2015 ends, Top 10 RestartGTD arguments for 2016


Desk before and after GTD


Introduction: (http://wp.me/p5btlh-urk)

2015 is ending. Tool options for “how” to Get Things Done continue to eclipse my capacity to integrate them year to year. So I will continue to argue:

  1. OneNote and Evernote are complements, not substitutes.
    1. Evernote is THE REFERENCE FILING SYSTEM for the rest of us. Use Evernote Web Clipper to capture your browsing into Evernote, or iX500 scan into Evernote, and … DONE … PAPERLESS + find any note in 15 seconds.
      1. *Note* Evernote, the company, has begun pruning the non-filing system aspects of itself after having quality and other “spreading itself too thin” problems.
    2. OneNote is THE PROCESSING PLACE for the rest of us. When you have an *explosive* next action (i.e., that project that just landed on you by instant message), put it into OneNote and then use the outlining and image pasting to turn a multi-step next action, into a project plan, all on one page.
      1. Microsoft *appears* to remain behind OneNote. Microsoft does not “get” what Evernote does (reference filing) and so OneNote continues to miss one key component of a dominant design (reference filing) to replace Evernote. So use them together, you’ll be happier than with either alone.
    3. The twain never meet.
      1. Capture to Evernote if the answer to “Will there ever be a next action?” is maybe or yes.
      2. Process next action into a project plan in OneNote.
    4. Simple really. (#ThankYouRaleighMuns)
  2. That Evernote’s defects in losing notes, are more than overcome by Evernote’s utility as a document manager for reference files.
    1. *Sigh* as I say this Evernote has lost our family’s recipe for Shepherd’s Pie for Christmas 2015. Fortunately, I have emailed this recipe so I, this once, have recovered the data and put it back into Evernote. Twice. 2011_01_08_12_24_37_pdf_pdf
    2. Defect: Customer Service
      And I too, have been misunderstood by Evernote’s support “geniuses” who like car sales people can’t hear the loud “creek” in your new car after you are off the lot. Customer service people at Evernote do not even have brain resptors for:

      1. The user I’m talking to is knowledgeable about Evernote.
      2. There is a real problem.
        But despite this, after beating my head on the Evernote customer service wall (Andy), Evernote the product *miraculously* started recognizing the 2,000 previously unindexed notes. Perhaps reflecting on conversations after the email gets pissy, does take place at Evernote.
        ***With customer service, you can only tie or lose.*** This was a tie, which means victory!!!
    3. Defect: Security
      I would strongly prefer that Evernote run on my air-gapped Synology NAS at home. And the NAS has a note app. But, with 16,986 notes in Evernote, I’m a bit past being able to migrate. If only because I’m somehow certain that I’ll lose notes in the process.

      1. AmIwrong? Suggest alternatives in the comments below!!!
    4. Defect: Interviewing
      Just for fun, I would like to *note* that I had a job interview with Evernote 2 years ago. And I’m sure that a TWILIGHT ZONE episode could be made out of being interviewed by someone who understood their product vastly less than a thunder-lizard fanboi product fanatic with a low-rated blog.
  3. That the Evernote “false pretender” substitutes:
    1. http://www.fetchnotes.com/
    2. http://realmacsoftware.com/clear/
    3. https://workflowy.com/
    4. http://brettterpstra.com/projects/nvalt
      are a step backwards from having a REFERENCE FILING SYSTEM in the GTD sense. And WORSE they (a) either mix reference filing with processing next actions, or (b) they baffle your brains by focusing on outlines, and simultaneously leave you without a real reference filing system, assuming you have everything you need.
  4. That Evernote dumping Evernote Clearly (which has been displaced by Evernote Web Clipper) is bad.
    1. Why? Because:
      1. I find that I have to have BOTH Web Clipper and Clearly, to reliably be able to capture web pages. Clipper/Clearly don’t do the same thing. The should, but they don’t. So I’m going to have to capture HTML in 2016 to get all the data I need. Ug.
      2. Evernote by allowing parallel competitive products (web clipper and clearly), and then killing the “losers” off, is shaking the jello of customer confidence. I recently listened to an end user berate Microsoft for doing the same thing. Evernote may want to be the Microsoft of notes. But it is a “unicorn” and desperately needs to be the Southwest Airlines of notes. Focus. Focus. Focus.
      3. I like Evernote Clearly. I used it first. We are Borg.
  5. And Evernote dumping Skitch for Windows (same link as Clearly above) is bad.
    1. Highlighting the “afterthought product management” which in Latin is spelled “E-v-e-r-n-o-t-e”
  6. The first three chapters of GTD is all that a human brain can process in one year.
    1. I taught GTD to 200+ MBAs and even a fanboi unemployed person can’t implement chapters 4-13 of the first edition in one go.
    2. I’ve heard that only 17% of attendees to GTD seminars can implement the system. Getting GTD going is a volatile mix of ambition and disappointment. If you get too ambitious, you will be disappointed. And that can add up.
    3. If you don’t swing for the fences, and “take the walk” of getting reference filing going (Evernote, have I mentioned Evernote yet?), clearing your desk (mind=desk like water), and implementing 1-idea-1-piece of paper, next actions, and call it good. Your GTD survival rate will be 100%.
  7. Uneeda 27″ > 1080p monitor. C’mon, you work at a computer for a living. Why not invest in 2x the productivity? Cost = $300. That’s what, like a 1 hr/day payback?
    1. Personally I use el-cheapo refurbished dual-link DVI monitors (warning dual link is a pain) that Cost $200 (now, … but the price is lower at some times) and then get an Apple Mini MB571Z/A DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI Adapter, which makes the total cost $280. 20% savings!
    2. But … I’ve seen the el-cheapo monitors for as little as $100. My boss got me 2 for work, $150 for the first one, and $100 for the second. Stalk and save.
    3. *Note* your status-oriented computing colleagues will accuse you of being happy with “crap” monitors if you follow this path. I find however, that “crap” gets my things done just as fast as $600 monitors would. :-)
  8. Uneeda 2nd 27″ monitor. Don’t argue. Just implement. Thank me later.
  9. Uneeda monitor arm to convert your (desk + monitors) from a giant monitor stand, back into a desk.
  10. We lived through 2015, we should declare victory, and gird ourselves for disciplined optimism in 2016.

