Evernote and GTD (Getting Things Done)

Getting_Things_DoneNote:  Utilizing Evernote with GTD was adopted from the current Office Manager in the Austin Evernote Office, who has successfully been using Evernote with GTD for day to day operations for a year+

Getting Things Done (or as practitioners call it GTD) is a time management method, described in a book of the same title by productivity consultant David Allen.

The GTD method rests on the idea of moving planned tasks and projects out of one’s mind by recording them somewhere and then breaking them into actionable work items. This allows one to focus attention on taking action on tasks, instead of trying to remember everything you have to do (Taken from Wikipedia).

Modern readers of the book might think some of the ideas are a little dated as we try to move to a (near) paperless office, not file folders, much less enough room for a filter cabinet large enough to folder a folder for every single day of the week (though if that method works for you, use it).  The best way to do GTD is the way that works for you.

A more modern method of using GTD is to use to create a paperless system with an app like Evernote, where you can run this app on your desktop or the web and your mobile device.

  1. You can create a note, just to capture (write down) everything that comes to mind that you need to do.
  2. After you have this list you can review each of the items, if it takes only a couple minutes, do it now and be done with it – then you can cross it off your list
  3. For task that will take more time, these are projects, you can break them into sub-list or just keep one long list.
    • Sublist would be categories like Current projects, 1 to 2-year goals, bucket list, etc.
  4. Now create a few notebooks to help manage these projects (you can keep this note in a notebook with a name like “capture” for recording everything that you want to do as it comes to mind – I have a habit of calling such a notebook “dumping ground” – I dump all my ideas there. Now to organize your projects.
    1. Active Projects – projects that you are working on now
    2. Archive or Completed Projects – for projects that are done
    3. Priority Projects – Things you need to complete today
    4. Research – these can projects where you need more information or you are just working out ideas.
  5. These are a few notebook name ideas.  However, names can be anything that is useful to you
    1. The general idea is that you create a note for each project, listing out what the purpose of the project is (unless there is enough information in the note title)
    2. And add in what  you need to do next “Next Action”
    3. You can move the note to Priority Projects meaning you need to work on it today or first thing tomorrow morning – you can even add reminders if you need to do something at a certain time or place
    4. If it is something you are working on, but not the top of your list  for today, you can move the note to Active Projects

Hope that helps get you started, the key things for GTD. 1) is that takes time to become a habit and useful for you and 2) you adapt it to your needs to make it work best for you.

Here is another great article about GTD from LifeHacker

As for my Setup using Evernote

  1. I have a Stack called GTD (which is a collection of Notebooks) – and within it, I have several GTD notebooks, I can put the prefix each notebook name with  “GTD -” so I wouldn’t get the notebook confused with any other notebooks.
  2. One Notebook is called “GTD – Life” (just things for me) one is for a Non-Profit that I do work for and one for Martial arts (I’m the school photographer).
  3. I have a notebook book called “Incubate” where I just work on project brainstorming
  4. There is another notebook, that is just shopping list that I share with my daughter for when we go grocery shopping on the weekends (often early morning before most folks are out and about to avoid crowds and making shopping easier)
  5. I found the term “bucket list” a bit sad, so I named mine “Experiences yet to be had”

GTDThe Shopping List notebook title is blue, due to Shared Notebooks appearing with the color blue on Windows

A nice (8 minute) Book Summary of GTD can be found on Youtube


Organizing those books

I love books and I have a lot of them, in physical form and digital, as ebooks or Audiobooks.   I keep track of what I read via Goodreads, which is a great website, you can create yearly reading goals, a “want to read” list, link with friends and find similar books in the same genre.  Goodreads also has an app, which handy but you have to mark something read and then go add a review to set the date you read it (if you are tracking reading goals), whereas on the website you just click “Read” and you get to do that all on in a single screen.

The audiobooks are in my Audible library and there is a wish list too.

Physical books are a bit tougher to track, I have 3 full-size bookshelves, some of the shelves are double stacked, and a half height bookshelf (I did a lot of cleaning the last time I moved and took things to Half Price Books for some cash.

I want to know what is on my shelves when I am book shopping to see if I own it, or have something by a particular series or author (you can have series with multiple authors).  Often when I want this information I am in a  place with bad cell phone service (like the library) and I don’t want all the information in GoodReads (I would have to be online) and I didn’t feel like creating a separate collection just called “I own”.

