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Getting Things Done (GTD) in Evernote with Only One Notebook

Getting Things Done in Evernote with One Notebook A while back, I was working a job that required much more effort and responsibility than was reflected in my pay grade — familiar story? Well, combined with multiple side-projects, keeping up with my wife, newborn daughter, two dogs and a plethora of other things that required my time and energy, I was drowning. I started researching ways to get things done more efficiently. That’s how I first came across the cultural phenomena (some would just say cult…) that is GTD. A friend of mine who was “in the know” about such things was nice enough to lend me an audio version of a GTD seminar by David Allen. After about 2 weeks of listening (on the train, before bed, whenever I could), and an attempted implementation, I realized that I needed a system that was less file cabinets and paper and more suited to my digital life.

Enter Evernote

Photo by whatleydude

Update: If GTD isn’t your thing, check out our post on Action Method Online.

For a different look at Evernote and GTD, check out Dan Gold’s book, Evernote, the Unofficial guide to capturing everything and getting things done. The second edition is out now. If you follow the link to make your purchase, 40Tech gets a small cut. You can also check out our review of the book, which was written before we became an affiliate.

A Bit About GTD and Evernote

In the course of the seminar, I learned a lot about the Inbox. The Inbox is the basis of your GTD system. It provides you with a place to dump all of your thoughts, tasks and ideas as they come upon you; to be processed and organized into their proper place in the flow of things at a later (and regularly scheduled) time. This frees your mind to continue with what it is you are supposed to be doing at that moment, keeping you focused and saving you from the long, slow spiral into chaos that leads to spinning wheels, a nervous breakdown, or, if you are like me, overwhelm that can only be dealt with by marathons of violent and immersive video games. There are essentially five elements to your GTD system:

  1. Collect (this is the Inbox(es) part)
  2. Process
  3. Organize
  4. Review
  5. Do

Evernote provides with you one place to do it all, and particularly makes the organizing part easy to handle. More on this later. First…

Evernote is the Mother of All Inboxes

A good GTD system, one that works with your entire life, will require multiple Inboxes. Or, if you use Evernote, your system will have multiple Inboxes that all lead to one big pit of highly organized, bottomless stuff. That’s what Evernote is – a magic bag that you can just keep throwing things into; a magic bag that allows you to easily keep track of where each item is, when you put it in the bag, and what other items in the bag it relates to. Yes, I’m perfectly aware I said magic bag. Yes, I know I am a nerd. Moving on.

Before you can get started in the virtual world that is Evernote, you will need to do a few things in the real world. First, set up some real world inbox trays in the places you tend to frequent. Let other people know that the Inboxes are there, and that they are to use them rather than bother you when you’re busy. Set up your email in much the same way – there is a good article over at Lifehacker about using Gmail for a GTD system.

IMPORTANT: Do NOT check those emails or messages unless there is a blazing fire attached to them! Resist the urge!! DON’T DO IT!!! Just schedule yourself a time to sort through all of your Inboxes (first thing in the morning is usually best) and start the planning process from there.

Aside from Inboxes, you will need a file/folder structure to action all of your Inbox items into. I’ll go into more detail on the different files and folders later, but the basic set up is as follows:

  • A File for your goals for easy reference, helping you to define them and stay on track
  • Your Inbox(es)
  • Next Action Files
  • Tickler File
  • Lists (Project Lists, etc)
  • A Someday/Maybe File
  • A Reference & Support Materials File

Evernote is a means to take quick notes from any computer that has the desktop client installed and/or internet access, but it’s more than just one more Inbox. Evernote can be your definitive inbox – and, more importantly, it’s the place where your file system will live.

How to Use Your Inboxes

Every morning, and whenever you have a bit of time available to you, you need to sort through the items in your collective Inbox. Collect every hastily scribbled note from your various real world trays, open up your email and your Evernote client, and go through each item, one by one. Don’t be overwhelmed… this is where things get good! The first thing you need to do is to decide if each item is actionable or not. If it isn’t, then you have four choices:

  1. Put it in your Tickler file to take a look at it at a later date.
  2. Put it in your Someday/Maybe file if it is something that you might want to do, sometime.
  3. Put it in Reference so you can look at it if you ever need to.
  4. Trash it.

