New toy for productivity!

New toy for productivity!

One of my constant challenges is note-taking. Not the actual taking notes part, but the part where I go back and do something useful with them. I write things down — information I want to retain, things I want to follow up on, tasks to accomplish, etc. But I don’t have a process for going through those notes and moving the data where it belongs. That’s one of my goals in this new push to simplify and produce.

For me, there’s something about the act of writing something out by hand. It helps me remember it better (to quote my introductory post here, “If I didn’t write it down, it didn’t happen”). So my go-to has been a 8.5 x 5.5 notebook, and then another one, and then another one, until my backpack is bulging with an embarrassingly large stack of notebooks that I know I need to do something with.

So I need to digitize. Capture things in a format that I can copy into OmniFocus and whatever other tools I decide to use. I did some research (which consisted mostly of playing with my wife’s iPad Pro). I decided that was overkill for what I need, but the Apple Pencil and handwriting recognition are what I think will do it for me.

So last night I bought an iPad Air with an Apple Pencil, and this is the first thing I’m writing on it. And though I make my living supporting Apple products, the Apple price tags are too steep even for a fanboy like me. So I went into the store with a pocket full of old iPhones and an old iPad and traded them in, and I walked out the door with a $690 iPad that ended up costing me $211. Now to disappear down the app rabbit trail!


I love capturing but I think I’ve had to start a regular habit of clearing my inboxes every week to make sure it’s something relevant that I can keep later.

I’ve capture many ideas that were absolute rubbish when I went to my weekly review. Not everything I collect is worth saving.

Some seeds may turn into a full-blow project. Many will remain a seed that needs to be weeded out and eliminated later on.

I’ve been using the Streaks app to create the habit of checking my inboxes (Instapaper, Safari Reading List, DevonThink, e-mail, OmniFocus, and Drafts) and being ruthless with many items. There are some items that I just wanted to read and gets tossed away. Others will pass through the first gate and into OmniFocus as a project, DevonThink for references. I am working on the weekly habit of going through my OmniFocus and culling items from my Someday/Maybe folders and then tossing out articles that were saved in DevonThink.

I’ve not quite gotten into writing notes with my iPad. Now you’ve given me food for thought about whether I want to do this. What app are you using for digitizing/capturing your notes on the iPad Air? Would you be going through the inboxes weekly to clear out the inboxes so that it doesn’t add to the digital clutter?

Good luck on your new experiment!


“Not everything I collect is worth saving.” That’s exactly my problem — right now the brilliant ideas that might advance my career are in a stack with other notes that say “pay mortgage” or “add lunch money to kid’s account” — things I crossed off but there’s something else on the page that I needed to follow up on, and that may or may not still be relevant. My intention with this is to start from now going forward, and then from the backlog I can either work a few pages a week into my review, or plow through them during those moments when the only brain energy I have left is to copy notes into my inbox.

I had one meeting yesterday, and I took notes on my iPad, and converted them to text on the fly, so I’m calling this experiment a huge success!

I’m using an app called Nebo. It has handwriting recognition, and based on my loopy scrawl it’s pretty dang good. The advantage for me in that workflow is that now it is in plain text format so I can send it to whatever inbox I end up using, I can copy and paste action items into omnifocus, I can store reference material in something searchable, and it’s one less task (type up meeting notes) that I have to do later.

I’m still working on the input channel. I’m restricted from storing any company data on external cloud services (even though most of those services run on our hardware), but I need to be more portable than my laptop, so right now I’m thinking either emailing notes from my iPad with some sort of trigger on my laptop (even if that’s just a rule to put it in a folder until I do some regular review). I’m also looking into spinning up my own WebDAV instance so I can sync omnifocus to my phone/iPad. But that’s another rabbit trail that takes time away from the urgent projects that are prompting this push to GTD in the first place, so that might need to go on the someday/maybe list for now.


Just an update — I’m really liking Nebo. Hope this screenshot uploads well. You write in the page and it puts what it thinks is your text across the top, and you can make corrections as you go by selecting a typed word and selecting from other possibilities. To convert to text, just double-tap the paragraph and it replaces your written notes with the text for easy saving/sharing/etc.


I recently bought a new iPad mini for both notes and reading. I have a 10.5 pro with pencil and I can switch the pencil back and forth between them. I read most mornings and it is much nicer to read on the smaller device. I have also started writing narrations out longhand in GoodNotes and converting to text for long term storage in Ulysses.

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How do you primarily differentiate between using your iPad mini and iPad Pro? I mainly ask because I’ve had issues integrating the iPad into my workflow since day one and am curious how it works for you.

I think the mind set Ian important for what we are processing the Gtd theory , use it ,don’t play Is one of the most important thing I learn these year in GTD area

Very true. I can like to play with things then get bored, but if I find a use for something, I don’t have any problems :stuck_out_tongue: