Getting Things Done with Evernote—Projects Part 3: Templates + Workflow

by Brandon on February 20, 2012

Evernote

Now that you’ve learned to create templates in Evernote for both Windows and Mac, it’s time to incorporate the templates into your GTD workflow.

In GTD, a project is defined as “any outcome you’re committed to achieving that will take more than one action step to complete”. I’ve created an Evernote note template that I use to plan each and every project that I take on. The template is based on the “Five Phases of Project Planning” (see Getting Things Done Chapter 3), and it looks like this:

ScreenClip [5]

You can download a copy of this template using the link at the bottom of this post. Use the information from the previous two posts to easily import the template back into Evernote.

Before continuing, I suggest you re-read Chapter 3 of Getting Things Done—”Getting Projects Creatively Under Way: The Five Phases of Project Planning”. David Allen describes how to tackle projects much better than I can.

Now that you’re familiar with the process, I’ll use a simple example to illustrate my GTD project workflow. Let’s say I need to plan a dinner to celebrate my girlfriend’s birthday. The first thing I do is open up Evernote and press the Windows key + t to import my GTD Project Note Template into my Inbox. I open the note and fill in the project name: “Birthday Celebration Dinner”. Next, I fill in the Purpose/Principles: “To socialize and celebrate with friends”. Then I fill in the Outcome: “Sitting in the restaurant with my girlfriend and our closest friends eating some great food”. Once that’s out of the way, I take a minute or two and write down everything I can possibly think of about the project in the Brainstorming section. When my mind is clear, I decide on the Next Action and fill in that section of the template. The Next Action will most likely have a context associated with it. If it does, I’ll tag the note with the appropriate context tag (i.e. @Calls, @Computer, @Waiting For). Unlike single next actions that are stored in the ‘Next’ notebook, next actions for Projects do not need the @Action tag.

Once the template is filled in, I move it into the *Projects List notebook  tag it ‘*Project’. Create a new notebook in the ’3. Projects’ notebook stack and give it the name of the project. Move the project template note here.

I can use this new notebook to store any information I collect along the way (project support materials). For example, I could use it to store restaurant reviews, directions, a guest list, gift ideas, phone numbers, etc.

I can access all of my projects and get a quick overview of all the next actions using the *Projects List saved search:

The project template note will also show up in the context tag saved search that it is associated with.

During the course of the project, I continually update the next action and its context. I also add new information to the brainstorming section whenever a new idea pops into my head.

Once the outcome has been achieved, I go through the project notebook that was created and archive/delete the notes as I see fit. Once all the notes are processed, I delete the notebook along with the project template note.

That wraps up the basics of my Getting Things Done with Evernote system. The process is a little hard to explain on paper, but, with a little practice, it is quite easy to implement. In time, you should be able to build a GTD system you can trust where all the information is easily accessible from your computer or your mobile device. When that happens, you can free your mind to focus on the things you truly value.

Click the link below to download a few sample files that may help you get started (updated 10/22/2012):

GTD Evernote Templates

 

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Matthias October 18, 2012 at 3:12 AM

Thank you for your great blog.
Could you please upload your template file in a normal zip file and not the unusual 7z file?
Thanx a lot

Reply

Brandon October 18, 2012 at 8:57 AM

Thanks for the kind words Matthias. I’ll see what I can do about uploading a normal zip file. In the meantime, you can use 7-Zip (http://www.7-zip.org/) for Windows or The Unarchiver (http://wakaba.c3.cx/s/apps/unarchiver.html) for Mac to extract the files. Both programs are Lifehacker favourites.

Other than the unusual zip format, were all the instructions clear? Was all the code visible? I’ve has one or two users saying that they couldn’t see some of the lines of code.

Cheers

Reply

Eldon October 24, 2012 at 6:08 PM

Thanks Brandon for taking your time to present this info.

Lets say u have 10 projects–some personal, some work, or whatever. Therefore there would be 10 next steps and some, or all, with dates to be done on or by. How do u keep track of all the next steps and dates?

