Hamming Out The Workflow

I would like to take this opportunity to present a guide to an average day using Evernote within the GTD system. Take a moment to look at the picture below. First, notice the 13 items in my Inbox. It’s a collection of imported mail messages, random things I thought of off the top of my head during my morning collection phase, clipped recipes from blogs I read, etc. I also have a brainstorm thought from last night I jotted down before I went to bed. I do not tag them as I collect them. It’s just a collection phase.

The next step is to go through each note and tag them. Some things, like the recipe for “primal purple potato salad” do not get a When tag. It just gets a recipe and primal tag, a subset of the Food tag, under the What tag. I can search through all my primal recipes if I am not sure what I’m in the mood for next week, I can find that recipe alphabetically, or I can just highlight my recipe tag and start typing “purple potato”. I don’t have many notes with those words. I can find it on my phone if I’m at the grocery store. On a friend’s computer through Evernote.com. I can also forward that note to my wife.

Things that need action fall into 5 categories, under the When tag. If I need to do them now, it gets a 1 Now. I imported from my email that my power bill is due. I will knock that out first thing after I get organized.

Other things are perhaps less important, like a draft that was sent for me to read from the CMA Council on Ethical Affairs. I get a week to take care of that, and since I do this process every day, I will move that to 1 Now tomorrow or Monday. For the moment, it gets a 2 Later tag.

I didn’t get anything new for  3 Scheduled, but last week I got an invitation to a dinner. It was imported into EN from my mail. It had a date, time, and address that I put into my calendar. The note then went to 3 Scheduled in case something came up and I needed that note. Notes are deleted after the scheduled event passes.

I am waiting for a check from the American College of Physicians that should be delivered to me (soon). When it arrives, I will take it to the student financing office and deposit it into the Internal Medicine Interest Group fund. So a quick note reminding me that the money should come in soon, and what I need to do with it, gets a 4 Waiting tag. If I am waiting on a specific person to do something, I will also use a tag with their name, which is under the Who group of tags.

Lastly, and some might say most importantly, is the 5 Someday tag. This is the 30,000 ft view as David Allen calls it. I have an electronic Amazon gift card that I should use someday. I also have a note called “Evernote Guide”. That’s a working title, subject to impovement. It’s long, will probably take a year to get together. I am also working on a top secret business project, in case this whole doctor thing goes south. The someday tag is for zoomed out, larger goals. Collect wedding pictures. Research how to buy a house. Collect information on different specialties, since someday I will have to decide. Whatever is not actionable now, but you hope/know it will be later.

Ok, after tagging everything, my tag counts in When increased accordingly. I then moved all the tagged items from Inbox to the appropriate Cabinet…

The last thing I do is take one more look through Later, Scheduled, Waiting, Someday and make sure nothing should be moved to Now.

I then execute. DO WORK. Knock out your tasks. Done. Go about your day of research/studying/lounging around. Take the wife out to the beach. During the school year, go to class, study, follow your calendar, knowing your tasks are completed and thoughts, notes, recipes, guides, articles, etc. are filed away, ready to be accessed when you need them. At the end of the day, if I have time, I move some Later items to Now. Then I go to sleep. Wake up, read news, blogs, etc. Repeat.

Become a machine. This is not an automated system. Everything should initially get run by your brain for processing, and then spend as little time there as possible. I have a ton of stuff to remember as it is, stuff I actually care to remember.

I also find that when I am procrastinating, even though that Now tag is full of stuff to do, I need an intervention. Get some food. Exercise. Take a nap. Walk outside. Take stock of what is bothering me. Pray! Rarely, if ever, am I honestly too busy to get things done. That’s a more esoteric conversation for a different post. I hope this was informative, and I always appreciate feedback and conversation.

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Posted in EN-GTD Theory
3 comments on “Hamming Out The Workflow
  1. Billy says:

    Hi, I’m a first year med student at Quinnipiac in CT – its a brand new program. This is a great resource! I read about GTD theory in the book Willpower by Baumeister. Could you elaborate on how you incorporate school material (docs, powerpoints, labs, etc) and assignments into the EN framework as well?

    • Mark says:

      Much of the material you get in med school is reference. Technically today’s lectures are actionable items, but to simplify my workflow, I would block out time to study and just study what I felt was necessary. Perhaps my schedule would have an hour of pathology studying and the calendar event would say “pathology – review lecture, make cards, start Pathoma”

      Another option I experimented with, especially before I got comfortable mowing what was important, was a note with everything I needed to get done for a class. I named it “Pathology study flow” and put the names of each lecture, each chapter of book I would read and chapters from question books, etc, in the order I thought needed to get done. That way my blocked out time was spent going down that list.

      All this to say that the files you get don’t necessarily belong in your workflow. They are reference files to access as needed when working. If I got a doc or ppt, I would print it as a PDF and bring it into Evernote and use it as needed. If it was a doc I wanted to annotate with my computer, opening Preview on a Mac and editing it would auto save to that file in EN, which was handy.

      On the other hand, if I wanted to annotate it on my ipad, usually just once during that lecture, I would open it in a markup app (I used GoodReader) do the annotating, then open it in EN. This would create a new note. I deleted the original and saved this new one.

      Specially I named all files from a class with a logical naming system and tagged them for that class. Eg “01.N03 – Autoimmune Dz” for term one, notes from lecture 3. Power points were “L”, histology slides were “I” for images. Labs were “M” for some reason.

      Does that help?

  2. lanle10 says:

    This is a neat way of using Evernote. I am currently working on implementing my own system based on your theory.

    Quick question – what do you do when you complete a task with a Now Tag.

    Do you delete the tag? And then either delete the note or store it in the Online/Offline Cabinet?

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