My big fat Evernote and GTD fail

If you’ve been following my blog you will have noticed that I have attempted to implement GTD and Evernote in order to become more productive.

Sadly this attempt failed! This blog is going to share the reasons for the failure in order to help me (try again), and help you (avoid these pitfalls)…

Too busy

As I began the implementation of GTD and Evernote I was entering a really busy time at work (budgets and pricing) and at home (selling and buying a house). Looking back this was a bad idea…

The first 2 weeks were like a honeymoon; the new processes were shiny and exciting and I found time to make sure that I prioritised them. Sadly I found myself struggling to hit deadlines as the weeks rolled on so I needed to focus on the ‘must do’ actions.

The learn from this is that I need to find a quieter month to allow the new system to embed itself in my life and become second nature. GTD and Evernote will have become my way of working so that when I’m really busy again I’m already up and running.

Didn’t finish reading David Allen’s book before I started

This is me all over – not reading the manual and diving straight into the processes. The main issue here is that I ended up partially applying the themes and processes of GTD. Anyone who knows anything about GTD knows that that’s not a good way to approach it!

The learn from this fail is that I need to finish the book, and then probably read a second time before attempting to implement it.

Didn’t do a weekly review

A key feature of GTD that you hear experts (such as Daniel Gold) recommending is the weekly review. Hands up, I just didn’t do this.

The outcome of this was to end up building a really big pile of crap (ie lots and lots of notes) that just gets bigger every week and started to make me feel like I didn’t know where anything was. Even though it was ALL in Evernote!

The learn for next time is to prioritise and schedule my weekly review. I’ll probably sneak off at lunch time on Friday to do this 30 minute activity.


In short, implementing GTD is hard enough – but doing it at the same time as Evernote during a really busy time is not smart!

If you want to give GTD or Evernote a try, then I hope you learned a bit from my fails. Don’t forget to check out David Allen’s original GTD book on Amazon, and Daniel Gold’s GTD and Evernote book on Amazon.

Published by Oliver Gearing

I'm a blogging Chartered Accountant from Hertfordshire, UK.

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  1. I wandered in prod-app land from zendone, to GQueues, to IQTELL, to Remember the Milk (which I loved), but I still didn’t like the fact all my notes were in EN. Then I discovered “The Secret Weapon” for EN. Why learn a new app when EN has everthing needed? Now with “Reminders,” its just about perfect (though, waiting for Windows). Tweak GTD and TSW to meet your personal needs, and all is good. Of course, self-discipline is the key. Oh, and instead of reading GTD a second time, I’d recommend “Bill’s Im-Perfect Time Management Adventure” by Francis Wade instead. That way you can make it all your own.

  2. I have successfully implemented GTD on Evernote.

    It is 95% there. I just need to tweak it a bit here and there, but it has definitely achieved the main objective which is to get ‘things’ out of my head, so that I can focus on ‘doing’ and not having anxiety about what I should be doing, or what I might have forgotten 😉

    I borrowed the idea off someone else (sadly can’t remember who) and changed it to fit my way of working.

    I mainly use the Evernote app on my phone (Android), as of course like most people, it is always on me.

  3. I think the reason you “failed” is that you didn’t get a big picture view of what to do first. Here are a few suggestions that I think may work for you
    – instead of reading the GTD book listen to the audio book. You can listen while you do something else like workout, etc.
    – watch It’s free and shows how to set up GTD with evernote
    – youtube “GTD evernote” and watch some of the videos given.
    – youtube “David Allen” and watch a few of his interviews. He explains the big picture of GTD better than in the book. Since the interviews are after he wrote the book he also explains how he notices people mess up with using his system.
    – keep in mind that there is no one way to incorporate GTD into your life. It’s more about following the basic principles and tweaking it until it works for you. If you talk to 10 people that use GTD then you will find 10 different ways of using the GTD methodology.

    Hope this helps…..

  4. I would like to say thanks for this article. I to was having similar problems and Leroy nailed it on the head. After several frustrating attempts I had not grasped the ” big picture ” and ended up doing the same: audible book, YouTube, TSW, Daniel Gold, etc. and finally Matt’s book ‘Master David Allen’s GTD with Evernote, which by they way is the best book I have found. You really do have to have to have a grasp on the ”big picture” before you try any kind of implementation.

    Getting ready for my first weekly review and so far pure awesomeness! Finally have a system that seems to be working.

  5. I use Zendone which is nothing more than a GTD GUI over Evernote. This makes implementing GTD using Evernote super simple.

    Here is a video I created that shows how Zendone is simply an interface for GTD over the Evernote system.

    Not sure if it helps but I guess it can’t hurt.

  6. Hi Oliver,

    I think GTD is a concept that could help beginners unfortunately lost in the plethora of tasks thrown at them. It has its fault, but I would not completely negate the principles behind it.
    Most of the time, though we get the ‘Steps’ in GTD we fail to get the process and principles right that usually determine the outcome of the tool.
    I recommend you to have a look at 12 Principles I have listed that could help one get the GTD implementation right.

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