Friday, March 14, 2014

Taking Notes Digitally Using Evernote and TaskClone


For years, I have used a paper journal to record notes from phone calls, one-on-one meetings, group meetings, and workshop sessions I attend. I have discussed that system in both of my books, and outlined how I dissect the "to-dos" from my notes, as well as the system I have to find those notes months or years later.

More and more, I am seeing people who would like to take these types of notes digitally. They take a tablet with them everywhere, and would like to use that tool rather than also having a paper tool.

Since November, I have been experimenting with the digital option that makes sense to me...Evernote. One of my notebooks is called "Journal." Each phone call is a new note. Each meeting is a new note. Evernote automatically date and time stamps the note. The methodology is the same, whether the tool is paper or digital. Take all notes in one place. Mark to-dos which arise during the course of the note taking with some special mark. Later, review the notes for completeness, and transfer "to-do" items to the to-do list.

A new service called TaskClone automates the process of transferring the to-dos in your notes to your to-do list. It also automates the process of adding dates embedded in those notes to your Google calendar, and it provides a link from a to-do to the notes in which it was embedded.

I blogged on TaskClone in November. Recently, it is getting attention from such well-respected people as Steve Dotto and Michael Hyatt. Because it is working well for me, and because you are probably going to at least hear about it, today's post reviews my experience.

Two Considerations
Before you move from a paper system to a digital one for your note talking, think hard along two lines:

  1. Do you have the facility to key your notes digitally and also be attentive to the conversation or meeting in which you are involved? You can't be so busy with the mechanics of the tool that you aren't fully present in the conversation.
  2. How socially acceptable is your digital note taking? People are generally OK with your taking notes during a conversation. Are they going to be OK with your keying information into a tablet?


Of course, another option is to take notes on paper and then enter a summary of those notes into Evernote. If you are OK with the above two points and want to pursue taking notes digitally, read on.

Creating an account in TaskClone
You can create an account in minutes at TaskClone.com. You will supply several pieces of information:

  1. Your Gmail address. You will also be asked to allow TaskClone to send email through your account.
  2. The email address your to-do list uses to allow email to be sent to it. Serviices such as Toodledo, Wunderlist, Asana, and Remember the Milk assign you a special email address. Anything sent to that email address goes on your to-do list.
  3. The name of one notebook or one tag in Evernote you would wish to be used in conjunction with TaskClone. I chose to use the "Journal" notebook.  



In practice, you would take notes in Evernote. Evernote automatically date-and-time stamps the notes. Give the note a name and take your notes. Some of what you enter will actually be be "to-do" items which need to be performed. You will need to enter these items on your to-do list. Failure to do so will result in responsibilities falling through the cracks because they are hidden within notes, but never make their way to the to-do list.

Evernote and TaskClone in action
Each time you find yourself entering something that is not just a piece of information, but is a to-do, precede the item with a check box. Below is a sample of how a note would look in Evernote.

Example of taking notes in Evernote

 Any item preceded by the check box and located in the Journal notebook, is sent from Evernote though my Gmail account to my digital to-do list. I use Toodledo. Here is how the note appears in Toodledo:

How the task looks when sent from TaskClone to Toodledo

If I open the note section of this task, I see a link to the original note in Evernote.

Link to the original meeting notes in Evernote

The task shows up, worded exactly as in Evernote. In the note section of the task is a link to the original Evernote entry. Therefore, when it's time to do the task, you are one click away from the notes which led to the creation of that task.

Note that for your information to appear in your to-do list, whatever device you are using to take your notes in Evernote must have a chance to sync with the cloud. Also, your to-do application will also have to sync with the cloud. Once those two events happen, you will see your results.

Watch this short video illustrating how the service works:



Another feature of TaskClone is the ability to take an appointment entered in your notes and enter it on your Google Calendar. You use the check box, just as you did with tasks, but add the word "Schedule," a colon, and a space. That combination causes TaskClone to send whatever follows to your Google Calendar .

Entering "Schedule: Executive Team Meeting 4/3 3p at Jim's office" will result in an appointment on the Google Calendar called "Executive Team Meeting" scheduled for April 3 at 3:00 p.m. "Jim's office" will appear in the location field. Adding email addresses of invitees will trigger Gmail to send invitations to the meeting. A link to the notes taken in Evernote will appear in the "description" field.



TaskClone offers a free trial. After the trial, the service is extremely reasonable, roughly $15 per year. For those whose jobs involve phone calls and meetings where documentation is important and where dissecting the to-dos from those notes is essential, TaskClone is a winner.

Is anyone using TaskClone already? What are your impressions? If you create an account after reading this post, please come back and leave your thoughts about your experiences.
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