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Evernote GTD How To

The following 15 minute setup enables you to use Evernote as a frictionless GTD list application. Easy entry, no multiple notebooks required. Works with you, not against you.

The setup features:

  • notebook independent setup: enter and use to do notes anywhere, anytime
  • Project List
  • list aggregating all next actions
  • @ context lists
  • Waiting For
  • Someday/Maybe
  • 5 “time required” levels & lists
  • done/audit list
  • toggle checkbox (/tag) to move items on/off the Someday/Maybe list

The description is for an old Windows desktop client, Evernote 3.1, but works anywhere Evernote does. Current versions of Evernote have no counts shown next to the saved searches: Evernote 3.1 gives a clear at-a-glance view of where you have how many open items.

How It Works

You tag Evernote To Do items — those are the ones where you insert a checkbox — with your context(s) and (optional) a time estimate (5, 15, 30,45 or 60 minutes).

Saved Searches make these items show up on your @ context list(s), on your Project list when tagged with @project, on Someday/Maybe when tagged with sd — and on one of your time lists if you added that info as a tag.

Saved Searches without items are automatically greyed out. Lists that do have items show how many items are on them: you can see your runway at a glance.

Thanks to Evernote’s multi-tagging, one or more items can be moved from NA to Someday/Maybe simply by checking or unchecked a tag’s checkbox.

Setting Up Your Saved Searches

Evernote’s Saved Searches are the heart of the system: they are what generates our various lists for us. Here is my list but you can do this any which way you need it.

Evernote GTD with Saved Searches@ MIT

Most Important Tasks[1][2]

Mind the [space] between the @ and MIT: this is so it sorts to the top of the list, before the other @ contexts.

Search: todo:false tag:@mit -tag:sd

We’re looking for to do items that haven’t been checked off (todo:false), which include the tag for this context but do not have the someday tag.[3]

@ Projects

Again, a [space] after the @ to have this sort to the top of the list.

Search: todo:false tag:@project -tag:sd

@ Waiting For

[space] after the @ to have this on top.

Search: todo:false tag:@wf

No need to negate someday items as @Waiting For’s never are, right?

Like someday the tag is shorthanded to @wf for waiting for.

@All Next Actions

To have a complete list for your perusal.

Search: todo:false tag:@* -tag:sd -tag:@project -tag:@wf

Get all @ context items unless they’re someday items, projects or waiting for.

You might have other @ contexts you don’t want to see on your list of NA’s. Simply add each one as -tag:@yourcontext.[4]

Projects are negated as in this setup, they too can have contexts (more later).


These are your context lists. One search per context.

Search: todo:false tag:@context -tag:sd -tag:@project

In general your @ tag will match your @ search — but it doesn’t have to. Examples in my setup: @Waiting For (search) aggregates @wf tag; @Computer (search) aggregates @pc tag. Why? Faster, easier to type.


Two underscores to have this sort immediately after the @ lists but before the _ lists (1 underscore) that I use for some dedicated projects.

I prefer to drop the Maybe in GTD’s base Someday/Maybe list.

Search: todo:false tag:sd

__What Was Done

I like checking off things, I love using the checkboxes in Evernote — and so I don’t delete completed items.

Search: todo:true

Time Lists

I use 5 broad time levels for next actions: 5, 15, 30, 45, and 60 minutes. Each has a list.

I’ll give the search for the 5 minute items; for the other times you simply recreate this search but change the time tag.

Search: todo:false tag:5 -tag:sd

No need to negate projects as those aren’t actionable items and thus don’t have a time required tag assigned to them.

Untagged Notes

In general my notes have at least one tag but especially for distinguishing between braindump items and processed projects, next actions, etc. it’s important our items have their tags.

Search: -tag:*

Important: if you don’t tag your notes in general, the above obviously wouldn’t be useful. In that case, change it to:

Search: todo:false -tag:*

Untimed Actions

Being able to pick actions based on time/energy level is not just handy: it helps tremendously at determining how booked you are.

For this to work, each NA needs a time tag, obviously, so here we check if a note misses that.

Search: todo:false tag:@* -tag:@project -tag:@wf -tag:5 -tag:15 -tag:30 -tag:45 -tag:60

Using Evernote for GTD

You get an item on your desk or think of something. CTRL + ALT + N brings up a new note in Evernote. CTRL + SHIFT + C to get the checkbox. Add your item.

[F2] [TAB] [TAB] to get to the line where you can enter your contexts. Let’s say this a 5 minute email for work: @work, @email, 5. Done.

Don’t want to do this item soon enough? Then it’s a someday in GTD so tag it as such: sd. With one tag, the sd, the item is taken off all the action lists and moved to someday.

When the time comes to review your lists you might want to take a whole bunch of NA’s off the table; maybe it’s a long weekend or vacation is coming up. Or maybe you want to move a bunch of someday‘s back to the Next Action lists, right?

Select the items, CTRL + SHIFT + T to bring up the tag list box. Click the column with the checkboxes to have all assigned tags sort to the top of the list.

Evernote GTD: toggling Someday
Now you can simply check or uncheck the someday tag to instantly move all your selected items to or from the someday list.

Don’t want to tag your items as they come in? No problem: don’t. Simply come back later, click your untagged items search and do it then.

Evernote GTD FAQ

Why Do Someday Items Have Contexts?

In a previous version someday was made up of all todo items that had no tags. So, to move NA’s back to someday I had to remove all tags. Then add them again when moving them back to NA. Big waste of time.

In the current setup items can be moved back and forth based simply on the sd tag.

Meanwhile I’ve found the presence of tags to be very helpful during review. I can select the someday list and search for all @project’s or for @work related items.

Nowadays, when going through untagged GTD items, I take a moment and assign the proper contexts and time as I would when setting them as NA.

Why Can Projects Have Contexts?

Again, during review it’s handy to be able to look at home projects or all work projects. By having (already) set tags on them I can zoom in on very specific areas.

How Do You Handle Start/Due Data Actions?

Date-specific actions go on the calendar. Not just because that’s how GTD defines it (dated items are on your “hard landscape”) but because it’s practical.

Start/Due Dates in Google Calendar for Evernote GTDI use Google Calendar (setup with multiple colored calendars for ease of use; holidays, daughter stuff, my stuff, work stuff, etc.).

Depending on what’s sane to do, details are in the calendar item (“Call Joe re. coffee @ 1234″) or in the note in Evernote.

Example of a calendar item? Some of my @wf’s are for specific dates: by this or that date I should nudge the person. That @wf is in my system ([ ] Joe re. if he ordered coffee -- call by this or that date) and to make sure I don’t see that item only when I review that list, it’s on the calendar with a reminder.

How Do You Handle Recurrence

Recurrence in Evernote GTDRecurrence is essentially a repetitive hard landscape item, so most of my regularly recurring items go on my calendar. Often with one or more reminders/heads-up’s.

Less specific recurrence or reminders may go into my 12 months (+ some people specific) tickler file; the 43 folders thing is overkill for me.

12 Month + Some People Tickler File

Template or Reusable Entry for Recurrence in EvernoteOther items might just be ones that I need over and over again. Reusable items, essentially. The note on the left is an example of such a reusable item. As I was changing my morning routine I used this checklist to keep on track.

As I prepare my next day every evening, I would simply uncheck the items and … use it again the next day :) But I can just as easily keep it in the “someday” list and copy & paste a new note from it: whatever works best for you.

How Do You Use Projects?

At the base an @project note is simply a stake in the ground to remind me; oh yeah, I have a project going on. From there it is as the need prescribes.

Here are 3 typical project notes (data is made up, largely, so…)

How I Use Projects in Evernote (and tie them back to actions)

In the first case I map out several NA’s. Usually when the time comes to put one or all of them on an Next Actions list, I copy & paste the to do line in a new note. Clean look at my NA’s and I have the track record in the project note.