Trashing it can be the highlight of your day, really. There is nothing quite like realizing that something is useless and doesn’t apply to you, and then simply getting rid of it! If the item you’re looking at is actionable, decide right then whether it is a standalone task or a project.

Definition of a project: If the item will take more than one step to complete, it is a project. Period.

Don’t argue with me about it – that David Allen guy is making a serious living off of this GTD business; helping people who run giant multi-national corporations – guy says it’s a project… it’s a project. Put it on your projects list. You can go through your projects later and assign the first step as a next-action task.

For standalone items, a general rule of thumb is, if the item will take less than two minutes to complete, do it immediately. Get it off your plate and enjoy the feeling of gratification that comes from a job well done. If it will take longer than two minutes, decide what the next action is, and log it in the next-action files – even if that action is just to send an email (that takes longer than two minutes to write) to the person that you are delegating the task to. Move on to the next item. Rinse. Lather. Repeat until your Inbox sits empty before you and you hear the angelic tones on the air that only an empty Inbox brings. It’s a beautiful thing.

Now you’re ready to get to work.

Setting Up Your File System in Evernote

Tags, Tagging & Yes, More Tags

What is all this talk about next-actions and appropriate folders? Well, this is where things get truly organized and Evernote becomes your best friend. David Allen is old school. He likes to work with paper folders and files and a filing cabinet. He will even (at least he would have at the time that the seminar was recorded) print out key emails and place the printed copies in their appropriate folders. In my first attempt at getting set up, I thought I was quite clever and all environmentally friendly and such by organizing my email client with folders and labels that reflected my other filing system. A decent idea, but all of my items were spread out in at least two different systems and were quickly becoming redundant and hard to manage. I needed a way to keep everything in one place that did not require me to kill trees on a daily basis. The light dawned, the birds sang, and the Elephant called. This was an easy thing to do with Evernote.

You can add your emails into your Evernote GTD system for easy reference by forwarding to your Evernote email address; which is provided to you when you sign up, and you can find in the Account Settings area of your Evernote account, online.

At first, when adapting Evernote into my GTD system, I used multiple notebooks. My default notebook was used for my Inbox, and I created several others others for specific GTD folders and separate projects, each with their own category and sub-category tags. It was effective but a bit unwieldy when I needed to find something in a hurry, and I found it difficult to keep my tags in line. I started thinking more about tagging. Then I thought a bit more. Ever so slowly, my overstuffed filing cabinet of a brain realized that multiple notebooks were unnecessary for what I needed Evernote to do! All I needed was one notebook and a highly organized nested-tag structure.

GTD Setup

Who Are You? Where Are You Really Headed? — Broader Focus

I started out with a “Broader Focus” tag. Evernote’s tag lists will sort alphabetically, so I prepended a 0- in front of it and encased it in asterisks to make certain that it will always come at the top – like this: 0 – *Broader Focus*. I then added a list of sub-tags called Goals, Objectives, Values, and Visions. In each of these is a few notes expounding on those ideals so that I can always refer to them to keep my life on track.

One Inbox to Rule Them All

Next, I added “0-Inbox”. I drag everything that goes into Evernote into this tag and move each item out as it is dealt with. This tag is actually redundant, as the default notebook will contain all things untagged and they will be at the bottom of the notebook’s note list if you are diligent about keeping up with things. I like it though. I’m visual, and it helps me immensely to have an actual Inbox that I can look at with just one click.

Random Thoughts

I also use a Random Thoughts tag to keep things that are snippets of ideas that do not really have a home or even a goal attached to them yet. This is a good place to go for inspiration when working on something, or looking for something new to do.

Next Action Tags – Where You Really Get Things Done

Now come the Next Action lists. I use several nested tags to keep me organized in different places and at different times, such as whenever I am at work, or at home, or near a phone or computer.

