Managing Task Management

My workflow has been in flux. Until recently, I relied on Apple’s Notes and Reminders apps to track my thoughts and tasks; now I’m migrating (cautiously) to Microsoft’s OneNote and To Do apps (I briefly tried Todoist as well). When you add, “Try a new to-do app” to your to-do list, which to-do app should you put it on, your current one or the new one(s) you’re trying? It’s a most meta question, I guess, for getting things done #GTD.

In researching the whole idea of task management, I’ve found there are various methods; it partly depends on your own mind’s natural way of thinking. While I think there’s no single “correct” way to manage tasks, there is a best way that works for each individual, and there are generally a few over-arching approaches.

One well-known method is to use the Eisenhower Matrix (see here, here, or here) to determine priority status of certain tasks and thus how to handle them. Each task falls somewhere on a scale of importance and/or urgency. In other words, some tasks are more about want-to-do than need-to-do, and they’re also either dated or not, like a project that has a specific deadline versus a task that can be procrastinated forever.

Finding the right to-do app is, of course, a task unto itself; I think it’s important but not urgent. You likely already have a task manager app; everyone’s needs and styles differ. Basically, all task apps are similar, as they feature checklists of tasks that can be organized in a number of ways, and they each have a particular way of handling dates and reminders. After finding your ideal to-do app, you then must consider how you’ll use it.

You could put all your tasks in a to-do app, including sub-tasks as well. This means your task app will have a huge number of things-to-do. That high number may be daunting to you. To counter such overwhelm, you could instead only add high-level tasks, noting only the big picture; any sub-tasks or details can be then placed into a note-taking app for further management. This is somewhat disparate though and thus has its own drawbacks. It’s up to each person to decide how they like to do to-dos.

How do you like to do to-dos?

I was trying a new-to-me thing in which I kept only my urgent to-dos (tasks that have dates or reminders attached to them) in my to-do app, and all my non-urgent to-dos in my notes app in organized checklists. I see a large number of tasks in my notes and a very small number of tasks in my to-do app. But this approach for me started to break down because once a task becomes urgent or otherwise planned (eventually), it must move to a new app (manually). The cross-app work is too much for my three-pound brain; task duplication becomes a problem. In short, I may move all my tasks into my to-do app and get them organized there.

That said, I also like to keep project checklists with my project notes…hmmm. The only good solution I know of that effectively combines both Notes and Tasks is Evernote, but it costs money. It might be worth it… If you have any advice here, please leave a comment below.

We all manage tasks in some way, and while some folks take an intuitive hands-off approach, others seek the perfect task management system and mastery thereof. Most people are somewhere along that spectrum. I hope my example is somewhat informative and that maybe you can improve your own way of doing all the to-dos.

Now I can check off, “Blog this post.”

Share how you’re getting things done.

A Note On Notes On Apple Watch

Digital note taking might be pedestrian, but it’s essential to the workflow of many; I’m certainly no exception. I love notes apps and have used several over the years. One of them, Apple Notes, has served me very well. Inexplicably, though, the app is nowhere to be found on Apple Watch, which is a, uh, noteworthy omission.

With Apple Notes missing from the Watch, I simply did not expect what happened today. I noticed Microsoft’s OneNote on my Apple Watch; it’s purple icon stood out like amethyst in a geode. What was that doing there?

Surprise! With OneNote, I now have my notes on my Watch.

How can this be? Microsoft has enabled note viewing and taking on Apple’s Watch, but Apple hasn’t. Curious.

OneNote on Apple Watch shows your most recent notes in a list like it does in the mobile app. The list displays:

  1. The section color the note is in.
  2. The section title the note is in.
  3. The date the note was taken.

At the top of the list is a simple “+” button, which lets you add a new note by either finger drawing or dictation. Where does that new note go? It is automatically added to the designated “Quick Notes” section in the mobile app (you choose the section in settings).

This is both a surprise and a delight to me. I can finally take notes on my watch or simply review them. There are only two feature wishes I have:

  1. Ability to add a Complication to take a new note (by dictation).
  2. Ability to take a new note via Siri command (e.g., “Hey, Siri, take a note…”).

I checked into this and found there are a few other note-taking apps that include a Watch app. It’s probably only a matter of time until Apple finally adds Apple Notes to its Watch, but with it being seven series’ old, why has it already taken so long? This omission is more glaring since third-party developers already offer notes on the Watch.

In fact, per this article, OneNote has been available on Apple Watch since 2015:

We recently released OneNote for the Apple Watch to access your content when you’re on the go. We designed OneNote for Apple Watch with a strong focus on lightweight interactions and placed a premium on convenience. A core principle of our design was ensuring that you could quickly and easily reference the information you are looking for. If you pinned a note on OneNote for iPhone, we’ll surface it right at the top of your Apple Watch app, so you don’t need to hunt for it. This is perfect for when you’re frequently checking your to-do list.

