For the last 6 to 10 months, I’ve been trying to find the proper digital tools to manage my life. Spoiler alert: I keep failing to do that.
In the last 5 years, my main and only job was to do one thing and one thing only, run illuria, Inc., a company that I co-founded with my friends. At some point, specifically when your team has more than three people, you need some kind of task management tool. And I’ll be honest here, I don’t care which one that is, most of them do the same thing anyway. We ended up using Notion, and we like it very much. I like the database feature and my team loves the Kanban boards. Half of the team does development and the other half does development-related things (release engineering, infra) and business-y stuff, such as sales, marketing, what have you, so we never had any issues with Notion.
(To be clear, while I like Notion and any other tool would do the job as well, I have to say that I never liked Jira’s UI/UX. That one is, indeed, enterprise-y, but that’s a story for another day).
But last year I started taking some more responsibilities (kind-of-)outside of work. Co-hosting and producing a podcast, running a community of Armenian hackers, teaching cybersecurity (I actually end up teaching Unix + Networking + how computers work, but turns out that’s what actually 80% of cybersecurity is anyway), contributing more to open-source (specially since we open-sourced our little utility, Jailer) to name a few.
Which meant that I needed a digital tool to manage the non-work part of my life as well.
The obvious choice was to use Notion, since I know it anyway. That ended up being a disaster for a very weird reason: It only works online. Even if you have the desktop app, it’s still just a wrapper around the website with some nice things like desktop notifications and such.
I know, this sounds strange to many people, but I don’t like being online all the time. Sometimes I enable iOS/macOS’s DnD, to get some work done, but sometimes I go completely offline with no distractions at all.
Unlike most other developers, I work completely locally. From my development environment to my infrastructure tools, everything is synced local/prod. This is actually a good reason to not use the fancy features of the cloud, but again, that’s a story for another day.
I have been told, by my friends, that my options are the following:
Go as basic as possible and use Notes.app. Well, I like this option, but I had two issues.
First, it’s Apple only. Yes, you can actually connect the Notes.app to your IMAP account and sync that with other Unix machines using clients like Evolution, but now the features are limited to text only. Not even tables :/
Second, the iCloud sync has some weird issues. not always, but from time to time, I was shouting “WHERE ARE MY NOTES???” just to see them appear minutes later.
Apple Notes.app? tested, liked it overall, but it’s not for me.
My friends’ second option? Go as deep as Obsidian!
I fired up Obsidian and I fell in love immediately. It was like love at first sight. Vi keybindings? it’s there. Plugins? it’s there. Run shell commands on your notes? it’s there!
After couple of days, I had everything ready. I had my folders (please, let’s call them directories!), my notes all migrated, all the plugins I needed for my weekly and daily notes (similar to what we had on Notion at work), etc etc.
And then days passed, and then weeks passed. What happened? I totally forgot that Obsidian even exists. I noticed that my wall had… sticky notes (FreeBSD branded!), my Mac had… sticky notes!
This made me so frustrated for multiple reasons.
Not that I only had two types of sticky notes (analog and digital), I also could not “search” in them!
I ended up turning the analog notes into digital, and tagging them at their title, so I could at least search using the macOS Window API.
And then I saw something awesome. Cortex Podcast released the Sidekick Notepad!
Wait wait wait, are you thinking that I bought the Sidekick Notepad? Nope, I did not 🙂
But what I ended up doing is putting all of our office’s legal pads next to me at home, we were not using them in the office anyway!
Two weeks later and I’m writing everything as needed. I take notes, I write my todo lists. I made my legal pads horizontal, similar to the Sidekick Notepad and woof is was awesome!
For a moment there I started using the Moleskine Classic Notebook, since it was more portable than yellow/white legal pads, but that didn’t work as well. I guess I needed something that can be teardown on the fly and no very-hard cover.
Why am I telling you about all of this? Well, uncle Dexter has asked on Mastodon “500 reMarkable ads later… Is anyone using one? Would you recommend it?”
I have used reMarkable (the first one), and I loved it. Not because it was an awesome technology or such, but because it made me think the same as if I was writing on paper with a pen.
So, if you, like me, have suffered for a long time to find the best “digital time/notes/todo management tool”, then you’re probably an analog person, like me.
Just take a sheet of paper, start writing on it with a pen.
That’s all folks…
P.S. I might actually end up buying the reMarkable 2 and check how that goes, or even the Sidekick Notepad. But with my writing speed, I’d need at least 4 Sidekicks every 3 months. Let’s wait and see 🙂