I never thought I’d achieve Inbox Zero. And I won’t say I stay there all the time. But it’s happening more and more lately.
Nearly a year ago, my boss introduced me to a system called The Secret Weapon (TSW). Based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done system, TSW uses Evernote, long a favorite app of mine, to organize tasks into different contexts and, more importantly, prioritize them.
The system works by setting up a stack called Tasks that comprises two notebooks: Actions Pending and Completed. Obviously things that need to be done are filed in the Actions Pending notebook, and tagged according to their priority.
The idea is to process email; either reply if it’s a quick item, or file it in an organized fashion if it’s not something that can be completed in a couple of minutes. Each day, I know to start with my 1-Now list, and move on to 2-Next, and so forth. It’s easy to sort and search items and I find it rewarding when it’s time to drag something into the Completed notebook.
I’ve tried pretty much every to-do app or system available. I’ve spend well in excess of $100 on to-do apps, none of which ever really stuck. There were several reasons TSW really works for me:
- Input • The biggest dealbreaker for me with other apps. Too many make it difficult to get stuff into the app. Obscure keyboard shortcuts, or drag & drop that requires you to use a certain email client don’t work for me. And I’m surely not going to copy/paste. But it’s easy to get anything into Evernote; either via email or web clipping if that’s the interface you use.
- Rewards • I need the reward of either marking the item “done” or watching it go away. The TSW system gives you that, as you drag and drop the item into the Completed notebook. It’s also motivating to be able to tag items 6-Waiting when there’s nothing else I can do until someone else acts.
- Segmentation • I need the ability to keep up multiple areas of work; in addition to my part-time job, I also do quite a bit of freelance work, so it was important to be able to easily divide things so I can see what I need to do at a glance.
- Logging • I love that I can easily search everything I’ve done. Next time I’m polishing up my resume, it’ll be simple to look through my Completed notebook for all the tasks I’ve finished.
- Sync • The most expensive to-do app I ever bought didn’t have wifi sync. I had to actually physically connect my iPhone and/or iPad to the computer to sync. Ridiculous. I didn’t realize this when I spent far too much money on it; and they have since added it. I need to be able to add a task from anywhere and it’s easy with Evernote — and its sync is almost instant.
I’m not going to try to explain TSW in depth here; just know that it’s completely free and, once you get it set up, it’s as easy as anything I’ve ever used. It’s the only task tracking system that’s really worked for me for any length of time. And now that Evernote has added reminders, it’s golden.
Don’t believe me? Go check it out for yourself.
Do you use a GTD system?