How do I tie those next actions back to the project? Well, sometimes I just wing it and claim that “I know”. But usually I will write out the action so as a standalone note — it still makes perfect sense. In GTD it’s never “check finances”, it’s “check the finances of client XYZ”

Second note has no next actions but is a good example of the project note acting as a placeholder for project related info. Who is the account manager I need to contact for this? How many hours are assigned to the project? What’s the deadline? That deadline upon writing it there would immediately be added to my Google Calendar — with 2-3 reminders. See: How Do You Handle Start/Due Data Actions.

There’s a PDF in there too. Some files like that get added and most are removed when I’m done with the project. I use PersonalBrain to link and map files to clients and projects. Google Desktop or Copernic or any other desktop search works well too.

The last example is a project with just some bulletpoints; stuff I’m tossing around. The project doesn’t show on my project list though: it has the sd tag :)

My @ List Doesn’t Sort Correct!

When you create/rename a saved search it doesn’t get sorted at the right place. Exit the application, start it again and the list is sorted.

This Seems a Little Complex

The description is 1200+ words. Like describing how to make coffee step by step, it all come across as very daunting and involved… but really isn’t :)

XYZ Isn’t “Pure” GTD?
Oh :)


The geek in me wants to point you to GTD coach Keylly Forrister’s It’s not about the lists:

There’s a comfort zone I found works for me and my lists where I have as few lists as I can get by with, but as many as I think I need to slice and dice my stuff in a way that makes it manageable. And, they change from time to time, if for no other reason than to just change the look to get me excited about them again. […]

An easy way to figure out which context lists you need is to look at the people, places and tools you need to do your work, personally and professionally. That will serve as a good starting point.


Somebody is wrong on the internet

What now?

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  1. See Purpose Your Day: Most Important Task (MIT). I usually have 2-3 MIT’s that I picked the night before []
  2. Yeah, I know his might not be pure GTD. So? []
  3. I use sd as a shorthand tag for someday to make manual tag entry faster. The system needs to be as frictionless as possible []
  4. For example, I don’t want to see my @read’s mixed in with my general NA’s, so my @All Next Actions search looks like todo:false tag:@* -tag:sd -tag:@project -tag:@wf -tag:@read []

176 Responses to “Evernote GTD How To”

  1. Bruce Keener Says:

    Nice setup, Ruud. Very nicely described, too.

  2. Ruud Says:

    Thanks Bruce. It works really smooth. No resistance or pushback from the setup.

  3. Around the Web, 27 Sep 2009 Says:

    […] Evernote application, you’ll want to check out Ruud Hein’s description of how he implements GTD with Evernote. An excellent […]

  4. Mike Says:

    I can’t get it to sort right.

  5. Lee Says:

    Great article, but can you expand a little on how you use projects?

    How are you tying next actions together into a project?

  6. Ryan Says:

    You are right Ruud, it does look a bit daunting but like you say I’m sure it’s going to be a lot more simple when I actually do it now. Many thanks.

  7. Ruud Says:

    @Mike — see the newly added my list doesn’t sort correct. Hope that helps

    @Lee can you expand a bit on your question?

  8. Lee Says:

    Ruud, I see how to create the project lists saved search and that adding @project to a note tags it as a project.

    If you create a note tagged as @project, do you just insert all action items for that project in the body of the note each with a checkbox?

    Or, is there a way you tie individual notes into a project? I don’t see a sample project in your post so I’m just not sure how you use projects.

  9. ProductiveOrganizer Says:

    very good way of doing it. but still feel this aint meant for this in the first place.

  10. Eric Eckberg Says:

    Excellent article! I’m currently using Outlook and the TROGbar from for my GTD system along with Evernote as my Reference System. I’ve been considering switching it all to Evernote.

    I recently completed the Total, Relaxed Organization training from and liked their expansion of Categories (in Outlook) that could be used as additional Tags in Evernote. Areas of Focus are in parenthesis, (Work), (Family), (Personal). This makes it easy to filter your list to view only Family related items on a weekend, without regard to context.

    Also, people contexts are prefaced with 1 instead of “@” to distinguish between a “place” and a person. I use this a lot to capture items to discuss with my wife and daughter. I don’t want to see them in any kind of an “@” filtered list, so using the “1” prefix allows me to keep them out of sight until needed.

  11. Ruud Says:

    @Lee thanks for the question. See How Do You Use Projects?

  12. Cheve Says:

    Nice article, could you give some advise or “translation” to use those keyboard shortcuts with Mac OS?


  13. links for 2009-09-29 « The Adventures of Geekgirl Says:

    […] Ruud Hein »  Evernote GTD How To (tags: evernote gtd ruud) […]

  14. 0x1 » Blog Archive » Evernote GTD Says:

    […] Hein seems to have a great primer on how to do this. Tags: Evernote, GTD Category: Uncategorized  |  Comment (RSS) […]

  15. Ruud Says:

    @Cheve I think it’s CTRL CMD N on the Mac for new note. Others I wouldn’t know but maybe this list of Evernote keyboard shortcuts and hotkeys is helpful.

  16. GTD in Evernote | Lifehacking Says:

    […] Hein beschrijft op zijn blog hoe hij in Evernote zijn GTD setup heeft gemaakt. Ongeacht hoeveel notebooks je in Evernote hebt, met zijn 15 minuten setup kun je […]

  17. GTD with Evernote | Simoons & Company Says:

    […] of posts about how he uses Evernote for GTD. Today I ran into a great article by Ruud Hein on Evernote and GTD. The article has some extensive tips for advanced users, some of the search tips I immediately […]

  18. Slimmer en productiever – 3 okt 2009 « Arjan Zuidhof Says:

    […] Evernote GTD How To – Ruud Hein Via de site een voor mij nieuwe blog ontdekking. Ruud Hein legt op zijn blog haarfijn uit hoe je het productiviteits systeem GTD binnen Evernote kunt toepassen. Het is een ‘15 minutes setup’, maar dat is de investering meer dan waard. Veel meer […]

  19. Productivity, Motivation, and Personal Development Links – 11th October 2009 - DIGTD - Making You More Productive Says:

    […] second link is a link to a nice post on how to set up Evernote as a GTD system in 15 minutes. It is no secret that Evernote is a tool I use and love although I do not use it as a GTD system. […]

  20. Using GTD with Evernote « Davorado Says:

    […] via Ruud Hein »  Evernote GTD How To. […]

  21. Ludek Says:

    I am a new when it comes to GTD curretntly just looking for suloution and I have found your blog describing evernote set up. I appreciate this very much. I am afraid I dont understand the article very much. I am NOT blaming the author of course !
    So here is the problem. You wrote:Evernote’s Saved Searches are the heart of the system. This much I understand :-) I created similar list as you did. @ MIT ….etc. Now comes the enigma. What is this code that follows every search for. Eg: for @ MIT is:Search: todo:false tag:@mit -tag:sd
    I dont know how to use it where to write it what to do with this code. I am not a programer. Just a user. I appreciate your help.

  22. Ruud Says:

    That’s a search which you can save. For more info about saved searches see here and here

  23. Lars Says:

    Looks good – will try, but have problems with the tag:@* which does not seem to work on the latest build of the Win 3.5 version (… that is, it does not accept the use of * as a wild card.

  24. Scott Muc Says:

    Thanks for the well written article! I was trying to apply GTD using evernote and what ended up getting in the way for me was the use of notebooks. I support your decision to do without the notebooks.

    I am, however, choosing to have a Reference notebook. I enjoy ebooks (many are technical programming books) and store them in Evernote now, rather than DropBox.

    I think your system holds true to the GTD philosophy about not making lists nor getting out of hand with taxonomy of your tasks.

  25. Tom Says:

    Great post. Not too complicated.

