How to Capture Everything But Focus on One Thing Using Evernote

Evernote turned 5 years old this past week. They sent out a creative email to their users basically letting them know what user number they were. I was surprised to see that I was almost one of the first 100,000 users of Evernote and landed at #111,076.

How to capture everything with Evernote

I like to think that I was an early adopter of Evernote (but maybe you have a lower number than I do).

What most attracted me to Evernote was the ability to capture everything. If there was one productivity principle I learned from the classic book, Getting Things Done, it was the absolute importance of capturing things in a trusted system and getting them out of your head.

I made this collection thing a habit for years with Evernote. It was great to know that I was developing an “external brain” so I didn’t have to try and remember everything.

However, there was still something missing for me. Evernote was a great filing and referencing system, but not so great of a task management system. I found myself bouncing around between GTD task systems like Nozbe, Wunderlist, Reminders App for iPhone, Azendoo, and even ZenDone.

I could probably list more, but I think you get the point. Even though many of these systems did their best to integrate with Evernote, it just wasn’t the same for me. I wanted one system that I can work in for both referencing and task management. Which led me to this principle:

“Capture everything, but intentionally avoid most of it so you can focus” tweet this

If you can grab ahold of this principle, it will revolutionize the way you get stuff done. I’ll be sharing more of how I do this in the days ahead, but for now let’s break down this principle:

Step 1. Capture Everything

The biggest struggle you and I face in today’s environment is having multiple collection buckets where important “to dos” sit.

You will drive yourself crazy if you have unfinished tasks sitting in your email inbox AND in a online task management system AND in your voice mail AND in your physical inbox AND on your paper to do list AND on sticky notes on your computer (I think you get the point).

Decide to make one central place where it all goes. When I get a “to do” in my email inbox, I automatically email forward the item to my Evernote Inbox folder (see pic).

how ot capture everything with Evernote


I also do the same thing with any reference items I come across. Whether it is a new book I want to read, a cool website I want to check out later, an article/blog post I want to store, or an awesome quote I want to capture, it all goes into Evernote. One place gives me peace of mind.

Step 2. Intentionally Avoid Most of It So You Can Focus

For a long time, this was the missing piece for me. While it feels great to capture everything, you only really get things done by intentional focus. You need a system that allows you to focus. Here’s two things that help me focus:

My Top 5 Project List

Are you like me? I never lack new ideas. In fact, new ideas are often the #1 enemy of focus for me. I hope to share more in the future, but simply put I intentional choose to only have 5 projects I am working on at one time.

By having only 5 active projects I have intentionally chosen to place the other ideas on an Avoid At All Costs List. They simply get zero energy from me until I can complete my top 5 projects.

My Daily Top 5 Tasks

In an effort to get even more focused in my work, I start each day with a top 5 task list. My goal is to get these top 5 tasks done as early in the day as possible. I definitely want them done before noon, but the earlier the better.

I am currently using the new reminders feature in Evernote to select my top 5 daily tasks. This has put all of the pieces together for me.

how to use reminders feature in evernote

So remember, capture everything but have a system in place that allows you to intentionally avoid most of it so you can get stuff done!


Question: How do you focus and get stuff done in your business or job?


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    Jonathan has been blogging since 2009 and is still in awe that the Creator of the Universe desires to have a relationship with him. His passions include spending time with his kids, reading, March Madness, surprise get-a-way trips with his wife, and watching funny YouTube videos.

    Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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