Evernote, Notion, Roam – Why and How I am using all of them

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I have been an Evernote user since 2008. Every time, I need to find a report, a document, receipts I search in my Evernote and it is there. Once I drag anything into Evernote I know that it is going to be there. The optical character reader (OCR) feature makes life so much easier. I can drag a PDF report in Evernote and can easily search the content of this PDF. This is an immensely valuable feature when your job requires going through numerous pdfs scouting for information. So for me Evernote is not a note taking tool but a repositories of my documents.

Evernote excels at what it is supposed to do and you can trust it to be there when you need it: online, offline, on mobile, on web, on Mac, On Windows.. It is everywhere.
But a lot of things changed in last 12 years. We saw a number of apps coming and threatening Evernote and often excelled at one or another thing that Evernote does. Bear gave a brilliant writing interface; NimbusNote got some style and a few more bells and whistle than Evernote and then came Notion: the lego box that can be a note-taking app, a project management tool, a personal wiki.. the list goes on.

Now, the #RoamCult is taking over. RoamResearch is taking the note-taking to the next level. With its bi-directional linking and networked thoughts, this is something that is not Note-Taking but a learning and knowledge management tool that makes you think and collect knowledge bits without any kind of typology and structures. This is immensely helpful for the content creators and researchers. I work extensively on climate change and different development challenges and often putting a files into a particular structure or folder is very difficult. RoamResearch allows me to do that very well. But RoamResearch is not great for dumping all kind of content like we do in Evernote or for creating beautiful structured personal wiki as Notion.

But Evernote, RoamResearch and Notion together create a perfect knowledge management work-flow and system. My three step workflow is the following:
Step 1: Everything goes into Evernote. Online articles, pdfs, my purchase receipts, critical documents. First landing place for any content. It is reliable, safe and available everywhere. And, the mobile app of Evernote is lightyears ahead of Notion and RoamResearch (in fact RoamResearch does not have a mobile app yet.).

Step 2: Synthesis of compiled content happens in RoamResearch. I review notes in Evernote, highlight them and bring the highlights and notes that I want to further use into RoamResearch. Here I process my notes to create a short summary in my own words. This also turns up into my CRM and ToDo list as it is quite intuitive. I can insert ToDo list and reference to different people easily in Roam.

Step 3: All the finalized content that I create goes into Notion in form of a personal wiki.

So far I am quite good with this flow. But I am looking forward to getting rid of one or other applications if they evolve further become one stop solution for my personal knowledge management.

The biggest Productivity bottleneck for gadget/tech-lovers, and how to overcome it.

We love our gadgets and tinkering with them. We like to use the best of the best and cannot wait to get our hands on the next ‘beta’ or ‘developer version’. We experiments with all the shortcuts, mail-management systems, inbox zero, GTD… But if you are like me, we always feel that our systems are not perfect and spend significant time on improving them. Ironically, the time spent on improving the systems makes our systems inefficient.

I spent a lot of time perfecting my system and religiously improving my system to achieve the next level of productivity. And, I realized that the biggest bottleneck in achieving the next level of efficiency and productivity is ‘my in-flux productivity setup’. I was not letting my ‘system’ to mature.

I decided to correct the system and here are some learnings from that.

  1. Knowing the limitations of your ‘system’ is key to achieving stress-free productivity. It is more important than knowing several fancy features in detail. We need to know the limitations. I messed my backup once as I was not aware of Apple Time-machine’s backup limitations. (Apple Time-machine is not for archiving or long duration backup.)
  2. Stick to one Operating System. I have worked extensively on all the major operating systems and have multiple machines configured with different operating systems. I tried my best to achieve a seamless syncing and uniform work-flow that can work on my MacOS, Windows, Linux, iOS and Android setup. But, it is impossible. Better, stick to one operating system, and a compatible mobile operating system and life becomes blissful. My vote goes for MacOS and iOS setup till google comes up with a better OS for laptops or Microsoft comes up with better mobile OS.
  3. Remove as many decision points as you can. My machines had 3–4 word processing applications, 4 note-taking application and subscription to 4 cloud storage/photo storage services. I was in love with Ulysses interface, Scrivener’s extensive feature list and forced to have Microsoft Word because of professional compulsions. I was using multiple mail clients (Airmail, Outlook, Mailbird, Thunderbird etc.) on my multiple machines. I realized that for every routine work I needed to make a choice which machine and which application to use. I made my life much easier by removing all the decisions and making my next steps automatic.

I am now working on perfecting my system and I am quite excited by the outcomes.