Jump to content
Due to limited holiday staffing, chat will be unavailable from Thursday, July 2 at 5:30 PM (CDT) to Monday, July 13 at 8 AM (CDT). This will allow us to reply to your email requests as quickly as possible. Thank you for understanding. ×
TechBarber

Organizing Digital Life - Options for Moving Forward

Recommended Posts

I may ramble here for a second, but it's to provide context. Trust me, I'll have a point at the end of all this. I think...

I've been a fan of the productivity space for years. I truly believe that many "apps" have made me more productive. Evernote for notes, Todoist for tasks, OneNote for files -- that happens to be where I'm at now, but you name it - I've used it. 

I also watch a lot of 'Productivity Gurus' on YouTube, always looking for new tips and ways to become efficient. But I've realized something lately. Some of these people - okay, a lot of those people - overcomplicate things beyond belief. One minute Evernote is the best thing ever, the next minute it's Notion, then it's ROAM. It's a constant churn. The really bad ones use all of them, some of them even detail in their videos how they decide which app to use for a certain task (YouTube scripts - Notion, long term notes - Evernote, Research - ROAM). It just strikes me as being way more complicated than it needs to be. 

With that in mind I set out to simplify my own digital life. I currently use Evernote for notes (work and personal), Notion for some life management (goals, movies I want to see), Todoist for tasks and OneDrive for files since I have a 365 subscription. I try to avoid anything Google if I can, but that's a personal thing, and my universe is all Apple with the exception of my work PC. 

A few things have occurred to me lately that I'm mulling over. 

  • The role of Evernote as file storage. Cloud services like OneNote are great for storing files like .pdf and .doc, but when you need to house different media types within a single organized area it's not the best. For example, lets say I buy a lawnmower today. It makes far more sense to me to scan the receipt with Scannable, download the manual in .pdf format, scan the salesman's business card, and pack it all into one Evernote note. It's easily searchable, I can use tags, and it's visual. Seems better than each item being spread around four folders deep in OneDrive somewhere. It's the same deal when my car goes in for maintenance. When they hand me the invoice showing what work was done -- to me that's a quick scan and into Evernote. Yes, you can do the same with OneDrive, but I find it easier to find notes than files, if that makes any sense. So the question then becomes, why use OneDrive for files? It makes sense for movies and some other media, but scans, pdfs, docs, xlxs files -- why not just EN?
  • I use Evernote for both work and personal notes, but given the nature of my job and dealing with sensitive information, I only post high-level data into Evernote (meeting notes, reference documents). Anything client specific I keep out of EN, granted most of what I need to save isn't client specific. However, given that my company is already on Office 365 and they have a secure place for me to store all my data, I wonder if OneNote isn't just a better option for security and for "playing nice" at work. I have Evernote installed on my work PC and while there's nothing of any consequence in it in terms of getting me in trouble, I'm not sure IT would love the idea. Maybe just being assimilated into the OneNote world - at least for work - would be safer? 
  • If I did switch to OneNote at work, then I'm becoming what I'm most trying to avoid - the guy who overcomplicates everything as I'd now have OneNote for Work and EN for Personal, and still be caught between a work OneDrive and a personal OneDrive. 

I guess what all this is getting at is, I try to downsize the apps I use as much as possible, but in doing so I sometimes lose a function or ability to do something that helps me stay organized. If I start using more apps to handle different scenarios and features, then it becomes "well darn, where did I save that document last week - it could be in any of 4 places". 

I find that simplifying is great, but in doing so you lose a lot of tools from your tool belt. Conversely, having a million tools in your belt just weighs you down and makes it difficult to find anything. 

I need a structured system in place I guess -- that's the main issue. Every time I am sent a file or a document my first thought is - oh god, so, where does this go?

 

Share this post


Link to post
On 5/28/2020 at 5:45 AM, TechBarber said:

I'd now have OneNote for Work and EN for Personal

I can live with that - work vs personal

In fact, looking back there's been various work storage paradigms In my life      
Now that I'm retired, I'm only left with Personal

Share this post


Link to post

I suppose it does provide a hard line of separation between the "work" and "personal". 

Also, OneNote is meh in my opinion - I have my gripes. But for work it may be the option. 

 

Share this post


Link to post

Hi.  I follow your thoughts,  but I think I missed the punchline: are you looking for ways to slim down and simplify,  or for workflows that clearly show what goes where?  Or something else?

I understand your thinking - I've been there,  and have a couple of those t-shirts - but I have felt very strongly for a long time now that there's no 'best' way to do things,  only the way that suits me,  as opposed to the (many) ways which do not.  I've tried all the apps,  watched -some- of the videos... and junked about 90% of the advice in favour of what worked for me.

