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  • Notebook Stacks for note hierarchy
  • Sorting projects by areas of focus
  • Horizons of Focus in Evernote

My Evernote + GTD Setup

How I've setup Evernote to manage my projects and my life.

Many people these days use Evernote for some aspect of their Getting Things Done (GTD) system because of its versatility and availability. You simply can’t beat having your notes anywhere there’s an internet connection. I’ll spare you a lengthy diatribe about all the virtues of Evernote and get down to the nitty gritty

Evernote + GTD for me

I don’t use Evernote as an all-in-one GTD tool; I use it to manage everything other than my Next Actions lists. I’ve gone back to an analog setup for the daily stuff, at least for now.

Jump to: screenshots

Notebook Stacks (Beta on Mac)

I’m using a beta version of Evernote Mac which now has Stacks, a tool for grouping notebooks. This is a God-send and since I’ve started using it, I rely on nested tags less often. Only drawback so far is that on the iPhone, Stacks are not yet supported, but this is a minor issue.

Grouping and Order

My notebooks/Stacks fall into three general categories:

  • Daily
  • Projects
  • Horizons of Focus
  • Reference

As you may note, I use numbering and character tricks to keep things in a nice order.

My first level notebooks/stacks:

  • !nbox. Anything incoming. I spell it with an exclamation point as the “i” so that the notebook stays at the top here and on the iPhone.
  • Reviews. Daily, Weekly, and Monthly review and related trigger lists. Each are tagged as such but I also name each one so that I can easily scan them if I select the Reviews stack. In other words, Daily Review is spelled “D1. Daily Review” so that it is always the first and the first if I also select the Daily tag.
  • Tickler. Things I need to be reminded of but aren’t actionable. I have three notebooks here: No Date, Days, and Weeks.
  • Projects. Notebooks in this Stack are Active, Incubate (can’t act quite, yet), Waiting For, Delegate, and Someday/Maybe. Each note is a project here, tagged by Area of Focus. I also created subareas to make sorting and viewing easier. As you may spot in the initial screenshot, I use a particular template for my project notes that helps me outline my next actions, identifies the long-term goal the project is (hopefully) associated with, related notes/links, ideas, start/end date, and more. 10,000 foot level.
  • Areas of Focus. Not much more than a list of my current Areas of Focus and a little used page. 20,000 foot level.
  • Goals and Objectives. My short to mid-term goals. 30,000 foot level.
  • Vision. What I want to accomplish, learn, etc. in my life. 40,000 foot level.
  • Purpose. Who I’m supposed to be. I guess I’m not entirely sure, yet, since this notebook is currently empty. 50,000 foot level.
  • Development. Project overflow, inbox for all my audio recordings, handy place for projects that need entire notebooks.
  • Ideas. Every idea I record about nearly anything.
  • Journal (work). So I don’t forget how much more than my lists I’ve actually done in a workday.
  • Lists. Things I like, want, etc. This probably should become an entire post to itself.
  • Reference. Notes I want to keep for future… uh… reference.
  • Shortcuts/Support. Typically text I often copy-and-paste. Helps a lot for “lorem ipsum” situations when designing.

Tagging projects

No need to go into all the tags I use, but the most useful I’ve found for GTD are those for Areas of Focus when applied to my projects. My hierarchy is:

  • Career
  • Personal
  • Work

Career, Personal, and Work are good “super buckets” for my areas, though dividing them further beneath these buckets helps me sort my project notes much faster.

Future Use

More could be done to make my use of Evernote for Getting Things Done more effective but thus far I’m extremely satisfied. I’ll be writing more about this in the future, but I hope you find this information useful in the meantime!


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5 Responses to “My Evernote + GTD Setup”

  1. 1
    December 10, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    Very nicely set up system, I like the spread of rubber meets the road items as well as higher altitude items like vision and purpose. I found that managing next actions in evernote is not ideal as well. I tried the GTD tool in Springpadit and also Rember the milk but neither of them really did the trick. I now just use the note pad on my phone and update Evernote from that.

    • 1.1
      Weszt | Reply
      December 10, 2010 at 7:39 pm

      Even the basic notepad app runs slow at the moment in my 3G iPhone so I’ve gone back to paper. I’d LOVE to be fully digital, but no such luck. At least paper doesn’t need batteries!

      That being said, Evernote serves as a backup in a sense. I work out all my Next Actions in a project note then transfer those to context lists in my homemade organizer. This way if I were to lose my organizer, I don’t lose my actions. Of course, transferring them takes a little time, but maybe it’s a good thing to have the tactile connection with the tasks?

  2. 2
    February 3, 2011 at 11:37 am

    It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate to this superb blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to new updates and will talk about this website with my Facebook group. Chat soon!

  3. 3
    Jonathan | Reply
    March 12, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    How did you stack keywords/tags? Is there a way I can do this?

    • 3.1
      Weszt | Reply
      March 20, 2011 at 3:09 pm

      You can build a hierarchy with tags, definitely. Initial icon doesn’t look any different, but it’s the same idea.

      Just drag a keyword onto another keyword and you’re on your way!

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