Challenge: Can you go paper-based for a week and survive?
I’ve been asked some really good questions in the comments on my post about Producteev and through my e-mail lately about just getting started in GTD – a primer if you will. We’ve talked before about some best practices using tags and I even affirmed my love for the almighty Moleskine notebook. But reading an article on the GTD Times site this morning about this person’s epic battle between paper and electronic methods inspired me to ask this question: can you go paper-based in your GTD (or whatever productivity-based system you have) for a week and survive?
Where’s the problem with the digital world?
How many context tags have you made in your electronic system? How many open tasks do you have? How many times have you dragged over an e-mail and converted it into a task and put it in your long list of tasks? How many project tags have you created? Are you doing the weekly review to close any open loops, review what you’ve done the past week, and ensure your following week is ready to go? How many times have you created a task on the fly and left it in your e-system untagged and unmanaged? How often do you dred looking at your long list of open loops and just get overwhelmed and frustrated? Do you make the time to sort your tasks electronically by context depending upon the time & energy you have in a given moment?
Slow down, and take a deep breathe.
I ask all these questions because to some degree, we’re all guilty of some or all of the above. Now, what would happen if you went paper based? Well, for sure you would have to slow down, take a deep breath, and think about where things need to go. When I very first started GTD, I went paper crazy – I bought the Moleskine notebooks (medium, small, Volant, you name it), I literally created the 43 Folders setup, bought lots of sticky notes, purchased a label maker and “hacked” away. While I admit, I went in head first – there was a certain logic, beauty, and grace to this system.
Where is the beauty in physical lists, you ask? Well, when it comes to making lists, you can either make one manila folder per context (i.e., @calls) or one page in your notebook per context. When it comes to projects (definition: any next action that requires more than one step to complete), you create a list of all of your open projects and then break down all of its next action items by context.
When it comes to notes, you can make your notes in a notebook and then process your notes electronically (i.e., take out any next action items, maybe scan your notes electronically in Evernote) allowing you to just shred your notes when you’re done. I read a really good post by Michael Hyatt on how to do that here. Likewise, when it comes to agendas, you can create a page for each agenda and then shred later.
Here’s my challenge to you.
There’s no question that the reason we go to the electronic based system is because we need to access our stuff wherever we are – but even the paper-based world can get overwhelming. But maybe, just maybe, by going paper-based for just one week can teach us many valuable lessons that we can transfer back over to our electronic systems! Maybe, just maybe, it will help all of us achieve that “Mind like Water” state! The point is – that it is possible. Practical? Maybe not.
So, may challenge for each of you is this – can you go paper-based and survive? Let me know in the comments below!
Guest Post: How Remember the Milk Rocks Kevin Tea’s World!
I really like being asked by folks if they can do a guest post on my blog for two reasons: 1) I love the community that has come together here on this site and how we all strive to be more productive and efficient in life; and 2) it certainly takes the pressure off of me! 🙂 To that end, if you are interested in becoming a guest blogger on the site, simply e-mail me at email@example.com. Thanks!
About Kevin Tea: Kevin runs Web2 and More website and is a journalist and marketing communications specialist of more years than he cares to remember. He has worked with some of the leading blue chip companies in the UK and Europe. He has worked closely with a virtual network of serviced office providers called the Global Office Network and established online fora so that members could communicate with each other and potential customers. He was a contributing author to Webweaving – Intranets, Extranets and Strategic Alliances along with someone called Bill Gates. For more information, visit his site with the link above.
As a journalist I have a thing about the purity of language. I remember recoiling in horror when my then ‘teenage son sent me an email which was mix of SMS text abbreviation and gangsta rap, which he was listening to at the time.
I get the same sort of shivering revulsion when I see some of the names given to cloud computing and social media services to think of the silliest name possible where spelling and grammar are consigned to the flaming pits of hell. Flickr, Tumblr, Quipster, Tweasier … the list goes on and on.
Whether or not this fixation with names reflects itself in those services I choose to accept or reject I have no idea, but I admit to liking a quirky of humour which could be why I chose Remember The Milk as my task manager or personal information manager of choice. And I’ve tried a few over the years. Time and Chaos was a favourite for a while and there was even something from Lotus that resembled a Filofax and when I dumped my old Nokia and invested in an Android smartphone I dallied with Toodledo because it synced with my favourite PIM Pocket Informant. The trouble was that the desktop app for Toodledo was an ugly little sucker which brought me back to Remember The Milk.
