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Best Software? Evernote? OneNote? Outlook?

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  • Best Software? Evernote? OneNote? Outlook?

    I'm trying to implement GTD (Getthing Things Done) Methodology by David Allen. I've never used OneNote (or Evernote) until now. I was going to implement "The Secret Weapon" setup (http://www.thesecretweapon.org/) but then I got to thinking that since I use Office (like 90% of everyone out there) and I've finally standardized on SkyDrive (as opposed to Google Drive or DropBox) that it would be 'cleaner' and more consistent to try to stay within the Office Ecosystem. I also recognized that with tighter integration between Outlook, I could reference tasks in Outlook within OneNote and easily link back and forth. Admittedly, after I started looking in depth at Outlook and OneNote for GTD, I started to see a lot of overlap. It seems there are a lot of new features in Outlook that are designed to make Outlook be able to be used for GTD! But then OneNote isn't relegated to only using the format of an e-mail to store information. But then Outlook has the task list and the calendar. What to do? What to do?

    There's really two purposes I need addressed: one is GTD, or task management, and the other is information collection and organization. The thing is, many times the two are closely related. You may have project tasks to complete but need to reference Project Support Materials. (These materials aren't solely e-mails.) I quickly realized as far as GTD task managment, Evernote was far superior to either Outlook or OneNote. It seems obvious the designers at Microsoft did not design either of these products with David Allen's GTD in mine, although both can be 'bent' to pull it off, it's just not optimally functional. I realize part of the problem may be that I'm not familiar enough with all the features of Outlook and OneNote. It seems Outlook is closest to being a GTD tool, in fact a company has written custom macros to address this. (http://www.gtdoa.com) But the cost is pretty high consider 5-seats to Office costs only $100/year.

    I used to be an Outlook user, then moved to Thunderbird and was happy, now I'm back on Outlook. It seems going with Evernote, I could change email programs in the future and not worry about losing all my GTD stuff. Also, I'd hate to rely on a third party plug-in that isn't standard functionality in Outlook, who knows where it will end up and how well it will be supported?

    But, I still really want to standardize on SkyDrive and the Free Web Apps to be able to share project materials with clients or family members, as most are already using Skydrive and/or Office and Office Web Apps. But I really hate to separate PSM's into OneNote from the project tasks in Evernote. I may just need to look deeper into using Outlook for GTD using task lists in Outlook. I believe these lists are shareable. Unfortunately, I use my own server with IMAP for email and outlook.com for my calendars so I can't share task lists.

    I'm thinking I may have to go with a three-pronged approach. Outlook for e-mail. OneNote for note taking and infromation collection and project support material storage, and Evernote for GTD task management. The thing is I already am using Bontq for client project task management but that's not a good system for GTD so I may have to use 4 apps and just use GTD for personal tasks. I'd rather not do that. I'll need to look at the sharing and access control features for Evernote to see if it can be used as a replacement for a client-facing project task management system.

    The main problem is that OneNote's tag system is sorely lacking from a GTD perspective. You can't build a page list based on a cross reference of multiple tags. The OneNote web app, to give access to outsiders for free, is sorely lacking and the skydrive search function doesn't even search the content of the notebooks! I hate I can only see tags on pages as icons. Anyway, here's what I'd like to do with OneNote:

    http://www.thesecretweapon.org/emptying-that-inbox

    (Here's how they set it up: http://www.thesecretweapon.org/prepp...ernote-for-tsw)

    There other benefit of Evernote of being open source is you can find plug-ins to do pretty much anything you want. But the actual note-taking and the syncing of OneNote is better.

  • #2
    I'd like to challenge you with a different perspective

    We are all very different, obviously, but personally I want my reference system to be totally standalone and independent. I highly value being able to have entirely different organization principles for my tasks/projects etc from what I have in my reference material. I want to be able to change either without having to change the other. I do not want any tight dependencies.

    It is enough for me - just exactly right, in fact - that I can place clickable links in my task app's comments to whatever email or dropbox file etc I want (but I normally do not bother with that.)

