I’m a big fan of the note-writing and sharing app, Evernote. As a professor, a University administrator, a husband, and a father, I am constantly receiving tasks and little pieces of information that I’m expected to keep track of and complete, sooner or later. Evernote allows me to keep a collection of to-do lists for all of my projects at work, home, and play. I can access it on all of my devices.
How I record tasks
Whenever I accept to do tasks, I create a new note. The heading in the note describes the task, usually with a verb (i.e. “Prepare November 10 class”). Within the note, I sometimes write more details about the task that I need to remember. I sometimes create checklists within notes. And I keep track of the progress of each tasks within these notes. Using my smartphone, I can take a picture of something, and then turn that into a note. Or I can forward an e-mail message to create a note.
I have created one notebook for each project or category of work I do. For example, each class I teach has a notebook. I keep a “blog” notebook for this blog. I have a “money” notebook for my personal finances. I assign every note (or task) to one of these notebooks.
Whenever a task carries a due date, I record it as a “reminder” part of the note.
I also assign “tags” to notes. I have created a separate tag for each person I work with, so that I can look up every note that is associated with each person.
A daily agenda
I can look at lists of due dates within individual notebooks, or for all notes at once in order to identify that tasks that must be completed soon. Then I mark each task I plan to do now with a “shortcut,” indicated with a five-point star. Then I search through different notebooks, assigning shortcuts to whatever tasks I plan to do next. As such, the list of shortcuts is my short “to do” list.
Alternatively, I sometimes work on one project at a time. When doing this, I focus on just one notebook, scrolling through the tasks as I prioritize and work through them.
When I meet with individuals to go over current projects, I look up all notes associated with their tags. This allows me to follow up on all of the notes associated with each person.
When I complete a task, I delete it. Evernote saves all deleted tasks within its “trash” notebook.
Evernote features apps for iOS, Android, Windows and Mac OS, synchronizing tasks across all devices. This allows me to access my lists wherever I am.
Annoying things about Evernote
Evernote was not really designed to handle to-do lists. It takes a few steps to access a list of tasks sorted by their due dates. Notebooks will sort tasks alphabetically or according to their creation dates, but not according to their due dates.
I wish Evernote would allow me to assign tasks to specific time periods. I wish that I could take a note (say, “Prepare November 10 class”), and assign it to a specific time and date (say, for one hour on November 9). Some third-party apps that will handle this, but I’ve avoided them for security reasons.