Who could fail to be impressed by a company whose key member of staff is Bob T Monkey whose resume on the staff page reads:
A system of sparking the synapses in my aging memory is getting essential and Remember The Milk works well for me at so many levels. First of all it spreads itself across my home desktop via the web interface, it syncs with the Remember The Milk app on my smartphone and I can push tasks to it from my day job Outlook via a dedicated email address.
I am not a huge fan of fussy interfaces and the slightly Zen Minimalist look of Remember The Milk suits me down to the ground. I recently got an email from Toodledo saying I had not used the service for some time and my account was going to be deleted so out of curiosity I revisited the site and remembered why I had abandoned it in the first place.
When you first join RTM you are given an inbox and tabbed sections for personal, work and outbox. The inbox is where allocated tasks from outside such as my work Outlook land and the outbox is where tasks I allocate to others from RTM. You can build your own tabs – as you can see I have added just one for my blog. Below that are buttons that allow you to mark a task as completed or postponed,. plus a drop-down menu that provides a broad spectrum of extra options from allocating priority levels and deleting tasks through to moving tasks from the various tabbed areas.
On the next lime down are some simple filter options. To the right of this is a three tabbed section with lists, share and publish options. As you mouse over the various tasks in the left hand section their properties are highlighted and you can then alter options like properties, dates due etc. In Share you have tasks which you work with others on and they can add and change tasks; publish allows you to push the tasks to others but they cannot change or alter the task.
So far, so simple, but the real power of Remember The Milk for me is in the way it handles input syntax to format tasks. Say this is a Monday and I type in “Pick up neutered aardvark from vets Friday”it allocates that task to the next Friday. Similarly if I type in “Arrange to have aardvark neutered June 27”the system will allocate that task to June 27. I just love that simplicity. RTM also enables you to attach notes to tasks and locations such as your local pub!
If you work in an organisation or a virtual organisation you have the power to create lists of contacts and groups of contacts such as dev team, marketing, management etc.
Remember the Milk has pro versions for the iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile and Blackberry OS’s, and via any web enabled phone through the browser.Integration just doesn’t stop there. You can add RTM to your Google Calendar and Gmail, iGoogle.
A sign of any great service is that it continues to grow and add functions and facilities and is prepared to back that expansion up with a comprehensive support package both in terms of web based FAQs and human intervention – I doubt if you’d get much help from Bob T Money, but you never know.
I am aware that I have barely scratched the surface, but I hope that I have piqued your interest and give the site a visit and even play around with it because I am convinced it is one of the best services out there.
What do you think of Kevin’s Guest Post? Are any of you using Remember the Milk? If so, what has your experience been like so far? Let us know in the comments below! Thanks again, Kevin, and great post!
My Interview with Nozbe Founder, Michael Sliwinski
Differentiating yourself in the GTD business can be extremely difficult.
It seems as if there is a new startup company everyday that professes to be true to the core ideals set forth in David Allen’s book, “Getting Things Done”. The question then becomes for those companies with lasting power and sustainability – what differentiates you? What is your unique business value you have to millions hungry for the “perfect” system? I took this challenge on to find out myself. I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to interview one of the thought leaders in this space, Michael Sliwinski, founder of Nozbe. Your comments are welcomed!
Dan G: What is your background prior to creating Nozbe – and where did you get the name from?
Michael S: I’ve always been working online and prior to founding Nozbe I was just an e-commerce consultant for other companies – I was helping other companies sell their stuff online by building their Internet Shops, Inventory Management Apps, etc. I founded my one-man consultancy right after I finished my University – I studied Business and Management with Marketing but in my spare time I was learning to program PHP and build web sites and web apps.
Nozbe was a name of the project I did with w friend of mine during studies. The name came from our play with the phrase “To Be Naturally OrganiZed” and it was an email reminder service. It was more of a study-project than an actual app. We stopped developing it after studies but I kept paying for the domain, because I liked the name. Many years later I picked it up again for the Nozbe that you see now.
DG: What was your biggest inspiration behind Nozbe?
