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Take Note

CJ Chilvers
CJ Chilvers
3 min read

I love this time of year, because as new OSs and devices debut, people who never think about their processes look at what’s new and reconsider how they do…everything.

This is where I live year-round. (I’m an overly-analytical person with ADHD, which means I’m extremely detailed about things I can’t possibly remember. I’m the perfect customer for complex notes apps.)

This year, the buzz is all about notes apps, probably because of the new features in the Notes app in iPadOS, which introduces the possibility of linking your notes bi-directionly to information inside and outside of your OS (which is mind-bending).

The most recent breakthroughs in notes apps have involved deep-linking to the content within “everything buckets.” However, this usually comes at a cost — you have to do more work.

Of course, that cost presents an opportunity for the creation and consumption of courses on how use these apps. In fact, if you want the most out of a new notes app, you may have to research how to even get started.

It’s the opposite of how notes apps were marketed 15+ years ago, when it was all about automation. Evernote had more web automations a decade ago than any of the most popular notes apps today, which is a little weird.

These updates to Apple Notes (and Reminders as well) bring back the idea of useful connections happening without requiring a human in the middle. The connections are simple for now, but seem limitless for the future.

No courses needed. Take notes in Notes. Remind yourself of things in Reminders. Schedule in Calendar. The defaults should be the default, and they should do one thing well. Connect them in the overall system — inter vs. intra connection.

From Ben Brooks in May 2021 (before the new features):

”Don’t Fight Apple and I really mean that. If Apple is trying to force a specific way or method for doing something, then go with it, not against it. You’ll have a better overall experience even if you think it makes things harder/stupider at first. Embrace what Apple wants you to do and the way they want you to do it, but then enhance those ways with your own tricks.”

From Ben Brooks in June 2021 (after the announcements):

“Quick Note is fucking good. Kudos. (Also, remember when I encouraged you to use Notes and to stop fighting Apple when they are really pushing on a tool — yeah, well, there you go.)”

DailyTekk took a deeper look at the new Notes and Reminders, which is worth a look if you want an idea of why this is a big deal.

Don’t worry if you if you’ve already committed to a more complex system, though. Complex systems will only get more popular and well-supported due to this.

Why?

Simpler note taking requires an admission that you don’t/can’t control your entire process, and no one else has your specific brain, much less your specific work style.

From Linus:

“No single app can be my second brain. There are going to be parts of my life that are inherently spread out across apps that aren’t pure information-storage tools. For example, there’s a humongous amount of knowledge sitting in my email inbox and my blog, and there are some things I only remember because I tweeted about it once, or recorded in a quick journal entry. There are ideas saved in text messages and contacts. ‘Notes apps,’ it turns out, are not the only places where knowledge lives. And a true ‘second brain,’ or whatever you want to call it, needs to recognize that and let you wield its magic over all of your digital footprint, not just the bits you tell it.”

From John Vorhees in Club MacStories:

“It took me a long time and thousands of notes to realize that I could delete most of my notes tomorrow with minimal consequences. I never did because they’re text files and keeping a folder of small files tucked away somewhere where they can be searched feels like a small burden, but I’m not so sure anymore...Another issue with elaborate note-taking systems is that they often focus on notes and systems at the expense of ideas. Most of my notes have a short shelf life, so I treat them that way, as disposable bits that should be deleted more often than saved. I know that’s a radical, almost heretical, view of note-taking in some quarters, but it makes browsing my notes more manageable and search results more relevant which I like.”

Letting go of these complex systems is also a theme behind the new book Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, which the world is currently falling in love with (for good reason).

I would not have guessed this year would go in this direction, but it’s welcomed.

The hunt for perfect note taking app will certainly live on, but I hope it can get along without me for a while.

note taking