The Power of Google Keep

I wrote some time ago (April) about why I don’t use Evernote and how I had moved to Google Keep – though I wasn’t entirely happy with the product.

The logo for Google Keep.
The logo for Google Keep.

I’m still not entirely happy with Google Keep – but I am also still using it all these months later – so that says something.

Google Keep provides an easy way to keep notes. You can take them on the web, via a Chrome App, or on your Android phone using the Keep app. Recently they had the beautiful feature of geolocation reminders – in other words you can tell Keep, “When I am within x of x location, reminder me that I need to do x.” So, I might say, “Remind me next time I am within 500 ft. of the post office that I need to buy some more postage.” It is pretty nifty functionality and I’ve successfully used it to remind myself to do things that usually go undone b/c I continually forget to do them when I’m nearby (e.g. pick up some x from the grocery store).

The killer feature of Keep for me over Evernote is its Google Drive driven versioning which allows one to go back in a documents history as necessary – something which is extremely limited in Evernote (at least last time I used it).

So, what keeps Google Keep from being perfect?

  1. The pace of development has been horrifically slow. Come on guys, if you even devote a few folks to full-time development this application could be amazing.

  2. The clunkiness of the desktop app (actually a Chrome App) is frustrating (you can’t reorder tasks, it doesn’t minimize to the tray).

  3. Google has burnt me and others too many times by shutting down services. While I don’t think Keep will be one of them (it is too much of a data mine for Google to abandon, imho), it still makes me hesitant (though I feel a little more comfortable knowing that my notes are essentially Google Docs, so they’ll still be available even if Keep goes away).

This might be seem strange – but I use this application in tangent with Asana, rather than as a replacement for or alternative to. Asana manages all of my responsibilities, Keep is my “loosey-goosey” form of data collection until it is input into Asana and also a quick reference for tasks I need to do asap.

You can see the web app here. The Android app is available here. The Chrome (desktop) app is here.

OhDontForget: Useful, But Not Perfect.

Oh Don't Forget SMS Remind Service logo.
Oh Don’t Forget SMS Remind Service logo.

Trying to keep track of what I’m supposed to be doing and when is complicated. I’ve gotten much better at it over the years – but I still manage to miss a meeting here or there, forget to pay a bill, or so on. I use Asana, Google Keep, and Google Calendar, along with their integrations into my Galaxy S3 smartphone to keep me going.

But now the question is – how do I keep other people going? I’m in the position of assigning responsibilities to folks – if it is something with an impending deadline, how do I remind them that the deadline is impending without wasting my time? And how do I remind someone if something needs to be done on a certain day or at a certain time of day? These are more difficult questions.

Right now I use a combination of Boomerang and Ohdontforget – neither of which is a perfect tool and both of which I wish would have their functionality integrated into Asana.

So what is On Don’t Forget? Its an SMS reminder service that allows you to schedule an SMS message to be sent to a specified phone number at a specified time and can include the ability to repeat the message on a specified basis.

So, lets say Isaac needs to do something for me tomorrow night at 7 pm, but I know he might forget –  I can use ohdontforget to schedule a SMS reminder to go out to him at 7 pm. This won’t help if he is out of the area, but as long as he is in the area – it is a lifesaver.

The service does cost $5/mo., but I’ve bit the bullet and signed up and have been using it for a few weeks. The biggest feature it doesn’t have that I would like it to have is the ability for individuals to reply back to my initial message with a status update: e.g. CANT, COMPLETED, POSTPONED, etc. Then I should get notified by email or text regarding this update. This way I not only know someone has been reminded, but I can also relax knowing that the task has been done (or make alternative arrangements if it isn’t getting done).

Besides that, I’d also like to see them add the ability to search sent SMS messages, to delete SMS messages en masse (especially sent ones), and to create templated messages. But all of these are fairly minor compared to the ability to receive status updates regarding tasks (and also to auto-kick off a snooze/delete of the reminder once the task is completed).

Further Down the Road with Asana.