MS: It was the GTD book by David Allen of course – as I mentioned, I was doing E-commerce consulting at the time and I was beginning to be very successful with this and have many clients… and started feeling overwhelmed. I read the GTD book which a friend of mine recommended to me and right after reading it I fell in love with the concept and decided to get an app that will help me implement it. It was 2005 and I couldn’t find anything that would be really good for implementing GTD and Outlook wasn’t doing a good job with it… so I decided to build an app just for myself.
After a weekend of coding I had a very basic version of Nozbe with Next Actions and Projects… and started using it right away. As I knew PHP, I built it as a web app running locally on my computer. After a year of working with this app and improving it over time I realized that if it works for me, it might work for some other folks, too… so I shouldn’t be too selfish about it and show it to the world. Then I discovered the new “Ajax” techniques making the web app even more responsive and it gave me a second inspiration to re-write the app and show it to the world. I hooked it up to the Nozbe.com domain in early 2007 and the rest is history.
DG: What is it about GTD, do you think, that appeals to so many people?
MS: I think it’s because GTD is “usable” right away – you can just take away a little part of it and it already improves your life. Like for me the main take-aways from GTD were: Next Actions, Projects and Contexts and this is what I built Nozbe to begin with. When you can quickly manage your Next Actions, organize stuff into projects and get actions done in Contexts… you’re already a very organized person.
We live in times with so much information flying around that we just need some more structure and help… and GTD, being so “practical” in its core helps us get organized quickly and efficiently. We need GTD more now than ever.
DG: So many people tend to spend so much time creating that “perfect” GTD setup that often, they spend more time customizing and less time “doing”. How does Nozbe’s philosophy of “simply get things done” get people out of that trap?
Good is a lot better than perfect. With Nozbe we aim at simplicity and we very often refuse to bring some “features” that I believe are time-wasters even though our competitors implement them. Once people get a grip of GTD they tend to go the other extreme of being over-organized with complex structures and priorities… and then they lose it again and fall out of the GTD.
I’ve just celebrated 4 years of running Nozbe and I’ve been constantly refusing to add “sub-projects” to Nozbe, showing how using “labels” for projects gives you a “flat structure” of your projects and helps you organize them better. I’ve also never given in on the whole idea of “prioritization” – if you want to prioritize a task, just move it up in the project with drag and drop, don’t assign artificial “priorities of 1, 2 or 3” to your projects. We have priorities in Email messages and hardly anyone uses them. Same applies to actions in Nozbe.
On the other hand we make many processes simple – when you share a project with someone and assign an action to them, they see it right away on the Next Action list. They can choose to keep this action as their Next Action or not – it’s up to them, but you’re effectively sending “Next Actions” their way which is cool to teach your friends in your team how the GTD process flows.
DG: There are definitely a lot of players in this space now – Springpad, Evernote, Remember the Milk, SimplyGTD, Vitalist, Toodledo, NirvanaHQ, etc. – almost like GTD webapp overload, what differentiates Nozbe? In other words, what is your unique business value you offer?
MS: Yes, and the new ones are coming every month or so. I’m always joking that once someone learns basics in programming, they build their version of a task management app.
Nozbe’s aim for simplicity is one thing that differentiates us from the competitors, but it goes further than that – we aim to help people “learn GTD by doing” so we make collaboration very easy and in “GTD-style” just as I mentioned earlier – we have many success stories of managers ordering from us a “Family” or “Team” plan for their team and saying that folks who knew nothing about GTD now are getting stuff done better than anyone.
To teach people more about GTD we offer 10-step GTD course, Productive! Magazine and other resources – it helps.
As far as the app is concerned, we try to keep the interface as simple as possible (without overwhelming the user) and keep the flow as simple as can be – we’ve just recently introduced new way of approaching project labels and handling action parameters so that you can input actions with minimal effort and now we’re focus on simplifying even more the project sharing.
This, as well as our iPhone and iPad apps (and the Android app which is finally coming in March!) and our integration with other apps makes people choose Nozbe over other apps and we’re glad we can serve folks and help them organize their life better.
DG: The integration with Evernote and Google Calendar has really showed that unification & integration are key players in being a big player in this market. Are these integrations part of your overall critical success factors?