    I waited a couple of weeks before commenting here. Got it all setup now and has been working well for me.

    I only discovered Evernote ~2 months ago (AMAZING piece of software). But like most, I naively went for the multiple notebook approach.

    Saved searches have been working nicely for me now.

    Also the time estimate tag is a great idea. I also use “Simple Timer” addon for Firefox to actually measure the amount of time it takes me to do stuff.

    Works well, as often something which I thought would take 30mins, actually takes 12 mins. Maybe I’m just uber-efficient ;)

    Greets from UK

  26. Ruud Says:

    For a while I’ve noted the estimated and actual time in the title of the note, like this: “10|25|R&D web capture software”

    Gave me some insight in how I estimated certain tasks vs. what they really consumed time-wise

  27. Vicent Says:

    Hello, Ruud, and congratulations for this kind of tutorial.

    Am I missing something, or should I suppose that there is no connection between Evernote and gCalendar? I mean, do you set “by hand” your events on Google Calendar, or do you set them automatically by any kind of connection with, setting in, plugin in Evernote?

    Thank you in advance.

  28. Jon B. Says:

    I like the article and am working on giving this a try. One issue I am having though is the search syntax “tag:@*” is not working for me. For example: The Next Action search “todo:false tag:@* -tag:sd -tag:@project -tag:@wf” gives me an error when I try to create it. Error message is “Saved Search query contains non-existent items” I have narrowed it down to the the “tag:@*” search. Any ideas?


  29. Ruud Says:

    @Vincent There’s no connection between Evernote & Google Calendar. They’re just different tools. I place “hard landscape” items on the Google Calendar the same way you would otherwise have done on a paper calendar.

    @Jon I tried this in 3.1, 3.5 (both Windows clients) and Evernote web but still works. Make sure to type the search vs. copy & paste. Good way to work too is to hit All Notes, then type a partial search in the searchbox to confirm something comes up.

  30. Jon B. Says:

    Ok, I got it working, but it seems weird. No matter what I do, I get the same error, unless I use a capital T for Tag:@* If I use lowercase t, I get the error. I am running version (85292). Oh well, seems like a bug.. but at least I can work around it. Thanks for the quick response by the way!

  31. Anthony G Says:

    Terrific setup – thanks for sharing. I had same issue as @Jon with lowercase “t” versus “T” to get Tag:@* working.

    Also, I assume for generic lists (great quotes, travel packing, etc.) you use some sort of a @lists tag.

    Next, wondering what “best practices” folks use with EN for agendas? Perhaps some sort of an @ag_ tag?

    Finally, anyone else frustrated by lack of checkbox creation on iPad version of EN? Anyone know when such feature will be implemented? Otherwise, I need to “post-process” every note created on iPad and use some sort of “temporary flag” such as “@@” and replace them with checkboxes back on the PC.

    Thanks much.

  32. Ruud Says:

    @Anthony I do have a “list” tag but don’t really use it. For most part my lists are found back by using good, descriptive titles so they’re easy to get to.

    For agenda I’ve used @name_of_person : @anthony for example

    The iPad/iPod/iPhone lack of checkboxes has to do with the editor that is available to Evernote through those devices. EN can’t implement it for Apple.

  33. Dan S Says:


    I’ve been searching for a system like this and I’m testing this out with high hopes. One question I don’t have a good answer for is projects have many parts – how do you handle these?

    For instance I have client X; there are 5 projects; so if I make these 5 separate projects that solves one part, but when a project has lots of moving parts and the details and status change fast, how granular do you go in tracking?

    My problem is that my projects can be untouched for a week or three and I totally forget where I am, but I don’t necessarily know when that week or three begins.

  34. Ruud Says:

    If you have projects that get parked regularly, I’d make a “parked” tag, like Someday/Maybe. Then I’d use the project’s entry to make notes on where I left off. Basically I’m using the project note there as an email to myself. When I do my weekly review and I see that parked project, I want to be given as much relevant information to access what to do when and if.

    Clear notes to yourself (“call Robert to check if the wireframes are done” vs. “call Robert”) + Weekly Review = can’t go wrong :)

    ps: use what you have to. Maybe you’re more comfortable keeping projects in front of you visually, using MindManager or similar.

  35. Evernote Says:

    […] Ruud Hein: Evernote GTD How to […]

  36. Bram Says:

    Hi Ruud, do you use the @* tag for each next action note?

    thanks for your answer,

  37. Ruud Says:

    Bram? Sounds Dutch :)

    The @* is a wild card search. The asterisks means “anything” in such a search. So searching for @* will find anything that starts with @.

  38. Bram Says:

    Dutch indeed Ruud. I fixed it. How do you get the tagbox in EN 3.5? is there a quick key for that?

  39. Bram Says:

    Hi Ruud, for the projectlist would you not take out the “to do” box filter. Then you would get all projects tagged with @project. With the following search: Search: todo:false tag:@project -tag:sd
    You get only projects which have a to-dox box.
    Please advice what would we more useful. thanks!

  40. Jeracah Says:

    Great post! I’ve just set this up and have started using it and find that in general it works quite well. I have been using Evernote for a few months now and love it. I’ve also been looking for an independent task management system that isn’t tied to Outlook, something that I can access on my home Mac or my work PC or my iPhone and you have developed a brilliant one using Evernote! Thanks for sharing.

    A tip for iPhone users: You cannot create check boxes in the iPhone version of Evernote, so I purchased the FastEver app which is a great way to VERY QUICKLY add next actions to Evernote on the go.

    The only part of your setup that isn’t working for me is the lack of start/end dates. Almost everything I do has some sort of due date, and I find the constant reminders of a calendar interrupt my workflow and usually don’t work for me (have to stop what I am doing and decide what to do on that task that I am being reminded of which is usually to ask to be reminded again which leads to lost time). Any suggestions? The @MIT sorta gets to this, but not quite. I realize this goes against your philosophy, however, from the standpoint of creating this flexible system, what do you suggest?

  41. Ruud Says:

    @Bram You can hit [F3] to get to tagging. I usually do [F2] to rename the title of the note, then [tab] [tab] to go to tags.

    Re. the @Projects and To Do checkboxes: reason I have it setup like that is that some project note entries will have a list of subprojects or next actions in them. Sometimes when these are done as standalone next actions I delete them from the note but for projects I need to track, I check the [] in the project note itself too. This way I can see “I did A and B, now I have to do C”. Once all checkboxes are done … the project is finished and will (automatically) no longer show up in the searches.

    @Jeracah You can either use the Created and Updated/Modified dates (you can set each one manually) although these are unreliable as they can change (back). Advantage is that you can use all date search functionality… Another option would be to [tab] to the Author field and use that. Enter your dates as yy-mm-dd so they sort correctly, put EN in List View and you can sort by that column by clicking on the column header.

  42. Think in Projects » Blog Archive » Weekly Links for 13th November. Evernote edition Says:

    […] Evernote GTD How To | […]

  43. Erik Says:

    Thanks for taking time to document your system.

    How/where/when do you assign priority to an action/project? I’m experimenting w/ using tags, eg “p1″, “p2″, etc, but I’m curious to know it there’s an approach you’ve tried.


  44. Ruud Says:

    I follow the GTD system so 1) a project is anything that requires more than one action to complete, and 2) I determine what goes where when during weekly reviews and regular looks at what’s on my lists.

  45. Erik Says:

    Thanks for the clarification

  46. Aanbevolen software Says:

    […] Evernote: een gratis digitaal notitieboekje waar je vrijwel alles in kwijt kunt. Ook voor mobiele apparaten zijn er applicaties beschikbaar. Persoonlijk heb ik de voorkeur voor versie 3.1, omdat daar al je notities direct bewerkbaar in een lijst voorkomen. Evernote is tevens te gebruiken als to-do list (bv. volgens het GTD-systeem). […]

  47. Fry Says:

    Hi I like you GTD setup I started setting up my own using a similar approach but I’m using Evernote 4 and it doesn’t seem to give the number of notes that each search return in the bar/menu on the left hand side. I noticed that your screenshots have numbers next to each search – is this something you can turn on/off?