Best Regards,

Bill Meade wkmeade@gmail.com

Evernote Biggies

This post is the text of an email I wrote to a restartgtd.com reader who asked about Evernote.
/begin email
I’ve written a lot of posts on Evernote:
The biggies with Evernote are:
  • Install Evernote app on your computer
  • Get Evernote app connected to your Evernote account.
  • Install Clearly and Web Clipper in your browsers on all platforms. 
    • In each web browser, Immediately clip a (any)pagetoEvernote
      • From clearly
      • From web clipper
      • You have to authenticate via Clearly and Web Clipper separately. Stupid but necessary.
    • This on-ramps all your net-found materials to Evernote.  
  • Force yourself to use Clearly and Web Clipper religiously for 1 day, capturing notes that “might be useful … ever.”
  • Then useClearly and Web Clipper when you get a *twinge* that you might want to find the web article again. 
    • Default to using Clearly and Web Clipper too much. Or …
  • When you catch yourselflookinginEvernote for something, and you figure out that the document isnotinEvernote. Put a copy of thedocumentinEvernote so your reality is consistent with your expectations.
    • Example: Somewhere I read that “Nipper” the RCA dog was listening to a recording of his (deceased) master’s voice in the famous painting.
      • I said to someone “I can give you a link to the page from my Evernote account.” And then I went into Evernote just to check myself. The article was not there, so, I found the information on the web, and snipped the information into Evernote with Web Clipper, and now I can share it on demand.
    • The more I use Evernote, the more “stuff” that goes into Evernote. I use Evernote as the ultimate single A to Z reference file ala David Allen GTD
  • Get a Scansnap ix500 ($405 today) 
    • In addition to being an Evernote fanboi I’m also a ScanSnap fanboi.  There are quite a few ScanSnap articlesinRestartGTD.
      • ScanSnaps are optimally valuable ingesting paper into Evernote. I converted 94,000 pages of reference files into Evernote in 4 afternoons.
      • But after you have your data into Evernote, you won’t regret the money spent on the scansnap. My scanning backlog is perpetually zero as I can scan anything in a minute.
      • Buy the best, only cry once.
  • Triage all your paper into:
    • To scan. Then scan and put in …
    • Recycle 
    • Precious can’t throw out, scan and file for posterity
  • Don’t worry about Evernote tags
    • I useEvernote tags only on documents that are hard to find using my default “what two words will only be on the document I’m looking for” query.
      • After I eventually find the article I set the tag to whatever concept I was trying to find. And then I also add the concept name into the note (belts+suspenders strategy).
  • Play with Evernote’s notebooks (I think of these as folders). For the most part notebooks hold two species of documents for me:
    • Projects
      • I gather all the reference materials for a big project into a notebook that I can share with people working on the projects. I out-read pretty much everyone on a project, so I’m a natural keeper of the reference materials.
    • Reference files
      • I have a general “Articles” notebook (folder) for PDFs of articles and captured via Clearly/Web Clipper HTML articles. Motto: “I read therefore I am” so I’ve got approximately 15,900 documents in Evernote.
      • I also have a “Data Science” notebook where I put technical documents on R, ggplot2, Azure Machine Learning, etc. that I work with.
      • I also have a “family” notebook with sub notebooks for reference documents for each family member.
  • Use Evernote’s shortcut feature for folders. 
    • My most used shortcut is a notebook I call “cribsheets” which are notes with the distilled essence of stuff that is important to me. For example, Introduction to R, Excel commands I can’t remember, Introduction to Azure Machine Learning for data scientists, what Neal Analytics is looking for in new hires, etc. 
      • Sub idea: I use notesharinginEvernote quite a bit. This is particularly valuable to me as I can edit the note and not have to notify people of the changes.
        • Right click on the note to “copy shared link” and then email the person the link.
    • But I also add notebooks for hot projects to my shortcuts, and that saves a lot of steps in finding and filing
  • Use OneNote to process a project into tasks. 
    • OneNote allows you to re-arrange scanned 3×5 cards in a note. Evernote does not allow re-arranging of graphics within a note. *Note* readers, correct me if I’m missing something about Evernote here.
    • OneNote and Evernote are complements, not substitutes. I work a lot with Microsoft people, and they just don’t “get” OneNote vs. Evernote. Competitive instincts rear up instantly, and die hard in the face of data.
    • I find OneNote to be superior for decomposing a project into next actions. But, I’m biased by my brain’s refusal to use only 1 electronic system.
  • Use Evernote for reference filing only. 
    • Even my “Articles” and “Project” folders are just reference filing.
  • I use Evernote on both Mac and Windows 10 on my Macbook Pro and iMac. I find it easiest to have my Evernote archives kept separately … even though it sucks to have redundant data. It sucks but works flawlessly.
Does this help? Ask again if not! 
Bill Meade

Alas Babylon Update: Spoiler = Everything is fine

The story:

Bigfoot letter happened.

In response, I replied with the permission email I received, when I asked David Allen and the CEO of David Allen’s company for permission to use RestartGTD.com  … before I started RestartGTD.com.

A couple of email exchanges happened over the weekend and early this week.

The VP of legal eagles at David Allen’s company has given me her assurance that she’s good with the current state of RestartGTD.com … because I had/have permission.


