Master Life’s Juggling Act: Maximize Daily Productivity with Evernote, GTD and a Daily Portfolio

In order to gain the most from this post about my daily productivity system (hello nerd alert) you must first learn a little bit more about me. The following list is what makes up my everyday life, sometimes good, sometimes bad, a bit exhausting, but all completely worth it.

  • 3 girls, 5 and under
  • 1 husband (of the military variety, so he comes and goes)
  • 1 energetic, master digging dog
  • 4 family properties to manage
  • 1 small, but consuming micro-business
  • ∞ meals to cook, lunches to pack, phone calls to make, bills to pay etc…

This is not a contest to show you how much harder my life is than yours (its not), but more so my acknowledgement that your life is very full, very busy and my guess is a bit overwhelming at times. And I understand, I really do.

I have used Evernote to manage a lot of the chaos in my life for a long time. But as things got increasingly busy I began to feel like I was juggling a lot of balls and dropping too many. I knew it was time to reassess and come up with a new system.

Below is the system I developed for me. Since then I go to bed every night with a clear head and wake up every morning with a specific plan.

Part One: Managing WHAT You Need to Get Done

If you don’t already know I am huge advocate for using Evernote (I even wrote a book about it). I also read David Allen’s “Gettting Things Done (GTD)” about 4 years ago, and it made a real impression on me. But then I had a couple more kids, moved 3 more times and sort of just lost sight of his tips. Thanks to Dan Gold I came back to GTD through his ebook “Evernote: The unofficial guide to capturing everything and getting things done“. Dan gives a very thorough and detailed explanation of how to use Evernote to develop your GTD system. I highly recommend his book to see all the potential and different ways to use Evernote to implement GTD. My version of GTD with Evernote is very simplified. I had to do something I knew I would really stick to. Below you will find snapshots of the method I use for my GTD in Evernote (no these are not my real GTD notebooks :) ). Keep in mind everyone’s life and responsibilities are different, so you will probably need to tweak yours to fit your life requirements, but I hope mine will give you some guidance.

This is what my Evernote GTD Notebook Stack looks like:

As you can see I break down the different “columns” of my life into notebooks. Then I place them all under a Notebook Stack called GTD. For me everything can fit in home, properties, work.
Then I break down each GTD Notebook with “Next Action Items”, “Projects”, and you can also add “Pending” if that category fits you.

You may not be familiar with the concept of a Project vs. Next Action Item. A project is the larger or more general task, for example, refinance your house. The Next Action Item is the very next action (or couple actions) you need to do to carry out that Project. This break down makes it easy to figure out exactly what you need to do next without have to think through the entire project over and over.

**For my GTD WORK Notebook I make each client I am working with a separate note. This may or may not make sense for you.

Now nothing says that you have to keep all of this information in Evernote, but I really think for maximum productivity digital GTD Notebooks ensures you get everything out of your brain and on “paper”. Being able to access these notebooks in Evernote no matter where you are (car pick up line, meeting, soccer practice, office) allows you to make it a habit to add everything to these notebooks as soon as it comes to mind.

Putting this method in place is only half of the system I use, but getting this done will give you a lot more control over the many tasks you are required to manage. If you haven’t already, get started using Evernote today.

Part Two: Managing HOW You Actually Get Those Tasks Done

Alright I know I said you could only implement part one, and you can. The problem with that is you have basically just divided a bunch of “to do” lists into focused “to do” lists. Plus we all know writing the list is the easy part. This is where I was really struggling. Then I read SimpleMom’s 52 Bites (amazing ebook) and got a good look at her “Daily Docket”. I fell in love. I knew I could tweak this and integrate it with my current GTD Evernote system.

The first thing I did is added a Daily Portfolio Notebook in my GTD Notebook Stack. Next I created a blank template, Daily Portfolio (below), in this Notebook. Every night before I go to bed I copy this blank note into a new note and fill it out to get ready for the next day.

In order to make this Daily Portfolio(DP) really valuable you need to check two places while filling it out. First check in with your “Next Items” list in each of your GTD Notebooks. Second, be sure to check your calendar, this will help you with the bottom section of the DP.

