Posts Tagged GTD

How an extreme website makeover enhanced Dan Gold’s productivity, + Power of 21

How an extreme website makeover enhanced my productivity.

Dan Gold at DEG Consulting has revamped his website and added to his product list.

He now has Kindle and audio versions of his guide to using Evernote to Getting Things Done, as well as a new workbook to developing new habits.

He also has new icons for all his products. The icons look great: those products look as solid as a Dickens novel!

He also offers a 20% discount if you buy more than 1 of these products as a bundle.

I learned a lot from his Evernote guide to GTD. It inspired me to re-visit Evernote and how I used it, and I now use Evernote more than ever. I consider this one a steal at $5.

I’m not a Springpad user and to be honest, I have quite enough on my plate with Evernote, so I haven’t tried this product.

Dan’s free “habits” worksheet is a calendar with questions to ask yourself on your progress each week. The main idea is that it takes at least a month to turn a new behaviour into a regular habit.

You want some inspiration to learn a new habit? Let Eric Thomas, the “hip hop preacher”, teach you the power of 21: [yframe url=’’]

If you buy any of Dan’s products from here, you’ll be buying me a drink:

  1. Evernote: the unofficial guide to remembering everything and getting things done.
  2. Springpad: the official guide to getting things done
  3. Evernote- audio version.
  4. Evernote ebook and audiobook bundle
  5. the whole darn set

Check out his blog to see what lessons he learned


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David Allen, Getting Things Done and GTD :: NoteTaker Wallets and Pens

Our elegant NoteTaker Wallet, personally designed and used by David Allen. Compact 3” x 4 3/4″ design features 2 compartments for holding up to 5 cards, with 2 additional pockets for receipts or business cards. Original design in black leather.

via David Allen, Getting Things Done and GTD :: NoteTaker Wallets and Pens.

If you’re a fan of David Allen’s GTD, you might like these NoteTaker cards.

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Dan Gold’s popular eBook “Evernote®: The unofficial eBook” is selling like hot cakes

Mouth-watering mini white chocolate cheesecakes! Yum

Mouth-watering mini white chocolate cheesecakes! Yum

Dan Gold’s e-book Evernote®: The unofficial eBook to capturing everything and getting things done! is selling like hot cakes.

"Evernote: How to capture everything and Get Things Done" by Dan Gold

"Evernote: How to capture everything and Get Things Done" by Dan Gold

It’s just $5, and it gives you a brief but useful guide to setting up Evernote to work as a Getting Things Done (GTD) tool, for both capturing ideas and “next-action” items, and for keeping track of projects and complete items, how to use tags and avoid over-tagging, tips on notebooks, etc., all with a GTD focus. Click the  link or the image on the left to read more about it.

Evernote Logo

I use Evernote, rather than OneNote. I tried OneNote for a while when my  Evernote account froze up, due to the dastardly reason that I was too cheap to cough up the 450 yen/month (4,000 yen/year) for the Premium account. I tried OneNote and I liked the pretty colours and tabs, but I missed the cloud functionality of Evernote. I use Evernote on both work and home desktops and on my iPad (and more recently on my iPhone, too), and all my notes are automatically updated in the cloud. I found OneNote less satisfactory in that regard, as I wrote in an earlier blog-post: “OneNote vs Evernote

OneNote logo

Dan Gold’s eBook is not an introduction to how to Evernote. For that, you need THE Evernote guide, Bret Kelly’s Evernote Essentials, 2nd edition.

Brett Kelly's Evernote Essentials. Click image to read more

Brett Kelly's Evernote Essentials. Click image to read more

And if you know little or nothing about GTD, Dan’s guide is probably not the best place to start. The best place would be THE SOURCE: David Allen’s book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity or website.

Brett Kelly’s guide can be used like a manual: read it through before you open the “box” and start using Evernote, or dipped into when you want to know something esoteric, like how to encrypt the text in a note.

If you have read Dave Allen’s book or are familiar with GTD and would like to know how 1 person (Dan Gold) has set up Evernote to work with GTD, then Dan’s eBook is for you. Dan is a very enthusiastic guy, and his positive feeling pervades his book. He writes simply and with humour.

And his eBook is selling very well. I want to promote books or products I use myself and made by people I respect. Click the image below to find out more about Brooks Duncan’s Paperless Document Organization Guide (for Mac- and Windows-users).

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Evernote: Which is more useful – a “later” tag or a “this week” tag?


TSW (The Secret Weapon) is a GTD (Getting Things Done) system that integrates Evernote and Outlook for capturing and processing work, i.e. actionable items. The website has clear and detailed videos on how to set this up.

For actionable items, I’d been using Dan Gold’s suggestion of “!Next” and “!!Today”. Then after watching TSW’s videos, I changed to the 5 levels of “Now”, “Next”, “Soon”, “Later” (and “someday”), but working with these today, I decided they were too vague, so I’m experimenting with “Today”, “Tomorrow”, “This week”, “Next Week” and “This month”.