*Aside* I managed the business side of patent litigation back in the day, when I worked at HP. We were burning 7 figures ,,, a month on six *big nasty* lawsuits, and I hope to never again live in litigation la la land.

So I was *philosophical* about whether to close RestartGTD.com. If the GTD powers that be did not want my enthusiasm (which is not for everyone), I was going to let RestartGTD.com go.

As it stands, RestartGTD.com will continue to operate as it has.

But, you could help if you would:

  1. Email me some GTD questions!!! My best posts are responses to questions. wkmeade@gmail.com is the place to get your free advice on getting back on the wagon.
  2. Get off your duff and install the Evernote web clipper so you become hopelessly addicted to Evernote for reference filing. Side benefit: web clipper makes Evernote filing reference filing easier to do, than not do.
  3. Buy that ScanSnap iX500 ($413 today) that I’ve failed (so far) to persuade you to invest in. You don’t know what you are missing by being paperless.

Thanks for the kind words and back channel emails! More posts soon! As soon as RestartGTD was in limbo I had a bunch of new ideas. :-(

bill meade


Evernote Bugs … or bad Evernote weather … or an uninitialized variable (file name?)


In the past week I’ve noticed problems with Evernote capturing from Web Clipper and Clearly. For example, go to this WIRED article on an artist who did a self portrait with GPS equipment and DHL taking the equipment around the world.



When I opened the article in Chrome for Mac, Evernote Web Clipper, and clicked Save:


Evernote said that it saved the clip:

Artist_Admits_He_Didn_t_Actually_Use_GPS__DHL_to_Create__Biggest_Drawing_in_the_World____WIRED_and_Evernote_Premium But … the clip did not appear in Evernote on my Mac after I synchronized.


GTD Evernote users, *might* want to check that web clippings are actually being captured. Just to be sure.

Fast Ways To Double-Check-Web Clipper:

  • When Web Clipper displays the confirmation that your note has been captured:
    Artist_Admits_He_Didn_t_Actually_Use_GPS__DHL_to_Create__Biggest_Drawing_in_the_World____WIRED_and_Evernote_PremiumClick on the title of the article to open the note in Evernote, to make sure the note is there.
  • Or, instead of using Web Clipper, capture the note with Clearly. I’ve had no trouble with Clearly capturing notes this week.
  • Open Evernote on your computer, click the Sync icon
    Evernote_PremiumAnd then click on the “All Notes” (or “Clear” icon if you have run a search) and then scroll to the top of your notes to make sure the note Clearly or Web Clipper says it captured, is there.

This might be a problem of capture (from Web Clipper or Clearly) or it might be a problem of synchronizing. I’m using Evernote Mac 5.6.0 which I think is a beta release.

Use OneNote and Snipping Tool for your Excel GTD Crib Sheet


I’m teaching a remedial Excel class this week, and so I’ve developed a tutorial to get people going using OneNote to capture crib sheets in Excel. I store my GTD crib sheets in Evernote (Example, Click here to subscribe). But OneNote is a great program too and if you have Microsoft’s Office, you have OneNote for free.

  • If you have a Mac Office, you probably don’t have OneNote but you can get OneNote for free.
  • If you have an older version of Office for windows you can get OneNote for free here.


To create your OneNote Excel crib sheet do this:


When OneNote opens, then create a top Tab titled “Crib Sheets:


Then add an Excel page:


Then copy the first entry from the image at the top of this blog post.

  • To enter A1 + B1 = C1 do this
    • With the pinky finger on your right hand, push the = 
      sign on the keyboard


Now, start Excel so we can get some practice using our Excel crib sheet!

Next question: How do I snip from Excel?









You have created an Excel crib sheet, and made your first entry!!!



RestartGTD with Evernote Clearly

I’ve Tried Evernote … but I don’t use it

OK, it is possible that I’ve raved about Evernote. Perhaps you installed Evernote and paid for an account based on my recommendation or a step-by-step. But, then … you never reached critical mass with Evernote. And your Evernote account has gone dormant. And, you’ve fallen off the GTD wagon. If so …

This post is for you.

The stumbling block with Evernote is that it comes in two pieces: (1) A database piece that takes care of reference filing, and (2) a web-browser-plug-in that takes care of sweeping all worthwhile internet content into your reference files.

Most people install the database and are so tired after getting their minds around yet-another-software-install, that they don’t go “ALL THE WAY” to having the on-ramp, the web-browser piece, installed. The on-ramp never gets installed, so the database never builds.

If this is you, follow these steps to rejuvenate your Evernote (reference filing) experience.


  • Click “Download for Chrome” or if you are using Safari, you can not install Evernote Clearly. You have to use some other browser. For instance Chrome or Firefox.
  • Or if you are using FireFox you can click “Download for Firefox” like this:


  • Or, if you are using Internet Explorer for Windows, you are in the same boat as Safari users. Sorry. You have to use Chrome, Opera, or Firefox.

Whether you use Chrome or Firefox on Mac or PC, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to install Evernote Clearly into your browser.

Click the download link and take the defaults to the questions that pop up, and then you should see a Luxo Lamp icon in your Mac or PC browser. Look for something like this:


  • Now, you have Clearly downloaded and installed. Let’s go to the world’s ugliest web page: PCMag.com. When you arrive the page will look something like this:


Source: www.pcmag.com = Clutterville in the Firefox web browser

Now, either wait, click the the escape key, or click the circled X in the “Signup now….” pop up box. to bring the web page to the foreground of your browser. Now you’ll see this:


Source: www.pcmag.com in Firefox

Next, find an article like “AMAZON FIRE PHONE NOW ONLY 99 CENTS” and click on it. If you need help finding the article, follow the red arrow here:


Source: www.pcmag.com in Firefox

When the article comes up with all its fireworks of flash (thank you IBM!), it will look like this:


Source: www.pcmag.com in Firefox

Now, click on the Luxo Lamp icon in your browser. and you will see this:


Source: www.pcmag.com in Firefox, via Evernote Clearly

No flash advertisements. No advertisements of any kind. Just the pictures from the core of the article, and the text. Next, click the Elephant icon. This will save the article into your Evernote database. Don’t worry, you can delete it easily, once you see it in Evernote.