  48. Ruud Hein Says:

    No, they unfortunately removed that; the search counts.

  49. Best Practices Guide to Using Tags to Get Things Done « dan gold, esq. Says:

    […] you need by tag.  If you ever want to see the penultimate way of searching for things in Evernote, see Ruud Hein’s amazing setup.  It’s a little too much for me, but I have implemented many of his ideas for saved […]

  50. Amanda Says:

    Hi Ruud,

    This is seriously the BEST resource for using Evernote with GTD I’ve seen. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You are a treasure!

  51. Ruud Hein Says:

    Happy you like it, Amanda :)

  52. Andreas Says:

    Thanks for this great Evernote GTD Setup, Ruud. Looks to be very useful to me. :)

  53. Justin Says:

    Great write up, Ruud. There are so many different variations on how to use Evernote, it can be a bit overwhelming when beginning – so I appreciate the detailed breakdown.

    Now my question – how do you deal with single action items not related to a project? I believe all of your searches include the “todo:false” criteria, which won’t include a note unless it has a checkbox.

    For example: I want to set up an note to remind me to change the oil in my car. That’s it. Normally, I would tag this with @home and I have a saved search for “tag:@* -tag:done” to grab all of my action items that are not tagged done.

    Another example would be how to deal with a list of unrelated items that I need to get done for work.

    Thoughts on how to bring in single action notes?

    much thanks!

  54. Ruud Hein Says:

    Thank you for the kind words and for the question, Justin.

    The saved searches in essence generate GTD style @context Next Action lists. NA’s appear there whether part of a project or not.

    Your oil change example would indeed by tagged @home (the context or place or category to group action items) and it would contain a [] checkbox to make it a next action. Your @home saved search will then automatically show it.

    If on the other hand you don’t want to do this but be reminded of it,then your next action list isn’t the right place. In that case I either put a reminder on my Google Calendar (I have the alerts emailed to me) and/or add a note to my (physical) tickler file. We *have* to change winter/summer tires here and that is what I do: note in the right month folder, when that folder comes up process its notes.

  55. Andreas Says:

    Hi Ruud, could you please describe how you are tagging projects in your GTD setup? How do you tag the individual project note (which goes to the project list) and how do you tag the project-related next action notes, so that these next action notes are connected to their projects?

  56. Ruud Hein Says:

    Have a look at “How Do You Use Projects?” under the FAQ, Andreas. I have 3 different types of project notes but all are just tagged as @Project so they appear on the project list.

    As via the GTD standard, I don’t use mechanisms to connect items with their projects. So if the project is “Organize mom’s birthday” then the next action would be “Call restaurant for reservations for mom’s birthday”. That — clear, descriptive NA’s — and regular reviews keep things connected.

    If you need or want a connection I would tag with “project:projectname”. You can then add saved searches as you want. I don’t recommend the setup though; it’s more work (friction) than it’s worth

  57. Ibsen Says:

    Hi Ruud,

    Just out of curiosity, why do all tags have the @ in front of them and the Someday tag doesn’t?

  58. Peter Says:

    Hi Ruud,

    How do you organize your Reference & Support Materials?

    GTD standard recommends keep them separate from Projects.

  59. John Says:


    Thanks for what looks like an excellent system. I must be missing something fundamental since I cannot figure out how to tag individual to-do items. I can tag the note, but not to-do’s inside notes.


  60. Ruud Hein Says:

    @John Tags are at the note level: it’s not possible to tag individual lines or To Do’s the way it would be possible in OneNote

  61. Ruud Hein Says:

    Support material (digital files mainly) go in Dropbox. I’m not comfortable with moving files out of the file system and into a database (see also: Creating & Keeping Persistent Digital Memories).

    Reference is usually present in one specific email which outlines the project at hand. Its information has been moved to my project note.

    If I need to collate reference material I do so in OneNote

  62. Ruud Hein Says:

    Partly because “Someday” isn’t a context, partly because this way it sorts at the bottom of the GTD lists :)

  63. In progress: my (Ever)note on getting things done | Dave's Whiteboard Says:

    […] Notebooks Used–though if there were, Ruud Hein would be a real contender.  He wrote an Evernote GTD How To that inspired me to experiment and adapt.  (I also like his tone and his […]

  64. Wietze de Vries Says:

    Nice write up. I’m clipping this article in Evernote right now.

  65. Rob Grant Says:

    Hi Ruud,

    I’d like to add my appreciation for your very clearly expressed guide. This led me to jump in with Evernote at a time when I was looking at RTM, Nosbe and other bespoke GTD software. I loved the flexibility of EN compared to these solutions and 18 months later can’t imagine life without it. Thanks Ruud!

    Best wishes, Rob

    ps. Like Andreas above I wondered about how to keep projects and next actions together. In case it is useful to anyone, my solution has been to always give nas and projects the same title. Then at review time a saved search lists all uncompleted projects and actions nicely matched up.

  66. Ruud Hein Says:

    What a nice comment, Rob! Thanks for making it and leaving it. Feels good :)

  67. Jerimiah Gentry Says:


    This is great! Thank you.

    I am (was?) using gqueues but needed something more than todo lists and I like having everything in one place. To kick this poor dead horse, I am concerned (how lucky I am to have such trivial concerns!) that if I list next actions in my projects I will loose them somehow, or that I will neglect moving them to NAs later on. Does that make sense? I’m going to experiment with having project task that is an overview of the project to help steer NAs, and then tagging the NA’s with the project with a naming convention something like Project ProjectName. For example, I’m moving to Denver, so the Project note lists the hospitals I’d like to work at, areas to live, licensing requirements, but I’d like to have the NAs, like “call Suzy Q in HR at Denver General” as their own notes from the start.

    I’m getting a bit tangled up and should perhaps reread GTD.

    Thanks again.

  68. Surendra Says:

    Wow!!! Finally a simple, no frills, working GTD setup. I’ve read tons of articles on GTD with Evernote and nothing came close to this in terms of utility and simplicity. Thanks you and thank you again.

  69. Elliott Smith Says:

    Hi Ruud,

    I just came across your excellent post. It was a pleasure to read and your setup instructions were crystal clear. I’ve been using Evernote for storing my reference items for a long time, but had struggled to come up with a ‘frictionless’ way to make GTD work inside Evernote. You have done it for me. It works well with the desktop application and with my Android app, too. Thanks!

    I did come up with one tweak to your system that I thought you might like, if you haven’t considered it before. My professional life is split into multiple portions of effort that I need to keep track of. So, when I create a new note, I add a tag for Area of Responsibility in addition to the context and time tags. I precede my area tags with a #. I have saved searches for each area so that I can get a quick view of all the NAs for each portion of effort.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your ideas about GTD in Evernote. Really valuable.

  70. Rob R Says:

    Hi Ruud,

    Came across your GTD Evernote setup and it looks great. It’s just what I was looking for.

    We’re now on Evernote 4.5 I’m not seeing any counts with my saved searches. Do you know if that feature is disabled?

    Do you know of any workaround? The count is extremely useful.

    Cheers & all the best,
    Rob R

  71. Emily Says:

    Dear rudd. This looks absolutely fantastic. Have just reread Gtd and am very excited about converting my Evernote into a Gtd tool. Your instuctions are incredibly clear. But crucial for me is being able to read and add tasks not only on my pc but also on the move with my android htc mobile.
    I have downloaded the Evernote android app but can’t see a way to create or read the shortcuts you suggest. Any ideas from rudd or other members of the community? Thanks so much emily

  72. Marc Says:

    Ruud: Great article! I’m working through the setup now.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that my Saved Searches list doesn’t display the number of notes found in that search. In your first screenshot I see

    @ MIT (2)
    @ Projects (3)

    Is there a secret to getting evernote to display the number of notes found in the search?

