I'm Productive, Aren't I?

How often do you feel as if you have an abundance of “to-do” items, yet there’s not enough time in the day to get them all done? It begins with a passive thought and quickly morphs into a dark cloud of panic. We’ve all been there and I am no exception. As a dedicated educational technology teacher, graduate student and nonprofit leader, I have what seems like a forever-expanding list of items that need to get done at all times. I have developed S.M.A.R.T. goals, watched more motivational videos than I can begin to count, and explored the wealth of productivity tools available, but still find myself at times overwhelmed beyond belief. The reason? My system needs a makeover.

Just as the “introduction of health IT can be very disruptive to existing workflows in a [healthcare] organization,” (Cain & Haque, 2008) the same holds true for individuals. Technology is ever-evolving and applications are constantly emerging that claim to help us be our most productive self, but without a system in place to reach one’s goals, whether simple or far-fetched, it’s easy to end up in a perpetual whirlwind trying to keep up with the latest and greatest tools. We all have those “aha” moments when we come across a new productivity tool that seems useful, but it’s imperative to analyze its features and ask the questions of how it can fit into our overall workflow.

David Allen, a leader and expert on productivity, has developed a system called Getting Things Done (GTD), which outlines five stages one should analyze and implement to harness their most productive self, ridding the widely-used excuse of not having enough time. As he simply states in his TEDx talk, “Getting things done is not about getting things done. It’s really about being appropriately engaged with what’s going on” (Allen, 2012). The five stages of GTD include collecting, processing, organizing, reviewing, and most importantly, doing. Furthermore, his system can be studied thoroughly via his available online tools, which you can find here.

Although I have a system in place that completes the five stages of GTD, it doesn’t follow the same order that Allen outlines. It needs improvement and begins with finding the most efficient and reliable productivity tools available. For my CEP 810 graduate course, I’m focusing my attention this week on sharing my experience using Evernote, an organizing, planning, and task-managing application. In full disclosure, Evernote was one of the many mobile apps that I downloaded at one time or another, but simply didn’t give it enough of a chance to grow on me. The first thing I noticed after creating an account was that the interface seemed user-friendly. Additionally, my interest was piqued by the fact that there’s a web-based, desktop, and mobile version, with a Google Extension to boot, as I need tools that sync well with all of my devices - one area I’ve noticed that Google Keep (another digital note-taking app) lacks.

The one thing I was hoping that Evernote would offer me versus Google Keep would be the ability to schedule reminders on specific check listed items (watch my video below). Evernote allows users to create “notebooks” (categories) and then “notes” within them. You can set a reminder for a note, but not for each particular item. This article from Evernote’s blog explains how to use the app as a task manager, however it doesn’t truly offer the features that I think of when I hear those words (i.e., assigning tasks in a collaborative manner, scheduling reminders for specific tasks, etc.). Nevertheless, Evernote is easy-to-use and after testing out the mobile and web versions, the synchronization is seamless. Phew! It comes at a cost though. With only 60 MB of free storage, I’m not entirely sold. Perhaps my experience will prove the app to be worth the basic $34.99/year subscription (1 GB of storage). Although it may not be a cure-all to improving my workflow, I plan to continue using Evernote and will potentially replace my use of Google Keep with it, utilizing it as an organizational tool.

Have any thoughts or opinions of your own? I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below and let’s discuss!


Allen, D. (2012). The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/CHxhjDPKfbY

Cain, C., & Haque, S. (2008). Organizational workflow and its impact on work quality. In Patient safety and quality: an evidence-based handbook for nurses (chapter 31). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK2638/