Anyway, when you click on the Elephant icon you will be asked for your Evernote username and password. So get those out if you don’t have them handy, and then fill in the dialog box. The dialog looks like this:


Enter your user name and password. If you have Evernote’s two factor authentication turned on, then you’ll see this additional prompt:


And you just need to fill in the numbers and click “Continue” and then your screen will look like this:


Where now we can have some fun. Click on the highlighter icon underneath the elephant icon at top right. Then, select the title of the article. Your page will look like this:


And if you open Evernote, and then synchronize it with your cloud database, the note will look like this:


And, the note will be editable!

You can use clearly to read notes, highlight them, and after you add new highlights, Evernote Clearly will re-synchronize the new highlights into the note in your Evernote database. Cool!

But … it gets better!

Not only can you strip annoyances from the web page, you can also set the default font size, and page style of the pages you read. To do this, click once on the “Aa” icon at middle right of the Clearly-processed web page:


You can pick the page style from “Newsprint” or “Notable” or “Night Owl” or “Custom” and the fonts as “Small” or “Medium” or “Large” and …

if you mistakenly highlight a passage (Sign of Genius!) you can mouse over the passage and a small circled x will appear that you can click to delete the highlighting. Here is large font size, newsprint, with the circled x appearing on “fire-sale price of 99 cents.”


To highlight notes already in Evernote, select the text and if you are on a mac, type Ctrl + Command + H. If you are on a PC type Ctrl + Shift + H.

Evernote.com is constantly working on the highlighting to make it smarter. I’m hoping before long we will be able to highlight in multiple colors. And, that we will be able to insert sticky notes on top of the web pages we capture.


Take the trouble to get Evernote Clearly working, and you will go a long way to restarting your Evernote GTD use. It is SO EASY to capture web pages in Evernote. Then, when you need to send a friend a link, you open Evernote on your computer, type in the two words that will search out the web page you are looking for, and then click the saved link on the page. The saved link is available in the note when you are not editing the note.


Click on the note at left, then click on the link that pops up over the top of the note. This will open the original web page, so you can see the link is still working. Then copy the link, and paste it into an email to your friend. Or tweet. Or Facebook post.

Once you have the most vital source of information (the web) functioning as an on-ramp for your Evernote database, I defy you to not use Evernote. And once you are using Evernote, your reference filing will get better. Better to the point where you are doing GTD reference filing.

Because reference filing is a capstone GTD skill. Evernote will pull you back into GTD and hold you there. Hold you because it is easier to do reference filing in Evernote, than to live in a blizzard of paper, browser book marks, and desk clutter.

Getting Started with GETTING THINGS DONE – 2014 – in 28 steps



Getting started with GTD is much easier if you have a buddy. Preferably, two buddies, and experienced GTDer buddy, and someone who is at the same experience level as you in implementing GTD. See GTD buddy system for more details.

How To:

If you asked me how to get started with GTD today (see What is GTD before embarking on this journey), this is the advice I would give. Step zero, take a picture of your desk. If you follow this guide, and get GTD to stick, starting point chaos, will be a valuable data point to refer back to. Here’s my initial desk before embarking on GTD