Next Actions

The reason I have prefaced everything with the words “Next Action” is to make it easier on me when I’m searching for something, as well as to make certain that the tags are unique throughout the entire notebook. This is important, as Evernote will not allow duplicates, and you don’t want to accidentally put in a tag that is too similar to another tag, as that will cause confusion later. Think your naming conventions through before committing them!

As mentioned in the “A bit about GTD” part, above, as you go through your Inboxes, decide on a Next Action for each actionable item and then drag the item into the best place for that action to be completed. For example, if it is something that can only be done on your computer, put that item in the Next Action – At Computer tag. If it can be done on your computer at home or at work, then put it in both the Next Action – At Computer AND the Next Action – At Home tags. That way, when you are in front of a computer, or at home and wondering what is next on your list of things to do, you can click on either one of those tags and find that task waiting for you, thereby ensuring that it gets done in the most efficient manner possible. See? Tagging is fun!

The Tickler File – Check it Daily… No Funny Business!

If an item isn’t quite ready to be processed, or doesn’t need to be looked at right away, you can put it in your Tickler File. A Tickler File is something you check into daily to see if there is anything that you need to remind yourself to look at. David Allen uses an entire file cabinet drawer – Evernote can save you some space and is a lot more portable! All you need is a tag that is sub-tagged with each month, and a tag called Days that is sub-tagged from 1-31. You toss the items into the appropriate month, and when that month comes along, you review your tickler items and either set them up in the Next Action lists or drag them to the best corresponding day in the Days sub-tags.

Tickler File

Check the Tickler File’s Days section daily to see what you might need to be tickled on that day (say that five times fast…) and then process it accordingly (Next Action, change day/month, trash, reference, whatever you need to do with it).

Your Project List – Check It Weekly

In your Lists section, you can put all your various lists, i.e.: groceries, DVDs, music you love, and, most importantly for our purposes… your Project List. The Project List is where you put everything that requires more than one step to complete.

Project List

You can further sub-tag by project category, as in the image, and even go further by adding tags for the names of your larger projects, if you want to keep all of your project planning notes in Evernote as well. That’s a whole other post, though. The main thing to remember here is that the Project List needs to be reviewed weekly to make sure you’re on track. With each review, you will doubtless find new things for your Inbox or Next Action lists until the project is complete.

Someday/Maybe, If I had a Million Dollars

For items that are not actionable, or you are not ready to tackle now (but are not important enough to be tickled on) there is the Someday/Maybe list. I broke down my Someday/Maybe items into categories that are important to me for easy reference and reminders.


Reference & Support Materials – Your Personal Encyclopaedia

One of the most important tags in your notebook will be Reference & Support Materials. This is where everything ultimately ends up that you don’t trash. As with everything, organize it in the way that best suits you. Me, I took David Allen’s advice and set up a filing cabinet drawer (albeit a virtual one) with a “folder” for every letter of the alphabet.

Reference and Support Materials

When I file something, I file it under the letter that makes the most sense, whether it is the first letter of the company (e.g. General Motors), the first letter of the word that comes to mind immediately when thinking about it (e.g. Cars), or the first letter of the subject that the item would fall under (e.g. Bankruptcies in 2009). For easy remembering, you can tag it for all three, an advantage that Evernote gives you that a filing cabinet just can’t — at least not without killing a tree or five.

Pros, Cons & Tips

The main thing to remember here is to be disciplined about your review schedules. Everything else actually has some degree of flexibility, but you really do need to make sure you clear your Inbox every morning, check your Tickler File daily, update the Tickler day tags every month, and every week do a review of your Project List to make sure you are on top of things. And don’t forget to update your tags on each note as you move it around the file system. It is as easy as dragging and dropping notes on the tag itself (and you should delete any unneeded tags as well).

Even if you only adopt the rudiments of what is in this article, you will be well on your way to managing your workload better. Not to mention that you will have an entire filing and reference system almost anywhere you are! In fact, the accessibility of Evernote is its most prominent feature. You can access your notes or take new notes on any computer with a web browser and web access. If you have the Evernote mobile client on a supported smart/pda phone (I use an HTC Touch Windows Mobile 6 phone, and it is also available for Blackberry and iPhone, with Android on the way), you can keep your notes in your pocket.

