I use Evernote quite a lot for my own notes, but I also use it at work. I’ve got two notebooks for each of the positions I’ve held at work, and I’ve got a few tags associated with notes depending on which coworkers I need to consult for a given project. However, as of three weeks ago, I’ve taken it one step further: I’m trying to use Evernote as my main task manager as well.
That means all of the work tasks and personal items on my to-do lists also reside in Evernote, alongside my notes about bags and cool iPad apps. It’s been a pretty big change, and Evernote’s UI isn’t exactly fun or efficient for task management, but it works and provides a very unique advantage.
First up, the basics. You don’t create Evernote reminders like you do in other task management apps, but rather reminders are attached to existing notes. Evernote notes consist of a plain text title and a main body (which can contain rich text, links, and files). Turning a note into a reminder gives you the option to add a notification at a given time, and it also keeps the note in a special reminders section of the Evernote app.
Simple task lists
Each note in Evernote is assigned to a specific notebook, which ends up acting like the category for that set of notes. So if I set up a “groceries” notebook and fill it with notes that had titles like “buy milk” or “buy eggs”, that could work as a basic to-do list.
Evernote also supports sub-tasks, in a manner of speaking. Each note can support a set of checkboxes, so you can break down larger tasks into smaller chunks. For example, making bacon pancakes is a more complicated endeavour than simply buying eggs, so it can help to create a set of sub-tasks that I can cross off.
These sub-tasks are really helpful for tracking my progress through more involved projects. The only weakness of this system is that sub-tasks cannot be assigned any notifications — you can only set a single notification for any given Evernote note.
Context right beside your tasks
The main reason I decided to try Evernote out as a task manager is its ability to show a lot of context for a given task. When I have to “finish my expense report” it’s really helpful to be able to keep all of my PDF receipts and the expense report Excel sheet right inside of that note. That way, once the notification pops up to remind me, all I have to do is tap on the note, and all the files I need are gathered in one place for me to get right to work.
I was finding a disconnect while using other task managers because, although they would remind me and help me triage tasks, it was too easy to lose my place as I juggled all of the open windows on my work PC. It was also hard to find a task manager other than Evernote that was natively cross platform across the Mac, PC, and iOS.
Evernote isn’t the most fun program to use for task management. It lacks satisfying animations or sound effects, and it doesn’t have the clever natural language parsing of Due or Fantastical, but it’s hands-down the most efficient task management system I’ve used at work.