  1. Order GETTING THINGS DONE and 1,000 3×5 cards
    a. Buy the unabridged audible version of GTD and listen to it while you are driving.
    b. And, buy a Kindle or paper version so you can highlight passages, when you circle back to re-read GTD.
  2. Order a Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500
  3. Go to CostCo and get 4 large (free) boxes in which to triage documents
  4. Subscribe to Evernote
    a. Go to Evernote.com and click on “Sign Up”
    b. Get you your credit card and pay the $45 a year
    c. Get your email confirmation that you account is set up. Write down your username and password for evernote on a 3×5 card.
  5. Download Evernote and install the client on the computer you use most
    a. Download Evernote
    b. Install Evernote
    c. Connect the installed software on your computer, to your evernote account (use the username and password you wrote down in Step 4 c.
  6. Install Evernote Clearly into the web browser you use most
    a. Clearly is a browser add-in, separate from the software you installed above. Evernote = database. Browser add-in = on-ramp to database.
    b. Go to a favorite web page of yours, then click Clearly (a Luxo Lamp Icon) and watch as Clearly removes the clutter from the web page, allows you to highlight text. And most importantly, allows you to save the page to Evernote when you highlight or click sae. You are done for day 1. Time to walk your dog. Your dog will feel stress lifting off you as Millie demonstrates in the picture at the top of this post.
  7. Practice with Evernote (open it up, see the pages you have captured, add manual notes, create notebooks, etc.) each day as you wait for GETTING THINGS DONE and your ScanSnap to arrive.
  8. Practice with Clearly every day as you wait for GTD and your scanner. You might want to read the RestartGTD post where the capstone line is: “Clearly all by itself makes Evernote worth it!” towards the bottom. Then go back and play with Clearly and Evernote.
  9. When the ScanSnap arrives, unbox it immediately, and install it on your computer with the included DVD. This will take you about 20 minutes. Do not read GETTING THINGS DONE until instructed to do so in Step 12. If you procrastinate on installing the ScanSnap to save 20 minutes now, it will take you 20 months or never, to get the ScanSnap installed. Do it. Do it now! (31 seconds in)
  10. After the ScanSnap is installed, get it working so you can Scan-To-Evernote with one click.
    a. Start the installed ScanSnap software by clicking on its icon at the bottom of your screen
    b. Left-click once on the ScanSnap software icon after it is running
    c. Look for “Evernote” in the pop-up list, and left-click once on it
    d. Put a page in the ScanSnap, push the blue button, and watch as the page appears in Evernote. Cool!
  11. Once you have steps 1 through 10 accomplished, then …
  12. Read the first three chapters of GTD.
  13. Read only the first three chapters of GTD. Don’t give in to temporary energy and enthusiasm, and read the entire book. Just chapters 1-3.
  14. Energized by your first wave of hope after reading …
    Mark the 4 boxes you brought home from CostCo as
    “To Scan”
    “IN” and
  15. Next put all your papers into the “IN” box. Don’t worry about making a mess. Just put each document in as a document. You will process and re-organize these documents later.
  16. After “IN” is full, then stop. Take the rest of the day off. I know you are eager to sprint to GTD nirvana. But, you need to pace expectations. Expecting to do a single good block of work at a time to implement GTD is a maximum. If you try to do more than a single block of work, you set yourself up for failure, self recrimination, and external ridicule. 83% of people who attempt to implement GTD fail. And they fail because they try to do too many things, too quickly, while tired. You did not make your organization a mess in a day. And you can’t transform it to a masterpiece in a day. One good thing a day is enough. If you want to see an organizational mess, check out the RestartGTD post on GTD Time Lapse at the top for before pictures.
  17. Next day, approach the “IN” CostCo box, and pull the first document from “IN” box, hold it up. Look at it, suppress any feelings about it, and ask yourself:”Will this ever have a next action?”
    a. If the answer is “Yes” put the document into “To Scan” and then go back to “IN” and repeat this step.
    b. If the answer is “Maybe” then put the document into “To Scan” and then go back to “IN” and repeat this step.
    c. If the answer is “No” then put the document in “Recycle” and then go back to “IN” and repeat this step.
  18. Once your “IN” box is empty, or your “To Scan” box is full (whichever comes first) then take another rest. At least 90 minutes to let your brain reset.
  19. When you come back, move the “To Scan” box next to your ScanSnap. Take each document out one at a time. Put the document into the ScanSnap, push the blue button. When the document is finished scanning, either put it in the box labeled “Recycle” or the box labeled “Precious” if the document needs to be saved.
    1. Once your “To Scan” box is empty, take the rest of the day off. Manage your expectations. One block of GTD work. One day. P-a-c-e yourself.
  20. Go back to Step 15 if you have more papers to process. And repeat Steps 15-20 until all the paper in your life has been recycled or captured in the box marked “Precious”
  21. Take the rest of the day off. Manage your expectations. One block of GTD work. One day.
  22. Once you have all the paper in your life captured in Evernote, the next step is to get your desk clear. Everything off. No pictures. No teddy bears. No momentos. Nothing on your desk in your field of view as you work. In particular, no pictures of faces in front of you where you work. Your brain will work processing faces without ever shutting off. One student has commented to me that this HUGELY reduced her fatigue.
    a. If you don’t have a real desk. Get a real desk. No substitutions, kitchen tables do not count. Floors do not count. You need a big space where you feel pleasure when you work. Go to IKEA’s “As Is” department and buy returned legs, tabletops, panels, conference tables. And modify to taste.
    b. Go to Amazon and get a monitor arm, wireless keyboard, and wireless trackpad or wireless mouse, to transform your desk back from being a giant monitor stand cluttered with paper, into being a brain’s desk that facilitates work. This is the most disregarded step in my instructions. But, it REALLY HELPS. So give yourself a leg up and try investing in your desk.
  23. Once you have a clear desk, and all your paper captured in Evernote, it is time to take your first “After GTD” desk picture. Put the “Before GTD” desk picture into Powerpoint on the left. And the “After GTD” desk picture on the right. Then save the PowerPoint slide where you won’t lose it. Here is my before/after PowerPoint slide:BeforeAfterDesk_pptxBefore/after pictures are important. Before/after pictures are hope. Elephant food if you are a Heath & Heath SWITCH: How to change when change is hard fan.
  24. Next step is time to clear your mind. Most people have 300+ projects in their minds when they start GTD. Sitting down to scrape these out of your head and on to paper, is terrifying. But once you start, you won’t believe how it lightens your mind, and how the time flies.
    a. Sit down and write down every open loop you can think of on 3×5 cards. Go for 100 at your first sitting.
    b. Once you get to 100, take the rest of the day off. Manage your expectations. One block of GTD work. One day.
  25. Repeat step 23 until you don’t have anything else on your mind.
  26. Once your mind is clear, then lay the cards out on your desk. The bigger the desk, the easier this is. Then
    a. group the cards together in clumps of similar stuff.
    b. These clumps are your projects.
    c. Organize each project’s clump into a neat stack on your desk. Once you have all the cards into their natural clumps
    d. put rubber bands around each stack of cards/clump.
    e. Take the rest of the day off. One block of GTD work. One day.
  27. At this point, your mind is clear. You have all your ideas where your brain knows they won’t be lost. Now you have to decide how you want to move forward with GTD.
    a. Whether you will go all analog, using manila folders – one for each project – with 3×5 cards in them, and keeping a master project list by hand.
    TrustedSystemgenerations01_pptx 2
    Or …
    b. Go digital OneNote to organize your projects. Creating project lists with [[projectname]] and then transcribing your 3×5 card notes for each project, into next actions. *Note* your 3×5 cards are likely not Next Actions in the David Allen sense. The step of taking a thought on your mind that you are feeling guilty about, and then compiling it into next actions as you transcribe the card into OneNote is not wasted effort.
    c. Using Evernote to manage your projects as well as your reference files. Create a “Projects” folder in Evernote. Then, create a sub folder for each project. And then either transcribe your 3×5 card into next actions as in b. above with OneNote. Or, by scanning your 3×5 cards into Evernote.
    d. Using OmniFocus (if you are a Mac person). OmniFocus is powerful … and dangerous. OmniFocus is probably the highest fidelity GTD software system. But you may experience over-organization from OmniFocus with the consequence your brain refuses to use the system … as I did. However, if you are a sales person, think hard (try) OmniFocus because David Allen has refined the GTD system to work for sales people. Nobody works harder than sales people, you will need all the system you can get to do your job well.
    TrustedSystemgenerations01_pptx 4
    e. Some kind of hybrid system. My GTD trusted system is broken up across paper and electronic tools. This is less simple to explain. But, my brain will use it. I tried OmniFocus in a monolithic trusted system (27 d.), but I hated sitting down to my desk. So I had to retreat to paper.