I'd probably start most conversations with "I mainly use Evernote" - but I also use a mind map app (Freeplane) plus Airtable (relational database), Word (letters, reports), Excel (spreadsheets) and Lightroom (images): and there are more browser and email and other services too - so I'm not a one-stop shop.  Most of my links and longer notes reside in Evernote, with their attachments in various formats;  so it's more the glue that keeps my chaotic activities in line.

But don't worry about what I do - find out what you're comfortable with and go with that!

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
6 hours ago, TechBarber said:

I guess what all this is getting at is, I try to downsize the apps I use as much as possible, but in doing so I sometimes lose a function or ability to do something that helps me stay organized. If I start using more apps to handle different scenarios and features, then it becomes "well darn, where did I save that document last week - it could be in any of 4 places". 

I find that simplifying is great, but in doing so you lose a lot of tools from your tool belt. Conversely, having a million tools in your belt just weighs you down and makes it difficult to find anything. 

I need a structured system in place I guess -- that's the main issue. Every time I am sent a file or a document my first thought is - oh god, so, where does this go?

Per @gazumped no best way in general, just some better ways that can be tuned to a specific use case,  So whatever works best for you.  If you think you have too many tools, consolidate and get rid of some.

For me specifically, EN is the only app.  Early on my use case morphed to second brain, paperless, and task management with it all in one place available on multiple platforms.  As such I store everything in EN and use the reminder function to manage tasks.  I decided that the quest for the perfect system was fruitless for me, a) it probably didn't exist and b) the time to find/migrate would outweigh whatever benefits (assuming I was efficient with what I had).  It's worked so far.  There are some concessions in that not every aspect of my use case is "perfectly" supported.  But the aspects are supported very well and I feel no need to look elsewhere.  If I am not grumbling when I am doing something everything is fine, I grumble easily when it comes to productivity hits.  I have incorporated PhraseExpress so as to have some hotkeys pertinent to my use case that EN Windows desktop does not have, productivity. 

Ten years and 47,500 notes later I'm happy. But that's my use case and my tolerance for the trade offs of fewer apps, in my case one.  It helps that EN is a good fit for me out of the box.    Could EN make some changes, sure. Hopefully you find what works for you.

Share this post


Link to post
On 5/28/2020 at 8:45 AM, TechBarber said:

I also watch a lot of 'Productivity Gurus' on YouTube

I have no response to your actual question that would improve on what others have said. I only just wanted to comment (with a smile on my face) about the above quote:

And how productive is that? 😄

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post

Evernote's limitations, especially when it comes to handling sensitive / confidential information, have forced me to come up with lots of irritating workarounds. I generally have DEVONthink (Mac only) for sensitive / confidential items and Evernote for everything else. I do my best with what we have and try not to think too much about what it could be. It's worked for me, more or less, for over a decade now.

On paper, if I were mapping out my workflows, there are all kinds of other options that seem appealing. But, for one reason or another, I end up (as mentioned above) "mainly" using Evernote. Bugs in other apps, slow syncing, lost data, incompatibilities, poor search options, lack of portability (proprietary formats that lock you in or, even worse, mangle your content), and conventional folder/file hierarchies are some of the main culprits. I've also tried to simplify, and cut costs. I've made some headway. I am now down to just a handful of subscription services  (Evernote is one of them) that make it possible for me to do a lot more work at a much higher level in a lot less time. I could work without them, but I wouldn't want to. I certainly wouldn't have time to post on this forum if I didn't use these services!

OneNote is a very, very poor fit for my workflow. I tried it when it first saw the light of day, I've tried it again and again over the years, but there is always something (usually a combination of many somethings) that make it a miserable experience for me. I'm sure it is wonderful for other workflows and better minds than mine.

Share this post


Link to post
On 5/28/2020 at 10:48 AM, TechBarber said:

I suppose it does provide a hard line of separation between the "work" and "personal". 

Also, OneNote is meh in my opinion - I have my gripes. But for work it may be the option. 

 

My line of separation is local notebooks for work and sync’d ones for personal. That has worked well for 12+ years I’ve been on Evernote.  Like others there are things that I would like to see changed or improved and I occasionally check out the latest shiny tool but when renewal time comes I don’t spend much time deciding whether premium for another year is worth it to me or not.

i have jumped around with todo apps some for various reasons but I find that an easier playground to experiment with.

Share this post


Link to post
31 minutes ago, s2sailor said:

My line of separation is local notebooks for work and sync’d ones for personal.

So, separate notebooks (stacks?)

I see a benefit of the local notebooks in that work data is not uploaded to the cloud

Share this post


Link to post
4 hours ago, DTLow said:

So, separate notebooks (stacks?)

I see a benefit of the local notebooks in that work data is not uploaded to the cloud

Yes, all of my notebooks are organized into one of two stacks, home or work.  Work notebooks are all local and home notebooks are sync'd to the cloud.

Share this post


Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...