Having the mobile client also eliminates the need for a notepad and pen. You can take notes anywhere, as long as you have battery life. As soon as you connect to the internet your mobile client will synchronize with your account. Watch your data, as data charges from your carrier will apply. Another tip for mobile use is to take pictures of notes that people leave you in your various real world inboxes. These will then upload to your Evernote account and the text will be searchable with Evernote’s built in HCR capability. You can process them at your leisure. Personally, though, I would rather process them as I look at them, as opposed to the additional step of taking a picture — and it would be a good idea to get a premium account if you are going to go the picture route; could be a lot of image uploading involved, and 45mb is smaller than you might think.

The main drawbacks I’ve found to using Evernote as a GTD system, whether you use one notebook or many, is that Evernote does not have a calendar or task monitoring feature. It is basically a pen and paper system online, with easy tag and search options. The API has been out there for a while though… I am still waiting for someone to connect the thing to Google Calendar. How about it? Anyone?


How do you Get Things Done? Do you use Evernote? If so, how?



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About Bobby Travis

Bobby isn't 40-something, but is a strong supporter of the Grown-up Geek kind. He's a loving husband and father first, but is also a freelance writer, productivity nut, operatically trained singer, and (not-so) closet geek. Check out his random thoughts, wackiness, and Instagram pics on Tumblr, Twitter, or Google+-- or just head over to

221 Responses to Getting Things Done (GTD) in Evernote with Only One Notebook

  1. Thanks for this article. I am halfway through listening to the GTD seminar, and was deciding on what software to use. I really appreciate this fine article.

  2. Hi Bobby-
    Thanks for this article. And now I am going to read your other articles about Producteev and Springpad. (I assume you say why you tried something else, but if you don’t, I’ll come back with that question.) For now, I am trying your system with Evernote. Couple questions.

    1. It appears that you could follow your system with the free version of Evernote. Did you use the free or paid version?

    I have a lot of tasks in an old to-do list program (ListPro for Palm) and am trying to import them into Evernote to use in both the desktop and iPhone apps. But I can’t figure out how to mass import each record/row (list item) in the file I export from ListPro (tab delimited text file) as one note into Evernote. I obviously can import the whole list as one note, but each record is it’s own next action.

    2. Do you know of any way to import a list of tasks and make each row/record/task a separate individual note in Evernote?

    If you don’t, I’ll head over to the Evernote forums.

    Thanks again for your article!


    • Hi Michael,

      I’m glad you found the article useful!

      To answer your almost-question, I moved toward other applications for two reasons:

      1. I just like setting up systems in tech, bending it to my will and all that. It’s fun for me. :)

      2. Evernote just doesn’t provide the automation I need. This isn’t a flaw of Evernote, the system is sound, and it is a nice bridge between paper and tech GTD — I just really, -really- need reminders and calendar integration. A lot…

      For the actual questions:

      1. I use the free version of Evernote. I’ve never had a need to do more. In fact, all of the systems I have put together for 40Tech are free. It is entirely possible that I am a cheap basitch… :P

      2. I don’t know a way offhand to port ListPro to Evernote. My first thought was to open the file in Excel and do a bit of fancy VBscripting to mail the contents of each individual line to your Evernote email address. Not sure if that’s overthinking it or not.

      I found a few possible scripts that might be modified, but it might be more work than you bargain for. Let me know if you want me to pass on the links I was looking at.

      There are several mentions of Palm Notes and Evernote on the EN forum. A few people have even put together scripts/tools to facilitate a transfer. That could be useful as well, as a starting point, or if you can convert the information to Notes first.

      The most likely possibility, I think, is to find an application that will import your note info, and has a sync connection to Evernote. You might want to try ToodleDo. It is a good application for task management in its own right (though I can’t stand the interface), and it connects to many things, including Evernote. It also allows import by CSV file, if you can convert your text file to one.

      Both Producteev and Springpad support mailing notes in as well, by the by.