MS: Most definitely. We live in great times now that single-purpose apps bring lot of value and if we can integrate with them, we can create great synergies. I was thinking about improving our “Notes” section in Nozbe when I realized that I’m already using the best note-taking application on the planet called Evernote… so we decided to go the other route and integrate Nozbe with Evernote. We did the same thing with Google Calendar (the best calendar there is in my opinion) and we’ll be doing more integrations later this year. This way we focus on our core – which is project management – and leave the rest to the expert apps out there… and our users come to us to find out that with Nozbe they can keep on using their favorite apps… and by integrating them with Nozbe they get even more value out of it.
DG: The company has made significant improvements over the past few years – what has driven the majority of these changes?
MS: Users and our passion for productivity. In the first year of running Nozbe it was still my side-project but after a year, when it was named by Lifehack.org one of the best web apps of 2011, I “fired” practically all of my clients and focused on Nozbe entirely and have loved every minute of it. We live in interesting times and the technology is moving forward every year so fast, that it’s very hard to keep up, but we love what we do and we keep on innovating as our users keep on coming and sending us new ideas.
We listen to all ideas but we don’t implement all of them as we have to take under consideration our vision and the good of all the users… but most certainly it’s all thanks to our users that we keep on innovating and moving forward. What started as a one-man shop is now a 12-person company and we believe that by making so many people all around the world more productive with our app, we’re making the world a better place.
DG: From a strategic standpoint, what are your biggest initiatives for 2011?
MS: “Life in Sync” is what matters now – sync with our iPhone, iPad and Android apps, sync with 3rd party services and beyond that. We’re busy making it happen. For once – Nozbe.com web app will work offline entirely by the end of March (it already works offline in read-only mode).
We had to change the technology we’re using for the Android app in the beginning of this year (which moved the premiere of our Android app from January to March) because we needed to nail the technology for future sync-related developments but we believe we’ve made the right choice. Our users were not happy with the postponed deadline but they will be very happy once the app is out. I can promise that.
DG: What few things must absolutely go right in order for Nozbe to be successful in achieving these objectives?
DG: What can people expect moving beyond 2011?
MS: They can expect our dedication to productivity increase even more as we’re just totally loving our jobs making the world a more organized place. We embrace the new technologies and we love the new toys. That’s why we distribute Productive Magazine (our free PDF magazine) also as an iPad app – because we love the iPad and we want people to get the magazine that inspires them to be more productive on their favorite media-consumption toy. Our aim with the magazine is to make it a regular 2-monthly publication and we’re on our way to achieving that.
I believe that with the productivity materials and inspiration from the magazine as well as the constantly improved and more-synced Nozbe app folks will get a lot more done this year and maybe even make some of their New Year’s Resolutions a reality in 2011 and beyond. Here’s to us all being more organized, effective… and happy :-).
Springpad and Evernote – My Guide to Getting Things Done
Choices, choices, choices.
There are so many apps out there to help you get organized that you can literally spend more time searching and setting up your so-called perfect setup that you will actually end up spending less time getting things done. I’ve spoken before about how the vast sea of productivity tools can actually make you less productive.
Being a productivity junkie though, I can appreciate the need to get things done. Reading David Allen’s Getting Things Done changed my life. Yet, while it sounds somewhat paradoxical, it also made my life more complicated. When I saw the errors in my unproductive pre-GTD live, I realized I needed to change. So I setup 43 folders and bought a half-dozen Moleskine notebooks (which I have professed my love for here), post-it notes, index cards, and a Fisher Space Pen. I read here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here to learn how others setup their context, projects and next actions. All of this was fine and good – and frankly, what I think I needed to best understand how to leverage the most out of the GTD methodology. However, I knew something was missing – the ability to quickly search by context and area of focus quickly no matter where I was or what device I had handy. Enter digital GTD.