Thanks,
-Eldon

Reply

Brandon October 25, 2012 at 2:02 AM

In each Project notebook there is a Project Template note that lists the next action for each project. I label this note either *Personal Project, *School Project, etc. depending on its context (you can create as many or as few different *Project tags depending on your situation. The * is there to make it easier to fill in the tags. As soon as I type *, Evernote lists all my *Project tag options to choose from). I also give this note a context tag (i.e. @Computer, @Calls, @Agenda). If there is a due date associated with a Next Action, you could also add a tag like @Deadline or @Appt to remind you to check your calendar for more details. Make sure you add the Next Action to your calendar. You could also put a reminder such as “see calendar” in the Next Action section of the Project template note. When you are filling in the calendar details, you can add a link back to your note (Share -> Copy Note URL To Clipboard). The calendar is the first and last thing I check each day, so I’m pretty aware of Next Actions that have due dates associated with them. I also have saved searches set up for all my different Projects (one for All Projects, one of Personal Projects, etc.) as well as saved searches set up for each context tag. These saved searches allow me to quickly browse through my Projects or, for example, I could browse through all my Next Actions (Project related or otherwise) that are tagged with @Deadline/@Appt.

It might sound a little confusing, but once it’s set up, you can easily keep track of all your Next Actions and dates.

Let me know if that helps at all, and feel free to ask more questions. Cheers.

Reply

Matteo October 26, 2012 at 8:39 PM

Thank you for the tutorial. I’m just starting out with GTD and this has been helpful.

I have one question. Let’s say you have a project made of multiple, independent parts. As an example, let’s say I’m creating a website and I can install the necessary software on the server while my web designer is working on the website layout. These two distinct “phases” would have different purposes, outcomes and next actions, but belong to the same project, am I right? How would you handle this with your system?

Reply

Brandon October 26, 2012 at 11:14 PM

In GTD, a project is defined as any outcome you are committed to achieving that will take more than one action step to complete. So instead of looking at the entire thing as one big project, break it down into smaller projects (install software, website layout). Each of these smaller projects has its own project template note (with its own next action, purpose, etc.) and its own project notebook. If you want, instead of having one main Project Notebook Stack with all of your project notebooks nested inside, you can have multiple notebook stacks. For example, one stack for personal projects, one stack for projects related to the website, and any other stacks you may need. Also, give a project a specific label depending on what stack it is in (*Personal Project, *Website Project, etc.). When all the website projects are complete, you can delete that notebook stack or merge it with another.

That may have been a bit confusing, so here is a picture:

Don’t think of my system as a set of rules. GTD is very personal. I’m constantly evolving/adapting my system. So use these articles as a starting point, then modify the system as you go along to better suit your needs.

Reply

DR October 29, 2012 at 3:53 PM

I found your blog recently and read all the posts with great interest. I have been following GTD in Evernote, but not exactly the way you have mentioned in your posts. I think yours sounds better and need to give a try.

I have a question on “Next Actions” in projects. In your practice, once you complete a next action in a project, do you immediately bring another action to the next action status or do you do this in your next review of all your projects?

Also, in some projects, I might not have a next action immediately. (I might be waiting for something to fire my next action. So technically no next action yet). Do do we handle this?

Thanks again for the lovely blog and hope you can do posts more frequently.

Reply

Brandon October 29, 2012 at 4:16 PM

Thanks for the kind words.

Ideally, you should update the next action as soon as the current next action is completed. If you happen to forget or are unable to update it, chances are you’ll catch it next time you review your projects list, so update it then and there.

If you have delegated a next action, label the project note “@Waiting For” and put “Wait for … ” in the next action section of the note. If you have saved searches set up to review your next actions by context, this project will then show up in your Waiting For list.

I hope that helps.

Reply

tobias March 1, 2013 at 4:00 AM

Hi Brandon,

Thanks for all the work that goes into sharing your ideas.

How do you work with deferred projects or actions that you would like to revisit at a later date? Have you set up a tickler system?
Thanks,
T

Reply

Brandon March 6, 2013 at 1:30 PM

Hi Tobias,

Next Actions that I never seem to get around to doing get put in my Someday/maybe notebook. For projects that I decide to defer, I have a separate notebook stack called “Future Projects”. Anything with a date associated with it gets put on my calendar. I have a bit of a tickler system which I wrote about in my post on email and calendar integration.

