December 28, 2020
Capturing Everything With Drafts
My first piece of advice to people who want to get more organized is:
Write. It. Down.
Everything. Your brain is a sieve; you think you’ll remember, and then you won’t. Sometimes you’ll remember that there’s something you’re supposed to remember but you’re not sure what it is, other times you’ll just forget entirely.
Write 👏 It 👏 Down 👏
But writing it down is no good if you’re never going to look at it again. You need a reliable ‘inbox’ system to review and process your notes.
That’s where Drafts comes in.
I was skeptical of drafts at first. I didn’t get it. Its tagline is “Where Text Starts” and it’s marketed as a way of you can easily sending text to anywhere (email, twitter, etc). Sounds fine, but it wasn’t a particular need of mine.
But then, suddenly, I got it. Its beauty is in the combination of seamless capture with a reliable inbox system.
When you have a thought, it can disappear, you can remember it, or you can write it down. But remember what I said earlier? You won’t remember it.
So you can let it disappear or you can write it down. I think the first option is underrated: most thoughts probably aren’t that great, and you should let them go.
I’m in the habit of asking myself, “would I be sad if I never thought this thought again?” If the answer is no, let it go. If the answer is yes, don’t think “ok cool, but it’s such an important thought that I’ll remember it!”
So you need to write it down. But if there is even one iota of friction in that process - if you need to grab a pen, decide which app to open, find your phone… it’s game over.
For a while, I would use Asana to capture stuff. I use Asana religiously as a task manager, so I knew it would serve the inbox purpose of ensuring I revisited and processed the thought at some point. But away from my desk, the capture was not seamless.
I would have to open the mobile app, ensure I was in my personal (rather than my work) account, press ‘add task’, type out the task, and make sure it was assigned to me so that it shows up in the ‘My Tasks’ view.
It was… tolerable, I guess. Except when I didn’t have my phone on me.
I tried to configure my Apple Watch to listen for Asana commands. Sadly, Siri never quite got it, and my thoughts would be added to iOS Reminders instead, which I never checked.
Finally–thankfully–I revisited Drafts.
Firstly, it is so well designed for quick capture. As soon as you open it, you’re in a new note. It also records the date and time, so you can more easily piece together why you felt “DO ROCKS HAVE ENTROPY?!?!” was a useful thought (oh, it’s because it was on Saturday at 9pm, an hour or so after eating those special brownies).
Secondly, it has an inbox and archive process. Friends, you know how much I love an inbox and archive process. I can see, immediately, which notes need to be processed - either turned into a task (in Asana), a journal entry (Day One), or a useful note (Obsidian).
I’m actually writing this in Drafts right now. I don’t know where it will end up. Hopefully my blog… (Editor’s note: Reader, it made it.)
Thirdly, the iOS widget allows you to see at a glance how many notes are in your inbox, so you can process them when you have a minute.
By process, I mean one of:
- Archive it, if you just had to make a quick reminder that you’ve now acted on, or if it’s a note you might want to search for later but don’t need to do anything with right now
- Move it to a relevant app, e.g. Roam Research, Todoist, Asana, Obsidian, etc
- Act on it now
The iOS widget also allows you to immediately open text entry or dictation, so that capture is always just one tap away.
Finally, it has an Apple Watch complication! This means I can frictionlessly capture thoughts anywhere even if my phone is out of reach. You can set it up so it’s listening as soon as you tap the complication - making it a one touch move.
Sure, the audio transcription isn’t always perfect - I told it to ‘buy soy sauce’ and I got ‘Buy So he sauce’ - but that’s fine, it was enough for me to figure out what I meant, and later I made a delicious stir fry.
This is all aside from the snazzy sharing features and custom actions you can create. It’s also all available in the free version. If you want to get fancy, you can upgrade, but if all you need are these features, you’re set.
I cannot express how much less anxious I feel now that I have a single place to capture thoughts and a reliable mechanism for processing them so they don’t slip through the cracks. It’s so simple, yet it took me so long to find an app that could do this well 💖