August, 2013

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Getting Things Done With Evernote Folders


Evernote has become the premier cloud-based note taking application.  It is widely popular because of its flexibility of deployment.  It is available via web browsers, mobile devices, and as a local install on Mac and Windows computers.  Since your notes are stored in the cloud, you have instant access from all of your devices.

The flexibility of Evernote extends to filing, retrieval, and search.  You can organize your notes using folders and tags.  Think of folders as physical folders and tags as smaller buckets within the folders.  Finding a note is a quick process of navigating through a folder or a tag.  And if you choose to use only one or very few notebooks, or even no tags at all, you can easily search by keyword to find your notes.  It’s like having the google search engine attached to your filing cabinet.

Evernote alone could allow you to go paperless.  Paper documents can be scanned and uploaded as notes.  Even Microsoft Office documents can be stored.  Or you can create a note and type the content.  PDF and image files are scanned by the Evernote servers so you can search for those files by keyword.  Premium members even get Microsoft Office scanning.

Now let’s take a look at how to use Evernote in conjunction with David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology, or GTD as it is commonly known.  GTD accomplishes stress-free productivity by collecting all actions, projects, and reference materials thereby allowing your mind the freedom to do and create without trying to remember what you need to do.

Evernote is the perfect virtual filing cabinet.  Folders can be created for all of your projects.  These folders can be “stacked” in Evernote to combine smaller projects under a larger project.  Or you can stack all work projects together and all personal projects together.  These folders will hold all support materials related to your projects.  You can even forward emails to a special Evernote address with simple coding in the subject line so you can save it in the correct folder and tag without having to touch it later.

There are many guides available that show how to execute the entire GTD system within Evernote.  The application is perfectly capable and has a few features that help with that process.  Reminders will allow you set “due dates” for actions or follow-ups.  Folder stacking allows you keep context lists separate from reference material.  Since the folders are sorted alphabetically, you can use symbols such as # or @ to keep your action lists at the top.

Folders can be shared among project team members.  However, true collaboration is a bit bulky since Evernote is not a folder-syncing service, it is a filing cabinet.  Dropbox or SugarSync is much more suited for the task of sharing the same spreadsheet among team members.  Google Drive is also a way to sync spreadsheets or word processing documents.

I have been using Evernote for about 3 years.  It is a necessary tool in my business and personal life.  I use it for everything, project reference, recipes, location reminders (GPS coordinates can be saved along your note), tax return copies, household bills, and other items I just need to remember.  I have a picture of the water filter for my refrigerator, a copy of my passport, birth certificate, company phonebook, health insurance card, report cards, school calendar, the list can go on forever.

Your data is encrypted and safe.  I have read many reviews by folks a lot more technical than myself and I have seen nothing to cause concern.  Even so, you should still practice regular password changes.  Changing your password regularly is the single most important way to protect your data.

While I know Evernote is an awesome application and is a suitable one-stop shop for a GTD system, I have chosen to use it for reference only.  There will be a future post on my preferred to-do list system, both the cloud and mobile component.