Reply

Jack O June 23, 2013 at 9:03 AM

Love your blog! I’m in the process of converting my Evernote account according to these recommendations.

There is one thing above that I was a little confused by. My use case is that I’d like to be able to see a full list of my Next Actions, whether they are singletons (in the Next notebook) or associated with a Project.

I noticed, however, that you don’t have a Saved Search to cover that. And in fact, above you say “Unlike single next actions that are stored in the ‘Next’ notebook, next actions for Projects do not need the @Action tag.”

I’d be curious to hear why you don’t use a single query to include both sets of Next Actions. Or if you DO have a way of seeing them all in one result set, I’d like to see what that query looks like.

As a workaround for now, I’m thinking of tagging the Project note with an @Action tag as well so that they show up in the @Next Actions query.

Thanks for your time!

Reply

Brandon June 23, 2013 at 10:27 AM

Yes, that’s correct. I don’t have a master list that includes both sets of Next Actions. If I want to see Project Next Actions, then I look at the Projects list, and if I want to see single Next Actions, then I look at the Next Actions list. Just personal preference. I do, however, have saved searches for each context, and these saved searches include Next Actions from both sets. So, for example, the @Computer list will contain all Next Actions (single or Project related) that I currently have. To make a single master list of all the Next Actions, you could easily combine the Next Actions and Project saved searches, that way both sets of notes will show up.

Reply

Shannon September 2, 2013 at 11:49 PM

Hi Brandon – thanks for all this info! I read your post here (http://www.mysimplecuriosity.com/getting-things-done-with-evernoteprojects-part-1-note-templates-for-windows/#respond) and set up the AHK script, the .bat file and the .enex file. Everything worked great!

So here’s what happened next – I opened my .enex file, deleted everything inside and pasted the code from *this* post so I could get the template you were showing. The terminal window flashed, but no note was created in Evernote.

I tried deleting the new text, recopying the original .enex file I created from your tutorial, and everything worked fine again.

I scrolled through the comments to see if maybe there was a correction to the code in there, but I didn’t catch it. Am I doing something wrong?

Reply

Brandon September 3, 2013 at 10:43 AM

If you read through the comments here, http://www.mysimplecuriosity.com/getting-things-done-with-evernoteprojects-part-1-note-templates-for-windows/#respond, there have been several people experiencing similar problems. Double-check your batch file to make sure you have it configured correctly.

Reply

Nigel March 16, 2014 at 8:40 PM

Hi Brandon, great post and very helpful.
what do you do to deal with sub-projects or projects within projects? Do you create a project for each? or when you have multiple ‘next actions’ for a project?

further, how do you deal with some of the elevated stuff in GTD – the 10,000ft, 20,000ft etc. incorporating projects into longer term strategy or goals.

Cheers
Nigel

Reply

Brandon June 15, 2014 at 6:16 PM

Hi Nigel,

Sorry for the delay. There are a few different ways you can handle sub-projects. Firstly, you can create a new projects notebook stack dedicated to the “main” project. Then, each sub-project is handled as a regular project and get its own project template note and project support materials notebook within the stack. Alternatively, you could have one project support materials notebook for the “main” project within the regular projects notebook stack, and this notebook is used to store all of the project template notes for the sub-projects. In either case, I recommend decomposing big projects into smaller pieces, as it usually helps to cut down the number of next actions that could be performed at any one time.

If you still find that you have multiple next actions, I have tinkered with organizing potential next actions into a few different states: (1) Running – the next action you are currently working on; (2) Ready – any next action that is able to be performed given the right context; (3) Blocked – next actions that require other steps to be taken before they become actionable. Then, based on context, you can swap next actions between the Ready and Running states and move next actions from Blocked to Ready when they become actionable.

Big picture/elevated stuff…I have a separate note for each of the 20,000, 30,000, 40,000, 50,000 areas of focus. There is nothing special about the format of these notes. They are relatively short and the content is based off the descriptions in the book. I try to review these notes every month, and they are inspired by the things that I value and tend to influence the projects that I decide to take on.

I hope that helps. Cheers.

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 6 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: