Using Evernote for Task and Time Management

enI began using Evernote last February. The initial purpose was to move towards a paperless office and have a better way of storing and accessing the thousands of quotes, stories, illustrations and files that I use in my writing and speaking.

EN has proven to be the answer for this type of data storage. I also use it as my tool for notes when I am taking an online course and can see using it increasingly as my initial location for all note taking. It auto-syncs with both my phone and the cloud so I can always access all my data even if I am on the road without my laptop.

My reason for going paperless was part of a larger quest for simplicity, so I began to wonder about using EN as a replacement for the time management program I have used for over a decade, Time & Chaos. I really like T&C, it has been the most used, always open program on my computer for years. I appreciate the ability to customize it, the option of using color coding and the tight integration of contacts, calendar and tasks. It also has an email client (in its Intellect version) but I have never bothered to make the move since it seemed to have several shortcomings compared to Outlook. But since I liked it’s time and task management features better than those in Outlook, I ended up using both tools.

Enter Evernote. After getting it and reading all I could find about it including taking in some online training, I realized that it could function quite well as a task manager. And the ability to so easily move documents- including emails added with a click from Outlook- from a task folder to an information folder made it a pleasure to use and instantly increased my efficiency. No more keeping emails in the email client as to do items- and usually forgetting about them.

I read up on David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done) as well as the outstanding free content at TheSecretWeapon which integrates GTD with EN, and decided to give EN a try for task management.

Given the way my life is structured, I am usually working in a nearly full time contract position, while at the same time maintaining other work and activities outside of that one major contract. So I decided to transfer all the task management for my major contract into EN and leave my personal task management in T&C for now. Long story short, Evernote works beautifully for task management and I will be moving all of my tasks into it as we enter a New Year.

How I Use It

In Evernote, I have a notebook called Tasks, inside which I have a notebook for each task area- my major contract, my other business work and my domestic tasks. I name them each with an A- or B- preceding their titles so I can determine which one shows up first in the list.

Inside a given task notebook I simply have a note for each of the tasks- which those of you who use EN understand is much like a folder, with the ability to hold text and documents and audio/video files and links. All documentation for a given tasks is either inside or linked to the individual task/note.

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I then have a series of tags to prioritize each task/note. From !Daily, to 1-Now, 2-Next and all the way down to 6-Waiting, for tasks I have taken action on but need someone else to do something like respond to me before I can complete it, and 7-Braindead which is where I go when I have a few minutes to spare but don’t want to expend much time or energy on a task. I plan to shrink the number of priorities down to three or four, since I use 1-Now for all my weekly high priority tasks for a given week and spend most of my time there. 2-Next is for things I will do if all the 1-Now’s are done.

I also have a tag for each task tied to the people or unique context for each task. For example some tasks are tagged Staff if I need to do it in concert with the staff; some are Leadership Team for items related to them and some are Read/Review for things that I need to look at before they can be acted on or filed. Most tasks have multiple tags such as 1-Now, Staff. With a click I can isolate all my top priority items or all my Staff or Lead Team items.

In keeping with GTD processes, I try to review the entire task list at a given time each week, and reorder priorities for the week ahead. Once this little system is setup, it is very efficient and allows me to focus on the task at hand without fear of forgetting anything.

Evernote as Calendar?

The people behind TheSecretWeapon have a system for using EN as a calendar- it does after all have a reminder function. But I am not yet prepared to shift from the familiar shape and graphical organization of an actual calendar to a simple text based calendar. However, once the migration of all my tasks into EN is complete, I will be doing a test run with events similar to what I have done with tasks. In essence, events and appointments are time specific tasks and should be relatively easy to setup with Evernote’s flexible functionality.

I have shared with several people that my move to EN has been as revolutionary for me in terms of productivity as my initial move to a computer back in the 1990’s. It has allowed me to rapidly store data in an easily retrievable manner. Using it as a task manager will give me a further bump in efficiency, as will the possible shift to using it for events/appointments.

As you can see, my implementation of Evernote is still a work in progress.  But I am very pleased with how it has helped me so far, and I look forward to learning all its possibilities.

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