      I hope this was helpful to you!

  3. One can email directly to a notebook by appending “@” + notebookname to the subject title. But by using one notebook with tags, one cannot do that, right? I guess you just have to go the bottom of the notebook and tag anything you have emailed yourself, as part of your “going through the inbox” step. Just seems like it could have been a shortcut the other way.

    • Hi Fai. You can actually email to tags in Evernote by utilizing the hashtag. For example, if you have a tag called Work you can email directly to it by appending #Work or #work to the end of the subject line. You can even send to multiple tags if you want. These things are not included in the post because it was written in 2009 and they are relatively new developments.

      On a side note, if you were to use a system like this, utilizing Notebook Stacks (another relatively new feature), you could have one notebook with your contexts in several sub-notebooks, which you could then add tags to for drill-down purposes. Using the @ and # to email directly in would work well there.

      Two caveats, however, when it comes to emailing directly to notebooks or tags:

      1. Unless something is so obvious it hurts, it is actually faster and more effective in terms of GTD collections to simply send it directly to your inbox, and then tag it during the processing phase.

      2. You have to be careful with naming tags and notebooks. Many people like to use the @ and # in tag/notebook names, and this can cause problems emailing directly to them.

      Hope that was helpful! :D

  4. I actually need help with one teensy weensy issue (read that HUGE FRUSTRATION!) I’m having with Evernote to be completely sold. I can drag and drop my work, including PDFs downloaded or created from my work, INTO Evernote, but I cannot drag them back OUT of Evernote and onto the desktop should I choose to do so. Is there a secret? Trick? or something the 12-year olds could tell me about how to make it happen? If the process was as easy as drag in – drag out then I would be sold! Can you help?

    • Hi Jimmie,

      Evernote doesn’t currently support drag and drop out of its system. It’s on their list of to dos however, according to a forum post. Other options are as follows:

      On a Mac, you can drag pretty much anything to Finder and it will be saved for later. PDFs appear to be an exception.

      Right-click and save works well, and you can also (in Windows, anyway) copy the item and paste it where you want it to go.

      You could use HTML Export to send the note to a local web page, which will drop the attachment in the folder with the HTML file.

      If you use Gmail, you can email the note to yourself and then drag the attachment to your desktop (or wherever).

      If you use Chrome, you can open the web version of Evernote and download the file and then drag it from Chrome to your desktop.

      There us also the possibility of a browser extension that allows you to drag file links to your desktop, but I’m not sure on that one.

      I hope this helps you out! :)


  5. Hey, nice article. I’m in high school and was wondering if my notes for high school would go under projects or referenced. I have them in notebooks as Junior, Senior. Then sub notebooks American Lit, History, etc. Wondering if it makes sense to tag and put into main notebook.

    • Hi Jonathan!

      Thanks for the visit and the kind words. :)

      For something like this, it depends on how you best structure your thinking. Examples:

      If it is easier for you to find your notes if they are represented like they are in an online binder, then set up your Evernote either as it is, and use a Notes tag for all notes. This tag will work across all Evernote (EN doesn’t allow duplicate tag names in the system) and can be filtered when you click on a notebook and then select the tag. Another possibility here is to have a unique tag per notebook, such as AL-notes in the Lit notebook. You could also change your notebook structure to have your subjects as main notebooks with each one having a sub-notebook called Notes.

      If you want to stick closer to GTD methodology, you would simply set up your Reference notebook or tag as a filing cabinet that is organized alphabetically (by tag or even with sub-notebooks if it is better represented for you visually that way). You would then just file everything by alphabet and or number, though you could add additional tags here for subject or project if they are important to your being able to find the notes.

      Ultimately, you need to consider two things:

      1. What is the easiest way for you to get the notes into Evernote and get them organized without wasting time or breaking your brain trying to remember what tags and notebooks to use — when sending the items or during GTD processing.

      2. What is the easiest way to find the information. If you are working on iPhone or iPad, for example, sub-notebooks are not currently supported, and neither is your organized tag groupings, so you will likely have to scan for the notebook or tag you want. Having clear tags will help here, and will make it easier for you if you decide to use the search functionality. Also, especially in the desktop version, saved searches could help you find information quickly. If you decide use the saved search functionality, it could change the way you view tags and notebooks.