[Article last updated: 9/27/13]

Introduction

I’m still using Asana – and I’m forcing others to use it too, to their chagrin. 🙂 It was Jan 1st, 2012 when I initially wrote about Asana on Dave Enjoys, and I have written a few posts since then. It seems like now would be an appropriate time to post yet again about Asana.

Image of the Asana logo.
Image of the Asana logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It might seem like I’m harping on the same old topic – but I hope each post provides new insights and reminds those who are perhaps thinking about getting organized but haven’t yet of this powerful tool for accomplishing tasks.

I also like to write about what features or refinements Asana could make to improve their software – and hope that others will add their feedback and maybe some folks at Asana will even read the post. 🙂

If I Wasn’t Invested…?

It is a bit harder of a question today than it was even a few months ago about whether I would use Asana if I hadn’t already invested so much time into it. The answer is “probably” – but not definitely. I’ve included a list of “feature requests” below which speak to what is lacking in Asana that would make me want to move on. I doubt that anyone has all of these features currently – but I do think, Astrid, for example, has done a better job with the mobile app (which appears to use caching and is thus much faster) and in creating pop-up reminders about missed calls (really nifty).

If you are just starting out with a todo list application – I’d recommend trying both Asana and Astrid[1]. Are there any other todo list apps you feel are a must try?