I’m not teaching at present, but am preparing for when classes restart next month. There are things that need to be done this week, and others that cannot be done until later this month, and yet more that cannot be done until after April 1st.

TSW has ways of tweaking his ToDo lists using the date the Evernote was created. If I can understand how this works and it’s not too time-consuming, I may use that. In the meantime, I’m going with my own version of his “ToDo”, “when” tags.

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GTD “buckets”

My buckets. Not having these properly in place had been one obstacle that was causing a backlog of items to process.

My A-Z filing system

My A-Z filing system







My A-Z filing system

My A-Z filing system








My inbox








To shred

To shred












Tickler file

Tickler file







Trash bin

Trash bin

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Back to lo-tech for GTD

I use a paper-based GTD filing system, as per David Allen’s suggestions.

I also use various digital tools for collecting, storing, filing/archiving and setting up tasks or alarms:; mainly Evernote but recently also OneNote and Outlook.

What the heck is this envelope doing on my shoes? Oh yeah! I need to take this to work…

However, while these tools are great for storing, archiving, annotating and collecting, they are not so good for setting up tasks or alarms: I need the alarm when and where I need it (like the document I need to take to the office, placed on my shoes by the front door where I can’t fail to see it and take it with me in the bleary morning).

Although I use a computer for much of the time, and am frequently online, I rarely use a computer in class and even when I do, I am even less frequently online. The only time I have been online when actually teaching has been to show a YouTube video. There is no computer in the classrooms I teach in. I can borrow a laptop and plug it in, but it’s a bore and usually more trouble than it’s worth.

I have not yet bought Evernotes‘ premium account so I don’t have access to all my Evernotes when I’m in the classroom.

Er, can one of you nice students tell me what the homework was?

When I’m in the classroom, one of the first bits of information I need is what was the homework from the previous class. Twice I did not have this information with me and could not recall it. This prompted me to refine my use of electronic tools and combine them with a paper-based low-tech system: index cards.

I’m therefore going back to a low-tech system for my next actions: index cards in the appropriate physical file folders. This way, the information I need is right in front of me where and when I need it. I go into the classroom, open the file, and there it is: what we did last class and the homework I assigned, plus today’s handouts if any.


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How to never forget the milk


Konan - the boy detective and his amazing glasses

Dan Gold recently posted a screencast about a cool tool called Followupthen, and I posted this comment:

Clear and concise screencast. Followupthen, I can see working for someone who spends most of their time working at their computer: they would most likely be at their computer when the email arrives, and (hopefully) will READ the email. Personally, I use my cell-phone calendar (not synced with Google calendar) to create reminders. I (usually) carry my cell-phone, and it buzzes to remind me to go to work (for example), or pick up my daughter from day-care.

After posting that, I started using my (non-Apple, non-google-synced) cell-phone’s “task” app. Why did I never use this before?!?!?

Read the rest of this entry »

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Naming files

In his video on going paperless, Brooks Duncan says it doesn’t really matter what you name a file, and he gives an example where he names a pdf that he’s just imported into Evernote. He puts the date of the pdf, or the date it was created, at the front then adds a descriptive title.

The organizing software that comes with my Fujitsu ScanSnap also automatically assigns the date and time as the default name for all scanned docs.

This can be useful, but there’s a problem when I import the pdf into my iPad2: there are only 2 ways to search for pdfs in iBooks and that is by author or title.  Also, you can’t assign the pdfs to categories (it is possible using some other pdf-reading/organizing software, e.g. pdf-notes allows you to do this).

Update: Clarification – I don’t (yet) have Evernote premium and so cannot view the contents of Evernote notes when I’m offline, which is most of the time. What I’m describing here is viewing pdfs on my iPad2 using the iBooks app.

I have a bunch of pdfs that are related to the various places I work at. I don’t always put them into pdf-notes because, altho the categories are useful to help locate the files I need in particular workplaces, I can’t use it at work because I installed the app via my home computer. If I try and upload a pdf into pdf-notes at work, it tells me the pdfs I list will REPLACE the pdfs already uploaded into pdf-notes.

Also, I don’t want to waste time TYPING the file name into a SEARCH box. I just want to flick down thru the list of files listed by title and find all the pdfs I need for a particular context/location all together. This is my work-around for having no folders to organize my pdfs on my iPad.

So I name my pdf files according to location (“context”, to use the GTD jargon): all files required for or related to a particular workplace get the name of that workplace as a prefix to the file name. Pdfs unrelated to workplaces I assign my name as the prefix. Like this:

  • WorkA_calendar
  • WorkA_address_list
  • WorkB_calendar
  • WorkB_address_list
  • WorkB_Phone_numbers
  • etc.

I don’t need the date in the name.