    YMMV. I guess I am kind of "unusual"

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    • #3
      I separate everything. I'm on the mac so no direct comparisons but I have a task manager, Omnifocus, which handles all my GTD actions and projects. A reference system DEVONThink, which stores all my electronic reference material, a calendar, Apple iCal for all appointments and a diary of what I worked on and e-mail, Apple mail as an inbox that gets mail. I can change out any single function and not impact the others and that is a big plus for me. I am also very cloud adverse and won't put anything important or personal in any cloud system, whether it's google drive, icloud, dropbox etc. So I want all private controlled systems for my computing.

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      • #4
        I use Evernote as my list manager and as storage for nearly all of my reference material, although at one time I used Outlook tasks for my lists (both with and without the Netcentrics GTD Outlook Add-In), and I used to swear by OneNote before discovering Evernote. There is nothing wrong with any of them, or any other tools or approaches to GTD as long as they are enablers and not burdens. And one person's enabler is another person's burden.

        Keeping both task and reference material in the same software tool isn't an issue; I just keep them in separate notebook stacks. I have no trouble distinguishing between actionable and non-actionable material and can edit, move, or delete any note independently of others.

        As for cloud computing, you can't hold it back any more than one could have held back the telephone, the television, or the internet. You could refuse to do any online banking and just use checks but banks are still storing your data on servers vulnerable to hacking. Any internet-connected PC or Mac is also potentially vulnerable to hacking even if you use a good internet security package. Nothing's foolproof. Just use your head and don't store your passwords or bank account numbers in Evernote. With a Premium subscription you can also create offline notebooks, the content of which is stored locally on your computer and not in the cloud.

        Originally posted by consultant View Post
        I used to be an Outlook user, then moved to Thunderbird and was happy, now I'm back on Outlook. It seems going with Evernote, I could change email programs in the future and not worry about losing all my GTD stuff. Also, I'd hate to rely on a third party plug-in that isn't standard functionality in Outlook, who knows where it will end up and how well it will be supported?
        The Evernote Windows client installs an Evernote plug-in for Outlook but a recent Evernote upgrade partially broke the plug-in and they've been slow to fix it. Check out the latest news about Evernote and you'll see that company CEO Phil Libin has had to go on a major mea culpa tour about the way he's been running the company.

        Nevertheless, you can use a special email address Evernote assigns to each user to send emails for storage in Evernote. I've found that to work pretty well. Plus if you use Gmail, as I do for my personal email, the Evernote Web Clipper for Chrome can be used to archive emails in Evernote.

        Originally posted by consultant View Post
        I may just need to look deeper into using Outlook for GTD using task lists in Outlook. I believe these lists are shareable. Unfortunately, I use my own server with IMAP for email and outlook.com for my calendars so I can't share task lists.
        You can share notes in Evernote. You can grant read-only or read-write access.

        Originally posted by consultant View Post
        http://www.thesecretweapon.org/emptying-that-inbox

        (Here's how they set it up: http://www.thesecretweapon.org/prepp...ernote-for-tsw)

        There other benefit of Evernote of being open source is you can find plug-ins to do pretty much anything you want. But the actual note-taking and the syncing of OneNote is better.
        OneNote provides better formatting options, that's for sure. But I've found OneNote's syncing to be problematic, much buggier than Evernote's. Also I tried The Secret Weapon and found it to be unnecessarily complex and burdensome. The David Allen Company offers a GTD for Evernote Guide that formed the basis for the way I "do GTD" in Evernote. It's $10, and in my opinion worth the money.

        The thing I like about Evernote is that it's intuitive and for the most part just works. They do have some work to do with respect to bug fixes and the quality of their support services for subscribers. Evernote CEO Phil Libin says he recognizes the problems and is in the process of making structural changes to the company (including adding more developers) to execute on those promises, so I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for the time being.

