using omnifocus and evernote to keep track of literary awards

findlay alley, melbourne, 2008 (image: ozengo @ purplezengoat)

Does this sound familiar: you subscribe to a newsletter because you are interested in a topic; the newsletters start arriving in your inbox, brimming with superbly relevant information, yet after a while you feel overwhelmed rather than stimulated. You face a forest of factoids, a twirl of tweets, hystËricÅl hyperlinks – you feel like abandoning your 1,274 facebook friends and retreat into the cave of caveats. You, my friend, may be suffering from informatosis.

This post describes how I am trying to turn the tide of information overload and chaos in one area of my life by using evernote and omnifocus to keep track of literary awards that I learn about via twitter or newsletters. How can you capture snippets of information, regain an overview and build a platform that you can use for action? If literary awards are ‘not your thing’, you may still be interested in the principle of storing information in evernote and tracking associated tasks and deadlines though omnifocus.

I obtain my information about literary awards mainly through the writers victoria newsletter and twitter.

This is what I do when I come across a literary award that I might be interested in:

  • copy and paste the information about the award into evernote
  • click the button on the menu bar to synch the information with the evernote server
  • right-click the note thumbnail or snippet and select ‘copy note link’.

I then switch to omnifocus for the next steps:

  • enter the name of the competition as a task in omnifocus
  • paste the link to the evernote entry in the notes field of the omnifocus task.

As you can see from the screenshots, I have set up a ‘lit awards’ folder in evernote and a ‘track awards’ folder in omnifocus. The default context I have set for the omnifocus folder is ‘think/plan’: I need to decide whether to put in for an award. If so, I would need to create a new writing task. I also like entering a bit more detail in the task header for ease of reference, such as the genre and the closing date.

Describing the steps of a process often makes it sound more complex than it is in reality. It takes me less than a minute to complete the five steps listed above. That is a small investment compared to the benefit: instead of feeling confused by the variety of literary prizes around I now have a list of awards that I can consider, all arranged by due date.

To check the details of any literary award I only need to click on the hyperlink in the note field and omnifocus will bring up the evernote entry about the prize (with its associated text, pdf, photos, hyperlinks). If I decide not to go for an award, I can delete the omnifocus task and I still have the information in evernote for future reference. If the award is an annual event, I can make the omnifocus task recurrent to guarantee it will be on my radar again in a year’s time.

I hope this post has been helpful for some of you. Just think of the karma involved in shortlisting literary awards: what can they do but return the favour? As for me, I am just proud that I was able to write an entire post without mentioning GTD. Oops, so close.