I’ve written before about the benefits of writing a daily to do list on an index card, but for several months I’ve experimented with using Evernote for my task list instead of a daily index card – just to see how going all digital would work out for me.
I have gone back to writing out a short daily to-do note, but I learned a lot from my little experiment. Using Evernote for a daily to-do list and journal is definitely a viable option with several benefits.
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How I made my daily to-do list in Evernote
I had three main parts to my daily note:
- The top three things I wanted to get done that day (My MITs)
- My routine checklists
- An area to journal about the day during my evening review
I set up a blank template and simply duplicated it 6 times during my weekly review – titling each one with the date and the day of the week so I could quickly find the day’s note.
During my evening review, I’d fill in my list for the next day and also write a little journal update for the day just ending. It was a good way to stay abreast of my progress, my status, and my attitude about it all.
Benefits of an Evernote daily to-do list
A daily to-do note in Evernote is versatile. I could change the formatting and experiment with ways to make it visually more appealing, which does help with motivation to actually use the note. I could make a statement stand out by making the font bigger or bolder. I could access the note on my laptop and also on my iPad or iPhone.
An Evernote note can contain both a to-do list and a copied routine checklist. When I write out my note on paper, I don’t take the time to handwrite every routine task, but it is nice to keep track of how well I’m keeping up on them. It’s helpful to keep them in front of my face to give me that extra little push to just do those tasks I might otherwise want to postpone or ignore. When my note is in Evernote, I can keep track of it all in one app rather than clicking through to task management app, a habit tracking app, and my calendar – I could summarize my day in one place.
It can function as a forward-thinking planning note as well as a reflective journal entry. I love how the exact same note morphs. First, it is a place to plan things out. I can jot down any reminders I might want – including things like pulling out meat from the freezer. I can think through and note when I might tackle a specific task. Then, when the day is over, I can look back over it all and write a journal entry about what else I did – maybe in addition to or maybe instead of what was planned. I can add a thoughtful note about how I handled that day or what I should have done. Then it’s on to the next note in the series to start making notes for the day ahead in light of the day just over.
Tips for keeping an Evernote daily to-do list
After keeping an Evernote daily to-do list for a few months, these are my top three tips for the process:
- Make a template with the formatting & checklists you want and duplicate it weekly.
- Add the notebook to your shortcut bar in Evernote
- Start each note with the date in numbers (YYYY.MM.DD), then arrange the notebook by alphabetical order so the entries are clearly accessible in date order.
Why I went back to a paper note
I did keep an Evernote daily to-do list for a few months – enough time to give it a fair shot and learn the pros and cons.
Now I’m back to my index card ways – except with a Post-It Note that fits right on my laptop.
First, being able to add so much information became a burden – because I could, it felt like I should – because that took more time than I wanted, I avoided it altogether.
Second, I could easily alt-tab or swipe and see my daily note, but I didn’t. I would get on the computer with the excuse that I was going to look at my note, but then did other things instead.
Third, because there was infinite space to write notes to myself and to plan for the day, I was much more likely to over-plan. I would add more and more to my day while ignoring that I probably couldn’t actually do it all. With a small paper note, I can visually see the constraints of my day and know that I need to limit my objectives and be realistic in my hopes.
As it turns out, the primary drawback to a digital planning process is the same one that plagues a paper planning procedure: actually looking at it and then doing it.