Back when I was running a Support team for a software company, I found myself in a situation where balls were starting to be dropped and I was letting members of my team down. There were just too many spinning plates, both at work and at home.
While trying to figure out what to do about it, I came across David Allen’s book Getting Things Done, and it is not an exaggeration to say that it changed my life. I remember walking out of my office after my initial weekend-long GTD-a-thon amazed with the feeling that David Allen talks about in his book: I felt like I had a “mind like water”.
Since leaving that job, I have to admit that my GTD-ness has fallen off the rails a little bit. I “sort of” do it using Remember The Milk, but nowhere near effectively. I’ve been really wanting to get back on track.
For this reason, I was super-excited to read in the LinkedIn Evernote Users Group that Daniel E. Gold, a frequent contributor to the group, was releasing his first eBook bringing two of my loves together (Evernote and GTD): Evernote: The Unofficial Guide To Capturing Everything And Getting Things Done.
As soon as the eBook was released, I rushed out and dropped the $5 ($5!) to check it out.
What It Is
The author is pretty explicit that this eBook is not primarily a how-to guide for using Evernote. It is focused on how to use Evernote with GTD.
What this eBook won’t do though is give you a step–by–step tutorial on how to use specific features in Evernote. The company does a great job of that on their Knowledge Base. While I will do some deep dives into some functionality, the specific focus here will be how to be more productive, efficient, and gain back more control in your life by being able to truly capture everything and get things done.
That being said, I like how he starts off going into why we need a solution like this (whether it be Evernote, GTD, or something else). His points really spoke to me, as it sounds like we are kindred spirits in a lot of ways. Nothing I have tried has “just worked”, and while I consider myself reasonably productive, I know things could be much better.
Buckets O’ Tags
Gold’s observation is similar to mine on the subject of tags. What many people do (myself included) when they start out with Evernote is go crazy making tonnes and tonnes of tags with no thought as to why or what they’ll do with them.
I really liked this quote, which sums things up well:
I was destroying the very beauty within Evernote by over–complicating everything.
There are some good tips on note linking – something I don’t do as much as I know I should, but I can see how it is a powerful feature. That is going to be one of my takeaways from this for sure: start intelligently linking notes.
Implementing GTD In Evernote
Before getting into the nuts and bolts of implementing GTD in Evernote, I like how the author talks about the “vertical focus” of GTD that many people ignore. I’ve certainly been guilty of this. He takes an interesting detour into how fear may play a part in this (again, possibly guilty as charged). I think the universe must be trying to tell me something because I listened to a podcast conversation between Mike Vardy and Chris Guillebeau on exactly this topic an hour after finishing Gold’s eBook.
As far as implenting GTD itself goes, the author has come up with a pretty fascinating tagging structure for GTD. You can tell that a lot of thought and trial and error has gone into it.
In addition to showing the tag structure, he takes the reader through some examples of situations and goes step-by-step through how he would handle and implement it.
He structured the implementation section into the five phases of GTD (Collect, Process, Organize, Review, Do), which made a lot of sense to me.
Speaking Of Review And Do
Any time I have ever had problems with GTD, it has been because I was not dilligent about doing my Weekly Review. The more familiar with Getting Things Done that I become, the more I realize that the Review is the key to getting to that “mind like water” state.
I was happy to see that the author specifically addressed this (I get the sense that he has been burned by the lack of reviewing as well).
As far as doing goes, I think this quote from the eBook says it all:
All of this would be for naught if it there weren’t an end to the means here. The whole point naturally is to actually do something with all of your tasks.
Some Extra Tips
It was interesting to see how he uses his ScanSnap S1100 with Evernote to go paperless. He does things very differently than I do in some ways, so I am going to
beg politely request that Gold do a guest post on DocumentSnap at some point to elaborate on his going-paperless process.
Should You Get It?
If you are wanting a general guide on how to use Evernote, this eBook is probably not for you. There are some better choices for that.
However, if you have any interest in using Evernote for your Getting Things Done process, The Unofficial Guide To Capturing Everything And Getting Things Done is a great choice. At only $5, even if you only pick up one or two tips, it is totally worth it in my opinion.
Now off I go to nail down my Contexts.