After much research, I found Remember the Milk for my tasks. Then Toodledo. Then Nozbe. Then Todosit. Then Hi-Task. Then … well, you get the point. However, using these apps were only effective for tasks – not for my reference files. That’s when Evernote came along and changed everything for me. I read dozens of blog posts and forums on how to setup Evernote as your one and only GTD resource for tasks and reference folders. My good virtual friends at 40-tech have a great post about using just 1 notebook for Evernote for everything. I also played with Nozbe and Evernote and loved that marriage between the two as they play in the GTD sandbox rather nicely. Then I found a way to leverage the tags in Evernote with Egretlist for a really efficient way of managing tasks and reference files. Then, it occurred to me that Evernote was becoming ever so un-useful to me. I was creating so many tags and I was trying to figure out why. I kept tagging and made new tags and I felt no real sense of understanding why I had the tags I did. Since I couldn’t create nested notebooks (which you can now), I was creating parent and child tags; with the parent tags mirroring the notebook of the same name so I knew which tags were associated with that notebook. And on…and on…and on…
But you see, all of this playing made me have to take a rather large step back and I had to figure out a way to get back on task – which spurred a quite a viral buzz with that post. It also made me realize that I needed to simplify my life, and leveraging my presentation skills, created that presentation. I came really closed to having GTD burnout – if such a thing is possible. Then, I took another look at Springpad after it revamped everything they were doing from the ground up and realized … holy cow … this is what I’ve been missing. It was as if a burst of blinding light was shining in front of me, the heavens opened up and Handel’s Messiah played from the heavens.
With that all being said, I thought I’d share, since I’ve been asked many times on Twitter, how I use Springpad (and how I have used Evernote) in all of my areas of focus in my life. I’ve organized this by showing the pros and cons of both setups. Of course, this is just my humble view of the digital GTD world – I’m happy to hear your feedback in the comments below.
The Evernote Setup
In both programs you start off with a blank canvas. You create notebooks for each of your areas of focus. From there, you add your notes and tag accordingly. Evernote is plain. There’s no escaping that the web app is boring and everyone knows it. The desktop app is frankly not that exciting either. It’s essentially the same interface as Outlook, which is good because it makes it easier to understand.
In the beginning, I focused on two major areas of focus – work and my personal life. So, in Evernote I created a notebook that said Work and a notebook that said Home. For my tags, I created a parent tag that said Clients and child tags for the names of all of my clients. I created another parent tag called Products and the child tags listed each of these products I oversee. In Home, it was sort of all over the place. I had tags for each of my kids, my blog, bookmarks, movies, coffee, beer I like, etc. Once of the main advantages to Evernote – which it still has over Springpad – is the ability to e-mail any file whatsoever. So, I can add a PDF and it’ll search its contents. I can add a picture and with its unique built-in image viewer, it’ll read the text on the pictures I took. Then, I started e-mailing my e-mails I received at work and began e-mailing them with the tags and notebook in the subject line. With Evernote’s incredible search engine, I could find any note I wanted while I was on the phone with a colleague or a client. I even ran into ways to build some very complex search strings and then save them so that you could re-run them whenever you needed. Evernote became my virtual file folder so that I could quickly access what I needed and whenever I needed it … after all, isn’t that the point?
When I began leveraging Egretlist, I created another parent tag called GTD. It’s children tags included: @contexts and Names (folks I spoke to on a daily/weekly basis). Its’ children tags included @contact, @computer, waiting for, someday/maybe. So, on any given note in Evernote, I’d have something that looked like this: “10/12/10 Follow-up call with Joe Smith” Tag: ABC Firm, XYZ product, .EFG Project, #Sally, waiting for. Then, if the task within the note was completed, I had to remember to delete the tag. I’m not joking.
Here’s the problem – with well over 1,000 notes in Evernote, e-mailing my e-mails, uploading PDFs, creating more tags, etc – its usefulness was falling to the wayside. It became too much. Not only that, but searching on the go on my DROID and the iPad became a bit burdensome as well. For projects, I tried only copying/pasting excerpts out of e-mails and see if I that would help keep it in just one note as opposed to multiple notes, but I think it was too late … I hit the Evernote wall. I realized that my call to simplify your life should apply to myself as well. Re-enter Springpad.
How Springpad Changed Everything
Springpad allows you to take that blank canvas and decorate it with beautiful wallpaper. It is gorgeous. No, really, it is beautiful. Shy of sounding like Steve Jobs, it’s eye candy and it makes it more exciting for an end user. With all of its latest updates, it doesn’t matter whether you’re on the web, iPad, iPhone or DROID, it all looks the same. That’s just genius.