Additionally, OneNote for Apple Watch presents a unique opportunity to capture any quick idea, to-do, or thought you have while you’re on the go. All you need to do is speak what’s on your mind, and we’ll save it to OneNote immediately so you don’t forget it. Just tap the large + button and start dictating–it’s really is that simple.

Greg Akselrod and Avneesh Kohli, program managers on the OneNote team

In any case, the functionality of notes on Apple Watch exists. If you are missing it like I was, you don’t have to anymore. Noted.

Journaling A Few Days With Day One

Journaling is a good habit, so it makes sense to support it with a good tool. Some prefer good ol’ fashioned pen and paper, yet others like to go digital. While there are many journaling apps, one often stands out: Day One. I’ve been using the app for a week, but this is not my first time trying it. What’s different now?


Day One has a positive reputation, having earned awards for its beauty, simplicity, and functionality. Added to that list are its more recent achievements: privacy and security via end-to-end encryption. Suffice to say, this digital diary deserves noteworthy attention for all its quality. So over the past few years, I’ve eagerly installed Day One a handful of times to try it, but the app never clicked with me.

One of the reasons was its interface. Despite exuding elegance, I found the high number of features, icons, settings, and fine text to be a bit much for my taste. In other words, it looked and felt distracting and somewhat overwhelming. I am accustomed to the relative simplicity of Apple Notes, which has been my main outlet for private journaling; Day One was “busier” by contrast.

Another issue I’ve waffled about — across a variety of productivity apps — is whether to rely on first-party software or third-party solutions. There are pros and cons to both sides; in general, I stick with Apple’s default apps for their ecosystem synergy. That said, there’s a distinct advantage to using a specialized journaling app over a generalized note taking app: dedication.

Day One app on iPad.

That’s why I am trying a third-party journaling app again. It recently occurred to me: I need to remove my innermost personal thoughts from the Apple Notes app. Instead, they should be kept in a dedicated or specialized app, separate from disparate folders and tags of general notes. This would let my secret musings be siloed into their own service that’s more private and secure, and it would allow me to focus attention on my journaling habit, giving it a vital boost.

Simply having a particular app icon — dedicated to journaling — on my iPad’s home screen or dock, for example, makes journaling more visually prominent. Seeing the Day One app reminds me it’s important to journal. More than that, it welcomes me to a dedicated place where I can pour out my brain’s firings and misfirings — unfiltered and unfettered.

I love Apple Notes and rely on it, but my journals felt somewhat overlooked within it; my journaling habit fell to neglect. This is despite the fact that I had a Shortcut on my home-screen to automatically create a new note with the current date in the title, which allowed me to quickly start the day’s diary entry. Also, since Apple Notes now features tagging, in addition to folders, I have begun to reorganize my notes by type and subject. This process, and the results, will work much better with my journals relocated to Day One.

My Day One-week streak!

I’ve only been using Day One for a week, so it’s too early to know if I’ll stick with it. I need a dedicated journaling app though, so I’m giving Day One a real try with an open mind. As I move my journals from Apple Notes to Day One, I backdate them as needed. I’ve also restarted daily journaling again, utilizing one of the features that a dedicated journaling app is uniquely apt for: a writing streak or goal. With Day One, I now have a widget on my iPad that shows my current 6-day journaling streak; it’s another reminder of the importance to reflect daily.

Day One Streak Widget
Day One Streak Widget.

Besides widgets, Day One has many other niceties that aid or improve journaling: calendar view, timeline view, auto date/time stamps, auto weather data, templates, daily prompts, reminders, and ”On this day”. This last feature automatically displays photos for any given date along with any journal entries on that same day. Seeing this in action has been somewhat revelatory, making me think it’s a feature that I can’t believe I’ve lived without.

I have only a few minor quibbles with Day One. I wish the passcode was at least 6 digits instead of a mere 4, or maybe an alphanumeric passphrase option would be better; I guess it’s secure enough. The app has extra icons, text labels, and other features I don’t need — like adding audio, video, or drawings — but the user interface overall is easy enough to look at and use; I’m already becoming accustomed to it. In time, I’ll probably unpack my bags, settle in, and feel comfy enough to unpack my feels and thoughts on a regular basis. And I’ll likely pay the annual subscription fee, which amounts to about the cost of one coffee per month — totally worth it I think. Otherwise, the free version is very capable so far.

So do you journal? If so, how often? And what tool is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below!

Day One Journal Has A New Owner

Last month, I caught the news that award winning Day One journal app was acquired by Automattic, the parent company of WordPress. My reaction was, “Whoa, really?!” Then I realized the two have something great in common: the regular writing of words. Blogging and journaling are similar, which should be no surprise on this site.

My current journaling home, outside of Jason Journals, is the simple Apple Notes app. For my needs, Apple’s elegant solution is enough. I’ve benefited over the years from journaling, both the private and public types. And in my endeavors to record my introspective thoughts and fluctuating feels, I’ve tried a few other journaling apps, including Day One. The recent news of Day One being bought caused me to give it another look, so I downloaded it to my iPhone.