The Goal

The above 28 steps are the process that I’ve seen work the best for the about 200 people I’ve helped boot-up GTD. Personally, I’ve stayed on the GTD wagon because I have a ScanSnap and Evernote. These tools make it easier to capture information correctly, than to live in a mass of disorganized papers. My love of 3×5 cards and manila folders gradually gives way to electronic project organizing as a project lifts off. The cards and folders are early stage capture tools for my projects.

Your mileage will vary. My tools will not be perfect for you. I’ve changed my tools so many times (except Evernote and the ScanSnap) that I’m proof that one size does not fit all.  Single design does not even fit one person all the time. But the point is to build your system gradually, experimenting, testing, reflecting on how it *feels* to your brain. Does it allow you to swing, to stop constantly worrying you’ll forget something? Does it *feel* fun to work with? Does your system cut your procrastination and guilt? Are you trying to do too much, too fast?


This process will not get you 100% to the way David Allen’s system. But, it will get you to the nearest local maxima of GTD productivity and GTD swing. Once you go paperless you will discover what a drag paper is. Your Evernote reference filing system will allow you to find everything … in 15 seconds. Evernote *secret* = Evernote does text recognition on all your documents. All you have to do is think of two words that would only be on the document you need, type them into Evernote and *zap* the document is at your finger tips.

Once you have all your projects in some kind of place (manila folder, OneNote folder, Evernote folder) you will feel release of stress. An emergency department doctor who I dragged kicking and screaming to Evernote and a clear desk said to me “I can’t believe how much less stress I’m feeling now.” After my first week of GTD my wife said “Why are you so happy?”


  • When doing a mind sweep, I do not follow David Allen’s two-minute rule. This is the only time in my GTD life, that I don’t DO anything that can be done in 2 minutes, and instead, just write down the 2 minute tasks. After my mind is empty, it is easy to take the 2 minute pile, and burn through it. And, it gives you quick wins to keep expectations at bay.
  • I’ve found that three steps in the above process are sticking points:
    a. Getting the scanner out of the box and functioning. I’ve had to drive to people’s desks and make the scanner go for them because of this “out of box” sticking point. See RestartGTD post abomination of deskolation for case study.
    b. Getting the desk clear. Again, I’ve found it easier to drive to desks and show people what their desk looks like REALLY EMPTY. If you contact me (wkmeade@gmail.com) for advice. The first thing I will say is “Tell me about your desk?” and what you need to say back is “I got EVERYTHING off it.”
    c. P-a-c-i-n-g yourself. Manage your own expectations. Do not change everything in your organizing, all at once. Know that change will take t-i-m-e. Match building your GTD system, to when you have blocks of fresh energy. Energy is temporary. Read that sentence again!
  • This step-by-step puts getting your computer infrastructure working as a pre-cursor to reading GTD. If you don’t put infrastructure first, you will try to get Evernote and your ScanSnap working while you are tired. Not a good strategy.  
  • When starting out, keep two separate kinds of files: (a) Project Files, and (b) Reference Files. Consciously separating the two kinds of files can prevents confusion. *Aside* I suspect that I *resist* using Evernote for project files because my brain likes having physically separate project and reference files.
  • Reference filing is a capstone skill of getting into and staying with GTD.
  • Having a real desk is a capstone skill of getting into and staying with GTD. Clutter is the enemy, and there is more clutter on desks than everywhere else in your life. Win the battle against clutter, GTD will work.
  • Managing expectations is a capstone skill of GTD. One block of GTD work. One day. Is the rule.
  • Experimenting with new tools, selectively, is a capstone skill of staying with GTD.

OneNote vs. Evernote vs. Dropbox


I’ve edited this post in light of having gone back through my GETTING THINGS DONE (GTD) history, and looking at the different trusted systems I’ve evolved over the four years of using GTD.

  1. Title graphic has been recomposed to put GTD at the center. Ouch! When I realized I missed this in the original post. Ouch I say!
  2. Last graphic has been recomposed dropping Google Drive (unreliable) and swapping back in Dropbox. This will take some work as I have to squeeze down from 30 gigabytes of storage to 20 (the most storage I can have for free on Dropbox).
  3. Last paragraph has been edited to put both OneNote and Dropbox into project management (I use them both for project files).
  4. Added a fourth like about OneNote (Read on!).


This is not a full on review, but I’ve been using OneNote daily for a month, so I thought I’d *reflect* a little on how I like OneNote, and how it compares with Evernote. Just rule of three likes, dislikes and reflections in this post.

