Let’s get this out of the way: I’ve been a big proponent of Evernote for the last few years now. In fact, most of the traffic on my blog is from people searching for ways to use Evernote, specifically for David Allen’s Getting Things Done system (thank you subscribers . However I’ve come to the conclusion that the behaviors that Evernote helps inspire in me are not healthy and I’ve decided to break the habit.
This path began at the end of last year when I was beaten to the punch writing a book on Evernote + GTD by Daniel Gold. From what I can tell, he’s done well and has gone on to write about GTD and other apps, which coincidentally was my original plan. Frankly I was irked, but you can’t blame David and he did inspire me to rethink my path. That got me wondering if all that effort voluntarily selling for a company that didn’t know I exist was helping anyone, especially myself. So I spent a number of months wandering my personal desert and contemplating.
Truth is: the tools aren’t the problem, we’re the problem. Self-discipline is the keyword and many of us lack it.
But what does this have to do with Evernote?
Evernote is a note-taking tool that’s available damn near anywhere, be it web or mobile device. Everywhere you go, you can have all your recipes, checklists, to do lists, or whatever wherever you are. But why? Why do you really need to carry everything you once kept in drawers or on walls with you? What good reason is there for you to put your entire file cabinet – something that you likely shouldn’t need to look into more than a few times a week – in your face constantly?
Convenience and fear, I believe.
This may be an exaggeration to some extent, but hopefully this point is clear: you don’t really need to carry everything with you because it just doesn’t make any sense. In fact, I propose that Evernote becomes unnecessarily burdensome and inspires hoarding, packrat like behavior. If you really get carried away, you’re capturing every little thing with any remote value because you just don’t want to forget it. We become afraid to let go.
But your brain purposely forgets things. It know there’s only a certain amount that matters. We should learn to listen to it and perhaps accept that we really don’t need to have an external brain at all when we’ve already got so many reliable solutions.
I’m ranting, I’m sure, because I’m disappointed in myself. Once again I’ve gotten carried away with trying to impose an unachievable level of control over my life through complex project and task management systems. I have to accept I’m probably getting enough done already. I’m likely blaming myself more than the tools, but simplifying my life includes quitting Evernote.
Ways I’m Quitting Evernote
You probably skipped much of the above to get to this list. I can’t blame you. I went off quite a bit up there, didn’t I? Sorry. This happens every so often when I realize I’ve slipped back into juggling more things than I need to and I beat myself up about it. Big breath… so here we go:
- Put checklists where they’re needed. If you watched Fearless Felix jump from the edge of space, you probably noticed the checklists taped to the wall in front of him. He didn’t have them in a computer screen or on a mobile app; they were placed where he needed them at a specific time. I’m printing and taping some of mine as well. For things like my weekly review, I’ve copied and pasted my checklists onto my Google Calendar appointments. Others are text files in a Support folder on my desktop and a few more in Dropbox for those rare occasions where I do need to access them remotely.
- Native tools for photos. I’ve never been a fan of saving all my photos to Evernote, especially because all computers come with photo management software. I’m relying on iPhoto to keep things collected and also am backing up to a hard drive.
- Book and blog notes offline. This was totally unnecessary, carrying all my writing notes with me. I never reviewed any of them unless I was at a computer anyway so I’m keeping them where I actually use them.
- Blog drafts in my blog. Start in WordPress, end in WordPress.
- Local project notes. Local drive only. Folders for every project, notes included. No need to put my project plans in one place and files in another and it was never very secure putting some of those files in the cloud anyway. Funny how we carry all these devices with us that have all kinds of memory then freak out if we’re not on the cloud.
- Paper notebooks for goals and lists. I’m creating a special notebook for life lists, long-term plans, and basically anything I only look at periodically.
- Tasks and projects in Things. Though I’ve spent time using OmniFocus, I’m back to using Things for Mac/iPhone once again. I like having something bubble up my tasks into contexts, something I can’t do on paper without a lot of fuss and I don’t like carrying a lot in my pockets (paper notebooks would add to that).
- iCloud notes. Some lists are handy to keep with you and I’m using iCloud to manage those. As the week as gone on, I’ve found ways to even cut these out (see above).
- Voice memo for song ideas. In case you’re not familiar, I’m a long-time musician and songwriter. While I was recording my song ideas to Evernote, I’m now using a native iPhone app. Not great, but syncs just the same to the computer where I’ll be listening to them anyway.
- Letting go. This a big one. Just as I should in the real world, if I’ve not touched something in months, I’m just throwing it away. If it’s forgotten, I might be better off.
- Dropbox for those few must-have files. Some files ARE worth keeping with you. I’m using Dropbox for those. Why not just use Evernote? Because I don’t want to be tempted by fixing formatting, adding tags, or adding to a backlog of crap I’ll just frustrate myself with.
Simplifying my life
How does doing all of this simplify my life? It puts things where they’re needed and used, where there are already tools for the job. I don’t need checklists on my phone for things in the garage. I could just put them in the garage. I don’t need all my blog drafts in the cloud when they’re already in the cloud on the blog where I’m typing it. Quite often we’re adding an in-between tool, a third party/wheel by using things like this and it’s just not necessary.
It’s not you, it’s me
I’ve got a little more work to do, but I’m nearly finished with my relationship with Evernote. I know there are millions of people who will disagree with me, who are doing great with the tool, and I’m happy for them. Me and Evernote, however, our relationship has been too rocky. Obviously I’ve tried to make it work, but it’s just not meant to be.
Now – as always – I’m going to continue working on my self-discipline, chipping away at the waste ,and getting things done as simply as I can.