[This is part two in a series of posts about “Getting Organized” using the Evernote toolset.]

Getting Organized Series Outline

The Life of A Task

The system I am using has a few stages. The stages all happen quickly as they are easy to manage. Let’s go through the lifecycle of a task in the hybrid system I’ve created for myself in my Evernote account.

  • Conception – I created an “inbox” notebook (think of a notebook as a folder for lack of a better term) in Evernote and set it as my default.
    A notebook for every mike

    A notebook for each Mike

    If I am receiving a task,idea, project or something similar (all called “Task” from here) I create a note in this inbox and a task is conceived.

  • Classification – This is usually done along side conceiving a task but can happen later if just creating a quick note on the fly.  Here, I  organize my notes into  a small set of categories I created based on the question “Which Mike?” This classification makes sense to me since the answer implies a different venue, train of thought or degree of focus.
    • Employee – All notes having to do with work are tagged by the employer name.
    • At Home Mike –  Husband, Father, Fix it man, chicken farmer & vegetable gardener. These notes get tagged “home”.
    • Consultant – I consult a little on the side. These tasks get tagged “StraightPath”.
    • Blogger – Blog ideas go to the “Blog Fodder” tag.
    • PASS Volunteer/User Group Leader – The combination take enough time that it deserved a tag, “PASS/UserGroup”
    • Allow myself to introduce Myself – My faith, health, goals, lifetime learning, etc. I tag these, “Sharpen The Saw” (From a Franklin Covey Time Management Course)
  • Prioritization – Now I have a full inbox categorized to one of my multiple personalities. I need to prioritize the tasks and empty that inbox. Both happen here. Each tag mentioned at classification has a notebook. When I assign priority, I move the task to the proper notebook or just do it it is quicker or a missed task overdue. I don’t prioritize constantly. I always add tasks but I try to do this stage 3-4 times a day. This way I spend more time completing tasks and less time
    The Priority Tags I use

    Numbered for easy selecting, my priorities

    assigning them. The priorities:

    • Due Today – This is a task that really has to be done today. If I can just push it off to tomorrow, it shouldn’t have been here (Under normal conditions, obviously production issues happen that take time).  If it is the end of the day, I may assign a task here “ahead of time” for the next day.
    • Due Soon – I know what soon means to me so I know what I am trying to convey here. If there were no tasks on me due today, these should be done. If it is Monday, they should be done by Weds or Thurs for work related tasks at the latest.
    • Due Someday/Later – I am sure GTD and Time Management gurus are ripping off their shirts and putting on sackcloth and ash now, “Someday! What is that!?!” To me, this is a nice to have, really should do that I intend on whittling off. If it doesn’t get done the world won’t be as good as it could have been but it won’t implode (unless it was to “recheck Large Hadron Collider and verify no black hole created”). I used to use the “Later” type task priority as a pre-trash-trash bin. I will try to kill that.
    • Reference – I know, not a “priority”. If I am in a meeting I may have a “Due Today” task with “Questions for Storage Meeting” as the start of the meeting note. As I get my answers and the meeting is wrapping up, I delete the Due Today priority and replace it with “reference”. Still searchable, not stressing me out as a “to do”.
    • Waiting On – It may be an important task (and if it is, it will be in the “Due Today” or “Due Soon” category at the same time as this one) but this reminds me that I am waiting on someone else. Comes in handy when reviewing open tasks.
    • What Note? Evernote has a trash barrel. If I don’t need a done task or idea for reference, I’ll delete it. The grocery list my wife gave me today is a great example.

My Blog Fodder Notebook

The Blog Fodder Notebook, open to this series' idea note

  • Separate Notebooks – Each of my “Which Mike” categories has a notebook. This is typically where a note will go once I’ve assigned a priority. It clears the inbox and allows me to search within a folder as a limiter. I also have a  couple other folders like Contacts (for paperless business cards, more in a later post) or Reference folders for reference items (blog posts clipped from web, kb articles, white papers, diagrams, etc.)
  • Complete – Once a task has been completed I remove the priority tag and leave it in the proper “Which Mike?” notebook. I have an archive category and folder in case I want to start archiving by quarter, month or year in the future. For now it works.

That’s It?

Really, yeah. This is the easy part. The tough part is discipline. This isn’t some revolutionary system. It really has pieces that the “GTD people” seem to follow and some aspects of a time management program. It also contains good old fashioned task management 101 principles. I like it and it works for me, though. Why? I can think of a few reasons –

  • One System – No notebook sprawl. No Post-It’s on monitors.
  • Crisp and Clean – My desk doesn’t is clean(former colleagues know what I mean and you can share with the readers about my paperwork mountains)
  • Better Steward – No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, it makes sense to be a better steward of our environment. It’s also nice to be a better steward of company resources – saving some paper helps a little.
  • I KEEP USING IT! – This is the easiest system I have used so far because I like it and I keep up with it. Maybe that is because I have it with me everywhere and on all these fun to use devices. Maybe it is because I created my own notebook, categories, tags and I control the flow.

If you want to win the free premium upgrade for Evernote, don’t forget to leave a comment on the first post, by the way. We need at least 10 people to comment and it has to be done before midnight on Friday 7/23.

Upcoming Posts in the Getting Organized Series, subscribe to my feed to receive the next posts as they publish.

The Death of a Task, Man – I’ll discuss some of the soft skills I am employing or hope to employ in my quest to kill tasks. I’ll also talk about how I do “task checks” and search for tasks and a few more technical helps but those will be from the soft skill perspective.

451 Degrees – Good For Notebooks – I talked about the main reason I came to a tool like Evernote is to replace my horrible notebooks that I can’t read or search. I’ll go into a little more details here, talk about some apps I’ve found useful alongside it and then I’ll talk about a few features I wish existed.

I’d love to hear your approach! If you want to share your approach or what bugs you see in my current approach, I’d love to hear about it. You can comment here on this post or, if you want to be entered into the license giveaway, you can leave your comment on the first post. Now, it’s off to check off a few tasks.

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