3 Reasons GTD (Getting Things Done®) + Evernote Is Your Next Inbox

by paulgebel

Full disclosure: I’m an avid Secret Weapon user. My thoughts here are mainly an expression of standing on their giant shoulders.

Getting Things Done (GTD) has become a business cult of formerly information-saturated executives, entrepreneurs and stay at home moms. The simplicity of the organization and the regiment of the process make such intuitive sense that it is difficult for me to imagine organizing my tasks and information in any other construct. However, there is a way to impose a tool on the system that accelerates the process and allows much more depth and context to the system.

For Evernote users, this has become a welcome organizational framework for all of the data and is great for turning non-context  driven data into useful, actionable tasks. There are limitless variations that can be taken on this theme, but the most important decision for me came in this simple approach: “Few Notebooks, Many Tags”. This will seem like gibberish to the Evernote Luddites, so the meaning might be more clear in the practical application.

GTD SimplifiedFirst the notebooks set-up. I have two “stacks”. They’re called tasks and files. The first question you ask in the GTD process is, “Is it actionable?” If yes, it’s a task. If no, it’s a file. The sub-notebooks in files can be as large as necessary. Some examples in mine are cookbookrolodex and fitness. There are a dozen or so, and I have very loose rules around what does where. There isn’t any action associated with them, and I’ll likely find what I need by tag as opposed to notebook. Secondly, the files. There are two kinds in the GTD system: Action Pending or Completed. The system doesn’t allow a heroic approach to task labeling. If it’s a project with multiple tasks required for completion, tag it with the project name, but every task gets it’s own note in Evernote.

There are a couple reasons this system works. First of all, I trust Evernote. This whole thing falls apart with my email client as the backbone, because I don’t trust that tool as a consistently available, reliable system of storage and organization. Second, Evernote is a blank slate. Every GTD user has their own take on the system. Little modifications to files. Little personalized touches on the categories. Evernote is designed to get out of your way and just allow you to store information in contexts that make sense. And third, this works, because of the community. The not-so-silent partner in taking on the GTD framework (regardless of the Evernote implementation) is the user groups. You’ll find them on LinkedIn, blogs, the GTD forum, the GTD Blog… It’s the amazing part of this undertaking. The help-desk is ubiquitous.