How Do I Organize My Evernote?

To go along with my previous few posts on productivity. I thought I would give a glimpse into exactly what I’m doing.

To recap, I read and tried implement Getting Things Done. My tools: Outlook Calendar and Evernote. Then I read about The Secret Weapon and set about to change the way I used Evernote to incorporate it. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been learning what works for me and what doesn’t. I’ve made changes to suit the way I work. Perhaps they’ll work for you.

Zero Inbox

I have implemented a zero inbox policy. I have 4 inboxes: 1 for my day job, 1 for my side business and 2 personal email accounts. Why 2 personal? It’s a long story. Regardless, I keep all of them empty using GTD principles: do it, delegate it, defer it. I don’t delegate much, so mostly I either do it right away or use the Outlook Evernote add-in to put it into Evernote either for future reference or to go into my “Active” to-do list.

Evernote Folders

The Secret Weapon uses tags in Evernote pretty much exclusively. I found that this didn’t work perfectly for me. I wanted to be able to easily get to everything I wanted to get done. I thought that a folder was easier than tags for my active items. I’m not sure why exactly, but it just makes more sense to me. So, as you can see below, I have 4 important folders: Active, Waiting, Read/Review and Someday. I also have one important folder group: Reference. If you’ve familiarized yourself with GTD, I’d expect you recognize these folders. Underneath Reference, I have a bunch of folders to organize my reference items. You’ll notice a few other folders and groups. I have one group, Employees, that has a folder for each of my employees. In there I keep notes about their conversations, any kudos or complaints that are emailed or told to me and other little tidbits about them. I also like to have a Templates folder to keep note “stubs” to keep different kinds of notes, like notes from a one-on-one meeting with an employee. In the Someday folder I keep a few “context” notes like my “Next Time You’re At Home Depot” list (don’t forget pea gravel). Read/Review is great to have here because now I have things to read anywhere I go and can access it on a variety of devices.

As you can see by just looking at it, I have 6 active items. That’s where I’ll start tomorrow.

Evernote Tags

Also, from the above, you should be able to see my Evernote tags. This is where The Secret Weapon really helped. Frankly, though, I don’t use all of them. In most cases, I use just the Where and the When tags. I only use them for Active and Waiting items. The Where tags allow me to separate my personal life, from my day job, from my side business. If it is the evening or the weekend, I can click the “@iMinistries” tag and see everything that’s on the list. I might even filter by the “2 – Next” tag to see what needs to be done next. Frankly, I don’t use the “1 – Now” tag. Why? Because I have another location for what I’m going to do now–my notecard.

My Notecard and My Notebook

Okay, so I tried to stop using my notecard for my every day todo list. I can’t stop. For a long time I’ve had a simple system to organize today’s todo list. I use a single 4 X 6 lined notecard. I simply write down all the items that come up for me during the day. I love the notecard for 2 reasons:

  1. I can only do 10-15 things every day. I’ve often told people “if I run out of room on the notecard, then I stop adding things, because I can only do 1 notecard’s worth of things every day.”
  2. I love to cross things off. Checking a box or setting the formatting to strikethrough isn’t enough. I like the act of striking through something. I also love the act of crossing off the last item and dropping the notecard in the recyling bin.

I also have a little notebook that I don’t always carry, but I do bring to meetings for meeting notes. I find typing, on the phone, tablet or laptop is too distracting for a meeting, so the notebook offers a way to capture quick notes. My notebook of choice is the Molskine square journal for no good reason except that it is very small and disposable enough that I don’t care how stupid the things I write in it will look in 10 years.

The one awkward piece is the stuff on the notecard that isn’t crossed off at the end of the day. More often than not a notecard ends up being a 2 day todo list and I carry it into the next day.

To build my notecard every day I visit a handful of locations:

  • All of my email accounts
  • My “Active” folder in Evernote
  • A todo list in Basecamp, shared within my business
Also, at the beginning of the week, I spend a little time thinking on anything else to add to the Active notes or the notecard. I also look in Waiting and Someday and see if anything should become active.Not sure how helpful this is to anyone, but this is my personal system of organizing over the last 6 weeks and it appears to be working well. Hopefully the principles or practices might be usable for someone else.

Here’s hoping that you’ll also get more done.

So, what do you think ?