What I like about OneNote:

  • The tabs. OneNote lets you have tabs on the top or right side of your notebook. This is a clear win over Evernote where notebooks (the equivalent of OneNote tabs the way I use both programs) are rigidly stuck in a list at the side of your screen, or in a rigid grid of notebooks in the main window.
  • Sub notes. If you create a tab for a project, you can insert notes underneath the project and indented from the parent tab. Again, a clean kill improvement over Evernote. From a GTD perspective this has helped me to focus more on the work, and less on the housekeeping of organizing the work.
  • Linking. You create [[aroundwhatyouwanttolink]] and the note is automatically linked to the parent project list. For GTD people this allows you to have each project on a tab that you start from the master list of all projects. Just create [[NewProject]] on your master list of projects, and *poof* you magically have a new tab named NewProject, now, get to work!
  • After a couple days, I have to add one more thing I like about OneNote … the connection between Microsoft Outlook and OneNote. I can drag an email into OneNote and choose either to have a PDF of it (printing to OneNote) or just an embedded copy of the email. This is not a clear win over Evernote as I can also capture email to Evernote from outlook. But, the thing is, because OneNote is a “family of Office” product, I intuitively knew that the link would be there. Evernote’s linking to email has to be discovered separately. My impression is that both OneNote and Evernote are improving their linking over time.

What I don’t like about OneNote

  • The canvas. Evernote’s canvas is static, text-based, and more intuitively appealing to me. In OneNote, whenever you click the mouse too far away from what you’ve already typed, you create a new text window. Which does automatically scroll down when you type something in any other text window. This is an example of too much flexibility for me. I find myself creating only one text window per note, and then being sure to add new thoughts to that single window. Static canvas, clear win for Evernote.
  • Too narrow a focus. OneNote focuses on you, your keyboard, and your projects. So it does not *feel* like a document management (or reference filing) system. Another clear kill for Evernote. I am forever adding a note to Evernote, and then much later taking that note out of my GRAPHICS or INBOXNOTEBOOK (the two big capture notebooks in my Evernote use) and either moving it to a project notebook, or copying the contents, pasting the contents into another note, and deleting the first note. OneNote is more narrowly focused than Evernote. I would not think about putting 14,000 articles and clippings into OneNote, for example.
  • Adding new text after a pasted-in graphic. I can’t figure out how to get OneNote to allow me to create new bullet lines in an outline, from clicking on the clip, hitting right arrow, and then either return or shift return as needed.


  • OneNote vs. Evernote, like Evernote vs. Dropbox is not a choice of one tool OR the other. They overlap in functionality. But OneNote is a lot more competition for Evernote, than it is for Dropbox. Here is what the overlap *feels* like to me. Recovered_File_1
  • Both OneNote and Evernote are (to my liking) overly rigid. I’m still looking to be able to re-arrange virtual note cards on a virtual desk top. And, to be able to arrange notebooks in relation to one another. But OneNote and Evernote allow note arranging little if at all.
  • Project focus is an area that OneNote excels in, and where Evernote is weak. I applied for a project management job at Evernote this year, and won the opportunity to work a test problem in new products. But, alas, no job was forthcoming despite my ENTHUSIASM and ranting and railing about Evernote as a platform. But, OneNote, if it shows nothing else, indicates how Evernote could up its game in the project management sphere.
  • Evernote is a platform. OneNote is an application. OneNote feels like Excel or PowerPoint, a point-focused app that captures and structures analytical thinking. Evernote with its open API, back end infrastructure, and plug ins for browsers that make ripping just the information you want out of a web page, easy, feels like a platform.


In David Allen speak, OneNote lives in the land of projects and project plans. Evernote lives in the land of reference filing, and Dropbox and OneNote live in the land of project organizing infrastructure.


Evernote Clearly vs. Evernote Web Clipper … a quick comparison



Above is a side by side comparison of Evernote Clearly with Evernote Web Clipper. 11 features are compared: Web Clipper-only features (6 rows) at the top, Features both products have (2 rows) in the middle, and Clearly-only features (3 rows) at the bottom.

  • Article vs. Simplified Article

When you tell Clearly to remove clutter, it goes for broke and attempts to rip out everything it identifies as clutter. This will either work, or … not. Today, the biggest problem with Clearly is that when you invoke it, images that you wish to have included in your note, are ripped out. But, there are pages that Clearly can not decode.

Web Clipper has two degrees of clutter removal, the “go for broke” mode which Web Clipper calls “Simplified Article” and a lesser degree of removal called “Article” which removes top, left, and bottom clutter, but leaves some clutter on the right of the web page in your note.

  • Set Document Notebook and Document Tagging

These two capabilities are a big deal for me. More and more I’m using notebooks and tags. If I capture a web page with Clearly, I have to remember to go back to that page, and set it’s notebook and add tags. If I use Web Clipper, I can do both tasks with the page in front of me and not have extra todo steps.

  • Skitch Annotations

I should write a post about Evernote Skitch! Skitch is a screen capture and annotation tool that Evernote bought about two years ago. I’m a Skitch fan boy, and had a paid subscription to Skitch before Evernote bought the program. The long and short of Skitch annotations is that Clearly does not, and Web Clipper does, provide them.

  • Share Note While Capturing

I do not use this today. But, … I’m getting closer and closer to incorporating note sharing while I’m capturing. Why? Because there are images that I capture for other people. For example, I’m a Boxer dog fan boy. Knowing other boxer fans, I’m likely to capture funny boxer pictures and immediately send them. So, I get this, and am glad to have it, so I can incorporate it into my workflow.

  • Automatic Notebook Assignment

I LOVE LOVE LOVE automatic notebook assignment in Evernote. But … it does not always work. And, the logic of automatic assignment is different for Clearly and Web Clipper. I could once again lapse into my “I got your back” dueling software team monologue, but I won’t. I just wish that Clearly and Web Clipper used the same logic. And maybe, that I could control the logic (for example “bookporn clips always go into graphics notebook”).