    Thanks again!


  73. Marc Says:

    re: my comment above: nevermind … i read your response above about EV taking away that functionality … it’s too bad!

  74. David Says:

    Rudd, thanks so much for the description. I’m new to Evernote and while it seems well suited for GTD implementation, I have been surprised to find very few tutorials/descriptions that seem to use GTD to its full extent.

    BTW, I am switching to Evernote from Producteev because Producteev lacks global tags. I’m excited to see how straightforward the GTD implementation appears to be with Evernote.

  75. Ruud Hein Says:

    @emily Sorry, can’t help you there; don’t have an Android nor have people around me who have one

  76. Ruud Hein Says:

    @Elliott Brilliant; love it ! :)

  77. Ruud Hein Says:

    For me the weekly review takes care of this :)

  78. 3 Steps To Capture Everything In Evernote & Get Things Done | Search Engine People | Toronto Says:

    […] tell you that one of the best how-to's I ever read was Ruud Hein's post on GTD & Evernote. I ultimately watered my system down a bit from his, but if you haven't read it – read […]

  79. John S Says:

    This was terrific. I have made modifications, using a time based method. I title task or project related notes as next action and time involved: NA 5 or NA 10 or NA 15. I then have saved searches that are: intitle:”na 5″ intitle:”na 10″ “intitle:15″. So eg the note might read: NA 10 Call Robert about the meeting (might have meeting information in the note itself). This allows me to crunch through all my 5 minute items really fast. Longer activities/projects are broken down into NAs that are 10 to 15, such that this is a procrastination buster. I still use @context for calls, errands etc.

  80. Tony K. Says:

    Love this setup. I’ve tried it out for a week now and like someone else in the comments said, don’t know how I lived without it.

    Quite disappointed in Evernote not supporting the counts on Saved Searches. Why would they remove this feature? It would be very useful.

  81. Michael Says:

    Hello Rudd…appreciate your sharing your trade secrets with Evernote. I keep debating on which GTD enabling cloud solution to use and I keep coming back to Evernote. Have you updated your setup above for any changes in the latest versions? By the way, I’m a Mac and iPhone user so any insight to that in your setup would be helpful. Thanks! Michael

  82. Ruud Hein Says:

    Not sure why they removed it, Tony, but I suspect it might have had to do with the speed of the application.

  83. Ruud Hein Says:

    Michael, I’ve made no real changes. GTD is very portable and every couple of months when my engagement with the system gets stale I just move around. Paper, Mindmanager, Evernote. I’m kind of hooked on Omnifocus for iPad right now though; an app that makes you want to buy a Mac :)

  84. Andreas Says:

    I wonder what could be done with Omnifocus that couldn’t be done with special Evernote GTD setups. Creating task management processes in Evernote is a no-brainer, so why dealing with other tools when this can be done frictionless in Evernote too?

  85. Ruud Hein Says:

    GTD can be done with any tool so in that sense OmniFocus isn’t “special”.

    Honestly, while having heard and read from Omnifocus converts I thought it is basically an overpriced list maker. Their 30 day money back guarantee had me try it and I was “sold” within a day. It just works smoother, at least on the ipad. The contexts + nesting, projects + nesting, folders to place projects in, review settings — very very concise total.

  86. CET Blog Says:

    […] – they come from the thoughtful minds of Dr. Rich Whitney, Ruud Hein, author of Evernote GTD How To and Brett Kelly, author of Evernote […]

  87. Ashley Gittins Says:

    Great write-up, am certain I would have given up using EN for gtd had I not found this. Just a quick question on the searches, it seems to me that instead of using “todo:false” it might be better to use “-todo:true” so that you get un-checked items, as well as items that don’t have checkboxes on them. Just not sure I will always remember to put the checkboxes on.

  88. Ruud Hein Says:

    I like that idea, Ashley. Reason I did not is that including the checkbox gives me a state: the thing is done or not. Of course if you delete an action once done, then that in itself will give state.

  89. Pavi Says:

    Hi Ruud – I tried to set up Evernote as you describe, but am confused about one thing. Do you set up each task or action as a note by itself? In other words, if a project consists of 5 tasks, would you create 5 notes? If so, it seems one loses the ability to view all tasks belonging to a project grouped together in one list. Are you ignoring Evernote’s ability to organize notes into a notebook and notebooks into a stack in favor of using tags and saved searches? Is there a way to combine the best elements of both approaches or do you consider them mutually exclusive? I’d appreciate any help. Thanks.

  90. Using Evernote as the foundation of your GTD system « GTD for CIOs Says:

    […]  The most obvious is the use of Tags or Notebooks as the primary way to implement their system.  Here is a great example of a tag-based system that leverages Evernote’s Saved Searches […]

  91. Ruud Hein Says:

    @Pavi I’m firmly in the David Allen GTD camp though: if you write your next actions in a clear, specific way and do your weekly review, there is no need to find ways to tie back actions to projects because it is clear what goes where.

    Best answer? See under “How Do You Use Projects?” on this page.

    As for multiple notebooks: too much friction. I came up with the above system because I want to be able to CTRL ALT N a new note/todo as fast as possible without having to switch notebooks

  92. Ashley Gittins Says:

    @Pavi exactly what Ruud said, just wanted to also note that when I am defining a project, if i want to map out different next-actions (especially those which depend on others) I’ll do so in the project note.

    Actually one thing I have been experimenting with is creating the project note, then tagging it as @na and changing the description to the next action – that way it’s tagged both as a next action and a project, and shows up in both @na and @project searches. It makes more sense for some projects more so than others, but is one way around having the project linked to the next action. Knowing the project when looking at it’s next action is fairly easy – it’s either obvious or you can include the project name in the description. Horses for Courses, as they say.

  93. Brad Sayers Says:

    Thanks Ruud….

    Question: You say that “Saved Searches without items are automatically greyed out. Lists that do have items show how many items are on them: you can see your runway at a glance.”

    However, this isn’t the case for me. I am running ver 4.4 and have items that appear in those searches if i run them.

    However, my tags show the number of items in them, but I would prefer that the saved searches show it, as it would give a better ‘runway’ view as you say.

    Am I missing something?


  94. Ruud Hein Says:

    @Brad The described saved search performance is for Evernote 3.1.

  95. Brad Sayers Says:

    i see, too bad, it really gave a runway effect!

    i noticed that your original article was from a couple years ago….have you any new tweeks? Do you still use evernote in the same way as you described in the original article?

  96. Ruud Hein Says:

    When I use EN for GTD this is the setup I keep coming back to. It just works.

    I’m not very OCD on which tool I use for GTD though and love to be here and there. Moleskine & G2 for a while, MindManager, Evernote. Currently I use OmniFocus for iPad — now *that* has been a completely new find and experience for me.

    I use EN as my database of everything, as capture tool, and for project reference. I have two project stacks: personal and work projects. An Evernote notebook can act as a great “binder” to keep emails, files, webpages, etc. all nicely together.

  97. Glenda Smith Says:

    Great suggestions and thank you. I started to set up my Evernote with tags-only per your advice, but discovered that the web version does not support Saved Searches. Do you know anything about this? Has it ever impacted you?

  98. Ruud Hein Says:

    Glenda, I rarely use the web version.

    Evernote says that the ability to create saved searches in the web version will be brought back but doesn’t give a timeline.

    You can access your existing, synced saved searches by clicking on the dropdown in the search box and selecting Add Filters.