Feature Requests

  • Minor Issues
    • [Still: 9/27/13] The “New Workspace” option is still buried. [Original Report: 1/1/12]
    • [Still: 9/27/13] While I appreciate the thought behind auto-creating a “Personal Projects” workspace, I had already created a “Personal” workspace – so “Personal Projects” is redundant. I’d like to be able to delete it OR move tasks from my current Personal workspace into Personal Projects.
    • [Still: 9/27/13] Integrating with Facebook Connect would significantly open up the user audience. It is unlikely that many folks don’t have either a Google or a Facebook account – but there are numerous individuals who have Facebook accounts but not Gmail accounts. [Original Report: 7/13/12]
      • Along these lines, a native Facebook app. would be pretty cool that could published to our (private) news stream tasks we need to complete and updates that have been made.
      • This same functionality could also be added to Google+.
    • [Still: 9/27/13] An ability to archive complete tasks within a task needs to exist – e.g. when one creates sub-tasks for a task. Otherwise the interface becomes crowded. [Original Report: 6/12/13]
    • [Still: 9/27/13] Allow one to mark a reoccurring task as “missed” or “incomplete” instead of marking complete/deleting. (e.g. if I’m supposed to take out the trash on Monday, but I don’t, I don’t want to delete the task [b/c I do want it to remind me next week] but I also don’t want to mark it as completed [b/c I didn’t]). [Original Report: 7/23/13]
    • [Still: 9/27/13] Allow one to convert a project into a task and the project’s tasks into sub-tasks. [Original Report: 7/23/13]
    • [New: 9/27/13] Allow one to hide projects created by others that you do not want to see (e.g. that are not relevant to you) instead of requiring the other person to unshare the project on their end.
  • Significant Features
    • [Still: 9/27/13] Allow for Numeric Management of Task Priorities – So moving task priorities up and down by drag-and-drop takes too long when the list is long and while you can use Upcoming/Later/Today keyboard shortcuts, I prefer not to do so. It’d be nice if pressing say Ctrl+(number) would assign the task that number. If that number is higher than the number of tasks in the list, then it would just take the lowest priority (e.g., if I wanted to make sure something went right to the bottom of the list I could do something like Ctrl+999, even though Asana might actually make the task 58). [Original Report: 7/1/13]
    • [Still: 9/27/13] Better support for recurring tasks, specifically those assigned to others – I’m looking for something similar to “chore management” but for adults. Specifically: [Original Report: 1/1/12]
      • The ability to setup recurring appointments for individuals and have them be reminded of them – e.g. via email and/or SMS until the task is completed.
      • I’ve temporarily worked around this by using Boomerang and setting up scheduled repeating emails until a person notifies me they have completed the task – but this still requires my manual intervention to stop the emails AND doesn’t support SMS.
      • See my post on web-based chore management for examples.
    • [Still: 9/27/13] A Native Microsoft Windows Desktop Application OR Offline Support for Asana – Now that I have an SSD hard drive, it isn’t that bad having to open Chrome and view the Asana pinned tab, but a native Windows application would still be nice – or at the least, offline functionality for the current web app. [Original Report: 1/1/12]
      • Especially local caching of tasks. Asana is miserably slow sometimes compared to a desktop app b/c it doesn’t appear to cache tasks locally and is always pulling from the live servers.
      • This innovation would also significantly lighten load on Asana’s servers.
    • [Still 9/27/13] Add a Link – Give us the ability to “attach” links to tasks as we currently can attach files. [Original Report: 7/13/12]
    • [Still 9/27/13] Remove from Main Workspace – Give us an option to keep tasks present in Projects but remove them from the My Tasks area. Sometimes I want to see only my “high importance” tasks in My Tasks – but right now they all show up there! Let me choose which ones should appear in My Tasks and which should only appear within specific projects. [Original Report: 7/13/12]
    • [Still: 9/27/13] Friendly Project Names – “Right now you can submit to specific projects via email but only by using the unique numeric string that stands for a project id. Yuck. That isn’t very friendly. Asana needs a better way to handle this. Perhaps [email protected]? Where uniquename is a name the user chooses and myaccount is their account username?” [Original Report: 7/13/12]
    • [Still: 9/27/13] Mark Project Days – “When I look at Asana I see a lot of tasks – but it is a Saturday and many of these tasks can’t be completed except on weekdays. It would be nice to set what days tasks can be accomplished and to filter out tasks which cannot be accomplished on specific days (e.g. calling the bank, talking to the boss, etc.).” [Original Report: 7/13/12]
    • [Still: 9/27/13] Open Inbox – “Right now you can email new tasks into your inbox and so can others who are part of your workspace – but what about those outside of your workspace? Asana has the potential to be a full help desk solution – but only if it allows anonymous users to submit tickets (by anonymous, I mean to Asana, not anonymous in the truest sense). They need to be able to send a ticket to [email protected] and for a few ticket to be created in the inbox.” [Original Report: 7/13/12]
    • [Still: 9/27/13] Astrid-like pop-up on missed phone calls – “Asking if you want to make it into a task and when it should be due.” [Original Report: 6/12/13]
    • [Still: 9/27/13] A Last Touched Method – We need a “tickler” mechanism which allows us to “touch” tasks and mark them as such without completing them. In this way I can make sure that every week I’m reading throguh all my tasks – or at least the important ones…and tasks that haven’t been touched in a while can float to the top for review. [Original Report: 6/12/13]
    • [Still 9/27/13] Snooze Tasks – It’d be great to have a snooze option on tasks. Astrid has something like this, you can delay tasks by a day or two or hours etc. This is quite handy, causes the reminder to pop up again at the specified time and so on. [Original Report: 7/13/12]
    • Move Tasks Between Workspaces – Currently I cannot take a project/task from my “Personal” workspace and move it into my “Work” or “Church” workspaces. This should not be so. For example, I might have “brainstorm” ideas that I want to keep in my personal account until I am ready to implement them – then transfer them into my church/work accounts.
      • Another option would be to “share” projects/tasks between workspaces, this way a project/task could appear in multiple workspaces.
      • Okay, this hasn’t been fixed all the way. Asana added another level called “organizations” which can perform this sort of maneuver – but its only available to folks using company emails. 😛

Easy Peasy

Some of my feature requests are pretty simple programming tasks (speaking as a programmer). If I was Asana, here are the quick tasks I’d snap out soon to vastly improve the software without consuming a lot of time:

  • Snooze Tasks
  • Pop-Up on Missed Phone Calls
  • Add a Link
  • Archive Sub-Tasks

Other Articles

My initial article was written on Jan. 1st, 2012. I posted again about Asana on July 13th, 2012 and again on Oct. 16th, 2012.

  1. [1]Unfortunately, it looks like Astrid will die a painful death after its acquisition by Yahoo.