The Secret Weapon is a merging of the GTD concept with a powerful program/service from Evernote, (EN for short) that allows us to re-organize our emails, ideas, and to-do items into one system that stays synchronized across our varied devices, and has the ability to help us capture ideas when we suddenly come up with them.

Once you’ve implemented TSW, each to-do in your life—which has some Action Pending, will be safely organized into its proper contexts, waiting its turn to be brought out and processed. Your email Inbox will be empty each day. What’s the result? Controlled, optimized throughput, with “no task left behind.”

Quick Overview

  1. First read this entire article briefly, to get the big picture and what we’re describing. Check out the short animation video here.
  2. Read (or reread if you’ve already read it) David Allen’s Getting Things Done book. If you want to get started without reading Getting Things Done, or simply want a refresher of the basics, Wikipedia has a great GTD overview here.
  3. Install the free software program, Evernote. Install it on all of your computers as well as any smart phone you use.
  4. Embark on TSW, using the steps we outline here as a guide.

The Evernote Application

The software application Evernote lies at the heart of TSW. Evernote’s makers call it “the path to a superhuman memory.” The reason it can use this tagline is :

  1. It works on both Windows and Mac
  2. It has mobile device versions, including iPhone, Android, Palm, Windows Mobile, Blackberry, iPad, and even iPod Touch.
  3. It’s completely free (even your online account part)
  4. It has a built-in keyboard shortcut that allows you to quickly add a new task/note, regardless of what application you are in.
  5. It has a Shared section, so groups of people can assign and share tasks/notes
  6. A quick method for quickly turning PC-based Outlook or Apple Mail email into a new task/ note (this feature alone with transform your life)
  7. It gives each user a remote cloud-based version, for syncing among device/computers.


The Secret Weapon is a powerful personal productivity method that merges David Allen’s GTD concepts with a program and cloud-based service from Evernote, (EN for short) that allows us to re-organize our emails, ideas, and to-do items into one system that stays synchronized across our varied devices, and has the ability to help us capture ideas when we suddenly come up with them.

Works on both Mac and Windows. And it’s completely free.

This syncing ability is a powerful piece of the TSW solution. From Evernote’s site: “While Evernote is immensely useful as a desktop note-taking application, its true power lies in its ability to synchronize your notes [what TSW calls ‘to-dos’] to your Evernote account on the Web. This allows you to create and find your notes [to-dos] on virtually any computer, web browser or mobile phone. This means that you can clip a cornbread recipe from the web on your Mac, read it on your iPhone when you’re at the grocery store buying the ingredients and look it up from your friend’s Windows PC when you’re at his house preparing to bake the cornbread. Evernote on the Web is constantly updating all of your computers and devices with the latest versions of your notes, so you’ll always have the right information, wherever you are. All of the Evernote applications are in regular contact with Evernote on the Web. Whenever a new note is created or edited on any of your Evernote-capable devices, the note is uploaded to the Evernote on the Web where all of your other devices will download it the next time they sync.”

The interesting thing is that while the Evernote application wasn’t created with TSW’s specific purpose in mind, it provides all of the attributes needed to satisfy the requirements of the perfect GTD system.

Tags, aka Contexts

One of the main reasons for TSW’s power is Evernote’s ability to create tags. In TSW, these tags work as “contexts” that we can assign to each of our pending actions, or to-dos. So, for each to- do we think up and type into Evernote, we can then assign one or more circumstances or settings to them. For example, there are some WHERE contexts, such as “downtown” or “work” or “home” which we think will be the best place accomplish that to-do. Some other valuable contexts or tags might be time based—a WHEN category—such as “Now” or “Soon” or even a “Later” or “This Week.” Another valuable set of contexts might be based on WHO you are in front of. Some of your who tags might be “my daughter” or “my teacher’s assistant” or “Mary”, etc.

Evernote’s Tags = TSW’s Contexts

The power behind The Secret Weapson is how we use Evernote’s tag system for marking each to-do with one or more contexts. Contexts can mean who, what, where, and when that to-do will best be completed.

Because Evernote calls these context things “tags”, we’ll use tag and context interchangeably throughout describing TSW. Just know that they’re simply the descriptors with which we tag each of our to-dos so that when we’re in that particular circumstance (“Now/ Today”, while talking to “my daughter”), TSW will allow us to only see those to-dos, so we can focus just on those to-dos.

Vaughn Donahue

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Vaughn Donahue

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