      With all that in mind, pull out the elements that you feel would fit most easily into the way you work and remember things.

      I hope that was helpful! :)

  6. “…… keeping you focused and saving you from the long, slow spiral into chaos that leads to spinning wheels, a nervous breakdown, or, if you are like me, overwhelm that can only be dealt with by marathons of violent and immersive video games”
    .. cracked me up.

  7. I just wanted to add my voice to the chorus of thanks so far. Im in awe of your organisational abilities. My own system is non existent and I arrived at your blog by means of a curious sequence of events.

    I purchased my first smartphone.
    Next I went looking for a shopping list app
    I stumbled across evernote as one of the few apps which also has an iphone version since I have an android and my wife has an iphone. From there I read about gtd and the tickler system and I am excited about the possibility of becoming a much more organized and efficient person – something which so far is sadly lacking in my professional and personal life.

    So suddenly I am WAAAY past shopping lists.

    I am hoping you might lend some insights to my situation … a complete and utter noob to any note taking app or gtd system.

    While your system makes sense – it is also a bit daunting to someone like me. Would you recommend evernote or another app to start with? Since I’d be adopting it at work also a desktop pc version would be desirable on top of an android version.

    I am not keen on spending the effort setting up a new system only to find everyone “in the know” has moved on to a better and more functional alternative.
    On the other hand … I’m not yet ready to fork out money for something I may …. being brutally self-honest …. give up on within a month. Having said that – the tickler system REALLY appeals to me.

    Futher to the note taking app recommendation , can you suggest a simplified “beginners” folder/tag system to start with? How did YOU get started?

    • Glad to inform and inspire, man! :D

      It seems to me that you are excited about the concept of the GTD system, but may need to ease into it, to avoid going cross-eyed and throwing it out the window. If you’ve never entertained the notion before, it can be a bit overwhelming — I’d recommend getting a hold of the book and/or a recording of a David Allen seminar before committing yourself to it.

      That said, the core concepts are pretty straightforward:

      - Set up an inbox that it’s easy to enter things into
      - Set a standard daily processing time for those items
      - Set up context folders/buckets/notebooks/tags/other-metaphors that you can place next actions into
      - Set up an active projects list that’s easy to refer to
      - Set up a reference file system to get things out of your way that you may need to look at later (reduce clutter)
      - Set up a someday/maybe section for things that you aren’t ready for but can’t throw away
      - Set up a tickler system to remind you to look at things that need a poke now and again, but don’t necessarily fit into next actions right now
      - Set up a standard weekly review to monitor the health of your system and tweak it

      I would suggest getting it worked out on paper first, but Evernote is basically a paper system that is accessible anywhere, and searchable. As such, it doesn’t have some of the niceties of an automated task system — no calendar integration or reminders, for example. If you are used to a paper system, this is fine. You will mark things on your calendar, or set up a rotating tickler like I did. If you need something with reminders and calendar connections, however, I would suggest checking out my GTD in Springpad or GTD in Producteev posts, or some of the 40Tech reader workflows that use iPhone apps that connect with Evernote (use the menu up top or search ‘reader workflow’ to find them). Producteev has a desktop app on the way, as well as an official Android app (Astrid is the app to use for now), and Springpad uses HTML5 to sync for offline use on mobile and Desktop.

      Also, I should mention that this post was written in 2009, before Evernote introduced Notebook Stacks. You could, feasibly, set this up in multiple notebooks and organize it well, visually — but keep on mind that tags can be used across notebooks (and be filtered by them), and that stacks are not visually supported in mobile apps as of yet (iOS, anyway, not sure about Android).

      Hopefully, this helps you get started in the way that best suits you. If you have more questions or need help, please feel free to respond here or in the other posts’ comments, or email me directly. :)


  8. Great article. I’m going to give this a try as a replacement for my context sensitive electronic to do list.

    I do have a few questions:

    1) When you add a new note and assign it to a tag that has a parent, do you also assignit to the parent tag. For example, if you add something to tag “A” under the parent tag of “3-Reference and Support Materials”, do you add it to both tags?