  99. Ashley Gittins Says:

    @Glenda – it works for me. Perform the search, then when you click in the search box (not the search button) a menu drops down, one of the options is “Save this search”. You’ll notice all of your saved searches should be there as well, whether created in the web version or desktop version.

    That said, lately I’ve just been using the context tags alone – since I don’t tag them as finished and instead remove their context tags (and set a “reference” or “finished” tag).

  100. Glenda Smith Says:

    Ruud and Ashley, Thanks! So many companies these days do not allow user-installed client software on work computers that a complete home and work solution requires web access. Yes, the search box only needs a click. There’s no dropdown showing in Firefox.

  101. Ashley Gittins Says:

    @Glenda – just tried using Firefox 3.6.10 here and it’s working for me at least. Since it “should” work it might be worth posting a note to the evernote forums – it would appear to be a bug with your particular situation. (dunno if I can link here or not… ) [Ed.: link verified & correct]

  102. Julian McNally Says:

    Okay, I’m new to EN and a little experienced with GTD.

    I thought I must be some kind of moron because yesterday I was editing search syntax on EN on my iMac (runs Snow Leopard – OSX 10.6 – not sure what version of EN), then today on my MacBook Pro (OSX 10.7 Lion, running EN Version 3.0.5 (209933)) I can’t edit the syntax in the search bar.

    Also weird behavior – I saved a search with just “projects” (no tag, just the word “project”) because my “@ projects” search was returning 0 and I could see notes tagged “@ project”!!

    Then I found this thread on EN Support:

    Too bad, looks like Evernote have decided to REMOVE search editing from the Mac client already and the Win client soon.

    Does this mean your set-up can no longer be set up by new users Ruud? Are we back to using tags only?

  103. Ruud Hein Says:

    At the worst it would mean that instead of editing a search you have to do a new one and save it. Simply perform the search you would like to save, then click on the button that takes that search and saves it as a Saved Search.

  104. Annie Says:

    Hi Ruud. I love this post. Well thought out.

    I’m a Mac and I can’t figure out how to list all of the tags from the note screen like you do in Windows with Ctrl-Shift-T. I couldn’t find an answer in the forums. Do you know?

    I know the tags are listed on the left hand side, but this feature is cumbersome on the Mac version and I’d love to be able to get to a list in the tag entering box. I can do it with my Safari EN clipper, as the tags come up as I type.

    Thanks so much! :)

  105. Ruud Hein Says:

    I’m not sure Annie. I don’t see a similar key listed here. It does however say “You can redefine these shortcuts in the Preferences > Shortcuts tab”. Not sure that will be of any help but maybe you can have a look?

  106. Annie Says:

    Thanks Ruud. You’re right, it’s not listed on that link, but there are lots of other helpful shortcuts there.

    In the Mac EN preferences panel, it allows you to set shortcuts for 5 of their choices: (1) New Note, (2) Paste to EN, (3) clip rectangular window, (4) clip full screen, and (5) search in EN. As far as I can see, there’s no option on how to add any more.

    I’m beginning to suspect that this option is not even available in the Mac version. If I could find it on the EN menu, I could write an AppleScript and then assign that to a keyboard shortcut.

    I’ll put a question on the EN for Mac forum, and if I get a helpful answer, I’ll post it here for you. While I wait for that answer, I’ll most likely be setting up my EN to reflect this article. ;) p.s. I found you through Daniel Gold’s excellent book.

  107. Evernote and GTD on an iPad Says:

    […] Ruud Hein’s 15-minute guide to setting up Evernote for GTD (no notebooks, only tags). This is somewhat cryptic unless you are already familiar with both GTD and Evernote, but it’s an interesting setup, and emphasises using Saved Searches. […]

  108. Ton Meeuwissen Says:

    @Annie. With the MAC it is very simple to assign tags to your notes. You don’t need the tags list. Just make a selection of notes you want to tag -> drag and drop the tags from the left of the screen to the notes and you are done. With OSX most of the functions are drag and drop.

  109. Ruud Hein Says:

    Ah yes. The same is true for the Windows version by the way; you can drag & drop in either direction

  110. Bill Mayes Says:

    Ruud, beautiful set up. I am very excited about it. I am new to using Evernote, but am a long time GTD user. So from looking at some example tasks you have in the original article I see that the task title is the same as the context in the note minus the check box. Are you having to enter that information twice or does the note title populate (when left blank) with the information from the context? If so, how do you do that. I am a Mac user.

    Thx. Bill.

  111. Babs Peters Says:

    Hi Ruud, thanks for impressive and easy to follow setup instruction. For sure will help me a lot.

    The printscreen of your morning routine made me laugh out loud. I could totally picture you, after sweeping the floor, changing the wallpaper in the living room everyday :o)
    Was a bit disappoimted when, after a second, I got what you really meant. Would be so cool to have a redecorated home every day…

    Thanks again, think your instruction will be a life-changer for me.

    Kind regards, Babs

  112. Ruud Hein Says:

    Hallo Babs — leuk een Nederlander over de vloer te hebben :)

    Thanks for your kinds words; they made my day!

  113. Ruud Hein Says:

    On Windows the first line of the note automatically becomes the title *unless* you specifically set a title. So yes, I write that line only once.

  114. Virgil Says:

    Hi Ruud,

    This is a good setup which I am trying to implement.

    I have a question. I don’t see here a placeholder like “Inbox”. When you initially collect stuff where is it going in this setup?

    What you presented here seems to be already “Processed” with the appropriate tags assigned to each item/note.


  115. Ruud Hein Says:

    The “untagged” search finds those notes (notes with a To Do box but without tags).

  116. Resources for Organizing with Evernote Says:

    […] My friend Ruud Hein’s writeup on how to use Evernote with GTD […]

  117. Rob F. Says:

    After realising my Evernote notes were all over the place, I decided to try implementing a GTD system within it. A Google search led me to the Evernote forums, which led me to your article, Ruud. I’ve spent about half an hour setting it up then another hour or two migrating my notes into it.

    So far, I’m finding it a lot more friendly than my last attempt at implementing GTD using Task Coach. Plus I’ve learned how Evernote Saved Searches work!

    The only alteration I’ve made is to set up a separate “Reference” notebook with sub-books for each project I’m working on.

    Thank you for this system!

  118. Ruud Hein Says:

    Happy to hear this works out for you, Rob. And thanks for leaving a comment; I appreciate it.

  119. Evernote for GTD? « Thameera's MicroBlog Says:

    […] my whole procedure here. If you’d like some inspiration, I’d recommend Ruud’s Evernote GTD How To and this shared notebook by bluecockatoo. Just search for ‘evernote gtd’ and […]

  120. A story about Twitter « mypaperlessphd Says:

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  121. Leon Says:

    Lijkt een mooi systeem. Echter, heb ik 2 vragen:

    1.) Ik krijg het volgende niet voor elkaar bij Saved Searches. Ik heb aan een notitie 4 Tags gekoppeld. Namelijk, @ Project, @ NA, @ 60 min, @ Home. In die notitie heb ik ter test 3 checkboxes geplaatst. Nu krijg ik onder Saved Searches de betreffende notitie wel te zijn in de searc opdracht van: Home en NA, maar deze vind ik niet terug in Project en 60 min. Ik kan maar niet achterhalen waar hem dit in zit. Ik heb exact de search queries gebruikt uit je artikel. Enig idee waar hem dit in kan zitten?
    2.) Is het nu de bedoeling dat ik bij iedere notitie, die dient als een uit te voeren taak, een checkbox aanmaak zodra ik het terug wil zien bij mij saved searches in @ context?

    Alvast bedankt!

  122. Rich Says:

    Great implentation. The issue that I have is when I complete a task. For example, say I have a task that is tag:Next todo:false.
    When I check the todo box, it will then not be triggered by the todo:false search, but it still sits under tag:Next. So I then have to remove this tag and perhaps assign a tag:completed, or delete the task. Either way, I’ve added one or two extra steps.

