The TEKSide Blog

Moving Away From Omnifocus and Into the Arms of Google Keep

As a long time iPhone User and fan of the iOS platform in general, being locked into the ecosystem was a bonus, not a drawback. But after 6 years of the iPhone, I began flirting with the idea of a platform change. I spent several months doing my best to try to maintain a workflow across two platforms. While I began to prefer the Android OS to iOS for my particular day to day needs in a mobile device, key apps that I depended on failed to make their way to the Android operating system as the developers of these applications showed little interest in diverting any of their focus away from the Apple ecosystem. I can't fault them for that. But that doesn't mean I have to continue being enslaved to this closed ecosystem. So I began to look for alternatives to these key apps. One app in particular that I needed to find an Android friendly alternative for is the ever so powerful and feature rich task manager, Omnifocus

Omnifocus has done wonders for managing my life. If you are heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem and don't see yourself switching anytime in the forseeable future, then I would not look past this application for all your task managing needs. However, if you have switched or are considering the switch to the Android operating system, you will quickly learn there is a sizable gap in the what's available in the task managing genre compared to iOS. After searching, digging and comparing, I have found something that works for me. And that is the subject of this post and that is what I will be sharing with you. 

Google Keep is a unique kind of product. It's your basic note taker, a place for you to store photos, web links, audio recordings, lists and in my case, projects that need to be stored, organized, reviewed and acted on. So let's dig into how I use Google Keep as my GTD (Getting Things Done)  go to application for staying on top of my busy life

Every good task managing application has to have an Inbox, The idea is to empty your head of all the distractions of all things you need to keep track of. Google Keep makes it easy to capture this information by giving you 4 quick shortcut buttons. Take a photo, record a voice memo, make a quick list or jot down a quick note. 

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So I go through my day not thinking about what I don't want to forget, I simply store everything in my Google Keep inbox. I know it will be safe there and because Android like iOS to some extent, allows for background syncing, that inbox is being synced to the cloud and other devices where my Google Keep account lives. 

After capturing information, the next step is to organize the items in your inbox. You do this in a couple of ways. For starters, Google Keep has several color options for categorizing your Keep data. For instance, you could color shopping lists in green, quick memos in yellow and web links in blue. The choice is up to you here. Everyone will do this differently. But just to share, this is my setup: 

  • Red = Critical Items of High Priority
  • Orange = Work Lists
  • Yellow = Projects
  • Gray = Business Computer Work
  • Blue = Notes & References
  • Aqua = Personal Computer Work
  • Green = Shopping Lists
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After deciding on a color, you just need to set a reminder. Reminders come in two flavors: Time Based or Location Based. There are some drawbacks to reminders that you must be aware of. Time based reminders have no repeat options available. This is a big oversight that I hope gets resolved in the near future. I will give you my workaround for that in just a moment. The drawback on the location based reminders is that there are no proximity settings. For instance, I would like a reminder as I am approaching the grocery store to remind me to stop rather than a reminder once I am already there. The bonus to location based reminders are that using Google data, you can easily set any business location as a reminder with just a quick search. This is a plus as it does not require you to have an address already nor does it require you to drop a pin on a map. 

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As for my workaround with repeating dates, it's not optimal but because I am a man of habit and automation, it has worked for me. For tasks with repeating dates, you just need to reset the reminder immediately after completing the tasks. The way Google Keep works makes this easy to do as completing tasks will not automatically delete or archive them. It will simply be marked as a completed task. simply uncheck the box and create the new reminder without having to create a new note. As for big projects, I simply use a checkbox setup with a date next to each action on the project list. Check out my example below:

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Now as I complete an action, I simply make a reminder for the next action whether it be time or location based. When a project is completed, I simply archive it where it will be stored for later reference but out of my current workflow view. 

Google Keep has a nice web interface as well making it easy to manage all your Keep Notes from anywhere the web lives. This is something not yet available on Omnifocus, but is rumored to be under development. I have been using Google Keep as my primary task management solution now for about 6 weeks. I want to finish this post by giving you just one more step to make this migration as smooth as possible. So now you have captured all your thoughts in the inbox, you have categorized and organized through color assignments and the setting of time and location based reminders and you are now checking off items and getting things done. So what's left? You need to review. I recommend a weekly and monthly review of all your notes. I personally do mine every Monday morning and on the 1st of every month. This gives you an opportunity to change due dates, add or reorder actions, clean up and most importantly reflect on what you have going on in your life. 

I hope this post helps Android users out there looking for a way to stay on top of their busy lives while at the same time making the chore of managing tasks fun and easy. Google Keep is one of the best designed applications I have found on the Android platform. It is stable and reliable and thanks to the enhanced share options available on the Android platform, collecting your thoughts quickly and easily from anywhere within the OS could not be easier. An added bonus is the available Google Keep widget that can live right on your home screen. Get Google Keep for free in the Play Store and start getting things done on your Android phone today.