The Brainy Girl's Guide to Productivity Part 3: The Complete GTD System.

In Part 2 of the Brainy Girl’s Guide to Productivity I provided an overview of the Getting Things Done® system which is the one I use to manage tasks and activities.  l could write a whole book on the tools and software that are available to implement GTD® and indeed people have. Google ‘GTD’ and you will find hundreds of blog posts on the subject. Just search your app store of choice and you’ll find plenty of apps to choose from too. Over the years I’ve tried a few and they worked pretty well.

I now use Evernote® which, unlike some of the other apps, isn’t designed for GTD at all. Evernote is a popular application for recording notes and storing information. If you recall Part 2, Evernote is my ‘Step 1: Capture’ system. I’ve been using it for a few years now and have stuck with it. It’s the longest I’ve stuck with one tool or system to implement the GTD approach and I can’t see myself moving away from it any time soon.

I record absolutely everything in Evernote. You can type notes, record voice memos, forward emails to action, write checklists and it even has handwriting recognition. Notes are stored in notebooks but you can also tag your notes. You can download Evernote’s Web Clipper to clip articles, screenshots and emails from the web straight to whichever folder you choose in your Evernote account. Both Evernote and the Web Clipper are free to download, unless you want to upgrade to their Premium account. However, for most people the free version will suffice.

For a great series of Evernote training videos check out Evernote Scott on YouTube.

But how do you implement GTD in Evernote?

Well, there’s a secret weapon.

I have a confession to make. It’s not my secret weapon.

There is a site and system that’s actually called The Secret Weapon (TSW), which has been designed to integrate GTD and Evernote together. TSW describes itself as ‘a no BS approach to personal productivity’ and that’s pretty much how it works for me.

TSW explains how to set up your notebooks and tags in Evernote in accordance with the GTD system. So I have just 4 notebooks: Action Pending (my GTD inbox), Filing Cabinet (information & research), Complete and Personal. I can clearly see what I need to action without having to trawl through lots of different notebooks because everything I need to take action on goes into the Action Pending folder. Once actioned I move it to the Complete folder, Research folder or I delete it.

Emails that need to be actioned can be forwarded to my Evernote email address and delivered straight to my Action Pending notebook.

I use Tags to ‘file’ my notes according to topic which makes it easy to find them.

What if you prefer to write things down in a notebook?

Getting Things Done

If you still prefer to write your notes by hand in a notebook, Evernote have their own Moleskin notebooks (you can buy them on Amazon) which have specially designed paper which enables you to scan in your handwritten notes to the Evernote app. The Moleskin notebooks also come with stickers which correspond with your notebooks and tags. These are recognised by the app when you scan your notes in so that your notes are automatically filed straight into whichever notebook or tag you assign them.

There are some issues with the Evernote Moleskin notebooks. Some people find the paper too thin, they are quite expensive and only come in black and craft colours.  You could just use a regular notebook, scan in any notes with your phone and then assign the scanned picture to a notebook or tag but I like them for three reasons.

1) I like the simple black notebooks. For years I bought pretty notebooks every time I saw them. I’d start a fresh one but then I’d move on to the next pretty notebook when I saw it. I rarely used up a notebook and my notes were all over the place. I have a large box full of half used beautiful notebooks. My black notebooks on the other hand are easy to find (I used to forget which of the various beautiful notebooks lying around was my current one) and are the perfect size to carry around. And if plain black notebooks are good enough for Richard Branson they’re good enough for me.

2) I like the thin pages. I find the thin pages mean you can fit an awful lot notes in one small notebook. My notebooks seem to last exactly 6 months which is quite a long time considering I record absolutely everything  in them.

3) Even if you don’t make use of the special ‘scannable’ pages and stickers, you get three free months of Evernote Premium with each notebook. Evernote Premium isn’t necessary either but I use it and so the notebooks work out as very good value for me.

So that’s my system for getting things done.


In summary:

  • Remember – you can’t manage time, only your activities.
  • Read the GTD book or check out the website.
  • Download Evernote and the Evernote Web Clipper onto your desktop and all your devices. Evernote works on everything as far as I am aware (I have it on Ipad, IPhone, Android and Windows) and it will sync between them.
  • Go to and follow the instructions to set up Evernote using the GTD system.
  • If you like to make handwritten notes you can scan them into Evernote from your physical notebook. Buy the Evernote Moleskin notebooks if you want to go Premium or want your notes automatically ‘filed’ for you.
  • Forward emails that need you to take action straight to your Evernote email account to manage everything in one place.

I’d love to hear if you use a productivity/time management system and how well it works. What technology do you use to help you? Let me know if you’ve decided to try the GTD system out for yourself and how you’re getting on. Just drop me a comment below.