    2) What do you do when you complete the note? Do you just delete it?


    Joe Solin

    • Hi Joseph,

      I don’t usually assign things to the parent tags, as it doesn’t help with sorting. There may be specific points when I do do that, but only if it helps me out in an organizational sense, such as if I were to want an overview of all next actions, as opposed to just in their contexts.

      For completed notes, I delete them if I know I will never need them again. Otherwise, I archive them.

      • Bobby,

        I’ve been using your system for about 6 weeks, and I love it. Thank you so much.

        Once more question:

        Since you advise using parent and child tags, how do I do a search of a parent tag and have it display results for all of its children? For example: I want the result of a search of “2-Someday/Maybe” to show all notes associated with the child tags.


      • Hi Joseph — sorry for the late reply, and so glad the system is working out for you.

        As for your question, the easiest way to get all of your sub-tags by a search for the parent is to either include the parent as a tag alongside of every child tag, and then just click on the parent to sort by it; or you can make certain that your parent and child tags have a unique identifier in them (consistent to parent and child tags) and search for that.

        There are complicated saved searches you can do as well — complicated until you get the hang of them, anyway — but that is a whole other post and multiple forum topics. :)

  9. Hi, can you tell me how to deal with recurring tasks in Evernote? Thx.

    • Hi Yael. As Evernote has no calendar or reminder connection, your best bet would be to use a task management app that incorporates Evernote, such as AwesomeNote for iPhone, or ToodleDo. Another option is to simply put all recurring tasks into Google Calendar, or to use the Tickler system provided in the article above to create manual reminders.

      Hope that helps! :)

  10. What is your opinion of the paid programs like Omnifocus? Where do you see Dropbox fitting is as your inbox? What about the new iCloud?

    Thanks for your reply.

    • Hi Cesar,

      I’m not a fan of Omnifocus, or many of the paid apps out there. Not because they’re not good apps, but because, in my experience, there are no GTD apps that will do exactly what you personally need them to do. There will always be tweaking involved, and I’m not made of the money needed to test out all of the paid options. I’ve done some trials and never been particularly moved to jump in. That said, I know many people who swear by them, at least for a while.

      I love Dropbox — but I use it for file storage and mobile access, not as a collection tool.

      iCloud doesn’t do a whole lot for me, at this point. I like the ability to download apps to my different iOS devices, and I think some of the other saving/syncing features are good, but I don’t like the pricing tiers, and use Gmail for contact, calendar, and email syncing.

      • Bobby,

        What’s not to like about the pricing? The first 5gb is free along with the email account. I backup three devices with a ton of apps, photos, music, and mail and I’m less than 5 gb. The iDisk feature has gone away (big bummer), so users will need to migrate to DropBox or Box for file storage.

        Joseph S. Solin

        Apple Siri news, tips, tricks, and hacks. Now available on the iPhone 4s.

      • The free account doesn’t suit my needs. Between my iPad and iPhone, there is simply not enough space for what I need it to do.

  11. I also have looked at ways to improve efficiency with evernote, and am convinced that good tagging with just one notebook is the way I want to go….

    One big question however: I have just over 2000 notes, in about 70 notebooks at the present time. How do I make this switch? I don’t see an option to change a note from its present notebook location to the Evernote default “All Notes” notebook.

    Or do I need to create a new notebook (for example, call it Everything) and then manually change the location to that notebook?

    Thanks, Brad

    • Hi Brad,

      Because tags work across notebooks, you can go about this one of a couple of ways:

      1. Pare down your notebooks and use them and sub-notebooks as additional organization filters.
      2. Do what you suggest and create a new notebook, only bringing over the important items.
      3. Move all notes to your default notebook.

      You can’t delete all of your notebooks. You need to have at least one. To move notes, just select or shift-select/ctrl-select and drag notes to the new notebook. Dragging notes to “All Notebooks” will also move them into the default notebook.

