One of our readers previously wrote about Getting Things Done with 2Do and Toodledo. That great writeup focused on using Toodledo through 2Do, an iOS app. I have been using Toodledo ever since I first was blown away by it, although primarily through the web app (albeit via Fluid, a Mac app that turns a web page into a standalone application). Over time, I’ve developed a system of my own to implement some GTD methodologies within Toodledo. Here it is.
Just over two years ago, I wrote my first post for 40Tech. I had discovered the power of GTD while trying to manage life, new parenthood, and the crazy tech-startup marketing job I was working. I had also become an avid fan of Evernote. The mere idea that I could capture anything, anywhere, and put it in a searchable digital filing cabinet that I could carry in my pocket was mind-blowing for me. Naturally, I spent a large amount of time and effort in marrying together my two new obsessions. They seemed a great fit to me, and they lead to that fateful first post that is still one of the top articles on this blog: GTD in Evernote With Only One Notebook.
I say this post was fateful for two reasons: one, it set me on a path of productivity and tech that has, in many ways, defined my current career path; and two, it brought about a tremendous amount of great conversation and connections with people I likely would never have met, otherwise. One of those people was Daniel Gold, lifestyle and productivity blogger, and author of the eBook this post is really about — an eBook that would have made my life a lot easier if it had been around when I first considered implementing GTD in Evernote.
Daniel’s book, The Unofficial Guide to Capturing Everything and Getting Things Done in Evernote, isn’t a step-by-step how-to manual. It’s not a mind-bending piece of literature, and it’s not going to cook you breakfast. What it is, wonderfully, is a straightforward, conversational look at why Evernote is a great tool for productivity in general, and how easily it can be used to apply GTD principles effectively. The book never talks down to you, and it never assumes you know too much or too little — it is simply honest and genuine; experienced, but uncomplicated. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a fun and easy read, either.
Daniel starts out by giving you a little background on his own experiences in searching for a productivity tool that would change it all for him. This is a conversation that he is very open about on his blog, and one that he has brought to 40Tech through several insightful and helpful comments. He openly admits that he was just as lost as the rest of us, and that it was his search and his failures in discovering or hacking together the perfect productivity system that ultimately led him back to Evernote. Evernote brought him back to basics — back to simplicity and a straight ahead means of getting things done. This eventually led him to the sense of “mind like water” that inspired his eBook.
He does a good job of breaking down his GTD implementation in Evernote, giving plenty of examples while keeping things light. As I mentioned earlier in the post, the book is not a GTD instruction manual. It does, however, work well as an introductory guide to a system that has been working out very well for him, and is easy to implement.
If I had to pick out a negative — and a review isn’t a review if you don’t — I would say that my only issue is that there are a few rough patches in grammar and a few missed words that might cause you to have to re-read a sentence or two. Even still, the author’s message is always clear, so don’t let the nit-picky things hold you back. Besides, Daniel has stated that his eBook is going to receive quarterly updates — for free — that will include new content and will likely add a few edits in as well.
The Unofficial Guide to Capturing Everything and Getting Things Done in Evernote is an easy, informative, and entertaining read of approximately 40 pages. If you are looking for a decent overview of how GTD can be effectively accomplished in Evernote, it’s definitely worth the $5 price tag, especially considering the free updates for life that you get with it. [UPDATE: We now have an affiliate link that you can use to buy the book, which means we get a buck or two from each purchase if you purchase through that link.].
As you probably already know, GTD and Productivity are creatures that live somewhere deep in my bones. They speak to me, manipulate me, and generally run my life. Not in a bad way, you understand — even if they come across as a little obsessive, the little monsters really do have my best interests at heart. They’re the reason I’m always looking for new and inventive ways to refine and apply workflows. They’re also the reason that I’ve met some cool people who have their own little creatures that bitch and nag them into action.
During a recent conversation on Google+, with a circle of those people, we were discussing the benefits of both Producteev and Evernote as GTD tools, and how it would be great if they worked together. We decided to test out a means of making that happen, with Evernote as the ultimate collection tool, and Producteev as the magic task management/Google Calendar integrator.
Here’s what I proposed (have a read and tell me what you think):
The Gist of the Idea
The first thing to do is make Evernote able to send email directly to email@example.com. To do this, you need to register the email address that your Evernote uses (to email out a note) in your Producteev workspace(s). Now, any tasks in Evernote that you want to process into Producteev can be done directly from within EN.
The next thing you need to do is make sure your Evernote notes get to the right place in your Producteev setup. Producteev’s email2task functionality is fantastic. It incorporates a lot of simple language that allows you to easily do things like schedule a task from email by writing “Do this task tomorrow at 2pm” in the subject line (more on syntax below). If you are working in the Evernote desktop app, you can easily send out an email by selecting that option under Share, and then changing the subject line to reflect the appropriate email2task syntax. If you are in a mobile app, or unable to change the subject line for some reason, then you can simply change the title of your note to reflect what you want the email subject line to say.