After installing it, I confirmed what I had recalled from previous times when I had tried the app. It’s elegant and easy to use. It also has a feature or two that I wish Apple Notes had. But for me, Day One is overkill because it has a lot of extra capabilities via buttons front and center, which appear like clutter to my mind. This hinders me from journaling because of increased friction. The app is robust with features, yet I find it’s too much. I just need a blank sheet, a cursor, and a minimal amount of text formatting (and also, of course, passcode locking).

I intend to keep journaling in my comfort zone of Apple notes. But I do have some questions and concerns about WordPress’ acquisition of Day One:

  1. Will the premium subscription plan of Day One somehow be included or bundled in a WordPress subscription?
  2. Will Day One remain end to end encrypted?
  3. Will Day One suffer from feature bloat with the addition of integration options for publishing journal entries directly to WordPress?
  4. Will the WordPress app for iOS include new options for Day One?

Depending on the answers, I may grow interested in using Day One. Its rich feature set, though a bit much for me, could become more useful in ways that suit my needs. And I’m sure I could acclimate to the app. Also, I don’t know how Tumblr has done, another acquisition of the WordPress company, but I trust Automattic will be a good steward of Day One.

For now, the purchase of the Day One journal is noted, and I’ll keep using the Notes app to journal.

Keep Is A Keeper

Good Options

What do an elephant and a light bulb have in common? They’re both logos for jotting down your thoughts to help you remember or process them later. There’s much good to say about writing notes by hand, but if you’re into digital note-taking, then there are several good options to talk about. The one I wanna focus on is Google Keep (the light bulb!), because as much as I like Evernote (the elephant!), I keep coming back to Keep (you know I had to do that).


Weighing The Two

Last year when I ditched my iPad and switched to Chromebook, I upended my workflow. I had used Apple Notes and Ulysses to write all my “stuffs.” Both were great, but they were pretty much Apple-only. And when you go Chrome, you’re going Google

The first obvious new choice for my notes was Google Keep. But its differences from most digital notes apps made the transition uncomfortable. Or maybe not noteworthy. So, for journaling, I ended up settling with Journey. And for the rest of my note-taking, I landed on Evernote. I was so enamored with Evernote, I blogged about it!

After the shiny newness of Evernote wore off, I began to encounter some challenges. First, as I wrote my draft of a Novella for NaNoWriMo, I had quite a bit of frustration with simply typing into the Evernote web app. The cursor would jump randomly and inexplicably to the top of the page or seem to disappear for a moment. My flow of writing would derail. After this happened across many days, my confidence in Evernote’s reliability was shaken.

The other thing about Evernote that trips me up are the multiple interfaces. The web interface has three possible setups: an old one, a new “Classic Editor” one, and a beta version of that. Then there’s the Android app sprawled out on my Chromebook. Finally, there’s the iPhone app version. Not only do they look quite different from one another, they do not have feature parity! One version will have “word count,” for example, but another won’t. So I had trouble sticking to one version.

Over several months of using Evernote, Google Keep was ever present on my Chromebook and iPhone. For certain types of notes, Keep works best. Mostly, it excels at short temporary notes like digital Post-It notes. Also checkbox lists! That makes Keep sticky. It’s simplicity gives it utility. So I kind of ended up using Keep and Evernote, plus Journey, to record my thoughts. Of course, I also use Google Docs for blog drafts. This spread of apps and services is a bit much.

I don’t know if it’s Keep’s simplicity or something else; somehow I kept getting drawn to it. Weird? Maybe. But true. Keep’s simple interface is totally consistent across my iPhone and Chromebook: web app, iOS app, Android app. And although Keep is simple, it has some super handy and powerful features. But maybe the biggest advantage it employs is its omnipresence – its integration into Google’s other apps.

When in Google Calendar, or Gmail, or Docs, you will also find Keep. Off to the right side, in a consistent and persistent slide out column, Google Keep’s notes appear. You can read or copy text from them and vice versa. One surprising ability lets you save an email from Gmail into a Keep note as an attachment. One more great feature lets you automatically turn your Keep notes into Google Docs. Like I said, super useful stuff!

So I found myself at a strange yet not surprising switch on the track. Stay on the Evernote train, or go all aboard the Keep locomotive. Using both is simply too much for me. I need simpler. And while Google is notorious for killing off some of its products or services, I believe Keep has proven to be an indispensable part of Google’s platform and is here for the long haul.


Pick One

The Evernote app is still on my iPhone and Chromebook. But I’ve slowly started to transition fully to keeping all my notes in Keep. But it’s hard to let Evernote go because it still has many strengths. Yet this is what I do. I try different techy things, I rely on some for a long time, then I switch things up, keep things fresh. For now, Keep is a keeper.


Do you switch things up, or have you stuck with one tech solution for many years? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!