This is my blank Daily Portfolio:

NOTE NAME: I just put the date of the next day (the day you will be doing the work on) a the note name.

FROG!: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
Tsh from Simple Mom uses this famous Mark Twain quote to encourage us to quickly cross off that one task that you totally are dreading. With that encouragement I list my FROG first in the portfolio and try to tackle is ASAP. It is amazing how much weight is lifted off your shoulders when you get that task complete.

MITS (Most Important Things):
1:
2:
3:
I list this section first, but I actually fill it out after I do the “Work” and “Home & Remaining Life” sections. These are the things that really need to get accomplished tomorrow. We tend to get a little enthusiastic with our lists so 3-5 MITS gives us focus.

Dinner Plan (set reminders as needed):
I am working hard to set a meal plan for the week, but at the very least I like to note what my plan is for dinner. This way I know if I need to pull something out of the freezer or get something prepped beforehand. Tip: If you know you need to pull something out of the freezer in the morning set a reminder on your phone so you don’t forget.

Work:
[ ]
Make this list directly from your GTD WORK Next Action Items

Home & Remaining Life:
[ ]
Make this from your GTD HOME Next Action Items.

WOD (Workout of the Day):
Personally I like to do Crossfit and so I jot down the workout we did and my results. If you do anything for physical fitness and don’t already have a recording system consider this. It is simple and helps you track your improvement.

What does the Day look like:
This is the step forces me to look at the calendar and remind me what is going on tomorrow. I try to list my mornings tasks etc… in the order I am going to do them. This keeps me on track throughout the day and helps me not forget the small things like dropping something at the post office.
Morning:
Take kids to school
Package to UPS
9:30 Meeting
Grocery Store

Afternoon:

Evening:

Notes:
Need to make a quick note of something, this is your spot.

No one is perfect and not everyday will fall in place the way you have it laid out. Just yesterday my whole day got flipped upside down by a meeting that went too long and a grocery store was closed for restocking! Sometimes you have to throw your hands in the air and say, pizza night! Remain flexible. But I can confidently say if you have a system in place to manage all your tasks you can take on every day with full focus and receive success results.

What system do you have in place? Do you have any recommendations on how I might improve mine?

*Quick Note: The links to above ebooks are affiliates links, they are both excellent ebooks and I recommend them both.

Comments

  1. OMG, you are amazing!
    So I think I have the opposite problem. I actually don’t have things to do. I wish you could offload some of your tasks to me. And some friends maybe..in the Marin area..

  2. I love this idea!!! I will be soooo using this, thank you so much!

  3. I read this quite a while ago and wasn’t quite up to the task, but I’ve read your e-book and successfully implemented Evernote for this busy mom and managed to stick with it for a solid five months. It’s really changed my organization! (And so freeing to ditch all the paper bits!) My next step is to implement a little more structure into my daily routines, thus the reason I’m revisiting this post. I’ve been in an on-again-off-again relationship with the FLYLady for a few years but always stopped when it got to the control journal steps. A giant binder just doesn’t jive with my lifestyle. I’ve created templates for the FLYLady Daily Routines and added the “FROG, Dinner, WOD and TASKS sections from your GTD template above. One LIST TO RULE THEM ALL!!!!! Or something like that. We’ll see how it goes.

    • Hey Jennifer
      What a great idea to add the FLYLady to the Daily Portfolio. I, like you, struggle to keep up with her binder, but would really like to implement her system better. The only one I am consistent with is shining your sink before bed. Please let me know how your new system works and perhaps we can have you write something up for others to use as well. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Leslie Godwin says:

    This is just what I needed today! Thank you and thank you and your husband and kids for his/your service!

    I was stuck because I had so many Evernote notebooks. I didn’t think to create stacks of overall categories, which is funny, because that is exactly how I organize my computer hard drive.

    Thanks very much. I’ll check into your books, as well.
    Take care,
    Leslie

  5. Rachel says:

    I use a version of GTD (it is designed for Moms) and you can find info here: http://powerofmoms.com/ The cubby system it uses works really well as my kids have gotten older (5 kids highschool to preschool) and I use Evernote but not to the extent I think I should…Thanks for the tips!

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