    So – what is your workflow to deal with completed tasks.

  123. Ruud Hein Says:

    Leon, probeer de search query over te typen ipv te pasten? Verder op in de comments was ook iemand (meen ik) die problemen had met dingen die niet verschijnen.

    En ja, de checkbox is het ding dat iets in een to do veranderd.

  124. Ruud Hein Says:

    Completed tasks should no longer show up in any search that include the “todo:false”.

    todo:false looks for unchecked checkboxes; when you check a checkbox it becomes “true”.

    Modify your “next” context search to include todo:false

  125. Rich Says:

    Thanks Ruud, but I don’t think I made my point clearly – I understand that todo:false will capture unchecked todos. But once these are checked they will still be tagged “next”. At some point you have to come in a purge these complete next actions from the next tag – am I correct?

  126. Ruud Hein Says:

    I never purge those. This way I have a record of things done, their context, project, etc.

  127. JR Says:

    Thanks Ruud for this write up. It took me a bit to wrap my brain around the “no notebooks” theory, but now I am loving it. One question though: How do you handle nested projects? In other words, I have a project A that has several todos, but Project A also has several smaller projects which in turn have todos? How do I handle this?

  128. HUARD Says:


    thanks a lot for this great article. I noticed that you wrote in the contexts setup process -tag:@sd, but all over the setup process you speak from a sd tag (and not @sd). Is this an error, or did I missed somthing ?
    I read all comments without seeing anything about this, so I’m quite surprised.
    (I personaly change everything to @sd).

  129. Ruud Hein Says:

    Good catch Huard: I’ve changed that.

  130. Ruud Hein Says:

    That’s the beauty of having no notebook restriction: you can handle it any which way you want. You can make a notebook stack or simply use project tags that signify parent-child.

  131. Rich Says:

    I think the problem with your setup is that because the newer versions of EN don’t show search counts, you can’t actually see what is in each category. Is this correct? Perhaps it doesn’t matter – but I like to know how many tasks I have in the pipeline.

  132. Ruud Hein Says:

    Quite soon after this setup the search count disappeared, yes. Of course when you click on a saved search you still see the number of notes found — and the notes themselves.

    I thought it would be a problem at first but turned out that when I am in a context I check anyway. These days I use OmniFocus (on the iPad) and it too doesn’t show task counts.

  133. Rich Says:

    OK – thanks. Omnifocus is pretty nice, but I spend most of my day on win7 so its not an option for me.

    My set up uses 4 notebooks (next, later, waiting, someday) and searches to filter by context. But now that I think about it, I can see the total number of tasks per notebook, but of course, I can’t see the number filtered by context (i.e. next and @work) – so it probably doesn’t matter too much.

  134. Ron H Says:

    Hi Ruud, As everyone said great writeup!
    You mentioned using personalbrain (now thebrain). This too has a possible GTD implementation. Have you given it a try as a GTD tool?

  135. Ruud Hein Says:

    Thanks Ron. As for TheBrain; I still use it at times but an encounter with RSI made using TheBrain much less user friendly for me, even with shortcuts enabled. I love the interface and find it a fun thing to use but lean towards limiting my toolkit as much as possible. More goes in Evernote than in TheBrain.

    Back in 2006? 2007? I’ve tried TheBrain as a GTD tool and it’s not for me. Again, fun to use — but it didn’t feel practical.

  136. Introduction: Springpad vs. Evernote « myyellowblueprint Says:

    […] and there are a million people who embrace this method of input and organization- My favorite is  I already used Springpad to “Spring” websites, ideas, and things that I actually […]

  137. #GTD « myyellowblueprint Says:

    […] myself.  Implemented it at home (lightly) and did feel a little  bit better.  Then I came across Ruud Hein’s post and I realized I was only licking the icing, there was still a whole cake to […]

  138. Evernote Resources Says:

    […] Evernote GTD How To Questions: Do you have a certain way to use Evernote that you’d like to share with my readers? Drop me a note in the comments. […]

  139. TomT Says:

    My lists don’t sort correctly – even after exiting app (and toolbar app). I use v 5.0.3 on a Mac.

    Thanks for this article though – it’s a great resource.


  140. How to use Evernote as your primary GTD system and reference filing system? | Productivity 101 Says:

    […] like Ruud Hein and The Secret Weapon are using a tag based system. My initial reason not going for this approach […]

  141. GTD met Evernote en Outlook, The Secret Weapon - Says:

    […] 2010 had ik een artikel van Ruud Hein gelezen en mijn Evernote account daar op ingericht. Dit werkte uitstekend en ik heb dit systeem […]

  142. Chris Says:

    Hi Ruud

    Thanks so much for the post – setting this up is just about the best half hour you’ll ever spend in EN (15 minutes to set up and 15 minutes to customise to my own workflow).

    I personally prefer filing notes in various books under two giant stacks: Personal and Work. So instead of the @* context tags, I’ve added stack:Personal and stack:Work to each of the saved searches so I get my home and work GTD lists separately. A tip for anyone who does this: add the stack: search modifier at the beginning of the search string not the end, otherwise it doesn’t work.

    Here’s something that will make your _What Was Done search even more awesome:

    todo:true -todo:false

    This filters out notes which have some check boxes checked and some unchecked (if there a many things to do for example on a note). So only notes which are truly all done appear in the search. I also like checking what things have been done ….

    This post is three years old but still so fresh and relevant. I only discovered it last week but I’ve already cross linked to it from forums. Just a pity that evernote client features seem to have gone backwards since you first authored this (saved search counts, inability to edit saved searches on non-pc clients, weird search interface on android)

  143. Stefan Says:

    Nice system – trying it out and tweaking it as I’m writing this…

    One question: what is the rational for prefixing some tags with a @. I understand that this helps in the case of searches where you’d like to see certain searches sort first. However, why for tags? More particular, why ‘sd’ not ‘@sd’ and why ‘@wf’ not ‘wf’?

  144. Ruud Hein Says:

    Stephan, the @ symbol grew as a context notation in GTD to keep things sorted at the top. I too still like that.

    SD I don’t use as a context tag so that when I do searches it’s not included.

    Waiting For is a “context”, a separate list so to say, so it’s @wf

  145. agittins Says:

    Stefan the other reason for @ is that it signifies a “context” as opposed to just a general tag for categorising (@ being pronounced commonly as “at” means @phone or @home works intuitively). Contrast this to a tag of say “reference” or “warrantyinfo” etc.

  146. Richard Thomas Says:

    Hi Ruud

    Excellent piece! I have been using GTD (and falling off the wagon) for about 15 years, but I have never found a system as good as this. You enabled me to clear down over a thousand emails and get back to a clean Inbox again. Can’t thank you enough!

    The only (minor) modification that I have (respectfully) added to your system is to add tags for each month to dump future items into. So, for example, if I need to renew my car insurance in April, I tag the note “Apr”. Then, at the end of March, I’ll look at all the items tagged “Apr” and either do them, or tag them with their appropriate context. Of course, this can work for one-off or recurring items as well.

    If you wanted to take it further, it would be possible to add tags for “Tomorrow” and “Next Week”, and review them last thing each day, and at the end of the week respectively. Alternatively even create tags for “D1″, “D2″, “D3″…. “D31″ to give them specific dates. (They need a “D” or other modifier to avoid confusion with your timeboxes “5”, “15”, “30”, etc.) But even I’m not that @n@l!

    Many thanks again – Richard

  147. Ruud Hein Says:

    Very nice note to read, Richard. Happy to have been of help. I like your implementation of a digital tickler file too!

  148. Scott Says:

    Thank you for this Ruud…I’m new to both gtd and EN and have been trying to organise myself with limited time and significant stress which I’m working to master. This post is the best resource I have found in my quest!

