I have used Evernote for 225 days in a row to keep my days organized and productive by planning schedules, deadlines, and to-do lists. Here are steps to help you set up a folder and file structure to do the same.
1. Sign up for Evernote
If you haven't already signed up for Evernote, this is obviously the first step.
Evernote is a free note taking app that syncs across computers, phones, and tablets. It also supports media uploads and has neat features like bookmarking webpages.
The basic version of Evernote (which has met all my needs for over a year) is completely free. I also recommend downloading the desktop version since in my experience the web version has a few formatting bugs.
2. Create a new notebook titled "Current"
Click "File," then click "New Notebook" and name it "Current."
This notebook will be where the notes for the present day and future days will be stored.
3. Create a new notebook titled "Archive"
This is where past days will be stored.
4. Drag the two folders together to create a notebook stack and rename to "Day Planning"
Drag one folder on top of the other one and let go. A notebook stack will be created.
Right click on the notebook stack and click "Rename." Now rename the notebook stack to whatever you'd like your planning system to be called, such as "Day Planning" or "Planner."
5. Create a note for today
In this Evernote planning system, you will have one note per day. The way you name the notes is important as it will dictate the order they appear inside the notebook.
Click "New Note" and name it by the year, month, and day. It is important that you keep this formatting consistent so that the sort order doesn't get messed up.
2015 11 16
You can also add the day of the week and spell out the month at the end of the title for easy reference.
2015 11 16 - Monday, November 16th
I recommend adding a week's worth of notes at a time. This means you will add a blank note for today (2015 11 16), another one for tomorrow (2015 11 17), and so on.
6. Create a 1x1 table to surround your schedule
The way you format each day's note is up to you, but I've found that creating a single-celled table to surround the day's most important information is helpful to visually distinguish it from general tasks.
To do this, create a 1x1 table inside the note.
7. Write down your day's schedule and tasks
I write my must-do schedule at the top so I can see it quickly and place my could-do items below.
Underneath the 1x1 table, write down the list of things you could do today. Seeing everything you need in one list will help you prioritize tasks.
You can also write a rough estimate of how much time tasks will take and their deadlines to help you determine priority.
8. Schedule your day
Now that you have a list of tasks, decide which ones you need to complete today and move them into the 1x1 grid. When I plan my days, I also assign times to the tasks to make sure I'll be able to finish everything I plan on doing.
If you use an external calendar like Google Calendar, don't forget to open it and include your previously scheduled meetings and appointments in the day's schedule section.
9. Cross off items as you complete them
I get a ridiculous amount of satisfaction from crossing items off to do lists. You can use strikethrough text formatting to do this or use the checkbox feature and check off the items as you complete them.
Since I'm often tempted to get distracted, I also highlight the current item I'm working on.
10. Archive your day
Once the day is over, copy any uncompleted tasks and paste them to the next day.
Now move the current day to the "Archive" folder. Tomorrow's note will now be the first note in the "Current" folder.
It may also be helpful to plan your next day in the evening so when the morning comes along you don't waste any time wondering what to work on first.
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