At it’s core, I firmly believe, as Albert Einstein once said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Where Springpad wins is taking your life and making it simpler, even though your life may not be that simple. What do I mean? Well no matter how many areas of focus in your life, it allows you to lay out in a visual fashion all these areas as notebooks in a way that allows you to visualize those areas. In the wallpaper I chose above, I’ve laid each of my areas of focus (my notebooks) on the floor for me to view. When I need to tend to one of these areas, I simply click on that notebook. (Oh thank heavens, I can move my notebooks around on the web app!!)
When I open that notebook, in one location, I have all my notes, events and action items for work. I have, like I did in Evernote, a notebook for clients and a notebook for internal stuff I handle. In my client notebook, I have tags I setup to include each of their names and product I oversee. When I add a note such as “12/10 – Conversation with Joe Smith” and I tag it by the client and the product, I can then add sub-notes such as hyperlinks, files, images, etc.
I have found that this is particularly useful when it comes to projects. For example, let’s say I have a project called “XYZ Firm Renewal”. Within that note, I’ll create things I need to know about this project. If I wanted to, I could then create “sub notes” underneath with status updates each time something happens. This is “notably” different than Evernote because I can view each of the notes underneath the master project note all in one view. To me, this makes a big difference. See below.
The difference here though is two-fold: 1) visually it’s more appealing and therefore begs me to want to be in there and use it. 2) More substantively, I find that being able to put in a task as a task with a reminder to go to whichever e-mail or phone I want is important. Being able to create a calendar event which syncs with Google Calendar which then syncs to Outlook is very important. Putting together the aesthetic with the practical makes so much sense.
When it comes to my GTD setup, here’s what I do in Springpad:
- I create context categories for each of my tasks – i.e., @contact, @computer, waiting for, someday/maybe
- I create tasks whenever I’m in that particular area of focus (old house, new house, work, blog, etc)
- I create reminders if I need to get it done by a certain date (if its actionable on a specific day, I’ll create an event)
- To focus on Next Actions, I flag those items I want to focus in on. I can then click on “Flagged Stuff” to focus my time and attention on my Next Action items. When I’m done, I simply click the flag again to take it out of my Flagged Stuff.
- I can then get a dashboard view if I wanted to of everything that needs to get done in all my areas of focus by context when I go to the “All my Stuff” view. This allows me to handle everything I need to under @contact or @computer depending upon the time and energy I have to complete those tasks!
As far as collaboration is concerned, every notebook and individual notes can be made public. Within each note, I can e-mail to colleagues, print the note, and send the note to my phone.
The fun doesn’t stop there though. Once I realized how much “fun” it was to be in Springpad, I went crazy. I created a notebook called “Old House” for all the things I need to do to move out of my house – action items, contacts, events, inspection reports. Again, everything I need to remember is all centralized. Where Springpad really rocks is now: 1) as you can see below, Springpad “alerts” me on the app (as it did in e-mail and on my DROID) about things I have to do that day; and 2) a way to organize everything visually in their Board. Take a look at my last post for more on the Board.
Then, I started importing all of my Google and Delicious Bookmarks (Jeesh, had I known they were coming out with the Delicious importer, I would have waited!!). Take a look at how beautiful my bookmarks now look in Springpad! I also started importing all of my recipies that I’ve printed out over the years from Allrecipes.com, Epicurious.com, Food Network, etc. How? Easy. I created a notebook called Recipes. I went to add recipe, and then you can search for the recipe. Type it in, it finds it for you on any one of those website, and then you just add it to your notebook! Amazing. Seriously, amazing. Lest we not also forget about how useful the Chrome extension and clipper is as well!!
That all being said, not everything is rosy in my love affair with Springpad. I know Katin from Springpad is listening, so here’s what’s on my wish list:
- Sort tags my alphabetical and/or by number of tags
- Sort tasks my category in name order (i.e., why is it that my “waiting for” tasks show up before the @ sign in @contact??)
- Sort notes by type
- Sorting subnotes by date
- Complex search strings such as “tag:ABC firm”
- E-mail PDF files
- E-mail notes to a certain tag/notebook
- E-mail notes as a note/task/event
The point here is that its beautiful interface + ability to organize all of your life in one centralized repository + integrations with the greater world wide web + syncing with Google Calendar = a K.O. in my rather hectic life!