    A few questions:
    1) Projects without NAs
    I have a saved search returning projects without todo’s so I can quickly fix them. Can you suggest a method to return projects without NAs so these can be created?

    2) @wf and todos
    Do you assign a todo to each @wf? When I send an email requiring a response I am bcc’ing EN to create a @wf note. Seems like a bit of a pain to have to edit each email to add a todo.

    3) Reference materials related to projects
    If you create meeting notes related to a project how do you file this and relate it to the project? A project specific tag? Note links from the @Project note? Or just dump everything into the @Project note?

    4) Other Notebooks
    Do you use EN outside of GTD? If so, do you have a GTD notebook for everything discussed here and then separate notebooks for specific topics (Family Tree, Car History, New Products, etc)?

    Thank you again for taking the time to put this together.


  149. Lee Copp Says:

    Hey Mr Hein,
    Thanks for documenting your very nice implementation. You and Mr Christopher Mayo are my Evernote heroes.

    Changes to saved searches have made them a bit less friendly, but workarounds still allow the job to get done. I hope EN doesnt lose track of their values.

    Good luck with your endeavors ..

    Lee in Sunny St. Petersburg FL, USA

  150. Evernote for GTD | By The Way. Says:

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  151. MouchTravail Says:

    Great post on GTD and Evernote, interesting it was posted so long ago and is still fresh.

    I have been using Evernote for GTD for about three months and have realized that I have gone overboard on notebooks so I am attempting your approach now. I have a question on tagging projects.

    On tagging projects: I have been using a tagging method for all my projects so that any emails, notes, post or action items pertaining to a project can be easily found using searches that contain a tag for that project. To avoid the “#” search limitation in outlook (you can’t find tags that use hash tags) , I have had the team implement the naming convention of adding a p underscore in front of all project names. So p_ProjectName (no spaces). This allows easy searches for any email or other text pertaining to the project. We then use the same project name as the tag in Evernote for searching by specific project instead of a generic @Projects for all projects.
    I changed your @Projects search to read: todo:false -tag:sd tag:p_*. This brings up all project to do items but allows the tagging of individual project names. Does this seem like a viable approach to you?

  152. Ruud Hein Says:

    I think that works very well and is scalable to boot.Good thinking.

  153. Ruud Hein Says:

    thanks Lee!

  154. Ruud Hein Says:

    Scott, re #1 I think you would have to try to craft two saved searches and overlap them. #2: The WF’s in Evernote tend to be my manual ones; WF’s in email I track in my email setup. #3: with the current versions of Evernote supporting linked notes I have the project notes in its own note and link to it from the main project.

    #4: I *live* in evernote :) Between Gmail and Evernote I have everything I need. My laptop can explode and I can recreate my information/life using these tools. I use an Archive notebook for anything I read that I find of possible use (articles, how to’s etc); a Diary notebook which acts as a timeline (I note a LOT of stuff); a Diary Social notebook that receives social updates via IFTTT. A Personal Projects stack. Logins notebook. Papers. And a Who’s Who so the kids can figure out later who is who in the family history.

  155. Evernote Tips, Resources and Review Says:

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  156. Paul Gibbons Says:

    Simply outstanding Ruud. In martial arts after black belt there are ‘dans’ – this is some 4th dan stuff.

  157. Ruud Hein Says:

    Thank you Paul. That’s a beautifully worded compliment.

  158. Rick D Says:

    Ruud, I absolutely love your tag-based GTD system for Evernote that you have described in this article. I’ve used other productivity tools in the past (e.g. Achieve Planner) but your system is the best and most flexible I’ve seen. Been using your tags / saved searches in Evernote for 6 weeks now and it’s simplified my life. I’m muct more organised and on top of what tasks I need to get done. I love ticking things off. Thank you so much!

    A word of caution for other readers though: I upgraded from V4 to V5 Evernote and I couldn’t see my saved searches anymore. I’m assuming you can still have saved searches in V5, but I think it might require you to recreate them. I didn’t want to few hours’ time I’d invested in setting up Ruud’ tag system, so I downgraded back to V4, which does everything I need and more.

  159. Ruud Hein Says:

    Happy you like it, Rick :)

    Saved Searches in Evernote 5 for Windows are in the search box itself. Click there and a list should drop down with recent searches and your saved searches.

  160. Alipio Says:

    Best GTD setup ever! Pretty standard and effective, thanks for sharing it.

  161. Donnie C Says:

    It doesn’t appear that the saved searches in V5 include a note count. What is your work around for this?

  162. Ruud Hein Says:

    Donnie, I just click through the searches. I miss the counts but alas…evernote knows better :/

  163. agenda system Says:

    Hello Ruud. I tried this tool to do as you work mentioned on your artiles. The setup features are really well for me as they help me at my work on Evernote GTD and the Setting up Saved Searches are really good. Many thanks for your helpful me.

  164. My Evernote Upgraded to the GTD Version | Always Learning Says:

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  165. oldbounder Says:

    Hello Ruud! Great description – thank you so much. Works pretty well. I tried the original GTD and TSW and for me with evernote. The only problem is that those systems are IMHO too complex (for me ;-)). So yours is perfect and works very well with my iOS app – which doesn’t show nested tags…

  166. Alex Says:


    Thank you for sharing your setup. I have found the secret weapon setup and have applied it as of late in Evernote. It has changed my entire outlook of using Evernote and has been working great for me for task managemnt. I am still customizing it and getting accustomed to it but overall its been awesome. In trying to understand your system I have two questions. One is the images dont show up in this article and would be extremely helpful in helping me understand this setup. Also I wonder how your system works in conjunction with the TSW system. Can you please send me the images and explain how the two systems work best together. Thanks

  167. Fer Fellow Says:

    Hello Ruud,
    I came across this thread while I was looking for the best way to implement GTD into Evernote. Your practice has very good reviews, but looks like it has been a long time since you updated anything. Do you still support this approach? Is there anything new? Anything out-of-date?

  168. Jose de Leon Says:

    Looks great, but I’m having trouble visualizing how to use this because you reference the pictures in the article which no longer exist. Can you re-post the pictures/illustrations?

  169. Karl Says:

    Hello Ruud, excellent how-to! but, could you please reupload the screenshots since they disappeard from the tutorial above. many thanks

  170. Pieter Van Hecke Says:


    I would love to try this information out, but the images links seem broken and I think they would help to understand the info fully.
    Would it be possible for you to repair this?

    thanks a lot in advance,


  171. How can I use Evernote to GTD (Get things done)? | Asking Says:

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  173. Mike Tubbe Says:

    Hello Ruud,

    I’m a little late coming to this site and I’ve noticed that a lot of the graphics are no longer on Flicker. Any chance those could be added back into the article? I’m sure I would understand some of the points better when I could see the graphic too.

    Thanks for the article and your time.


  174. Martin Says:

    Flicker: this photo is no longer available. I’m so sad that the photos seam to have been taken down by flicker. From the text I can tell this is truly an amazing gtd evernote guide.

  175. Samantha Says:

    I sure wish all of your pictures were still working..:( thanks soo much for taking the time to write this all out!!!

  176. HRich Says:

    Hi there, thankyou for thisreally informative article. I realise it is a long time since it was published, but I feel it has a lot of relevant information here that could help me figure out a good evernote GTD setup. I’m having difficulty wrapping my head around some stuff since Im a very visual person & the images in the post are not longer available on flikr. Is there any chance you could update these (maybe on your own hosting/server so flickr doesn’t interfere?)to help those of us who would benefit from the visual representation of what you are describing? I realise its a bit of a pain, & I completely realise you have no obligation whatsoever… but I’m sure I’m not the only one who would benefit massively. :) Many thanks, Hayley

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