Another point worth making quickly is to have a column for “Resources”. This column could contain a document titled Goals so that long-term goals are visible even while in the trenches working on shorter-term tasks. This will be discussed in more detail later in this document. This column can also be used for adding resources which need to be quickly recalled while working on different tasks.
Another very important factor in success is knowledge management. The human brain is not designed to hold large amounts of information for long periods of time. It would be more effective to design some sort of digital brain or filing cabinet that keeps relevant information within arms, reach and archives older information so that it could be retrieved when necessary in the future. Luckily the team over at Evernote did exactly this.
The free edition is probably sufficient for people just starting out but at a cost of circa £50 a year the premium edition is super valuable for your money. Some online productivity gurus will discuss leveraging Evernote by creating multiple notebooks, one for each area of interest. Having tried this personally in the beginning, this system simply does not scale. The most efficient way to get the most power of Evernote is to use the tagging system**. Tagging enables a very scalable way to categorise information within notebooks while the notebook limit, for the basic account, is 250. It is worth noting that notebooks can still be leveraged in addition to tags when using this workflow if required.
** It is outside the scope of this article to discuss in-depth how to design the tagging system, it can be quite varied depending on how an individual chooses to categorise things.
Inside Evernote, there are two notebooks. One is for longer lasting or archived information, this is called Cabinet in my Evernote account. This can be named whatever you feel appropriate, for the purposes of this guide you just need to understand that this is your long term storage. Any information learned through research or working on any of the tasks in Trello or from browsing the internet will be categorised inside this notebook ready for retrieval whenever it is required. Everything digital can be archived inside this notebook, receipts, invoices and travel tickets are common use cases.
The next notebook that should be created inside this Evernote account is the ‘Action Pending’ notebook. The purpose of this notebook is for short term storage while actively working on tasks, for example, doing research, mind mapping or brainstorming. A good rule of thumb is that if a task is still in the backlog, the to-do pile or the doing column in Trello, then in Evernote notes would be in the “Action Pending” notebook. Once this work is completed and the Trello task is moved to the Done column you would move the note to the Cabinet notebook. This means information can quickly be recalled by searching Evernote while working on a current task that requires the wisdom or knowledge gained from working on a task from weeks or months before.
There were reasons for using Evernote instead of a cloud file-system such as Google Drive. One of the main reasons for this is the versatility of the Evernote notebook system, although later in this post there will be a section on leveraging Evernote and Google Drive together for providing more structure to knowledge retention.
The knowledge retention system, Evernote, should be integrated with the tasks list in Trello. In order to do this from Trello simply install the Evernote Power-Up. This plugin will create a note, inside any notebook chosen, for any task created in Trello. It is possible that not every task in Trello would require the use of a note, however, it would be surprising if that were to be the norm. More often tasks require brainstorming or listing some ideas in order to achieve the desired end result. With these two systems integrated the power of this system can be truly realised, however, there is still one more integration required.
Another crucially important factor, and one that is often overlooked, is to consider how to work productively on tasks throughout the day. A very simple and beneficial or productive method is the Pomodoro technique. For those that don’t know the Pomodoro technique, it is a method for breaking work up into chunks of 25 minutes with a 5-minute break. After four of these cycles, every 2 hours, there would be a 20-minute break. There are lots of Pomodoro applications on the market at this moment in time but the application that most successfully fits this workflow is the Pomodone application which can be found here. When first starting with this workflow, the app was integrated with Trello, Evernote and pretty much every other productivity-based tool on the market. However after really understanding the different components in the workflow and their strengths, this is now only integrated with Trello directly. Once integrated, Pomodone can pull or synchronise all projects from inside Trello. From here a task can be selected, the Pomodoro timer started and work can be achieved. The great thing about this app is the reporting, emails showing the time spent by task during the previous working day. This is categorised by list or project. At the beginning of this article it was stated that one board would be fine for the time being. After becoming more accustomed to the obvious splits for project or boards inside Trello it may be beneficial to have one for business and one for personal life, enabling visibility of time spent on business or personal tasks the previous day. This allows, for example, prioritisation of personal tasks on the following day if more time was spent on business tasks the previous day.
The last topic to discuss is in the knowledge retention area. The great thing about Evernote is the flexibility of the note format however, it is not great for holding semi-structured data or larger word documents. For these tasks, it is best to use G-Suite. G-Suite is a great online collaborative way for creating Word Documents, Spreadsheets and Slideshow presentations. While it is possible to build a file and directory structure leveraging Google Drive, it lacks the categorisation and searchability that comes with the Evernote platform. To get the best of both worlds, creating a note inside Evernote in the first instance is much simpler. Later if more structure is required, a Google Drive link can be stored within an Evernote note containing a Word Document, Spreadsheet or Slideshow presentation. Oftentimes when starting a task all that is required is a simple few notes but, as is the Agile nature of workloads, requirements change as more information is gained. For example, after taking some notes this work may evolve into a Word Document and/or a slideshow presentation. This is where this workflow becomes really powerful as Evernote acts as the searchable glue between different documents types of the same piece of work or task, e.g Spreadsheet data and the Slideshow presentation.
Earlier in this document it was stated that it could be beneficial to create a resources column inside the Trello board. In this resources column, one of the tickets that could be useful is one for Goals. Once this ticket is created it can be attached to an Evernote, and using an Evernote template called “Project Goals”, key longer-term objectives can stay close to shorter-term weekly workloads. Any template can be utilized in this workflow, this is merely a tangible use-case that many people seem to struggle with, losing sight of the bigger picture while in the trenches.
Inside the project goals template, we can list our goals for the next quarter. Remember to set “S.M.A.R.T” goals inside this template and if you need help with setting smart goals I have included a link here. The great thing about this setup is that you can always refer to your goals after completing a few of your tasks throughout the week and see or assess whether this is getting you closer to your goals, if you are not visibly getting closer to achieving your goals then you need to spend more time in effectively planning your activities for the week. I have included an example of one of my S.M.A.R.T goals filled in using the Evernote ‘Project Goals’ template below. Directly below is a screenshot of the Goals card inside the Resources column inside Trello, you can see there is an attachment which is the Evernote note titled ‘Goals’.
So that’s my workflow documented exactly as I use it, I hope it will bring you as much productivity as it has brought to me. Of course, when learning anything new it takes a while to become accustomed to the way of working, but I firmly believe that this workflow can be the basis of you achieving great things in your life. Please take this workflow forward, adapt it as you need and feel free to give me feedback on any elements that didn’t work for you as I am sure there are many ways it can be improved.