These two steps make it possible to collect information in Evernote and share it with Producteev quickly and easily. Producteev can connect to Google Calendar, as well, for two-way sync (coming first week of February, 2012), which gives you the opportunity to finally connect Evernote to Google Calendar, if only by proxy.
Finally, using the Copy Note Link or Copy URL to Clipboard features found under the Note and Share buttons in Evernote, you can add the note’s own link to the email or note body, and leave an easy to follow link back to Evernote in any Producteev task you create.
GTD Use Cases for a Evernote-Producteev Bridge
- You could manage your GTD system in Evernote, doing everything from collecting to archiving, but use Producteev during processing to set up automated reminders and Google Calendar events. You could also add in email or IM Producteev functionality to easily close and update tasks, including sharing and delegating without ever logging in to the tool itself.
- You could also manage your GTD in Producteev and simply use Evernote as your main collection tool, as well as for keeping all of your reference material and archives in one easily searchable place. Producteev has many ways of inputting tasks, but Evernote can utilize voice, image, and text entry, as well as the clipper, and a crazy number of integrations, to collect and organize information.
- Evernote has superior collection capability but no true task management functionality.
- Producteev’s notes system and ability to add attachments simply can’t compare to Evernote.
- When you send an Evernote item into Producteev, the body is converted to a note. Actually, you end up with several notes, as any images that Evernote uses in the background of the note are added as separate (and useless) note items in Producteev. HTML is stripped out entirely, and this will sometimes leave garbage code in the text of the Producteev note. See the image below (thanks to Daniel Gold for doing the first test run!).
- Even though the Producteev notes are in plain text, the note itself is still in both tools. In Producteev, the notes system can be used to conduct a conversation around the task with others who have access to the workspace, or to leave additional notes for yourself if you are using Producteev as your main management system.
General Workflow & Syntax
- Collect in Evernote
- Process to Producteev via Evernote email-out and Producteev email2task syntax (with scheduled items going to Gcal, as well, for the visual calendar)
- Manage tasks in Evernote with Producteev used only for scheduling and reminders OR
- Manage tasks in Producteev and/or email with Evernote for archival reference
Syntax tips can be found here, but the basics are as follows:
- today, tomorrow, days of the week, next week, specific dates (today 8pm, August 10 8pm, 8pm August 10 when combining date and time)
- done (to register a task as being completed)
- @ to assign a task to a workspace collaborator (@Michael, @Michael Lewis, @Lewis, @ML)
- * to indicate a priority level using our 1-5 starring system (4* or ****)
- # to indicate workspace name (#Personal)
- ## to indicate the appropriate label (##Marketing)
- “” to add task notes (“follow up” or ‘follow up’)
- / to have the beaver run searches for you (/today for a list of all of your tasks due by the end of the day)
So what do you think of the possibilities of integrating Producteev and Evernote into one system that is relatively seamless? Thoughts? Concerns? Is this worthwhile? Let us know in the comments!
Reading about how our readers approach their tech/workflow combinations has been both enlightening and a pleasure. You guys are smart — and we appreciate you taking the time to articulate your personal systems with us. Nina Kefer has already shown us two GTD setups in applications she has experimented with. Her Beauty and Brains: Getting Things Done™ In Style series has put an emphasis on mobility (from the iPhone), a beautiful user interface, and above all, functionality. She wraps up her series today with her own take on and review of GTD in Springpad (Bobby put together a slightly different approach here), and a final conclusion as to which GTD setup ultimately works the best for her – and might for you, too.
Continuing with our Reader Workflow showcase, we’re proud to present Nina Kefer’s second post in her GTD experiments series, Beauty and Brains: Getting Things Done™ In Style. In her last article, she showed us a particularly awesome GTD setup with Awesome Note and Evernote; focused on the iPhone, overall. This time around, she delves into a mobile frontend for Toodledo. Read on for Nina’s GTD workflow with the iPhone app, 2Do.
For an additional take on Toodledo and GTD, also check out our post on Getting Things Done with Toodledo using pseudo-GTD methodologies.
Beauty & Brains: Getting Things Done™ In Style, Part 2 – 2Do
In my last article I described my GTD system for Awesome Note synced with Evernote. If you prefer a tighter sync between front and back end, however, you’ll want to give 2Do a try. 2Do is an award winning productivity app that syncs with the task management website Toodledo as well as iCal and Outlook (via a sync helper). I use a PC, so iCal is not an option and I don’t use Outlook because it doesn’t doesn’t play well with Gmail, so unfortunately I had to make do without a desktop client.
The sync with Toodledo is pretty tight, albeit with some peculiarities. 2Do’s interface is designed to look like a colourful Filofax and comes with several pre-installed “calendars” or tabs, which are basically to-dos, projects and check lists that are pulled together in the “Today” and “All” tabs. 2Do’s tabs appear in Toodledo as folders and, as with Awesome Note, they can be easily renamed or replaced to suit GTD. They can also be moved up or down and assigned custom colours – I basically think of them as dividers in a lever arch file or personal organiser.
