Evernote as a key "reference storage bucket" for Getting Organized

We are always talking to clients about ways to "get stuff out of your head and into a trusted system" and we have found that Evernote is often a great place to start and can be a key component of the trusted system for many people.

Here is a quick tip video showing how to easily get important email saved into Evernote.

In this video, you'll learn how to save key email conversations in Evernote.

Pro tip here... if you add @notebook name or #tag name to the end of the title of the forwarded email, you can have the note "auto file" itself in your system.

For example if you have a notebook called travel and you use tags like receipt and reservation, your forward email subject line might look like this...

FWD: Hotel reservation & confirmation for London Trip @travel #receipt #reservation

For more pro tips on emailing to evernote, check out their support article here

Get stuff out of you head and into a trusted system...

Here is a quick video that I think makes a compelling argument for GTD and getting stuff out of your head and into a trusted system.

All the things that you need to get done are stored all over--in your email inbox, on random pieces of paper or in your brain. You often forget to do things. You get overwhelmed by big tasks. And overall, your mind feels cluttered. Want to be a ninja at getting things done?

GTD explained in under 3 minutes...

This is such a great explanation and overview of GTD I could not resist posting it here for your viewing pleasure. 

We talked with David Allen, the author of, "Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity," about how to hack through your to-do list and free up your mind to focus on what's actually most important to you. CHECK OUT THE BOOK ON AMAZON Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity http://amzn.to/VvYeVV Epipheo makes videos that allow for human meaning.

16.011 | Project Planning...

The process shown below is referred to as the Natural Planning Model by David Allen in his book Getting Things Done. His contention is that this process is one that happens naturally in our minds for simple things like planning a dinner date. However, quantifying the steps in this planning process can be extremely helpful no matter the scale or scope of the commitment we are about to undertake. Whether we are planning an anniversary dinner with our significant other or planning the merger of two multi-million dollar companies, the steps shown below can be key to help you assure a successful outcome.

In my experience, many people get lost and overwhelmed in trying to "Get Organized" and manage a project simply because no one ever asked two key questions.

Why are we doing this?

What does DONE look like?

Try using this outline for your next endeavor and see if you don't find the process less stressful and more successful.

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16.010 | Weekly Review...

We have talked previously about how important the weekly review is to your GTD system and to helping you get and stay Organized.

Here is a quick and very abbreviated list of some of the things you might want to do at every weekly review. Please remember that getting your IN-BOX to ZERO does not mean you have done everything. It simply means you have captured it in your system and know where to find it.

The other PRO tip here I would share with you is this... work hard to limit your weekly review time to something between 1 and 2 hours. Unless this is your first real review, if the process is taking longer than this you are likely slipping into "DOING" the work rather than just reviewing the work to be done.

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16.009 | DO - get STUFF done

Finally, after all the collecting, and processing, and organizing, and reviewing, it is time to DO. Time to get things done! Is there anything more rewarding than checking STUFF off your list? What a great feeling of accomplishment. Right?

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When it is time to engage with your STUFF, you will generally have 3 types of work (and we use this term to mean ANYTHING you need to get done) to choose from. 

Pre-defined work - things like regularly scheduled meetings, or paying bills on the 15th of the month, or the monthly PTO meetings at your kids school

Work as it shows up - there is no avoiding this type of work. STUFF happens and we all need to be flexible and able to adapt to changing priorities. The good news is that, if you have your systems for GTD and Getting Organized in place, you will be able to adjust more easily and with less stress as you know your other commitments have been captured and will be reviewed again as soon as this distraction is over.

The work of defining your work - this is the category that many of us don't really plan for. We want to be more conscious of the time needed to plan our work, to define or work, to determine what these commitments mean to us and what success will look like. 

NOTE: we will talk more about project planning moving forward, just know that taking time to define your work may be a new concept you want to embrace.

Once you are ready to work. Ready to get things done. You should feel good about how you have defined all your commitments and  you can trust your instincts and your system to guide you in choosing what to work on.

You can use these additional tools to choose in the moment...

