Tools We Use: Google Now + ToDoIst
Feb 17, 2016
“Ok Google … write this blog post.”
Well, since we’re not quite at that level of voice-activated, AI-empowered productivity, I guess I’ll have to do this the old-fashioned way.
Like many others, I find myself facing this dilemma: my daily peak intellectual activity coincides directly with my morning commute. While driving, I listen to podcasts and audiobooks to get the juices flowing, and the ideas start to come fast and furious: new creative inspirations, authors to check out, tasks to get done during the day. Without a simple way to capture these ideas, I get overwhelmed and exhausted by these journeys; what use is this daily avalanche of ideas if they just bury me and melt immediately away?
Enter Google Now + ToDoIst.
Fortunately, I’ve found a solution that combines two of my favorite ways of processing information: conversation and lists-making.
Here’s the “conversation” part of the solution:
While driving, I keep my phone mounted on my dashboard.
- Whenever I have an idea, I say “Ok Google, take a note.”
- Google says, “Sure, what’s the note?”
- I tell Google the note (e.g. “Check in on flash book progress”)
- Google says, “Ok, saving.”
While it’s certainly a bit of a stretch to call this a “conversation,” I actually quite enjoy the feeling of talking to Google in this way; it triggers that feeling of taut, contextual focus that a good dialogue can create.
Now for the “list” part of the solution.
At the end of my commute, I stride into the office and fire up ToDoIst*, my go-to task app.
All the notes I was dictating to Google sit neatly as discrete tasks in my “Inbox” project, waiting to be sorted into their appropriate lists.
(*Although I use ToDoIst, you can set the Google Now “take a note” function to feed into the app of your choice, such as Evernote or Trello).
I’ll spend the rest of my early morning time tackling the items that match my mood, energy, and the demands of the upcoming day. If I’m feeling social, I’ll track people down to pick their brains. If I’m inspired about a particular idea, I’ll dive right in and start sketching. If I’m just tired from the night before, I’ll simply sort items into projects, give them due dates and add relevant notes. The important part is that all of these ideas go into a “to do” app where I can treat them as discrete things to do, not just random ideas.
Pros (or the upshot to all of this):
- Get all of my ideas out of my head, into a digital form, that promotes action
- Quality: More of a humorous nuisance than a strong con, Google will often make strange transcription errors; easily corrected once I get into ToDoIst.
- Reliability: When this system works, it’s a truly magical experience; however, when it fails, it makes me incredibly frustrated. Google Now will often fail when my internet connection is spotty, and for a short spell it inexplicably added in an additional step in the process, requiring me to “touch to continue” when requesting a note.
If you too find yourself with too many ideas during your commute, give this method a shot and let me know what you think!
About Adam: If you lined up all the items in my podcast queue end-to-end, it would encircle the Earth 7.25 times, and it’s only getting worse. I’m conducting an informal study of the “buddy effect” in podcasts, wherein shows with multiple hosts get exponentially better when their interactions convey “buddy-ness.” If I were much better at math, I’d have some sort of formula for that. You can find me at AdamGoodCreative or on LinkedIn.