Lets take a look at a quick and easy way to use EverNote to organize your daily, weekly and future lists of to dos!

You may have seen my review recently of the Any.do app. It was pretty glowing as I truly loved the app. But I found that I was trying more and more to use it beyond its capabilities. There was a lot of talk about using OmniFocus at work, but I opted for EverNote in the end because I like how it was more of a personal wiki. I adopted a few best practices from Any.do and OmniFocus however to make it a truly streamlined personal organizer!

Inbox for every thought!

If you’re anything like me, you have a million things running around your head at any given moment. I tend to go with Post-it notes, but they aren’t very mobile (nor are they in the cloud). The basic principal behind the Post-it note is to take those small thoughts out of your head to free up space for more important things (like the current task at hand, etc). This is where the “Inbox” will come into play using EverNote. I use my Inbox for everything! I create a notebook called “Inbox” and set it as my default notebook, so that any time I ever add a new note (no matter where I use EverNote) the note goes directly into my Inbox. I let my Inbox build up and I don’t worry about organization, I just dump all my random thoughts into my Inbox. The idea here is that anything that can be done faster than it would take to save it as a note should just be done, anything else gets stashed as a note.

This is very important – the key to proper time and head-space management is to be sure you aren’t clogging your head with tons of things you’re trying to remember all the time. Get into a habit now of instantly stashing a note to your Inbox and just as instantly forgetting about it. A great way to get into this habit is figure out a global shortcut key that will open a new note and make sure you always have EverNote running (in the background, etc). On my Mac I set it as Option-Space and it pops up a tiny note window right from the task bar. Quick, simple, and out of the way! (Side note: I might end a day with 20-30 “notes” in my Inbox, some only a few words each.)

Organizing your Inbox

At the end of every day I review everything in my Inbox and organize it. Typically I have a few groups of notebooks and they are organized something like the following (using EverNote stacks to group books etc):

  • Inbox (default)
  • To Do Stack
    • Today
    • Tomorrow
    • Upcoming
    • Some Day
    • Done
  • Blog Posts
    • In Progress
    • Upcoming
  • Research Stack
    • A Book for each specific topic (i.e. Angular, Ember, Meteor, Node, etc)
  • Projects Stack
    • A Book for each project I might be working on or upcoming (ideas, etc)
  • Work notes
  • Personal notes
  • Code notes

I highlighted the most important ones, as these are typically what you are going to be using most and how you are going to organize your Inbox.

Take each item in your Inbox and move them all into Upcoming or Some Day under the To Do stack, depending on each task and your best judgment. (Obviously items in your Inbox that aren’t tasks should be move to other books where appropriate.) Make sure to leave Today and Tomorrow empty. The easiest way to make it super simple to organize is to setup Shortcuts for each stack on the left sidebar, so when you are reviewing your Inbox you can quickly drag notes into the appropriate book.

Plan for Tomorrow

At the beginning or end of each day, whichever works best for you, you want to plan the Today and Tomorrow books. For me, I might end the day with taking a few items from Upcoming and moving some to Today and a few more into Tomorrow. Then when Tomorrow becomes Today I have my day already planned for me. As I go through the day and complete tasks I move that note to the Done book. Ideally, by the end of the day, my Today book is empty. Now that the day is over and my Today book is (hopefully) empty, my next step is drag whatever I feel comfortable from Tomorrow into Today. I repeat my Inbox filtering as well – again ensuring that at the end (or beginning) of every day, my “Today” is planned ahead.

I loop through this whole process every day, and as I you get more used to the process it becomes very dynamic and it never feels like a chore or something you need to remind yourself to do. I almost look at it like a mini-gamification system of trying to keep my Today and Tomorrow books as organized as possible (ideally closing out each day with my Today notebook empty).

Weekly Organizing

I like to save a larger organization “clean sweep” of my entire To Do stack for a weekly occurrence. Maybe once or twice a week I will go through my entire stack: Today, Tomorrow, Upcoming, and Some Day. The Upcoming is pretty much the most important book here to organize weekly as these are the tasks that were pushed off and they need to start being bumped up to Tomorrow to get a little more priority. As more time goes by maybe you come to a point where your Today and Upcoming is a little light, so maybe its time to bump something from Some Day to Upcoming 😉

At this point I’ll also take a hard look at a few items and reconsider if they really need to be done or if they were just issues at the time but maybe no longer relevant (or they were just completed during another task).

Personal Wiki

The sky’s the limit with EverNote. As you can see from earlier in this post, I have a bunch of other stacks and notebooks that I keep track of in addition to daily/weekly tasks. I think this system, for me, works really well as just a general purpose personal organizer!