course, like any evolving system, it is a work in progress, but the impact has been great.  It is nice to be able to write down the things I want to tell/show/talk about with my wife and then remember them when I see her.  It is great to write down the small things I notice about the house, then review them before I go to the hardware store and see if there is a simple solution that I can plan Thursday, buy parts for Saturday morning, and fix Sunday.

Because everything is stored in a central location with a long memory and an easy to navigate tag system, the entire system flows really well.

Of course, I’ve veered wildly off course a few times – the holidays will do that to you. But it gets easier to stay on course each time.

And another huge thing has been in getting all of the projects that I’ve considered over the years out into the light of day.  In the book GTD, David Allen says it should take an afternoon to get all of the old ideas out of your head and into the system.  It took me several months. Part of the catharsis is just getting them out into the light of day – w here a real decision can be made on what to do.

I haven’t even mentioned the benefits for random idea collection.  On all of the things you randomly think/see/stumble on, just make a little note with some logical tags and put it into a context where you’ll do something small about it.  They take care of themselves!

If you haven’t checked out Evernote, I do highly recommend it.  Did I mention that it is free?



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