While Toodledo supports contexts, 2Do doesn’t out of the box, but this can easily be set up by creating tags for each context and then searching for each tag using the excellent built-in search function. These searches can be saved as tabs which will then sync to Toodledo as folders. Just like “normal” tabs, they can be moved up or down to whichever position fits best with your GTD setup. Note that tags cannot be created from scratch; you first need to create a task, then you can create the tags to tag it with.
For my to-do system I use a similar setup as in Awesome Note. Since 2Do doesn’t have a dedicated inbox, I first created a new tab called Inbox. I then created a Next Action tab as well as saved searches for all my context tags. That way I can collect all next actions in one tab, but filter them by context using the saved searches. Since these are the folders I check most often I moved them to the top of the list, so they are immediately visible on my screen when I open the app. Alternatively, you can create a dedicated “normal” tab for each context. Finally, I created Project, Someday and Reference tabs and moved all tabs in an order that suited me best. I then manually arranged the corresponding folders in Toodledo in the same order:
- @Waiting (these appear as tags in Toodledo)
- Next Action
2Do offers an almost bewildering array of features, but they are elegantly tucked away in hidden menus, so the interface never looks cluttered. When creating your tasks you have the choice between three different types – to-do, checklist and project – that can be assigned six different actions: call, SMS, email, browse, visit and Google. Call, SMS, email and visit actions can be linked to the contacts in the iPhone’s address book and a tap on a task containing such an action will bring up the contact’s phone number or email address or show the postal address in Google maps. You can then call, text or email them directly from within the app.
A long tap on a task brings up a menu that shows what you can do with that particular task: mark as done, defer to another day, copy, share (via email, SMS or Twitter), delete, add note, take or attach a photo, record and attach an audio file or assign a due date and alarm. There is a choice between email alerts and local alerts, i.e. a notification on the phone lock screen that works even if data roaming is disabled or the phone is in airplane mode. For local alerts, you can choose between receiving a push message only or a message plus sound, with a choice of different alarm sounds. A red badge on the app icon shows how many to-dos are due or overdue and within the app overdue tasks appear in red font instead of black.
2Do uses two types of tags – word tags and people tags, the latter linked to contacts in the iPhone’s phone book – which make tasks easily traceable via the search function. You can also search by key word and date range, and searches you do frequently can again be saved as new calendar tabs, so in the future you only have to tap on the tab to bring up a search result.
Tasks can be sorted by status, priority (none, low, medium, high, star), due date, note, URL, alphabetical or manually. As in Awesome Note, you can sort each folder in a different way. The Today tab shows all tasks due today and additionally there is a focus button that can filter out to-dos that don’t fulfil certain requirements, e.g. due date or level of priority. Individual tasks can be moved from one tab to another with a few quick taps. Switching to landscape view in any tab brings up a calendar showing all tasks that are due in the current month. Finally, there is a nearby tab that alerts you when you approach a location connected with your task, but I don’t use it since it uses GPS and therefore guzzles battery.
Tasks, Subtasks, and Sync with Toodledo
I Get Things Done in 2Do in pretty much the same way as in Awesome Note: my Inbox and Next Action (and context) tabs are reviewed daily and Project tab weekly. As with Evernote, you send emails to Toodledo to create a task; you can specify folder, priority, due date and time, tag, repeat, and attach the body of the email as a note.
2Do supports subtasks, so there is no need for workaround like there is in Awesome Note. Each subtask can be given its own tag, due date, alarm, action and attachment and can be moved out of the project and into the appropriate Next Action folder, right from within the main task menu (parent and subtask can’t be in different folders). Alternatively, if you have created contexts tabs from saved searches, adding the appropriate context tag (@PC, @Contact, @Errands and so on) will make the subtask appear in that tab, with the project and folder name still visible. Finally, if you assign a due date, the task will eventually pop up in the Today tab. However, be aware that subtasks are a premium feature in Toodledo and in order for them to sync between 2Do and Toodledo together with their parent task you need a (paid) Pro account. In free accounts, subtasks sync separately from the parent task.
Tags, due dates and notes sync to Toodledo, but photos, location maps and audio files remain locally in 2Do as Toodledo only supports notes. However, this has the advantage that these files are available for offline use on the iPhone.
There is a reason why 2Do was voted Best iPhone Productivity app: in combination with Toodledo it offers pretty much everything one could wish for, except the option to sync your tasks with the iPhone calendar. It is quick and easy enough that you barely have to use the web, yet the sync with Toodledo is tight enough to be able to use both apps more or less interchangeably. Don’t be put off by Toodledo’s less than slick appearance either. It is a powerful and highly customisable task manager and there are a number of Stylish and Greasemonkey themes to pretty it up.
What are your thoughts on GTD in 2Do and Toodledo?
Nina lives in the UK and works in Financial Services. A frequent international traveller, she has extensive experience of managing life on the go. A trip to Japan opened her eyes to the possibilities of mobile phone technology and she has been attempting to achieve a similar level of connectivity ever since. This is her first technology article.
Up Next: Part 3 – Springpad