The solution (for me) is LibraryThing – which is a website and an app.  The App can scan the barcodes of your books, and allows you to look up books by name (and you can enter the ISBN manually).   There is an app for iOS (iPhone) or Android and it is free.  I have able to scan my library (with the time taken to re-arrange books) in about 3 hours one Sunday afternoon – and that is with 487 books (I removed 3 I didn’t want any longer.

Which box is that thing in?

I have lots of boxes and don’t know what is in them or where a particular box is.  I often have a good guess, I remember owning something and know it is in a box and managed to have most of my boxes in only a few places, the office, the closet, the garage. However, that isn’t helpful enough I really need something.  I do not like having to do a task, to have that turn into a task + remembering where I put that one thing that I need to do the task.

So I have 2 problems:

  1.  Which box is the item I want in? and where is that particular box?
  2. If I open a box: how to do I easily tell what is in it?


  1. Evernote + photos,
  2. QR Codes
  3. And finally labels for printing out QR codes to stick to boxes

This is a bit of effort to get started or do, however, it saves time later making my life easier, so the worth the work.  You can also use your own storage place of choice, I like Evernote since it is on my desktop and my phone.  Plus I can generate URLs that link to a particular link with the note that contains the information I want – you can use other services that also create unique URLs – like a personal blog.

I have a box:

A semi-clear plastic box of cables

I can see into the box.  However, that doesn’t mean I know everything that is in there, or where that box is when I need it.


  1. I open the box and pull everything out on the table (or floor) and take a photo, plus a few extra close up photos of anything that you might want to have a better picture of or a close-up shot for more detail.
  2. Now to create a new note in Evernote
  3. You can either create a note on your mobile device (there is a version of Evernote for iOS and Android) and then just attach the photos.  Or transfer your photos to your computer and create a note that – you can plug in your phone to transfer, or a use a feature of Dropbox or Google Drive to upload photos for you.
  4. Once the note is created, sync the note (which is as easy as leaving the note and it will automatically sync if you have a network connection)
  5. Go to your desktop (just because it is easier) open the note – and type of a brief list of all the items in the photo (I put mine into a table) – I have a template for that if you like.
  6. Now Create a note link – by right-clicking on the note and choosing “Copy Internal Link) – this will NOT create a public link, it is private
  7. Go to a QR generator – I use this free one:  https://www.qrcode-monkey.com/
  8. Enter the URL you just created, in the field labeled “Your URL”
  9. Create the QR code
  10. And then Download it – will be an image (default format is PNG which doesn’t take up much space)
  11. Finally, near the end – it is time to print the code on a label (stick) using your favorite printing software
    1. Personally, I used Avery labels 22805 (square labels). Avery has ready-made templates for free on their website, which make them easy to use (at least for me)
  12. Place the label on the box
  13. Put the box away and return to your note and at the top put in information about the box location – which is called cross-indexing.


Finding stuff

  1. So you have 2 ways to find things in this box now
  2. If you are at the box, you can open a camera app an go to QR mode (many cameras support this feature)
    • 2018-01-31 16.18.39
  3. Scan the QR code and it will ask if you want to go to the link
    • You might need to log into Evernote on the web the first time, then in the future, it will ask if you want to open the link in the app
    • Now a quick scan will tell you what is in the box
    • 2018-01-31 16.30.48
  4. The other way to find things is by searching in Evernote for that “thing” you want to find
    1. This will open the note and tell you which box it is in, and where the box is located
    2. For my 1st box, the location information for me was “Office, bookshelf near printer, top shelf, right side”



How to get a Note link in Evenote

On Evernote for windows, there are 2 ways to get a note link.  You can also generate a public link if you wish to share the note with other folks.

With the note open on the desktop

  1. Method 1
    1. Go to the menu
    2. Click on Note
    3. Scroll down to Copy Internal Link
  2. Method 2
    1. Go to your note in the any of the views of a notebook you have open, my personal favorite is the Snippet view, there is also list and thumbnail views to name a copy others.
    2. Right-click on the note you want a link for
    3. From the context menu that appears (the magic pop up menu)
    4. Choose Copy Internal Link

Now the link is in the clipboard, go to where ever you want the link and paste it in.

  • If you paste the link to another note in Evernote, the link will be the name of the note (and usually in green)
  • If you paste the link to something outside of Evernote, like a QR code generator, you will get a URL that points to the note
    • This is a private URL – meaning you will need to log into your account in order to view the contents of the note