How Evernote Notebook Stacks help you master productivity

By Benjamin Aggrey 5 years agoNo Comments
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If you’re familiar with Getting Things Done (GTD), you’re familiar with the GTD Quadrants (GTD-Q) with axes of Perspective and Control.

The general rule is simple – the more perspective you have on what you want and need to get done, and the more control you have over getting it all done, the greater your mastery of stress-free productivity.

Sounds great right?

It is.

After 12 years as a GTD’er I frequently end up in the “Mastery” category of the GTD-Q. But occasionally I do move to the micro-manager or visionary quadrants.

When I see that happening, I know I need to find the techniques to move back along one of the two paths in the diagram below … back to mastery.

And one of my favourite techniques is to simply change my Evernote notebook stacks.


#2013-037 GTD-Q


First, I should clarify that I use Evernote as my primary GTD tool. It is my list manager and often times my capture and reference tools as well.

I use notebooks for projects and next actions, and each next action which is in a separate note, gets tagged with a context.

I generally have 100 – 120 projects which is a lot of projects to have listed in the lefthand menu and so I use notebook stacks to group these projects.

I generally group my project folders in one of two ways:

1. By project importance (for more control)

In this setup, I will separate my projects into 5 buckets of decreasing priority. Because I use notebook stacks, I can always click on my “Priority 1 Projects & Actions” stack and focus on just the next actions in that stack.

By doing this I find that I am able to focus on a fewer number of outcomes (projects) and hence get more traction to completing those outcomes than when I look at my entire catalog of active project and actions.

So particularly for those weeks were I have little time to work from my lists, I separate out the key projects to keep moving into my “Priority 1 Projects & Actions” and that way I significantly reduce the number of next actions I have to assess for priority in each context.

2. By related life category (for more perspective): 

I use this second option when I feel that I am focusing too much on one or two of my 10 life categories.

My life categories are the 10 areas that I use to organise my horizons of focus. They are show in the picture below from A – J.

#2013-037 Evernote Perspective View


So with this view, I can easily focus on work projects and next actions by clicking any of the E#. Professional notebook stacks.

Or I can switch focus easily to one of the other life categories that needs more focus and reviewing the next actions within that notebook stack.

So when I feel I’m dropping the ball in one of more areas such as service or relationships, I make sure I’ve added in the most important projects, defined the next action, and then when I get ready to plan my ‘do’ time, I focus on that life category. Perhaps it’s a mentee I have to catch up with, volunteering somewhere, or planning a trip so I can spend more time with family.

It’s great to have these two views that easily allow me to drown out the projects and next actions that are less focused on what is most important to get done.

I’ve found it’s quite easy to get more in control of what’s supposed to get done if I can focus on only the most key projects, or to get a nice lift in how well I’m doing and feeling about my horizons of focus if I can focus on the life category or categories that need the most attention.

Test your GTD-Q for free on the David Allen Company website: There is also a great iOS (iPhone and iPad) application you should check out.

GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company. is not affiliated with or endorsed by the David Allen Company.

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