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Productivity in the Cloud…

Mike Cottmeyer Chief Executive Officer
Reading: Productivity in the Cloud…

Last year I did a post called At Peace With Paper… in it I describe my affinity for paper planning devices… and how over the years… with all my cool electronic gadgets… I have been unable to resist the allure of my leather bound day planner. A few months later… I did a post called iPhones and Blackberries… where I talk about moving from my trusted Blackberry to the yet unproven iPhone 2.0.

Well here we are a year later and I haven’t put my iPhone on eBay… although I thought about it more than once… and furthermore… I may have finally kicked my Franklin Covey habit. How did this happen? Let me explain…

As you might imagine… especially if you follow me on TripIt… my travel schedule can get pretty hectic. Shoot… it is not just my travel schedule… it is life. I value being able to have access to my data anytime and anywhere… no matter what device I happen to be on… and no matter what I am doing. Long story short… a couple of products converged for me that have pretty much revolutionized my ability to stay organized on the go.

iPhone 2.0

So… this is the on-the-go platform… the enabler. All of the problems with the iPhone are still there… no cut and paste… no email search… no real keyboard… no background listening for non-native apps… it goes on an on. What had made the iPhone totally sticky for me are the apps… not just any apps though… apps that have web based counterparts and sync their data to the cloud.


The first application that really got me was Evernote. If you not familiar with Evernote… it is a free hosted application that allows you to store files… clip websites… record voice notes… and almost anything else you might envision saving up into the cloud. That is and of itself is cool… but it also has a client for the iPhone and I can email stuff to Evernote too! Anything I save to Evernote I can take with me on the iPhone. There is also a fat client for the PC and a version that runs from a U3 jump drive. I have my data… anytime… anywhere… from any device I happen to be working on.


This is really the one that has been revolutionary for me. ToodleDo is a hosted site that allows you to track and manage your todo list. Wait you say… why not just track your todo list in Outlook? Many of my todo’s come in the form of email. I have always wanted the ability to forward email to my todo list… and ToodleDo allows me to do this. The iPhone version is wonderful… and as you might imagine… my todo list is kept up to date in both places. Awesome


And here is the glue… I don’t have much use for Jott’s iPhone app… but here is what Jott does that is totally cool. I can call Jott from my cell phone and tell the service I want to send a note to Toodledo. It will transcribe my note and add it to my todo list automatically. Jott also has integrations with other apps… but ToodleDo is the real winner. I just don’t need to Jott to Twitter… but the application will do it if I ever get the urge.

Google Calendar

This just keeps getting better and better. I have my iPhone sync to my Outlook calendar and my Outlook calendar sync to Google Calendar. The cool thing is that on Google Calendar I can add my wife’s calendar and she can add mine. I can also unify my TripIt calendar and any other .ICS calendars I find particularly interesting. Much… much better than keeping separate calendars in our own paper systems… or even electronic systems.

It’s not perfect yet… I think that iPhone 3.0 is going to help simplify my calendaring setup and give me more functionality. iPhone 3.0 is going to fix many of my frustrations with the core platform… I hear it will have cut and paste, email search, and background listening. The fact these apps all talk to each other is really the killer concept. The fact that they have multiple clients depending on what I am doing at that moment is even cooler. I am totally geeked to see what these companies do over the next few years.

I still carry my paper planner with me… but find I use it much less often. There are days when I miss my Blackberry… but 3.0 should fix that. Life in the cloud is pretty good so far.

Next On My Way to Vegas...

Comments (10)

  1. dannielo

    If you’d like a tool for managing your time and projects, you can also use this application inspired by David Allen’s GTD:

    You can use it to manage and prioritize your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    A mobile version is available too.

  2. Mark Stringer

    Hi Mike,

    A very interesting article. It's very useful to know what combinations of apps other people are carrying around in their box of tricks.

    I have a question regarding Evernote. Does it do handwriting recognition e.g. for scanned notes?



  3. Anonymous

    this rings truly home for me. It's funny, but a couple weeks ago I wrote along similar lines on the Dutch lifehacking site ( – in Dutch though…) about my affection for the Hipster PDA, that little bunch of paper. I still use it heavily, but I'm on the lookout for a smart phone recently. Probably it's gonna be the G1, but the iPhone is stil a big contestant. If one day a smartphone is invented that radiates the smell of leather, I will diss the paper permanently!

    Arjan Zuidhof

  4. Mike Cottmeyer


    Evernote tries to do word recognition in pictures that you upload. So I imagine if you loaded a handwritten image it would try. I have had mixed results depending on the quality of the image and how well it can recognize the fonts.

    – Mike

  5. Mike Cottmeyer


    That might be it. If the iPhone had an app that made it smell like paper and leather… I would never go back!


  6. Mike Cottmeyer

    Dannielo – thanks for the tip!

    – Mike

  7. lech

    I have just moved from the cloud to a compact FranklinCovey (one exception – mobile contacts are synced w/ Gmail via GooSync instead of paper address pages). I'm happy I don't have to worry about connections now. "Thinking on paper" feels more productive to me.

    I realize that the Internet is great for communication and structured stuff. Whenever you want to be really free to think, you have to be free from the limits of a user interface. Any user interface. But then, apart from the interface, you have connection issues which can get in the way…

    Still, there are benefits of using the cloud for productivity / time-management. Especially, if collaboration is required. Good luck with your quest and thanks for sharing!



  8. Mike Cottmeyer

    Lech… could not agree more… which is why I still have my FC planner with me all the time. There is something organic… something real… about working things out with pen and paper.

    I just find I use it less.

    – Mike

  9. Bob Williams


    Excellent post. I have a few questions.

    Have you researched data retention and backup policies on any of these sites? I'm wondering what happens to your data if a site goes under overnight?

    Do you keep client relationship data on the sites or just personal to-dos? I'm wondering if this could conflict with any security policies your clients may have pertaining to vendor relationships.


  10. Mike Cottmeyer

    I figure online access in the cloud is like having a backup on tape. I keep all my critical data in two places… either could go out… but I hope don't go out at the same time. My really critical stuff I keep in three places.

    I do not keep any customer identifiable information on my laptop or in the cloud. Some of my data is related to my company… and some might be considered proprietary… but nothing that would impact GLB or SOX.

    Most everything I do ends up in the public domain eventually anyway!

    – Mike


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