Using Evernote to track your To Do list

Also published in the June 9th version of the LL Weekly

Last week I talked a bit about how I used Trello to keep track of all my deadlines, which generated a ton of questions on what other tools I use. 

The other big one (other than my writing program itself) is Evernote.

I used to be all the way in love with Evernote, but we broke up for awhile. For awhile there I was finding the Mac version to be really buggy, and the iPhone version didn’t sync as quickly as I’d like.

They seem to have worked out the kinks though, and now it’s become sort of like my right hand. My favorite thing is that it syncs seamlessly between my computer and my iPhone app. It also has a web-based version, so if you're somehow without your phone and your laptop (blasphemy!) you can still access your notes from another computer.

Simply put, I use Evernote for everything. Random story idea? Evernote. Blog post idea? Evernote. Grocery list? Evernote. Online shopping receipts? Saved directly to Evernote. I keep my recipes here, my release dates, phone numbers, scanned business cards I receive at conferences, the soundtracks for all of my books, my hex codes for Last Word Designs projects, my outline for all my books, and the one I’ll be talking about today ...

My To Do list.

Now, some of you probably know by now that I love me a good paper planner (currently using the Day Designer), and that’s still the case. But while the Day Designer is really good for keeping me on track for TODAY stuff, I realized that I needed a place better suited to track my SOME DAY stuff, as well as those long-term projects, like, oh, writing a book.

So here’s how I use Evernote for that.

Every Monday morning, I created a new note and name it TO DO :: Week of ___

I then save that note to my shortcuts. 

(side note: I never have more than three notes in my shortcuts section. I find this makes them truly short cuts, as I can find whatever I need most urgently immediately)

Once I create that note, I upload an image, that’s basically a turquoise box that says “To Do.” This creates a thumbnail, so that when I’m looking at my 1000+ notes at a glance, I have a visual reference for my to do list. I also have thumbnails for my other “most referenced” categories, all with their own color: The LL Weekly, Soundtrack, and Last Word Designs.

Anyway, once I have the To Do thumbnail, I type “SOME DAY” and then copy/paste anything from last week that didn’t get checked off. I then go through my brain and inbox, adding any new items that come to mind.

This “some day” list gets added to throughout the week—it’s my brain dump. Pantry items we’re low on, new emails that come through and require attention, gifts I need to buy, graphics to create, etc. 

Under the SOME DAY section I create a WIP section where I write the manuscript I’m writing on, as well as any copyedits/page proofs/revisions etc that are due in the immediate future (I reference my Trello board for this)

I also have a section for LWD where I have whatever websites Mr. Layne and I are currently building.

Once that master “chunk” is created, I hit enter a couple times, and type MONDAY.

Here's where I start weeding through the tasks to figure out what's top priority. I build a new checklist under MONDAY with my "asap" tasks. Sometimes it's as simple as copy/pasting a task directly from the SOME DAY section (i.e., buy toilet paper). But if it's a big item that can't be checked coffin a single day (writing Someone Like You), then I'll create a sub-tasks under MONDAY. i.e., "write 5k in Someone Like You." 

This enables me to track both long-term projects due SOME DAY, as well as progress I need to make on that project TODAY.

Once a daily task is done, I check it off (obviously). 

I repeat the process every morning, moving any uncompleted tasks from Monday onto Tuesday, etc, as well as creating new tasks for Tuesday, based on my SOME DAY list.

Most days I also like to take my "top 3” TO DO items, and write them in my Day Designer, as well as the hour I’m going to work on them. This helps keep me focused on the important things. But when I’m traveling or working from Starbucks, my planner’s too big to bring with, so it’s nice to have a digital alternative.

Here are actual screenshots of my Evernote notes, with most of my personal details grayed out.

This is what the Mac version of my Evernote app looks like. 

My to-do list in action. This is my ACTUAL note for this week (screenshot was pulled Wed morning). With each new day, I simply hit enter, and put the current day up at the top.