A reader posted great questions in response to my Structuring GTD Projects in Evernote blog post. Her questions were about next actions – do I use one note, or many? what contexts do I use? and do I know what my next action is based on document type (e.g #Email History) or something else?
In this post about my GTD® setup, I describe how I manage next actions in Evernote and so here goes…..
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Each next action in my project is tagged with a context.
I use a rather standard context list. I do split out @Calls and @Meeting from @Agendas.
I also have an @Delegate context which is similar to @Agenda. I use it when there is a task or project I need to delegate to a member of my team. Once that team member and I have agreed they will take responsibility for the task, I move it to @Delegated. Hence @Delegated is similar to @Waiting For.
I also have two separate contexts for each computer I use, one context for any task I have to do on the Internet, and yet another one for @Email tasks which tend to be relatively quick tasks and done in the morning.
Creating next actions
Every next action in my system is a separate note, and, every next action has at least one of the contexts displayed above.
If an item in my project does not have a context, it is simply project support material / reference.
A few guidelines I use when creating next actions:
- Next Action Description. The title of the note is my next action. I try to start every next action with an action verb. The exceptions are @Tickler, @Someday/Maybe, @Delegated and @Waiting For. For the latter two contexts, the next action describes, in past tense, what should be true when it is completed. For example: Amazon.com – Order Shipment Confirmation Received.
- Sub-context. The next action may also receive a prefix that is a specific tool or location such as “MS Word – ” in the @Computer context or “Grocery Store -” in the @Out & About context. This allows me to each sort for all tasks within a particular context without adding sub-contexts to my @Context list.
- Note content. In the body of the next action I track any information that may be relevant to this next action. This could be brainstorm notes, a TuskTool reference so the next action appears in my calendar, a call log, a decision I want to make note of, instructions for delegated tasks, next action link or description, and more. See the example below.
Three things I like about this setup
- Project History. When I have completed a next action I tag the next action with an #Action – Completed tag, and leave the next action in the notebook. This allows me to have a record of completed next actions, including all the content in the body of note, for each project. Also, selecting the #Action – Completed tag, I can see how many actions were completed in a day, or a month.
- Creating Contexts. I frequently adjust my context lists and the benefit of Evernote is that I can create a new context directly from the note. So, for instance, when processing items from my inbox, if there is a new item there that requires a context (for example: a new client’s work site), I can create the new context directly from that note.
- Multiple Contexts. Unlike previous systems I have used, I can tag a single next action with multiple contexts and not have to duplicate the next action. For example, if it is a task that I could do either @office or @home, I can give the next action both contexts and wherever I happen to have the time to get to that next action first, is where the next action gets the #Action – Completed tag.
How do you track your next actions in Evernote?
Do you use one note per action or do multiple actions go into a single note?
Do you also use special contexts for delegating work?