I have never jumped on board the GTD bandwagon. This is entirely because of my own failings, and not any failings with the methodology of GTD. It fits well for some, and not for others. I’ve read David Allen’s book multiple times, and I’ve tried his GTD methodology both before and after I used Evernote. For me, it is just too much overhead, and more importantly, it doesn’t work the way I do.
That said, I can usually find something beneficial in everything, and the most significant thing I took from GTD was the concept of the “daily review.” The idea is pretty simple. You spend a few minutes each day reviewing your day, updating your to-lists , and basically keeping tabs on what is going on in your life so that you can empty your head and still make sure everything is captured as it is supposed to be.
I put a lot of notes into Evernote. More and more of these notes come from various automations, so that I am not putting them in myself, but other systems are putting them in for me. That means that sometimes, things get into Evernote that I might not be aware of if I didn’t pay attention.
I use a “daily review” to pay attention to the notes that I put into Evernote. Here is how I do it:
Step 1: Create a “Daily Review” saved search (one-time only)
When I started with my daily review, I created a saved search that looks for all notes created on the day I execute my search. That is a simple enough search to create. The search syntax looks as follows:
which tells Evernote to search for all notes with a create date equal to or greater than today. This worked pretty well, but after a little while, I realized that I was seeing only note that I created today. What about notes that I updated today, but that were created before? So I modified my saved search as follows:
any: created:day updated:day
This search tells Evernote to find any notes created since today or updated since today. The “any:” keyword at the front is what tells Evernote to look at any of these conditions.
Once I had the search I wanted, I saved the search and gave it the name “Daily Review.” Finally, I dragged the saved search to my Shortcuts so that I have easy access to it.
Step 2: My Daily Review (once a day)
With my saved search, I now spend a few minutes each evening reviewing all of the notes created or updated on that day. Usually this takes less than five minutes. In most cases, there aren’t more than 20 notes to review in a given day, but on some days, for instance, when I do a lot of scanning, there may be more.
I run my search and look at the results. I usually look at them in the List view. Here are my results from January 28:
I was out of town on this day, so you won’t see a lot of scans, but otherwise, this is pretty typical of what I might see in a daily review. I use the List View because I can easily see what notebook the note is in, and what tags have been assigned. I’ll typically do a few things as part of my daily review:
- Look for any action items that need to be added to my to-do list. I use todo.txt for my to-do list1 and some of my to-do items are pulled automatically from Evernote via some automation I’ve created. This is more of a scan to see if there’s anything I missed.
- I properly title, and organize any notes that require additional organization. You’ll note that the third note down is titled “Note from In Kentucky in Lousiville.” This is one of those notes that I created quickly on the fly. I allowed Evernote to title it. During my Daily Review, I’ll look at the note, give it a proper title, and file and tag it accordingly–or delete it if it is a throwaway that I no longer need.
- Review my day and see if there is anything missing. Often times, this is where I’ll add “milestones” to my timeline. In reviewing my day, I might recall that my daughter had a big first that morning, or my son brought home some good work from school. I’ll makes notes (or scan) those milestones as appropriate.
Weekly Review, Monthly Review, and Beyond
I work pretty much day-to-day, so I don’t bother much with weekly or monthly reviews, but you can see how easy it would be to created saved searches for each. A weekly review saved search would look as follows:
any: created:day-7 updated:day-7
and a monthly review would look like:
any: created:month-1 updated:month-1
I find that the daily review works fine for my purposes, but it is easy enough to create additional saves searches for weekly, monthly, even yearly reviews. I spend maybe 5 minutes on this a night and it helps ensure that I recall what came into Evernote that day, and gives me an opportunity to review it and process it in some tangible way.
If you have a suggestion for a future Going Paperless post, let know me. Send it to me at feedback [at] jamietoddrubin.com. As always, this post and all of my Going Paperless posts is also available on Pinterest.
- I plan on writing about this more in some detail in the future, just no time right now. ↩