How I Use Amplenote
I have somewhat of an obsession with personal information management (PIM) programs — it seems I sometimes spend as much time moving my tasks from one program to another, without actually getting any of them done. I’m kidding of course, but I do spend an inordinate amount of time reviewing and using different PIM systems.
However, I have recently switched to Amplenote, and I think this one will stick. For me, it’s the perfect blend of a daily journal (like my trusty Moleskine pads), back-linked notes (like my brief foray into Obsidian), outstanding task management (including recurring tasks, something that really killed my use of Notion), and seamless integration with my Google calendars, both personal and business.
The first section of Amplenote is titled “Jots.” This daily log is automatically created for you the first time you open Amplenote during the day. I’m writing this on Saturday morning, July 9th, 2022. So, in the image above, Amplenote created today’s “Jot” for me.
If you look at yesterday’s Jot, you’ll see that I keep a daily log of things that I work on during the day, much like how I have used my daily journal books for most of my professional life. In yesterday’s Jot, I have a note to renew our dog licenses (clearly a personal item that has been entered as a task, more on that soon), as well as some notes regarding password management programs for one of our service offerings (Vinson Protect). These Jots can include links to “Notes”, as seen below — this is a daily Jot for today that will be used to create a new Note:
Notice the “[[“ just to the left of the text “Password Management.” This tells Amplenote that what I’m typing is important enough to create its own Note. Hitting “Enter” will automatically create that Note. This brings me to…
“Notes” is a collection of my notes. At their core, they are just rich-text formatted collections of thoughts, ideas, links, images, and structure around a certain topic. But before you get too comfortable, check out 2 very powerful features of Notes:
You can tag your notes with various tags, just like most programs. But an extremely powerful feature is Amplenote’s nested tags. So one tag like
…is actually two tags. One for “jbl” (the tag I use for my side-hustle), and one for “blog”, which indicates it is a blog post. By doing this (assuming I also have “blog” tags in my business notes for my work with Vinson), I can search the tag for *ALL* of my blog posts without having to add the individual “blog” tag separately.
And speaking of blogs…
Amplenote (in some of their plans) allows you to publish your notes publicly, as seen below:
Very powerful for creating a blog without too much administrative overhead. You’ll see a note I created on my work with Tableau, including rich-text and images. The inset is the public view of that note, shown on Amplenote’s public site.
The next section of Amplenote is the Tasks section. This section simply displays all of the tasks you have created in the Jots and Notes sections. At first, it was a little confusing, but with a little coaxing (and patience), it’s pretty amazing — consider:
This is my current task list. I have this list sorted by Note — which basically means I can see where each of the tasks originated, whether on my Personal Habits note, my Administrative Note, my Marketing Strategy note, or just the Jot from yesterday.
Further, they are sorted by Task “Score”, which is Amplenote’s way of prioritizing tasks based on the due date, importance/urgency (you can set these on the tasks themselves), and context. Red means now, yellow means soon, blue means upcoming, and gray means future. It does take a little getting used to, and I do sometimes wish the due date was displayed (as opposed to needing a mouse-hover over the little calendar icon), but it’s a small nit.
As I mentioned earlier, I loved Notion, until it came time to manage tasks — I just couldn’t get past the lack of a recurring task feature. Don’t get me wrong — I love Notion, and I actually use it for a different purpose.
In Amplenote, you can create a recurring task with natural language, as follows:
I pay bills every Saturday morning, so in today’s Jot I entered this as a task, and I set the recurrence to be “every week on Saturday” so Amplenote will now create a task on my task list for every Saturday. As I check off this task later this morning, Amplenote will automatically reschedule it for next Saturday. Also, it will hide the task on my task list until Saturday, to keep me more focused on the most important tasks.
So, all of the above is nice, but the Google Calendar overlays are simply sublime.
The dark gray boxes are meetings from my Google Calendar. They automatically populate into Amplenote.
The white boxes are tasks (along with their task score), and are shown on the calendar as well. The strikethrough indicates task completion. This allows me to drag/drop my tasks for the day into open spaces on my calendar, keeping me on-task (so to speak) for the day. I can drag/drop a task to a different day, and Amplenote will reschedule the task automatically.
If I pop over to my Google Calendar, here’s what I see for today:
If you look at this morning (Saturday), you’ll see that “Pay bills” is set as a task at 9 am this morning (in about 15 minutes). This appointment was created automatically from Amplenote. If I drag this appointment to 10 am in Google, it will be updated in Amplenote.
If you look at the Amplenote Calendar, you’ll see that I have 3 listed, “Vinson”, “Personal”, and “JBL.” These are the 3 areas of my life that I use Amplenote to track. Each has its own calendar, and I can use tags to control which tasks show on which calendars. Further, I can sync these different calendars to different Google calendars.
If you have been looking for an alternative to Todoist, Notion, Obsidian, or Google Tasks/Keep, I urge you to give Amplenote a try. There is a free version, so there really is no risk to giving it a try. If you’re like me, it will be just what you’ve been looking for.