      Hope that helps!

      • Thanks Bobby, that is sort of what I thought, just wanted to make sure I was missing a piece….

        From what I can tell from recent reading on this subject, it seems that most are using tags and searching more than the traditional folder structure….makes sense…..SEARCH is king!

        Thanks again, Brad

      • Haha! I hear you Brad. There are some really nifty (and complex) search tricks for Evernote out there.

  12. Such a brilliant post!!!! I have copied it to Evernote as well:)

    Bobby, my I ask your permission to use your article as example for my upcoming free ebook about how to use Evernote to run your life-management system? I would like to translate it to Russian.

    • Thanks for the comment, Moriarty! And thanks for taking the time to ask for permission. I don’t have an issue with it as long as the ebook is free and the work is properly credited, which includes crediting 40Tech and any commenters whose ideas you reference.

      Would love to see an English version of it!

  13. I read the book, and am now working on incorporating EverNote. LOVE it so far, but I have a question…. I have set up parent/child tags. For example, “Recipes”, then subtags with “To Try” “Holiday” “Main Dishes”, etc. When I go look at my tags on my iPad, I see ALL of the tags… parent tags and child tags. I want to JUST see my parent tags, then if I click on “Recipes” only then will I see the sub tags. How do I do that? Otherwise the stacks of tags on the iPad is overwhelming to look at.


    • This is a limitation of Evernote for iOS. I’ve heard rumours that it will be changing soon — but who knows. If you know your tags, though, it’s still pretty easy to get around. Search helps as well. Evernote for iOS does keep a limited record of your searches, so you could put your most common tags through search on iOS and then head back there when you want quick access. This won’t be limited to just tags, however.

  14. Bobby enjoyed your article and setup my GTD on evernote with tag nested as you describe but when I look at on my ipad it’s not nested all the files will be listed not nested.. On the PC version it’s nested. I am missing something? Example would be I created tag January and under January Jan-01 and put a file..It not nested on the ipad and it is nested on the PC version..

  15. Sorry Boddy didn’t see the post above so looks like its an issue with IPAD IOS.. Thanks.

  16. Liked the post buddy, just trying to pull a full system together for my complex and sometimes wonderfully busy life! I will be implementing this across the full family rather than one person doing all the organising so I’ll let you know how we get on.


  17. Amazing post. Wish I had read this earlier, it took me a while figure out how to setup my tags. I also used numbers and characters to start my tags but never thought of the search functionality, like tag:0-*, my concern was on how quickly I could add new notes.

    • Glad to see this post is still relevant for people. :D There definitely is a bit of preparation and double duty work when it comes to using Evernote with GTD. If you can stick with it, and it works for you, though, it’s awesome.

      • Bobby,

        In setting up the tickler file for the Days – how do I get the number 10 and so forth to go under 9 in order? Seems to want to throw 10, 11, 12 etc. at the top of the days tag under tickler tag.


      • Hi Darin,

        Use 01, 02, 03, etc. :)

  18. Just desire to say your article is as astounding. The clearness
    in your post is simply excellent and i could assume you’re an expert on this subject. Fine with your permission allow me to grab your feed to keep up to date with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please carry on the gratifying work.

  19. Hi,

    I read this article about 2 years ago and have been using google calendar and Evernote as my GTD system since then with my own modifications. Thank you very much for this article.

    Since then I realized that Evernote and Google calendar do not sync very well and there were no tools that existed to help me with this syncing. So the process was very manual.

    That’s why I created sokkva the cloud sync application for busy people. sokkva sync’s events in google calendar with notes in Evernote through the cloud without a client running on your devices.

    Please head over to and check it out.

    sokkva is in Alpha, so I would really appreciate you testing it out and providing lots of feedback


  20. I found Zendone, a new cloud app that does all of the google calendar sync that turns your already brilliant info in your article into the perfect killer solution. Love your work!

    • Hi Jacqueline,

      Thanks for suggesting Zendone. Bobby, who wrote this, isn’t around much anymore, but he has mentioned Zendone to me previously, and really liked it.


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