So far, this convention is working well.

The next thing I want to organize is the workflow:

  • did I already upload this file to my iPad?
  • which files need to be uploaded to iPad?
  • Where should I store files that are waiting to be uploaded to iPad?
  • If I use a temporary holding folder like “To iPad”, what happens to the files in iTunes when I delete them from the temporary holding folder?
  • I lost track of some files (forgot where I was in the workflow) because I dragged them out of their original folders and put them in the “To iPad” folder, then
    • forgot where they’d originally come from, or
    • thought I’d already copied them into iTunes, then
    • deleted them from the “To iPad” folder, only to discover that
    • I hadn’t yet uploaded them to the iPad, and now
    • iTunes on my computer couldn’t locate them (because I’d just deleted them), but
    • “not to worry, there’ll still be a copy in the original folder… won’t there?”
    • No there won’t, because I dragged them to the iPad folder, not copied them.

Coming soon: workflows are fun!

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Newsflash!! “Productivity tools” don’t necessarily make you more productive!

I’ve been playing around with OneNote, Evernote, SkyDrive and some note-taking apps on the iPad2. And, gennelmen and ladies, I’ve discovered that using these tools does not necessarily result in greater productivity! Why not?

  • First, there is the time it takes to learn to use these tools effectively (although that’s true for almost any endeavour)
  • B, it’s easy to lose sight of the goal, and the goal is not to become more proficient at using these tools! They are tools: means to an end. What is the end? It’s so easy to lose sight of that.
  • D, sometimes the tools start dictating what you spend your time doing, instead of the other way around. Here’s an example – use Evernote to keep track of every one of your Tweets instead of them all disappearing forever into the maw of Twitter’s unsearchable archive. Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should.
  • Four, (tho see B, also), getting  everything into your in-tray is impossible, at least for me: as I’m writing down one idea, I get 2 or 3 more. Getting everything down, emptying your mind, needs to be combined with, and preferably preceded by, what Dave Allen calls the view from 50,000 feet. However, I don’t mean this kind of advice on the GTD website. This is just more of the same: chasing the rainbow. You can make yourself insanely busy dealing with stuff at runway/ground-level or 10- or 20,000 feet, stuff that you would simply drop if you could take a look from 50,000 feet. From 50,000 feet, for example, improving my “operational responsiveness” doesn’t show up on my radar. Not even close. I’d be having too much fun looking at the view. Another way of looking at it is, if today were your last day on earth, would you be spending it the way you are? (“This life is worth more than the most precious jewels. Yet you are spending it as though it wasn’t worth a penny.”)
  • So I disagree with this advice: “taking care of those runway items and 10,000 foot items through the GTD system will allow you to think about and consider the items on the higher levels.” Not in my experience it won’t – you usually end up with a permanent inability to see the wood for the trees.
  • Sometimes, quietly listening to one’s own inner voice can bring great clarity and help sort out one’s priorities. But you can’t always hear it if you’re listening to your iPod while reading your favourite blogs and noting down all the cool quotes in Evernote (then exporting them all to OneNote, for backup), then madly surfing the web or Skyping friends to learn how to unfreeze your Kindle.
  • Finally, you can’t take it with you.

You Can't Take It With You

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There’s an app for that…

Update: the article I linked to below is very useful. It shows me how to do something that I’ve long wanted to learn how to do, namely sync calendars and tasks across applications. Basically it includes using Google sync.

In his classic book Getting Things Done (GTD to the cognoscenti), Dave Allen points out how your brain is kinda stupid. He means the human brain in general, not yours specifically of course, and he gives this example of how, if your brain were really smart, it would remind you to get new batteries for your torch when you were passing the battery section in the store (and also remind you what size batteries you need) instead of “reminding” you that you need new batteries when you try the torch and it doesn’t work.

His GTD system is designed to get as close to that ideal as possible: you create lists of things to do based on context, like @work, @office, @out, @computer, @train, etc. Then, when you’re on the train or out running errands you open the list of “things to do” for that context.

Well, Apple’s iOS 5 apparently has an app that will ping you a reminder, not just based on a calendar entry, but also on location! Check this out (note the date – this is not new news, except to out-of-date fogeys like me):

June 2011 Update: Apple recently announced the transition to iOS 5, which has several features that make the Touch and even better PDA. Of course, it is far more than a PDA, but this post focuses on its PDA features.

The new features include a Reminder app, the ability to use Text Shortcuts, a Mail app that supports rich text, an improved Calendar app ability to show colors for different types of appointments, for example, WiFi syncing, and a notification center that shows all of your notifications in one spot.

… Note that the Reminder app is location-based, so you can set a reminder to go off when you enter your grocery store. Just add the store and its address to your Contacts, and then you can select its location for an errand, if you choose.

via Apple’s iPod Touch is a Great PDA, Not Just an Entertainer.

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