Better Productivity: 2 Ways to Stay on Schedule with Evernote

Tom Tumbush

My last post shared 5 Ways to Use Evernote to Be More Productive. If you’re not familiar with Evernote, you’ll find the information that follows more useful if you start there.

Today we’ll zoom in on a more specific use for Evernote: to beat procrastination and stay on track. I’m currently experimenting with two strategies, one of which is super-simple, and another that’s easy to use with a little bit of setup.

(And if you prefer to watch than read, I’ll be demonstrating these strategies in action (along with extra productivity tricks I haven’t mentioned here) as part of the Oct. 29 online event Strategies for Creative ProfessionalsUse the promo code CFFALL2013 to get access for just $99!)

Method #1: Use Evernote alarms

The super-simple method is basically this: use Evernote alarms to keep your tasks on schedule. Select a note in Evernote, set a date and time when you need to deal with it, and add it to your schedule. When the alarm goes off, it doesn’t just beep at you…it also brings the note in question to the top of your list. You can also get a daily summary of the day’s tasks via email.

Here’s a simple example of how powerfully this can work. Last weekend, my wife and I attended the wedding of two friends in Nashville. We made our hotel reservation several months in advance. When I received the confirmation number for our reservation, I copied it to a new note in Evernote and set an alarm for 7 pm on the day we would be traveling.

Even though I added many other notes in the meantime, the alarm made all the information I needed for check-in accessible with just a click or two on my smartphone shortly before I needed it. Thank you technology!

The advantage of this method is that it’s easy to understand and start using right away. The drawback is that while your reminders bring up the notes involved, they don’t necessarily tell you what to do with them. If you’re using this method as your master to-do list, you may also find that you need to create notes just to get stuff onto your reminder list.

Which is why I developed Method #2…evernote_logo_center_4c-lrg

Method #2: The “Hot List”

My Evernote “hot list” was inspired by a podcast by productivity guru Stever Robbins, better known as the Get-It-Done Guy. The basic idea is to have a master prioritized task list that’s easy to revise.

Whenever your attention starts to wander or you’re not sure what to do next, train yourself to go to the task list and tackle the next item.

By keeping your task list in Evernote and adding hyperlinks, you can create a kind of master index page or dashboard. The hyperlinks provide quick access to anything you need to accomplish each task, from files stored elsewhere in Evernote to website links.

This method takes a bit more time to set up, but once you have it in place it’s a powerful tool. It’s easy to add new items or revise the list as deadlines get rearranged, and it can be synchronized across all your devices to keep the list up to date no matter where you’re working. Once you develop the habit of checking it regularly, you’ll find it easy to get focused and back on track.

Since your links don’t need to correspond to the names of the notes they link to, you can clearly indicate what the task for any given date is. You can also include links to the same note in more than one place on the list. For example, I recently did a big project for a client with multiple deadlines. In my hot list, I listed each milestone by date: “first draft,” “final draft of print version,” and “final draft of online version” were all tasks on the list, each linking to the same note containing the files and background material I needed.

The hot list method doesn’t nag you with alarms like method #1 does, but guess what? You can use them together to get the best of both worlds!

Want to see these strategies in action? I’ll be demonstrating both of them (along with extra productivity tricks I haven’t mentioned here) as part of the Oct. 29 online event Strategies for Creative Professionals. Use the promo code CFFALL2013 to get access for just $99—(that’s a whisker less than half the full price of $199)!


Tom N. Tumbusch writes copy that creates action for designers, creative agencies and green businesses. He publishes a free writing tips newsletter each month and periodically shares more casual wisdom on the WordStream of Consciousness Blog. His tiny solar-powered corner of the Internet can be found at