Workplace

Notes are better than tasks, and other hot takes from an Evernote expert

Vladimir Campos is here to help you master Evernote, and maybe even time itself.

Vladimir Campos

Vladimir Campos is committed to Evernote, mostly because of its searchability, chronological organization and widgets.

Photo: Vladimir Campos

Vladimir Campos has been an Evernote stan since 2008. The application’s ability to sync notes between his computer and his iPod Touch was, at the time, magical. Ever since, note-taking has been at the center of his productivity system. As his father always told him, take notes or you will forget. “I take notes on everything,” Campos, who’s based in Portugal, said. “Ideas, meetings, everything. From there, I built a system to help me be productive.”

Syncing notes across devices isn’t novel anymore. Still, Campos is committed to Evernote, mostly because of its searchability, chronological organization and widgets. He shares Evernote tricks and hacks as a productivity consultant, working with small companies and entrepreneurs in Portugal, Brazil and the United States. He wrote a book about Evernote in 2012, and became an Evernote Community Leader for Portuguese-speaking countries in 2019. The note-taking tool has a substantial community of influencers and productivity experts.

Campos sat down with Protocol to talk about his Evernote setup, time-management tips and lessons he’s learned from productivity coaching. Plus, he shared a link to his top 10 Evernote features.

Organize your life via notes

Campos’ hottest take is that tasks are overrated. People often focus their productivity setup on a list of tasks to be completed, slowly working through them during the day. Campos says task boxes don’t offer the flexibility and nuance that work often requires. “Tasks don’t show anything to you,” Campos said. “They only represent that you did it or you didn’t.”

A “record a video” checkbox doesn’t capture the actual work involved, for example, and long lists of subtasks get messy. Instead, Campos organizes his work in notes and creates action items within those notes. Notes provide more context and better prepare him for work. If he wants to look at all his tasks at once, he opens Evernote’s task view or “drawer.”

He knows that not everyone shares his hatred of tasks. So for his clients that prefer task views, he advises using techniques like Pomodoro to understand how long each task takes. Once you have that knowledge, it’s easier to organize tasks by time frame and decide which ones to prioritize.

Use tags to solidify your workflow

Campos may not like the to-do list, but we need to track our work progress somehow. His solution is leveraging Evernote tags. For example, in his YouTube Evernote folder, he marks notes as “Story,” “WIP (Work in Progress)” or “Done.” The “Story” tag means the note is simply an idea for a YouTube video. When he adds the “WIP” tag, it means he’s started to work on the video. “Done” is self-explanatory. All of these tags are standalone widgets on Campos’ Evernote home page, so he sees all notes marked “Story” when he opens the app.

The system is based on agile, a project management methodology centered on small, incremental tasks. Within agile, you’re supposed to impose work-in-progress limits. When you have too many projects going on, you never get anything done. Because of this, Campos restricts the number of “WIP” notes.

His tagging system is also based on agile’s kanban method of moving cards across categories. If Evernote tags aren’t your thing, you can also use tools like Trello, Notion and Asana that have built-in kanban views with drag-and-drop notes.

Blend your notes and calendar

Time constantly humbles us, dictating the amount of work we can complete, and we never feel like we’re getting enough done. The first step is recognition, Campos says. You have only so many minutes in a day. This is why he lives by his calendar, integrated, naturally, in Evernote. It sits prominently in his Evernote setup at the top of his home page.

Campos separates his calendar events into strict commitments and flexible work blocks. Strict commitments are meetings Campos must attend: the traditional events people place into calendars. Flexible work blocks are time blocks dedicated to specific activities. He leaves these calendar entries vague because he knows that his priorities might shift throughout the day. As much as he can, Campos schedules his flexible time blocks at the same time each week, almost like class periods. Consistency helps build habits.

Integrating your calendar with Evernote, or another note-taking tool of choice, is key if you’re like Campos and want to write everything down. Some people want to turn calendar events into living documents themselves. Campos achieves this by linking every Google Calendar event to an Evernote document.

Mastering the calendar is empowering, Campos says. Once you figure out how to harness time, you can do anything. Some might be stressed out by a digital calendar’s little red line signifying time passing throughout the day. Not Campos. “I love that line,” Campos said. “I’m always looking at it.”

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