My GTD System With Evernote and OmniFocus Today


When I want to decide about my daily activities, I use GTD system developed by David Allen to pull of some of the tasks, or ideas that I have put into my information pull.

When I worked in the intelligence department in Customs Administration, we develop a system as an intelligence cycle which starts with an information pull. That’s a place where each information about everything regardless the meaning and importance are placed there. It is something like capturing process and inbox in the GTD system. In that level, meaning, importance and usefulness of the information is not important. Thеsе activities are part of processing process of each information and deciding what will be next steps about each of them.

Because we live in a highly messy world, our mind continuously learns to process different stuffs. And there is a lot of stuff. On the other side, everything that comes to our mind is not always connected with our current activities. The best way is to put all of that stuff in a pull that will enable you everything will be processed later.

In the process of collecting stuff in the last several years I try to build a system that will support me based on different systems. I try to use different productivity tools that will help me to remember things around me, and things produced by my mind. That’s the first level of becoming more productive.

Still, I can’t find unique one tool as a solution for my collecting activities. For example, I am using Evernote to collect and store everything around me. It’s useful for me to capture ideas as I go, to capture different read it later materials, to capture different reference material, etc. Different ideas, different references, different read it later materials come from many places, and Evernote is simple to use and integrate that places around me.

Then when I need to process everything that I collect or capture I go through my inbox notebook (my pull, or place where I collect unprocessed stuff), and look at each of the notes there. The following decisions I made in this process:

  • What is the note? As a first I need to find what the note will represent for my future work. Many of them are reading materials in which I need to scan quickly, and if I find something worth I will replace in my reference notebook with appropriate tags and comments. Everything remaining that is part of reading materials, and I scanned without finding value I will delete. There will also be notes that need some type of action from me. That notes I move into the todo notebook in my Evernote account. In such a way, I work until I clean everything from my inbox notebook.
  • Can I do it now? When I process notes that are actionable the first thing that I need to answer is can I do it now. Because, this processing in large part is at the evening as preparation for my tomorrows day, I don’t have too much time to work on the tasks. In such a situation, the 2 minutes limit for doing things now from GTD system is most suitable for me. Many of the notes will be a simple answer on email or things that I can make in less than 2 minutes. Before anything else that I will make with the notes in my todo inbox I will clean everything that I can do in less than 2 minutes. In many cases five to ten notes will be finished and cleaned in 10 to 20 minutes. In such a way, I escape to lose my time in planning activities for notes that will need less than two minutes to be finished, because such a planning will take me more than two minutes.
  • How important is the action? The next level, when my inbox is cleaned, and my todo notebook has only tasks that will need more than 2 minutes to be done I start with the processing of my action list. As a first thing that I need to do is to prioritize the possible actions before I decide when I will need to do them. This part of job I am doing through adding a number in a title of notebook that enables me when I sort notes by title to look at most important actions as first. For example, if something is with high importance, I write #1 at the beginning of the title, for important things I write #2, for medium important things #3, and low important things #4.
  • What I need to do with the actions? The next level is to look at my number-one priority actions and decide what I need to do with them. In most of the cases, all of these actions marked as #1 will go into my OmniFocus inbox because they are important and will need to be completed as quickly as possible. With the possibilities to copy notes, I can use a link of the note in my Evernote account and put it in the OmniFocus as a reference for my tasks. Because OmniFocus is not so good for detailed explanations about the tasks, this is the perfect way to make a connection between task and note about that task. When I finish with the number-one priorities, I continue with the next one. In such a way, again I go through all notes in my todo notebook until I clean all of them and put them into my OmniFocus inbox. Again, when I transfer tasks from Evernote to OmniFocus I pay attention on the mark about priority, because I will need another processing into the OmniFocus, and I don’t want to lose the priorities from my notebooks. This is easy because the link to the notes in Evernote will be displayed as a note title.
  • Do I need to do the task, or I can delegate it? I always start with the highest priority tasks marked as #1 and first question that I ask myself is about who will be responsible for the task. If I can delegate the task, I will put it into the context of the task person that will be responsible to take care of it and send him email. Usually I use sharing functionality in Evernote, where I have notebooks that I share with the persons to whom I delegate tasks. That, task as a note in Evernote will go into that folder to be available for their reference. In such a way, I will know who will be responsible, and I can easily follow the progress.
  • When I need to start doing the rest of the tasks? Now, because in my OmniFocus inbox, I have tasks that need to be done from me, I can start processing them in such a way that I can ensure each of the tasks will be finished. The processing process means scheduling tasks for exact time when it needs to be done, put them into appropriate projects, context and adding time that I will need to finish each of them. This process will finish when the inbox folder in OmniFocus will become empty.

In the perspective view in the OmniFocus I have captured three perspectives titled as quick, medium and longer. This perspectives show me the tasks that will need to be done today, but in correlation of time that I need to work on them. This will help me to become more organized in addition to other functionality of OmniFocus as contexts and projects. Quick perspective show me the tasks that I need to do today, but in less than 15 minutes, and medium perspective will show me tasks that will need less than an hour. The last, longer perspective show me tasks that I need to finish today, but they will need more than one hour to be completed. In such a way, I can quickly go through tasks that I need to complete today tasks depending on the time that each task will require to be completed.

This is the process that I use today, and I update and change as I learn something more, or the experience show me that I need to change something. Probably, It is not the best solution, but I start with something as a good basis for improvements.

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