  • Highlighting

Both programs do a great job of highlighting text in captured web pages. I just wish I could highlight in multiple colors like on Kindle for iPad. And, I wish that I had a “write notes in the margins” of pages without having the pages turn into jpg files.

  • Text to Speech, Print, and Set Document Theme

All three of these are capabilities I don’t use. Nice to have, but I wish I could trade them in for some other features. :-)

















Number 3 Reason GTDers Don’t Use Evernote … after installing Evernote


TLDR: Why people set up and then don’t use Evernote

  1. The first reason is that implementing GTD changes too many things at once.
    So, Evernote, even if it is installed and working, won’t be used. Evernote is a sub-casualty of the 83% failure rate of GTD implementations.
  2. The second reason is because we blow off the GTD weekly reviews, infecting our GTD system with guilt that comes into focus (like a magnifying glass starting a fire) when we sit down to use Evernote. End result is we stop sitting down to our computers and stop using Evernote. *Note* This is also why people stop using Outlook, Omni-Focus, etc. for GTD.
  3. The third reason why GTD people don’t use Evernote after implementing it, that Evernote can be implemented in too many ways. And, … no two ways to implement Evernote agree. Too many choices to an overwhelmed brain = no choice. So, stop web surfing about Evernote, and start experimenting with your own work.

If you too have abandoned Evernote while trying to implement GTD, please share why?

Done! Good! Now go buy something to organize with, on Amazon! Invest in organization.


Why GTD people stop using Evernote is a surprisingly popular topic. So, I’m going to identify a couple more of the big reasons that GTD people stop using Evernote. This post is about reason 3, how the many alternative ways of implementing Evernote, stop people from using Evernote.


Source: .com

The perfect illustration of a GTD user implementing Evernote is not just a deer in headlights. The perfect illustration is a deer in a dozen of the spot lights used in police helicopters to run down fugitives.

User: “I think I’ll try using Evernote”

  • {event} Client installation on an iPad happens
    (10% of users who attempt to install quit here)

    • Wait, what? Why aren’t people installing Evernote on their PCs first? Seems that the PC is passing in influence. See RestartGTD’s Browser De Jure page for GTD viewership. GTD like it or not is becoming an iPad thing.
  • {event} Account setup happens
    (50% of potential users quit here)
  • {event does not happen} Opening Evernote for the first time on iPad
    (25% of potential users quit here)
  • {event} User opens Evernote for the first time

Even if we give Evernote 100% of the loyal users who open Evernote on their iPad for the first time, Evernote has still lost 85% of its users by the time a user opens Evernote for the first time.

Worse success rate than a David Allen GTD seminar!

Of course, I could be wrong about the percentages above. Still … Evernote is computer (desktop or laptop) first. With its new users swarming in from iPad and iPhone land, there are going to be a lot of wasteful problems (from the perspective of GTD).

For example,

  • once the person who has followed the steps above sees their Evernote account, what will they see? None of their existing information. = #EvernoteProblem
  • how can we fix this?
    • By installing Evernote Web Clipper and Clearly for a week or 10 days, so the user has some web-browsing history built up, that s/he will recognize when Evernote first opens. = #EvernoteProblem
    • By *distracting* the user to next import their paper with a scanner (scroll down to the file cabinet picture) before they open Evernote. Oh, crap, this requires Evernote to be installed on a PC with a scanner. Oops. = #EvernoteProblem
    • By scanning directly from scanner to Evernote on iPad or phone.
    • Without something drastic, can we fix this?


= #EvernoteProblem * #GTD Problem = .15 *.17 = Success Rate of Evernote & GTD

.15*.17=.03 Or, 3%


How can trying to implement Evernote with GTD be a good idea if it kills off an additional 14% of successful GTD users beyond what David Allen’s Company experiences?

  1. Once a GTD user puts their information into Evernote, it becomes easier to do reference filing correctly, than to not do reference filing. Reference filing is a keystone GTD skill. This helps *a lot* with people staying with GTD!
  2. Those 14% of GTD users were going to fade anyway. I *think* this because I talk to people who are “formerly known as GTD users” and they say “I use about 50% of GTD. I was really into it at first, but then it became too much to keep up with.”
    • Why? When I ask, “Do you use Evernote web clipper?” they invariably say “What is Evernote Web Clipper?”
    • Hypothesis: 14% of GTD users would be saved if they tried Evernote for their reference filing.
  3. Evernote is a platform, not a well-known, habitually used product. So what?
    • So … the marketeers at Evernote are clueless at how to help people who have a dozen police helicopter spot lights in their eyes. Platforms give markets new-to-the-world-capabilities, marketing people are trained to more efficiently sell old-to-the-world-capabilities.
    • So … in GTD terms, a new platform allows us to experiment with new degrees of freedom in organizing. The way our brains work with new platforms is trial and error. Our brains will try using the electronic tools, then pull back and compost on how the new platform *feels*. Then, confidence in a new way to use the tool appears from nowhere, and we implement the tool. And iterate improvements from there.


Don’t web surf to figure out how to use Evernote. Experiment with your own next actions, projects, reference filing, and inboxing. See what pleases you and run with that. When you feel *hindered* by Evernote, stop doing that. 

You can start with paper, that worked for me! See GTD Time Lapse for my 5 year history of GTD evolution.

You can go all digital. That did not work for me. I went back to paper + Evernote.

The trick is to start. Don’t think “I can’t start without the perfect system.” Think, what can I improve the most, with the least effort. Or, better, what would be fun to really focus on and improve? After 200+ MBA students, I think getting a ScanSnap and Evernote going as your reference filing system can’t be beat.

Whatever you do, keep evolving your GTD. GTD is like a bicycle. When you stop moving, you fall over.

bill meade