Context - Choose based on your the context you are "in".
Is this something that can only be done at work, or at home, or at school, or at the clients office?
Are there other context I could apply to task to help me decide? Things like @phone @computer @shopping that are less of a "place" and more of a "state".

Time - How much time will this task take? If you only have 1 hour between meetings, then have a system to review only things that can be done in the amount of time you have available.

Attention - This is about focus and the level of attention needed. If you have tasks that are detailed and difficult and you know require a high level of attention, you might not want to engage in them in the late evening after a long day at work when you are already tired and exhausted.

Energy - This is related to attention and focus but is different with respect to the energy level you might need for the work. You might choose low energy / mindless work like filing or reading or running errands when you know you don't have the energy to tackle a more complex job or task.

 

 

 

16.008 | Review your STUFF regularly...

For many people, this is the most difficult part of GTD to master but it is really the most critical step in getting organized and staying focused. It is also the key to the "stress free" productivity David Allen speaks about. 

If you don't develop good habits and rituals around a regular review process, you will still be constantly worrying about what you are NOT doing. You will still have the chattering monkey mind constantly wanting your attention and your worry.

The key here is to review the STUFF in your system regularly and as often as needed to keep you calm and balanced. This does not mean everything is DONE, it simply means you have reviewed often enough that you can feel confident that you are working on the right thing and that right time. And more importantly, you can STOP WORRYING about what you are forgetting as you KNOW you will see that STUFF again on your next review.

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16.007 | Put STUFF where it belongs...

In the organize phase, the goal is to have storage and retrieval systems that are as simple as possible yet still functional and only as complex as necessary to support you in getting things done. At the simplest of forms, your organizational system will consist of...

.... a calendaring system to help you track where you need to be and when

... a filing system (paper or digital or both) to help you find reference material easily when needed

... a systems for keep lists to help yo manage your projects and tasks

Once you have properly CLARIFIED your stuff and determined that it means to you, it should be fairly simple to decide where to park that information in your organizational system.

 

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16.006 | Clarify what this stuff means to you...

Then next step towards "Getting Organized" is to clarify what all the collected stuff is and what it means to you. This too might seem daunting, but David Allen's GTD workflow give us a simple YES / NO question to answer to help us process all our stuff.

IS THIS ACTIONABLE?

You are asking yourself this simple question for all the stuff you collect. Is there something I can do about this NOW?

If the answer is YES...

... do it
(if you can get it done in 2 minutes or less)

You can decide if you need a bit more time ( 5 minutes) but the idea is to get stuff done quickly and not get bogged down in a huge project when you are trying to "clarify" you list.

... delegate it
(if it is NOT your thing to do or someone else must do it)

This will be more than just asking others to do your work or passing the buck. There are plenty of tasks you are responsible for but can't "do" on your own. You need to schedule a meeting but someone else has the authority to reserve rooms? This will become your "waiting for" list.

... defer it
(put this in a place where you will be reminded at the appropriate time)

Make a calendar event with a reminder to buy the theater tickets that go on sale next month. Have your phone remind you Thursday afternoon when you are picking your kid up from school to talk to the teacher about ??? 

You need these to be trusted reminders so that you won't spend the entire time between NOW and the EVENT worrying about what you are forgetting about.  You make the reminder and forget about it until that "thing" pops back up into your vision.

If the answer is NO...

... delete it
(just trash it)

If it is not needed and not important. It is simply taking up bandwidth for you and causing yo stress. Throw it away. De-clutter your house, your office, and your MIND.

... file it
(if it is just reference material - simply file it away)

There are many, many systems for filing this reference "stuff". But whether digital or paper, you simply want to have system that gets this stuff out of the way AND still allows you easy access when you need it.

... someday maybe?
(this is the stuff you don't want to forget about, but you have no immediate plans for action)

This is one of the most compelling and useful ways to de-stress about your "to-do" list. You  would likely be surprised how much unconscious bandwidth these things are taking up in your mind.

Write down your someday maybe list...

learn french

trip to Italy

clean the garage

hire a personal assistant

... and then quite worrying about it and trust yourself to come back and review this list as needed. At some point one or more of these will come OFF the someday maybe list and become a real project.

