Wednesday, April 17

Evernote, Omnifocus, and my productivity

Over the past several years my job here at Cisco Talos has changed drastically.  I took on new roles, which is awesome and exciting, but in the process while trying to organize and create process and clarity for my team and those that work with my team, I lost my personal productivity.  Something I've written about extensively on this blog.

I shifted from Evernote (which I've been using forever, as readers of this blog will know) to Notes.app, and from Omnifocus (Also have been using it forever) to Reminders.app, all in an attempt to reduce the amount of 3rd party apps I had installed on my laptop, iPad, and iPhone and use a "native Apple experience".

I quickly outgrew them both.   I found out that Notes really tops out at around 2000 notes, then it becomes basically nonfunctional. My notes are not your typical Apple Notes.app "jot down a few things" type Notes though.  I've had a lot of people tell me that Notes handles their notes fine.  My notes have attachments, drawings, photos, complex formatting, etc.  I have thousands and thousands of notes.  I just don't think Notes.app could handle it.  Another feature I missed: Notes doesn't allow you to "Tag".  I can arrange my notes by topic, much like the "Notebook" feature in Evernote, but I can't "tag" something in Notes.app.

For example, how I use this in Evernote, and I'll touch on this later as well...  let's say I am going to a conference.  I get the agenda for the conference, my flights, my receipts, my notes, my meetings, everything that I am doing at the conference, I tag it something that represents the conference.  For example, my tag for "CiscoLive United States" is "clus".  I can find everything regardless of Notebook or arrangement with that tag.   I could compensate for this in Notes.app with something like #clusat the top of the note, and that worked for awhile, but as I said earlier, Notes.app's searching at thousands-of-notes scale is ridiculously slow, and let's not get started with the frustration of syncing across devices.

More on searching...  Notes can find text in a PDF or a Doc, that's fine, but it doesn't show you where in the PDF the text was.  Notes also doesn't do a good job of searching handwritten notes.  Something I do a lot of on my iPad. (I'll get to this later with my comments on Notability and Penultimate.)

As for Reminders.  It doesn't do any nesting of actions, vital to how I work in Omnifocus.  Plus I had a bunch of Applescripts that organized and automated things for my in Evernote and Omnifocus, and I had to rewrite some of them to deal with Reminders and Notes.  Things like being able to simply tap a keystroke, which prompts an entry box so I can create myself a reminder very quickly.  Omnifocus has this natively.  Reminders.app, I had to find one (or write one, I honestly don't remember which at this point)  btw --  here it is.

tell application "System Events"
display dialog"Create a new reminder" default answer"" cancel button"Cancel" giving up after 20 with icon path to resource "Reminders.icns" in bundle(path to application "Reminders")
set reminTitle to text returned of result
tell application "Reminders"
set newremin to make new reminder
set name of newremin to reminTitle
end tell
 end tell

If you use Reminders, and you want to steal that and make a keyboard shortcut that calls that AppleScript (if you use Reminders.app) feel free.

So, after using this new system for awhile, I found out it was a disaster, and in the past two weeks I have dedicated significant amounts of time to get back to my happy place where things were productive.

So, I'm back to using Evernote and Omnifocus again, and I am going write a few posts on how I've developed a system the works for me with these three tools.  Consider this.. part one.



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Evernote, Omnifocus, and my productivity

Over the past several years my job here at Cisco Talos has changed drastically.  I took on new roles, which is awesome and exciting, but in ...