I’ve long used Evernote for my resource and reference materials. all of my research is stored there, along with notebooks that contain living documents that I want to share with those who are helping build Productivityist and my virtual assistant. Pretty much everything that is any source of reference material is kept there, and even ideas for blog posts and other content spend some time in Evernote before making their way to Scrivener for bigger projects or Desk.pm for blog posts.
Todoist has been my task app for nearly a year, although it seems much longer. The majority of my tasks live in Todoist, with the exception of those being the ones in Asana (which I use for some of the projects I’m working on with others, including the Do Better With Asana project I’m part of with Jeremy Roberts of Cloud Productivity). All of my personal, professional, and Productivityist tasks otherwise live in Todoist.
So how do I use Todoist and Evernote together to create a workflow that is as frictionless as possible? I mean, they don’t speak to each other very well out of the box. And while there are some automation tools you can use to link them up – IFTTT and Zapier immediately come to mind – I tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to build automation before developing the best approach to the apps I’m using.
My way of getting Todoist and Evernote together isn’t all that difficult to assemble. It just involves working with the two apps with similar triggers and identifiers, as well as developing a routine that I get to know and follow every day.
1. I Build Common Threads
I break down Todoist in the following way:
- Top tier projects are Areas of Responsibility.
- Tiers below those top levels are projects of varying sizes.
- Tasks are…well, tasks.
- Labels are the equivalent of contexts to me (or modes).
I break down Evernote in the following way in order to create an easy shift from my task app to my reference app:
- Notebook stacks are categorized by Areas of Responsibility.
- Notebooks found in those stacks are projects of varying sizes.
- Notes are…well, notes.
- Tags are the equivalent of contexts to me (or modes).
See how I’ve created some common threads between the two apps? Now when I switch back and forth I spend less time getting used to the change of environment and more time making progress. (Note that I do keep Productivityist Coaching as a notebook stack because it contains notebooks that are local notebooks and not synced…for privacy reasons.)
Let me give you an example.
I’m currently working on my next book. I have a project called “My Next Book” in Todoist that lives under the top tier Area of Responsibility called “Professional.” When I look at the same project in Evernote, I’ll find “My Next Book” as a notebook inside the notebook stack called “Professional.” The difference is that tasks related to the project live in Todoist, while reference notes related to the project live in Evernote. I can also copy the URLs from either a Todoist task and put it into an Evernote note related to said task or copy the URL from the note from Evernote and place into a Todoist task if I want. I may do the former when I want to work on finalizing some research in Evernote so I can simply click on the Todoist task and mark it as complete without having to look for it in Todoist. I may do the latter when I’m in Todoist and want to access a related note found in a task quickly rather than wade through my Evernote notebook. The URLs simply speed up the process enough to keep me moving along at a faster clip.
Label and tags are treated a bit differently, however. In Todoist I limit the amount of labels I use so that I can easily remember them and attach them to tasks. I’ve written about labels before and I strongly believe that “less is more” when it comes to labels in Todoist as long as they are clearly defined and refined as needed. In Evernote, I’m not as strict with that rule. After all, tags are effective search terms and I have far more notes to search in Evernote than I have tasks in Todoist. Why? Because notes don’t get completed – tasks do. So while I don’t go crazy with tags in Evernote, I do try to be mindful of them.
2. I Use Reminders In Both Apps Differently
First off, I rarely use reminders in any app, unless it’s for a specific appointment or a date-specific agreement. I actually use an app called Due for things like reminding me to pick up my son from daycare (that way I don’t get stuck in flow and fail to give myself enough time to get him) and things of that nature. But I do occasionally use reminders in Todoist and Evernote for very different use cases.
Todoist’s location-based reminders are great. I know other apps (most notably OmniFocus and Checkmark 2) have this feature, but I like the fact that once a location is entered in Todoist from a mobile device that it can be used regularly from all platforms in the future. Very helpful stuff. I don’t use the time-based reminders in Todoist very often because I’m generally proactive enough to not need such reminders. In the case that I do use them, they are usually for things like reminding me to send Productivityist Coaching Recap and/or Accountability Emails to clients in the Eastern Time Zone before they end their day (for example, “Send Client X Recap Email” today at 1 pm – which is actually 4 pm their time).
I use Evernote reminders to bring items related to my monthly themes back to the forefront at the start of each month. For example, I received an Evernote reminder on the first of this month to start working on my next book. It wasn’t a task so much as it was a note that displayed some content I’d written that was meant to jumpstart the book writing process.
Other things I have started doing is copy the link of a Todoist task into Evernote related to starting of a certain big task or project, as shown below.
Since Todoist doesn’t have start date capabilities (or at least not start dates that seem easy to set up), the Evernote reminder would serve to remind me that I wanted to start working on that task on a specific date. I simply click on the link in the Evernote note (which would also contain pertinent information related to that task) and it takes me to the task.
At that time I’ll assign a due date (usually a repeating date until I finish it) and I’m good to go. It’s not the most automated of solutions, but I know it works every time and it appears to be unbreakable (which is exactly what I need in order to trust it).
3. I Use Both Email Accounts For The Apps Constantly
While both of my email clients allow for me to send tasks directly to Todoist and reference items to Evernote (I use Airmail on my Mac and Dispatch on iOS), the most reliable way to process email for me is to simply use the email addresses associated with Evernote’s default notebook and Todoist’s email addresses per project.
To be clear, I don’t use all of the email addresses Todoist allows. Instead, I use the following ones:
- Inbox: This is where most of my tasks that arrive via email go. I simply go into Todoist and put them in the right projects later.
- Team Inbox: These are where I put tasks that arrive via email that either myself or my wife need to work on. (I’ve contemplated adding my assistant to the mix here, but I’ve got another project that’s just for her right now.)
- VA Tasks: Any tasks that arrive via email that I want to assign to my assistant go in here.
Why don’t I use all of the email addresses my various projects in Todoist allows? Because those project above will last while other projects won’t. I also only have to think of three email addresses that tasks need to wind up in – which is helpful when simply trying to process email quickly.
In order to best align Evernote with Todoist, I renamed my default notebook “*Inbox” so that I am triggered to process it regularly. On some occasions, emails end up going to both Todoist and Evernote if they contain both a task and reference item. I’ll also make a habit of BCCing these apps when replying to people so that I can get tasks and/or reference items into the right apps and respond all in one fell swoop.
I’ve been a big fan of Evernote for a long time (having been a user since June 2008) and my fondness for Todoist continues to grow. With the recent addition of being able to link to tasks in Todoist, my productivity when working with both of these apps in tandem is further enhanced. If you’re looking to get more out of the productivity tag team of Todoist and Evernote, then pick any one of the ways I use them and start building that better workflow today.
If you want to wring as much productivity goodness out of Evernote as possible then I highly recommend you pick up Brett Kelly’s Evernote Essentials. Brett is my go-to guy for all things Evernote and he’s levelled up this product in a big way. You can check out all of the tiers of Evernote Essentials (appropriately aligned with how Evernote named its tiers) over at the Evernote Essentials website. There’s no better Evernote resource available so go and check out Evernote Essentials now!