You can do both GTD and Evernote if:
- You read only chapters 1-3 of GTD, then
- implement Evernote as your reference filing system,
- don’t forget to install three Evernote add ons,
- be well rested when you work (don’t sleep walk) and
- focus on doing one new GTD skill (reference filing) well, before adding others.
If you don’t do all these steps, you … will … fail and then likely stop using both GTD and Evernote. Failing does not have to happen.
Reason #1: Too Many Changes At Once
The only reason for time is so everything doesn't happen at once.
- Albert Einstein
OK, you’ve picked up GETTING THINGS DONE (GTD) and you read the first three chapters. You stopped, considered my explicit instructions (see step 4) not to read the rest of the book for a year. In fact, when I give away GTD (I’ve given away over 50 copies so far) I physically cut the binding at chapter 4, and then do not give the last part of the book … until a year later.
But most people do not buy defaced copies of GTD, or cut their books. So, they get excited in the first three chapters, and with boundless (temporary) energy, read the rest of the book. Embarking on a mission to change years of organizing habits, in three days. Prepare thine head … to be pulled off.
Even unemployed people can’t implement GTD in three days, a week, or even a month. I’ve seen them try. Changing everything at once is too much “shaking the jello.”
- Gathering work into a reduced number of inboxes is one piece of new jello … shaking,
- pre-processing inboxes without doing the work simultaneously = new piece of shaking jello.
- Setting up separate project and reference folders is another.
- And in the middle of all this shaking GTD jello, you are tired, overwhelmed, and are basically sleep walking.
- While sleep walking, you set up an Evernote account, downloaded Evernote, install Evernote, check that Evernote works. Evernote is (sleep walking) working!
But, implementing GTD is such an overwhelming experience, after you get Evernote installed and running, you sleep-walk back to review GTD chapters 4-13. And there are new pieces of jello to implement and get shaking!!!
Then guilt at what you are not doing. Exhaustion from trying to reorganize all organizing tools … at once. And, Evernote itself can cause brain pain. So, from a sleep walking perspective, Evernote seems like a small speck in the eye. “Reference filing, no big deal.”
Reference filing, the green box in this image, is a keystone skill of GTD.
Not a mote, reference filing is a board in your eye. A board because if you are going to make the switch to GTD, Step 1 is to implement Evernote to get the useless paper ballast out of your face so you can later implement GTD and take back your brain.
Did I mention that reference filing is not trivial? Reference filing setup requires:
Reference filing is a HUGE challenge. But if you can implement Evernote and turn the corner, Evernote reference filing will:
- Clear your desk of paper (reducing clutter)
- Clear your office of file cabinets (reducing clutter and giving well-feels about your space)
- Allow you to find anything in your old paper files in 15 seconds (this is HUGE it allows your subconscious to trust your change to a new system where subconscious does not need to “not-forget” all your important historical materials).
- Give you a quick win to overcome cynicism in yourself, and in your peers (it is much better to hear “Why are you so happy?” after a week from your spouse, than “You were all diarrhea mouth about GTD, but nothing has changed. What is up with that?”).
- And set you up to be successful implementing later pieces of shaking GTD jello.
*Note* having an Evernote account, having Evernote installed, and having Evernote running, is not having an Evernote reference filing system.
Installing Evernote while sleep-walking makes you miss three key components of Evernote’s dominant design.
- Evernote Web Clipper.
- Evernote Clearly. And
- Evernote Skitch.
Without all three of these tools your GTD system will leak all your internet information. As the internet is now the largest source of reference materials, this omission is sin. One byte of data about this …
Last weekend I helped a friend who had bought Evernote Pro based on an enthusiastic Evernote demonstration two years ago. But after installing, she did not use Evernote. When I reviewed her Evernote installation, Web Clipper, Clearly, and Skitch, were not installed. So, we installed them (2 minutes) and then I pointed her to PC Magazine (single most cluttered web site on the internet) and demonstrated Web Clipper and Clearly. When she saw that in one click:
- she could strip all clutter and advertising from web pages, and
– she could highlight passages in web pages, and
– that the web pages automatically save into Evernote, and
– that Evernote automatically put documents in folders where they are wanted,
“Clearly all by itself makes using Evernote worth it.”
Read that sentence again!
I’ve heard that of all the people that attend the $800 GTD seminars, only about 17% actually successfully implement GTD. If there is an 83% failure rate implementing GTD, and in the middle of that failure there is this “Reference filing, no big deal!” trap where you run into:
- a ton of short term setup,
– budgeting time to work while being well-rested, and
– significant costs,
There is no way you can reach Evernote critical mass. Heck, 83% of people don’t reach GTD critical mass! Changing one organizing habit at a time, is a TON of work.
So, if you want to implement GTD, plan on doing so part time.
Pick the one GTD tool that will give you the highest payoff, implement one tool well, and then move to the next tool.
GTD’s tool payoff precedence for me has been:
- Reference filing
- Getting a real desk (see Restart GTD’s best-selling-post: Perfect GTD Desk)
- Natural project management
And these three tools take at least a year to master. After you implement these three, I deputize you to read chapters 4-13 in GTD. But, … not until then.