16.005 | Capture all your STUFF...

We have so much "input" in today's chaotic world it may seem impossible to capture all the stuff that has our attention. However, we also live in amazing times where we can chat with our mobile devices and have it record and transcribe out musings. So maybe this task is not as impossible as it may seem at first.

The idea here is to take all those inputs (boss, co-worker, email, texts, voicemail, kids, spouse, parents, friends, family, etc, etc, etc.) and collect them in "buckets". Everyone will have their own set of collection buckets, but the idea is to have a FEW as possible but as MANY as needed to make YOUR SYSTEM function.

And as we said before. The PRIMARY goal is to get all this "STUFF" out of your head... because the worst and most leaky storage bucket is YOUR BRAIN ;-)

16.004 | 5 steps to GO ...

We will rely heavily on  GTD (getting things done) principals from David Allen to help guide us in our quest to Get Organized. 

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We will address each of these 5 keys to getting and staying organized as we move forward, but for now we want to simply share them with you to help you get familiar with the overarching goals we want to achieve in our efforts to Get Organized.

1 | Capture - Your first step will involve developing good habits for "capturing" ALL the "stuff" that comes into your life that you have commited to "do something about".  

2 | Clarify - You will then  "process" each item to decide what it is and what it means to you. 

3 | Organize - For all the "stuff" you are commited to "do", you will want to "sort it out" and "file it" in a place that matches what it means to you.

4 | Reflect - Once you have captured and organized all your commitments, you will want to make sure you "review" them all on a regular basis to stay calm and current.

5 | Engage - At some point, after all the organization and clarification, it will actually be time to "DO your STUFF". 

16.003 | My favorite GTD quotes ...

Here are my 2 favorite quotes from the Getting Things Done book.

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They are the most memorable to me as they address issues at the CORE of what it takes to impliment GTD principals and to successfully GET ORGANIZED. 

"Your mind if for having ideas, not holding them."

This may not seem a radical idea at first blush, but anyone who has tried to "keep everthing in their head" will know what a futile task this can be. If the only place you are tracking your commitments is in your head, you will likely be in a constant state worry and stress.

"Get stuff OUT OF YOUR HEAD, and into a TRUSTED SYSTEM." 

Whether this is your first real effort at Getting Organized or an ongoing attempt to calm the chaos, we recommend this phrase become your mantra. To best apply the principals of GTD and "Get Organized", you will need to develop a TRUSTED SYSTEM for capturing all the "stuff" you have commited to do. If you don't find a way to capture all your commitments (big and small), you won't have a system you can trust.

I'll take the liberty here to modify David's quote just slightly.... 

 "Get stuff out of your head and into a trusted SHARED system."

I add the word shared for two reasons. 

1... It is rare that any of us are working alone to fulfill our commitments.  

2... With today's technological advances, it is so much easier to find ways to collaborate with others it just makes sense to share. 

Whether you are involved with a large team working on a complicated project or you simply need to coordinate a grocery list with your spouse, the ability to access a SHARED system can be immensly useful when trying to Get Organized

16.002 | Read David Allen's book....

This had to be one of the first tips on the site.

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The principals in this book will be at the core of most of what we share here.  

We expect you won't have to read the book to get some benefit from this site, but we are confident you will find it immensely  useful if / when you do read the book. 

Read David Allen's book "Getting Things Done - The Art of Stress-Free Productivity". If you are like me, and have trouble actually reading for any length of time, an audio version of the new and revised version of Getting Things Done is also available at Audible.com.

You might also like to check out the Getting Things Done website.

 

16.001 | Getting Organized ...

Welcome to the GObytes website. Thanks for stopping by and taking a look. Our goal is to share "byte" sized tips and tricks here that can help us all relax and calm the chaos that has become the "every day"  state of our every increasingly busy and distracted lives.

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With that in mind.... What does "getting organized" mean to you? 

It can mean many different things to many different people. However, we love the idea that, at the simplest of definitions, getting organized just means having your "stuff" where it needs to be to match what it means to you.