Structuring GTD® Project Files in Evernote

By Benjamin Aggrey 6 years ago11 Comments
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I have always liked well-organised project files. You know… labelled spine, cover page with project description and file index, clearly defined sections for meeting minutes, CDs in their sleeves, flipping through it as you would a book … you get the picture.

So when I started researching examples of GTD® implementations in Evernote and did not find one that had similar concept, I knew I’d have to get creative.

In this blog, I describe how I created electronic project files in Evernote using notebooks and tags.

Creating a new project 

To create a new project, I simply create a new notebook and give it a project name that clearly describes the project outcome. The project then gets moved to the appropriate notebook stack.

Setting up new projects

I then copy in my Project Information Sheet (PIS) template. I keep this template in my ^Templates notebook with a *Quick Reference tag so I can easily find it. In the new Evernote 5 version, I also keep it in the shortcuts section.


I replace “Project Name” in the note title with the new project, and then complete as much of the template as make sense.

    • Outcome = If the project name does not clearly describe the outcome, I use this section to add more description about what done for this project looks like.

  • Reference Locations = If I will have more reference locations than this project file, or a file in My Documents folder, I include links here to those reference locations here. I use this for complicated projects with multiple reference locations or systems, or collaboration projects with completely separate collaboration spaces.
  • Next Actions = This is not where I track my current next actions. This is simply the location where I brainstorm project plans and list any future actions that someday or maybe will become current next actions. As I complete current next actions, I reference this section to see if I had any thoughts about what needs to be done next.
  • History = I use this section to keep track of any relevant project history I want to keep note of. For instance, I might keep a call log for an important series of phone calls.
  • Notes = In this section, I simply track any notes related to the project. Given what Evernote functionality allows me to do, I rarely use this section now. Instead I include a note link to separate Evernote note.


Building out the project file

Once the Project Information Sheet (PIS) for my new project has been created, I tag the PIS with my project status indicator (#Project – Active or #Project – S/M) and the Horizons of Focus category (examples: ~Health, ~Work, ~Service).

I can then create next actions and various project documents. Each document type gets tagged with a #GTD Tag > Indicator which tells me what kind of project file document it is. It could be an email thread I want to store in the project file that gets tagged with #Email History. Or perhaps they are meeting notes synched from my Livescribe or scanned in from a notepad I used. Those get tagged with #Meeting Notes.


I use a convention of “<Document Type> | <Document Title> | <Reference Date>” for each document so it is easy for me to locate the relevant documents simply by looking at the titles.


Some of the benefits I have found from using notebooks as project files are:

  • Complete History: I am able to maintain a complete history for each project I work on by document type, by date or even by size. And yet, with the one click, I am still able to easily sort by @Context tags to see the relevant next actions for that project.
  • Project by Horizon of Focus Category: By searching for my Project Information Sheets (search: [PIS]), I am able to get a complete inventory of all projects, by horizon of focus category. This makes it easy to compare to my 20k – 50k during weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual reviews.
  • Link across Projects: By using the PIS, I can link to any other note in my Evernote system, and indeed, to any other location that has a URL, without requiring that external reference to be part of this project.

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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  • Dima Diall says:

    So, if I understand correctly, you don’t maintain a project list per se, but rather auto-generate it from the project support materials you keep in Evernote (i.e. [PIS] with tags)… Question: how does this work for you for really small projects (2 or 3 steps)?

    • enyonam says:

      Exactly – if I want to see my list of projects, I look for my [PIS] notes. Each one is tagged with #Project, #Project – Completed, #Project – Cancelled or #Project – S/M, so I simply select the relevant tag or tags.

      For really small projects – usually two steps, I just enter in the first step, tag the a “#Next Action” tag to indicate that I have written the next action in the note, and then write the next action in the body of the note. That way, when I’ve performed the next action I refer to the body of the note and then perform or park the next action that written in the body of the note. Seem to work for 2-step projects just fine.

  • Rob Harris says:

    Thanks for a great series of blogs – very helpful!

    What do you do when an active project finishes and needs to be moved to the project archive (year) notebook? Since this notebook is itself already under the Reference stack I assume you simply move all notes/actions out of the projects original notebook and then delete it? If this is the case is it hard to see which notes belonged to which projects when looking back at the archive?… or do you have a project tag to help keep them all associated?

    • enyonam says:

      Thank Rob 🙂

      Yes, I move it all the notes from the closed project notebook to the archive and then delete the original project notebook. But before that, I copy links of all the notes in the project notebook, and paste those in the project note. That way, I have an [PIS] note for every project which has the ‘index’ if you will, for every closed project.

  • Steve says:

    Thanks – I’ve had problems trying to work out best way to map GTD projects into Evernote and this has given me ideas to work from

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