I’ve said it before and it’s worth saying again – be very careful about which app you use to help you remember things and get things done.
I’ve talked about it in both my Evernote and Springpad books, mentioned it several times in this blog, and even talked about it in a webinar. With the increasingly growing market share of “to do” apps, we’re seeing players coming out of the woodwork saying they’re “true GTD” apps, apps that say they’re the “simplest way” to get things done, et cetera.
It’s a growing space and as a result, app developers worldwide are trying to capitalize with freemium models, pay per app models, and there’s also the free ones, too. The problem is that getting things done and remembering things is a serious business. It doesn’t matter if you’re a stay-at-home mom, a burgeoning rock star, a student, a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer, or a sales professional. Whatever your job is, you need to know that if you are going to store information in their cloud, that it is safe, reliable, scalable, and most of all – you have an exit strategy in the even they fold or you decide to move on. To me, those are the most important aspects you must focus in on if you are serious about your data.
Look, I don’t talk much about Microsoft’s OneNote on this site, but the truth is that, well – they’re Microsoft. You know that the data you keep with them will be safe, reliable, scalable, and you can have some export exit strategy. For that matter, even Apple’s iCloud Notes is the same. SimpleNote has a great exist strategy and can export all of your notes. Obviously both Evernote and Springpad does – as that is near and dear to my heart. Todo apps like Remember the Milk, Toodledo, and Producteev all have exit strategies as well. Believe it or not, an exit strategy is so important, it’s the reason why so many people still prefer Gina Tripani’s Todo.txt with Dropbox as a backup. Why? Because it’s a text file and because it’s backed up to Dropbox. I know many others who are still using Google Drive‘s Spreadsheet for getting things done. Why? It works. And, it’s backed up to Google’s servers.
I recently discovered Trello.com. Trello offers a beautiful way of being able to organize your projects like a virtual whiteboard. It’s genius – especially if you’re in sales. You can create a virtual whiteboard with lists that represent each of the stages in the sales cycle. Then, each “index card” represents your deal you’re working on. Clicking it will turn it over and on the “back side” of the card, you can add tasks, notes, documents from Google Drive or from your computer, and assign due dates, as well as members of your team. It works great by yourself or with others on your team. The app is very clever but I was very cautious.
I read up on the CEO/Founder and it is Joel Spolsky who worked on the Microsoft Excel Team. Not only did that make me feel better, but Trello is completely transparent in its development cycle! It created it’s own software development white board where folks like you and I can add our thoughts. Then, they can move the cards across the development cycle until it shows up in the next release. Finally, I felt so much better when I saw that you can export all of your data. Now, I don’t know much about a JSON file, but I have heard you can re-import it into other apps. I bring this up because it satisfies some major requirements I have for my data.
The sad truth is that with so many app developers looking to make the prettiest, most simple, and the most beautifully designed todo and remembering everything app, we cannot be fooled by just pretty looks. Because the other sad truth is that there are app developers who do come out of the woodwork and lose funding. And then what? What happens to your data? It’s gone with no real way to export and then re-import into another app.
In many ways, it reminds me of what Chris Mayo told us in his guest post about how he organizes his notes in Evernote. (As a footnote, this continues to be one of the most read posts on this site!) With a simple YYMMDD Keyword Keyword Keyword syntax with every note he makes in Evernote, it frankly doesn’t matter whether he’s using Evernote or not. With one export of his notes, he can easily import into another app like OneNote, SimpleNote, or Springpad and pickup where he left off. No need for tags or notebooks – it’s all organized by date and keyword. That’s honestly one of of the smartest things I’ve seen and one in which I’ve employed as part of my workflow with everything I do – even handwritten notes!
I tweeted not too long ago that long time veteran in this space Peter Tamte, former founder of MacSoft developed what might be the only real Evernote app killer that has been introduced in this space: it’s called Projectbook. I actually held off on writing my review of the app because I found – at least in its infancy – way too many issues. Aside from the fact that it’s dependent upon the iPad, there’s no real exit strategy. My data is stuck there.
I want to wrap up this post by imploring you as a friend, consultant to your productivity needs, and trusted advisor in this space, to please be careful about what apps you download and the level of trust you’re giving them. As I noted in the beginning – getting things done is a serious business. Remembering vital pieces of information is serious business — no matter your profession (including my wife’s who is a stay at home mom!). Don’t trust your data to just anyone because the app looks nice or because they say they are a true GTD app. Do your due diligence. Who is the CEO? What is their development strategy? Do they even share it on their site? Where did they receive funding and how much? Where is your data stored? Importantly, what is their exit strategy so that you can safely export your data and import it into another app of your choice.
Your Next Actions: Take a look at the apps you use and apply this test. After doing so, do you still feel safe trusting your data with these companies? Let me know in the comments below!