        The reason I prefer Evernote is that the combination of notebook stacks, notebooks, and tags provides a flexible but easy-to-use way of organizing my notes whereas within OneNote it is easy to create lush hierarchies in which you can get lost when trying to find something. I also find Evernote's search function to be easier to use. Once you get used to the admittedly arcane syntax (one thing I hope Libin focuses on is search syntax that's closer to natural language), it's easy to find anything in seconds. I also like the ability to store anything in one tool; I am clearing out most of my paper reference folders, email storage folders, and more. I can also store web pages complete with all formatting intact, or just save a link as a bookmark.

        Plus using individual notes as list items makes for a low-friction way to enter next actions, projects, etc. And yet if I need to I can include a keyword in list titles for an easy and low-friction way to link projects to next actions when it might prove useful, using Evernote's search function to tie everything together (a trick I use sparingly, though).

        YMMV, but I hope that helps.

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        • #5
          By the way, if you read Jason Kincaid's blog article about the bugs in Evernote and flaws in their privacy policies, bear in mind the privacy issue stemmed from him realizing that sending logs to Evernote transmitted a note's metadata to support, including note titles and content. Libin admitted that's a problem that needed to be fixed but what everyone seems to be missing is that the note that Kincaid was horrified to realize he almost sent along with everything else to Evernote support was a "stray thought about sex." From where I sit, that's just stupid. I mean, seriously. A prominent tech blogger -- and it never occurred to him that storing his innermost thoughts in a cloud-based app might be problematic?

          It reminds me of the punchline to a very funny bit by comedian Ron White: "The next time you have a thought... just let it go."

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          • #6
            Outlook + OneNote

            Please refer to an older post I made, here:

            http://www.davidco.com/forum/showthr...-Outlook-setup

            (Post #6)

            I'm continuing to use the OneNote + Outlook combination, and I find it to be near-perfect. That is, the tools do everything I need without getting in my way.

            I highly recommend the Michael Wheatfill article I linked in that post, it's enough to get 90% of your system set up.

            Nowadays I use Michael Linenberger's "Urgency Zones" (search for 1MTD or MYN) concept instead of GTD-style contexts when at work, since everything is basically 1 giant context for me. But at home, I still use GTD-style contexts. You'll have to adapt your system to suit.

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            • #7
              I would say that that separation of tasks and project support material is absolutely the right thing to do. Your project support material and reference is likely to grow and grow and grow. You want to keep your tasks as a relatively modest set of information that you can get your mind around. I think that enforced separation between them is a good thing.

              Admittedly, this philosophy is less than a year old for me, so next year I may be saying something different. But right now I'm absolutely convinced that cluttering up your GTD system with non-actionable information, or handicapping it for the sake of a relationship with that information, is a mistake.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Gardener View Post
                But right now I'm absolutely convinced that cluttering up your GTD system with non-actionable information, or handicapping it for the sake of a relationship with that information, is a mistake.
                You're entitled to your POV but I can tell you without a doubt that it is possible to keep actionable and non-actionable information in the same application without "cluttering up" your GTD system. Yes, I can and do use Evernote's capabilities to create relationships between the two but I don't understand why you believe that "handicaps" my system. I keep my reference information in one set of notebooks and my next actions, waiting for's, projects, etc. in a separate set of notebooks. I know the difference between the two and treat them differently. I know where to look for things I need to do and where to look for reference information, and it works wonderfully for me.

                If keeping actionable and non-actionable items in completely different applications works best for you, that's great. More power to you. That's the great thing about GTD: it allows a great amount of space for personal preferences. But that's what we're talking about: preferences rather than principles.

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                • #9
                  I use Evernote and outlook. Haven't tried onenote yet. But I think it would be great to use what is the best feature of each one if you are not satisfied with just one tool.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by bcmyers2112 View Post
                    I keep my reference information in one set of notebooks and my next actions, waiting for's, projects, etc. in a separate set of notebooks.
                    But then you are separating your tasks and your project support material, so I'm not clear on the difference of opinion here?

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