What do you all think? Can Springpad replace Evernote, Toodledo and Delicious?? Let me know in your comments below!
Why Springpad Will Never Replace Evernote
**UPDATE: Please take a look at my latest post called, “Holy Springpad, Batman — I’ve been Sprung … and Why I admit I’m now wrong” for a fresh new look at Springpad’s amazing updates!**
I must have downloaded Springpad … and then deleted it … and then downloaded it … and then deleted it a half dozen times. Why? Because I wanted to give Springpad a fair shake. I love the guys over at 40tech.com and it’s probably because of their post on Evernote vs Springpad that I decided to give it more of a serious look. Reading posts on why people are switching to Springpad from Evernote truly makes me wonder why they’re using Evernote to begin with if that’s the case. As you all know, getting back on task is huge for me.
Here’s the thing for me about Springpad: I just don’t get it … and I like to think of myself as a pretty smart guy. So, I’ve outlined two main (and fairly simple) reasons why I won’t ever switch: creating a note & creating a task.
Creating a note
I use Evernote on my iPad to create notes while I’m at a client meeting. Here’s how that process works in Evernote. Open App. Tap new note. Begin typing. Add tags. Happiness.
There’s nothing very mysterious about it. The same applies if I’m at my PC and on a conference call. New note. Begin typing. Add tags. Easy. Happiness.
Here’s how that process works in Springpad for the iPad.
Step 1: tap the “+” sign.
Step 2: tap “Add by Type”.
Step 3: tap “Note”.
Step 4: type the note.
Besides being convoluted and way too many steps — there’s no tags. You can add it to a list – but without tags, there’s no real efficient way of sorting through my meeting notes! I know fromreading comments on Springpad’s blog that there’s plan’s to add mobile tags soon – but until the do, where’s the real value?
What’s equally frustrating, is trying to type new notes online. Here’s how that works:
Step 1: You have to first select the type of note you want.
Step 2: Then you need to title it.
Step 3: Then you need to click on edit once it appears in the drop down to begin typing out your note.
Step 4: Then, once you’ve typed your note and clicked on save,
Step 5: Then, you have to then go back to the list, click on the title to finally categorize and add any tags to the note.
Conclusion: Springpad is definitely not at the place it should be for anyone seriously looking (for whatever odd reason) for an alternative to Evernote; especially for business people!
Creating a task
Equally as frustrating is the ability to simply create tasks in a meaningful way. The big gripe for many in Evernote is the ability to use it as a GTD tool. Search for it on Google and you’ll see what I mean! I completely appreciated those comments; that is, until I downloaded Egretlist through Evernote’s new Trunk offering. See my last post. In any event, within Springpad’s iPad app & online, you can create a task and then enter a due date, category & description of the task. For anyone who is a serious follower of the GTD methodology, there’s substantive problems with this method.
For example, I’d want to be able to tag a task by context (i.e., @home, @office, @computer, @errands), Someday/Maybe, Waiting for, by project, and perhaps whom I’ve assigned the task to with tags (#joe, #chris, #sally). Within Springpad, you can only assign one category. I thought perhaps I might have found a workaround by tapping on “Add to a list”. When you do that, you can either create a list or add to an existing list. Technically, one could use category as context and then under list, add your projects & tags – or some various thereof.
As I pointed out in my post about Evernote & Egretlist, I can easily add tasks in Egretlist see them immediately in Evernote. I can create the tasks in Evernote and see them appear in Egretlist. Again, simple – the way I need it to be for fast moving and on the fly task & project management.
I think Springpad is okay for those people who don’t need a serious task & project management tool. It’s great for what it does, but I subscribe to the theory that your product should try to do up to 3 things right and do it at 100%; not try and be 1,000 things to attract the masses. Springpad I think is trying to do everything – create notes, create tasks, remember your favorite wine, book, restaurant, movie, business, provide reviews of products, helps you shop online, and you can download “apps” of varying types to throw into your account to help you do scores of other things. Again — it’s great, if you like that kind of thing.
Evernote’s core offering is creating notes … and it does a damn good job! It allows you to organize those notes easily through notebooks & tags. With its latest collaboration efforts with other companies through the Trunk, it offers integrations with complementary products to make Evernote more robust — while at the same time, not erroding Evernote’s streamlined interface that so many have come to love.