Organize or Die (or How CloudHQ Saved my Life)

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I love options. And I hate options. I have too many options for note taking and it’s driving me crazy. This has got to stop, and when I hit “publish,” it’s going to stop. In order to do that, I’m going to list apps I use for note taking, their benefits, and I will come to a final decision.

First, it starts with why? (Thanks, Simon Sinek). Here are 10 reasons for wanting a note-organizer

  1. Preparing for meetings (agendas, notes, including drawings)
  2. Writing speeches and sermons (content, organization)
  3. Journaling (prayers, thoughts)
  4. Clipping websites that have valuable information (the kitchen sink)
  5. Sharing information with others
  6. Direct Report and Discipleship reviews (day to day updates, metrics)
  7. Summarizing Books (I read about a book a week)
  8. Reviewing Past Meetings (outcomes, follow ups)
  9. Personal endeavors (how to’s, hobbies)
  10. Testimonies (God stories)

To boil it down, I need a note-taker (or system) that can

  1. clip content from various sources (content),
  2. search and share easily (community), and
  3. deliver on actionable work (commitment)

Thus, we have the main contenders at today’s event:

  1. Evernote – An industry leader.
    I’ve used Evernote a lot (2,139 times as of writing) since February 2009 just after I got my first iPhone. We have a long relationship. We’ve even tried crazy things like taking pictures of business cards and having them entered in my contacts list. I like this app. Here are my top three positives and negatives

    1. Web Clipper (positive): Take the cake on getting content into Evernote
    2. Sharing (positive): I can get a public or private sharing link, or create a presentation (paid version)
    3. Paid Version (negative): I don’t like paying $50/yr unless the features are extremely worth it. Of course, there’s a free version, and I can make do with out it.
  2. Notes (Apple’s Native) – a thief, and a good one
    Apple’s notes app has done a spot on job of copying the best features of other apps and integrating them directly into an app that’s deeply embedded in everything I do (Mac, iPad, iPhone, iCloud, anything “i”). I’ve used it 453 times. Top three:

    1. Drawing (positive): it’s just right in there. Have an idea? Draw a picture! Works great in 1 on 1 meetings.
    2. Text Markup and Sharing (negative): I love that Apple added this feature in iOS 9, but I’m dissatisfied with how it doesn’t show up as an option sometimes. There might be a workaround, but why are you asking me to do it?
    3. Reminders (negative dressed in positive): Because it’s got great integration, I can have Siri remind me about this note or that note at just the right time. It’s an amazing feature, except that I don’t use Reminders, I use Todoist (considering switching to Asana).
  3. Google Drive – unassuming, except when you need it.
    I use Google Drive for almost everything in my startup (coffee shop, church plant, training center). Everyone on staff (paid and volunteer) has a Google Account and gets access to certain files, folders, and various documents. Everything is interlinked and plays well together (docs, sheets, presentations). I’ve used it 5GB worth in Drive alone. Top three:

    1. Web clipping (negative): They’re coming out with some options, but we’re still not there yet.
    2. Search (positive): Google has, hands down, the best search. Drive just rocks search.
    3. Integration (positive): There are tons of apps and integrations outside of Apple’s Sandbox that use Google extremely well, and they’ve still got us Apple Fanboys covered in certain ways. I can append files to tasks in Todoist, put them in emails to people, and get tons of feedback from hundreds of people on various tasks and projects through Google Drive.

Well, there they are: my thoughts on note-taking apps. It seems nothing does everything I want it do well. As a result, I’m going to try to kill Evernote and Notes.

But WAIT! I found this amazing little gem that allows you to sync between cloud servers and save Evernote notes as searchable PDFs in a Google Drive folder. Huge shout out to cloudHQ (you can also share Gmail Labels (video Explanation) between users with a new feature).  This means I get to keep web-clipping from Evernote. To follow up, I will:

  1. Migrate notes from Evernote and Notes into Drive (perhaps, just keeping them all in one main folder on Drive called “Old Notes.”
  2. Stubbornly save everything into Drive (but I can still clip from the web and get it saved as a PDF).
  3. Come up with a workflow process that integrates content, community and commitment. Perhaps, it could look something like this:
    1. Content: Websites, Drawings, and Other Content is linked in Drive. This can be a place of growth for me personally. Rather than just clipping information as I did in Evernote, I have to spend an extra 30 seconds to make something 1) for sharing, or 2) actionable of it.
    2. Community: Make sure to invite people into specific documents that they would be able to comment on.
    3. Commitment: Filter actionable items into my todo list via a link and make sure it’s got a deadline.

I hope you enjoyed this and perhaps even got something out of it. What would you chose? What have you chosen? Is there a perfect app I’m missing?



  1. I quit using Notes back when I discovered Evernote and I have used Evernote so much that I have a notebook stack entitled “Archived”. I use both Drive and Dropbox to back up important documents. I recently switched from Apple’s calendar to Google Calendar because it is more convenient for jotting out tasks. I am so picky about organizational and storage apps that I have never truly found a “to do list” app that I like, but Planner Plus is pretty cool because it is exactly like an old school planner that you had before a smart phone. It also syncs with your Calendar. Also, you didn’t mention pictures, but I have long obnoxiously plugged Flickr for photo and video storage. It only works for photos and videos, but all you need is a yahoo email address and it gives you a free terabyte of storage. I will check out cloudHQ, that sounds handy!

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