Guest Post by Christopher J. Lee
Templates are to writing that checklists are to the practice of medicine and flying. Templates and checklists are different sides of the same coin and that coin buys efficiency and elimination of variability. If you have been reading Daniel for as long as I have, you know that he is a big template guy. In fact, his success is partly due to his very successful Evernote template contest back in the summer of 2012. Unfortunately my own submission did not win, but the value of Evernote templates was burned in my brain and I have been using my own Evernote templates ever since.
The challenge I had back then and is still the case now is that Evernote itself does not easily support templates without using 3rd-party tools like Kustomnote or processes that include cutting and pasting. The purpose of this post is to show how to not only automate the creation of Evernote Templates, but automate the creation of tasks in your chosen task manager. And, you can do all of this from an iPad, no clunky laptops required. The setup for my process will seem a bit complicated at first, but once configured I guarantee the setup will save you time and headaches.
Setting up the workflow
Before I begin, let’s talk about the requirements for this workflow. As you could tell from the title of this post, my process will require an iPad and an active Evernote account. In addition to Evernote, you will also need an account with TaskClone and two other iOS apps.
Start with TextExpander
The first app is TextExpander Touch TextExpander Touch which is the iOS version of its Mac-based keyboard automation application. TextExpander allows you to insert short and long text blocks by simply entering a few key strokes.
The example that I will describe is to create an Evernote note template. Go ahead and install TextExpander and spend a bit of time with the online manual to acclimate yourself. Once you are confident in your abilities to create a snippet, take a look at my current meeting agenda template shared in my Evernote account. Go ahead and create your own meeting or note template using your own snippet (agn2 in my case) to identify the template. Once you have created your note template, create one more snippet for adding checkboxes for each action item, i.e. the tasks you will want forwarded to your task manager. The text you will need to attach to the action item snippet is “ ”. This text will automatically render a checkbox once the note is stored in Evernote. You could of course type this string every time you want to create a checkbox in your note, but creating an abbreviation with TextExpander will make this much more efficient. As you can see from my meeting agenda template, I seed my template with two checkboxes under the assumption that each meeting will result in at least two action items. For additional action items I just need to create more checkboxes by typing my action item snippet, “.ck” in my case.
Download Drafts for iOS
The second app required is Drafts. The reason I chose Drafts is that it is very simple and it supports direct integration with Evernote meaning that once your notes are complete they can be exported directly to Evernote, checkboxes in all. Here is the process to configure Drafts to directly save notes to Evernote.
- Click the share button on the top right side of the screen
- Click the gear on the top right side of the screen
- Scroll down and click on Evernote Actions
- Click on the “+” to add a new Action
- Fill out each field according to this diagram:
Add in TaskClone
The final piece of this process, the one that will capture your tasks into your task manager is TaskClone. Utilizing TaskClone with Evernote is the fastest way to capture tasks while taking notes. If you use one of the many task applications that can capture tasks via emails, TaskClone will sync all of your lines with checkboxes directly into your task application. This means that you can take notes, capture tasks and file notes in Evernote without having to enter your task application. The setup for TaskClone is easy and the cost is reasonable for one of the two paid options. However, TaskClone does provide a free option that does work with this workflow. Go ahead create an account and connect your task application by following the the simple instructions. When you are connecting TaskClone to your Evernote notebook, make sure you select the notebook name from the list presented by TaskClone rather than manually typing in the notebook. This is assure that TaskClone will correct connect to your notebook.
Putting it all together
Now that you have Evernote, Drafts, TextExpander and TaskClone configured; follow these steps to automatically capture your action items into your chosen task manager.
- Take notes, capture action items using your defined abbreviation for creating an Evernote Checkbox, .ck in my case
- Select your Evernote to Markdown Action in Drafts
- Your done! Within between 30 seconds and a few minutes your note will be archived in Evernote and your tasks/action items will be routed to your task manager.
Yes, the process to setup this workflow is long and is dependent on several applications. However, all of the setup time will be made up in time saved documenting one or two meetings! With the workflow above, I’m done as soon as I have archived my notes to Evernote added added the special TaskClone Evernote tag. Give the workflow a try and let me know what you think!
Christopher J. Lee is a blogger at TabletProductive.com. He is also the author of iPad Productivity and Evernote on the iPad. By day, he is a healthcare administrator interested in being productive. He believes that the combination of a tablet and a smartphone can drastically improve how we do work without adding too much complexity. The “how” of accomplishing this productivity is the focus of his blog. You can reach Chris at Tablet Productive, Facebook or on Twitter.