Tag Archives: Apps

Evernote and Todoist: REALLY Getting Things Done

I am one of those people that bought into the whole GTD (based on the bestselling book Getting Things Done by David Allen) thing. I like the whole concept of mind-as-water. Where things are not lurking at the back of your mind at all times – but are filed in some reliable and accessible system where you can get back to them and address them. Where the context of the task is just as important as the task itself. Where things are never too big because you can create projects and break them down into manageable tasks. Where the deep (oh so sweet) satisfaction of checking off things spurs greater productivity.

But for the longest time, I struggled with this – from an implementation standpoint. The book talks about using cards and folders to manage the system. Which is great if you live in the 1900s. But it seemed primitive to me in today’s world where we are always connected, always online, always digitally enabled. Alright – if you don’t own a smart phone, you might want to get one – you can thank me later.

One of the other things that I do, and recommend to everyone, is to maintain a journal to complement your productivity workflow. The reflective brain dump is a useful process as part of getting things done and I use my journal as a mechanism to reflect on the day and to identify things that I need to get done – and things I have achieved. This leads to clarity of mind, and a capture of actions that would otherwise slip through the cracks. I use Day One Classic (on my iOS devices) and Life Journal (on my Windows PC) to help me with this.

When I was at Dell, I took this course wherein they applied the whole GTD thing to Microsoft’s Outlook. It was absolutely fantastic – because most of us have email open all the time – and it is just easy to create tasks on the fly, schedule tasks and do daily reviews with great ease. And it worked great as long as I was at Dell – and using Microsoft Outlook. When I changed jobs, I was forced to use the abomination that is Lotus Notes (oh how I hate thee – but more on that later). So the whole GTD process broke down for me.

I started looking for ways by which I could get stuff out of my head and get back to GTD via some sort of replacement system. I struggled with various task management tools (at one point even using desktop sticky notes).

The thing is, for the GTD process to work for me, a few things are essential:

  • The tool I use is ALWAYS available (online, offline, web, mobile)
  • It should allow me to create items for follow up from email (UPDATE: this is now a premium feature – which saddens me as this was a critical feature that was downgraded)
  • It should let me set up projects and break those down into tasks
  • It should have the ability to establish due dates and reminders
  • If necessary, it should let me collaborate with others
  • An ability to help me file and tag things and also prioritize tasks
  • Have a safe and reliable sync system across everywhere I used the tool

What really ended up working for me were 2 things – both with their pros and cons, of course – but both effective.

Evernote: If you have not signed up for it, please do yourself a favor and do it. It is a free tool (well – you CAN buy premium subscriptions if you want, but don’t have to) and has SO much value and in SO many different ways, that you’ll be thinking how you lived without it. (If you don’t mind, please use the link at the beginning of the paragraph – it gives both of us free Premium access for a limited period of time). Anyhoo – I am a big Evernote user, and I of course am always looking for ways I can get the most out of it. So I was ecstatic when I came across this web site that helps you GTD using Evernote. It is called The Secret Weapon. I am not going to spend too much time outlining what it does – since the site does a spectacular job of that by using easy to follow videos and the like. Evernote meets all of the criteria I listed above (and then some!) – and it works great to do what I need it to do. I do think that this is one of the (if not THE) best ways to implement GTD digitally for free.


Todoist: This is a very cool task list management system – if somewhat lightweight. The free version of the tool meets most of the criteria I listed above – and the rest of the criteria can be met if you sign up for their premium subscription. The ubiquity of the tool – and its sheer simplicity – lets you get up and running with task management in no time. I came across this post (Why I Left iCloud Reminders for Todoist) on Zite – and that’s when I started using it. Oh – and it has this feature called Karma – which is basically gamification of sorts whereby you earn Karma points for using Todoist – it just keeps things interesting. Give it a try – I think you will like it.

UPDATE: I have created a post about how I would implement Getting Things Done using Todoist.

Todoist Screenshots

Both tools have solid offline applications for Windows/Mac, browser plugins for most of the major browsers, and solid apps for iOS (which is what I use – but I think they have apps for Android as well). Like I said – ALWAYS available.

Oh – and if you want to kick it up another notch – check out IFTTT which allows you to do some super cool things with these tools. I might even do a dedicated post on this later…

So – tell me – how do you get things done? Do you have any other tools or systems that you use that you are so excited about that you would want to tell everyone about it? Let me know in the comments…

Day One App (and Life Journal for Windows users)

I started using the Day One App a while back and really wanted to develop the habit of creating journal entries of daily reflections, random thoughts, my feelings, interesting pictures I took, milestones in my life and/or career, etc. And it has been a very useful tool for those things.

There are of course many ways in which the app can be used. I use it to suit my needs – which can sometimes be all over the place. To remind myself to pen a few words from time to time, I have set up 4 reminders – 9am, 1pm, 5pm and 9pm – so that I can do quick point in time notes in case I have been pre-occupied with other things. I use the 9am and 9pm reminders to write my gratitude entry and reflection entry respectively. The Day One app also lets you publish some of your journal entries via their Publish web site.

Day One has come out with v2 with support for multiple journals and multiple images per entry. But they have also made the move to proprietary sync with their own servers, dropping Dropbox (and iCloud) sync support. For me the functionality updates are not big enough and the loss of Dropbox sync is a huge issue (I like to keep my journal data close). As such, I still continue to use Day One Classic (and have not yet made the jump to the new Day One v2). A lot of other people are similarly worried about aspects such as data security, lack of Dropbox sync and lock-in.

Life Journal – A Windows client for Day One:

One of the things I really wanted was a journal application that could work on my Windows desktop PC. Today, Day One only works on iOS and Mac (both have to be purchased separately). If you want to use Day One on your desktop Windows PC, you are essentially out of luck. I spend a lot of time in front of a Windows PC and wanted to have a tool to maintain my journal – especially when creating verbose entries (which is hard to do on the phone).

I now use Life Journal – which lets me use the app on a Windows desktop PC. Life Journal is a journal app for Windows that allows me to both read and create entries that are fully compatible with Day One (entries I create in Day One can be read and edited by Life Journal and vice versa). It lets me maintain continuity of my Day One journal on my PC (via Dropbox sync). It is a simple, beautiful, yet powerful and full featured application. It is also encrypted by default to keep your journal private. Best of all, I get to control what happens with my data.

Very responsive support team and always looking to improve the product – I highly recommend giving it a try.

If you like to maintain a physical journal (especially a gratitude journal), I would highly recommend the Five Minute Journal by IntelligentChange. If you are looking for a cheaper alternative, the folks over at Beautiful Life Apps have created an Adapted Five Minute Journal Template (PDF) that can be purchased and printed at home to create your own gratitude journal.

(Some images of the Life Journal software below from the Beautiful Life Apps website)

I love Day One and Life Journal – and find them to be useful tools to aid my journaling workflow and document things that I would otherwise experience and forget. Having access to a journaling tool on iOS and on a Windows PC means I can journal whenever I want, with the device I am most comfortable with. Which increases the chances that I *will* journal – and that is what is important to me…

How do you use Day One? Do you use Life Journal?