Soooo…is everyone familiar with Getting Things Done and The Secret Weapon? Outlook? Evernote?
If you’re not, then click around and check out the awesomeness (in the order listed above).
Last week in class Tony Brainstorms stopped by again and shared with us TSW. Blew my mind. I’m still digesting all the info he gave us, but I’m trying this system. So far, I haven’t ran in to anyone else using it, but it really seems for my future career goals as a professor that it would be really useful, not to mention useful now as a PhD student.
So I’m going to tell you how I got started and the issues I’ve found so far in case you decide to try it out.
I’d been using Evernote for about a year for note taking in class. Not much more than that.
I had Outlook set up to receive my .edu address emails. I also have gmail for personal things. My .edu FWD’s to my gmail but my gmail doesn’t go to Outlook.
I have a mac and iPhone.
So first I watched all the videos…a few times. Then I emailed some question to Tony and he was kind enough to respond. Watching of the videos is kind of a critical step.
I followed some of the steps in the videos, but since I already had both account set up, my process was a little different. The hardest part for me was reconfiguring how I had Evernote set up. I was operating on more of a Notebook system than a Tagging system.
I did not read the book, yet. I’ve asked for it for a present. Pulled the broke grad student card on my parents. (Hush. If it’s not vital to my life, I shouldn’t buy it.)
I started by creating all the tags suggested in TSW. I modified some to fit my profession and added a few like “:) Completed Task”.
Then I pulled up my notebooks and moved them into stacks. I have one for my Tasks, one for Personal, one for Coursework, and one for Other PhD work. I use the coursework one for different notebooks for different classes and the PhD one for my dissertation and assistantship notes. These notebooks are for actual, long, in-depth notes. The Tasks one is my main group.
So after I rearranged notebooks and created tags, I tagged all the things. Every note. Yes, this did take some time. I spent around 3 hours doing just these steps.
Next I imported my “To Do’s” in to my Action Pending notebook. Normally I have some To Do items in a notebook, some more long-term ones on Google Tasks, then some others in a Check List app. I consolidated. It was TERRIFYING.
I hung out with this system for a few days, just getting used to the tagging, notebooks, and training myself to do the nightly review. I found that I had huge brain dumps at night and could really get a lot of things in the list by thinking through my day.
Finally, I sat down to clear out the inbox. Since I’m using Outlook on a Mac, I DO NOT have a button in Outlook for Evernote. This is not a current option. There are some scripts out there that you can run if you are tech-savvy but that’s beyond my capability right now. So I went through my inbox and either deleted, moved or FWD’ to Evernote all of the things. I did this in Outlook AND Gmail. Again, it was terrifying. But then I realized…it works. I would keep an email from a group member about an upcoming meeting in my inbox to remind me of the meeting…even if it was on my calendar. But with it in evernote, it’s now a reminder, AND I can make notes on the meeting and when I’m done it can go to completed tasks or the notebook it belongs in. Often I would have that meeting, then FORGET to move the email to the archive…and every 3 weeks or so I would end up with 3 pages of emails I hadn’t archived or hadn’t dealt with.
Going through them in Evernote also allowed me to make a comment on what the email was about. For example I FWD’d a message that came through as “FWD UPS Tracking for Package from XYZ”. Normally I keep these emails to remind me that packages are coming in case they get lost. In this case, it’s a package that I need to get and take a picture of when it arrives. So I changed the title of that note to “Take picture upon arrival” then the rest of the note has the shipping info and everything else from the email. I can title emails to something useful. So instead of a group member emailing me “Hi there” as a title, I can change it to “You need to do X for this project”. I like this a lot. It works for my brain.
I’m also jotting blog ideas down for later use and tagging them with the tag “Blog”. Hopefully that will let me have fresh content and update more.
I have only been using this system since last Wednesday and have just integrated email last night. Right now, the inbox is still empty. I’m on top of it. I hope it stays this way…but it will take some personal discipline. I really do find it useful to merge my email and task list….because a LOT of my emails correspond to tasks I need to get done. I’m also finding it useful to tag people like my advisor in the notes, that way when I meet with her I can ask her about all these languishing projects that I had honestly forgotten about as well, but had email records of.
Merging notes is also great because if I have several emails about the same project, and one or two To Do’s for it, I can stick them together.
So for the first week…I’m liking this system. But there are some issues I’ve found
As I’ve mentioned, it’s not as seamless as it could be with Macs. Hopefully that will change in the future. Other things I would like to see from the program are recurring tasks and recurring alerts. OR the ability to make multiple alerts for one item. Some tasks, like “Nightly check” need to happen every night. I have those listed in !Daily and I just keep them there as reminders.
I would also like for the tags to sort a little differently. I can nest them under each other, for example my tag “Qual Class” is under “Professional Projects” and “.Active Projects”. But I have to tag Active and Professional separately from Qual. I would like it if I could just tag it “Qual” and the other tags would also include it because it’s a nested tag. That would help with filtering for searches.
Overall the issues are minor, and I hope they can be eliminated by future program improvements.
For more info, there’s some good stuff in the Evernote Forums on the topic.
Is anyone else out there using TSW? I’d love to hear your thoughts and methods!