Mar 102013

I’ll say, straight off the bat, that I come to the debate of ‘Evernote vs. Wunderlist’ as someone who has, historically, used Evernote a hell of a lot.

I find Evernote to be a useful tool for offloading and sorting all those bits of everyday information I don’t want rattling around my brain.

As an alternative some people my profession like to employ something called ‘long term memory’. All power to them, I say. For me, trying to hold all of the information I absorb in a day causes something to happen in my brain a bit like a 80s microcomputer crashing in the middle of a game of Manic Miner.

This is a pretty good metaphor since I have roughly the same memory capacity...

Evernote is my primary tool for rationalising task lists. The act of writing down tasks in a format that can be easily edited and rearranged helps me, (and others, I’m sure), to engage with my to-dos, order them in terms of priority and, generally, make sense of what has to be done.

In this capacity I particularly like that Evernote uses one of the simplest of all formats; plain text, therefore allowing for a fair degree of flexibility in terms of the way you use it.

The switch

However, quite a few people in our office use Wunderlist to accomplish the same task; one of the primary reasons being its ability to easily share to-do-lists. For this reason I’m now giving Wunderlist a serious tryout; running the two in tandem.

Wunderlists’s big plus points, as I see them, are

  • It allows for simple list-based systems and ‘strikeoffs’ of tasks, (that’s kind-of the point)
  • It, crucially, allows for shared lists. This is very handy in allowing teams to access and edit common lists, and quickly co-ordinate, from a central point, exactly what needs to be done.

If you’re out-and-about, as PRs so often are, it’s incredibly useful to be able use Wunderlist to view a centralised list of your team’s to-dos, tick things off as you’re doing them, and add them in a way that reduces complexity and the need to repeat yourself.

If you wanted *total* transparency, PRs can even use Wunderlist to share the ongoing to-do list with clients. Personally, for me that’s a bridge too far. I use Wunderlist as a tool for the office, and prefer to know that my communications are internal-only. But that’s just me…


I must admit, though, that there’s a whole bundle of things that irk me about Wunderlist.

I actually road-tested Wunderlist quite some time ago, when I first started using Evernote. I remember then, as now, being put off by what I saw as Wunderlist’s slightly inflexible tendency to systematise in a way that was slightly unilateral.

Let me give an example: I’m a big fan of the ‘now’, ‘next’, and ‘soon’ productivity system, (sometimes referred to as the ’1, 2, 3′ system). There are various incarnations of this system, (Get Things Done being one of the most famous). Using this system one simply divides tasks into things that have to be done ‘now’, (or the world will catch fire), ‘next’, (which generally means they’re due that week), or ‘sometime/soon’, (for all the non-urgent tasks).

In my Evernote system the ‘Now’, ‘Next’, ‘Soon’ system tends to look like this:

Feel free to use my 'comments' section to judge me. I tend to ignore them anyway. :)

Wunderlist, on the other hand, tends to insist that tasks are given a specific date of completion.

In theory that’s fine. In practice, in a PR environment tasks are rarely this cut-and-dried. They tend to drag on in multiple iterations and deadlines move back and forth all the time. Putting in specific dates every time something changes in such a busy and dynamic working environment starts to feel like a bit of a faff.

Of course, this isn’t a huge problem: You can simply move tasks up and down your Wunderlist-list manually, and leave them dateless.

However, as soon as I started to move tasks around this drew my attention towards another, as I see it, shortcoming in Wunderlist (in terms of its ability to fit into the systems I find most productive). Using Wunderlist one can’t provide team-member subheads in order to provide automatically separated lists for individuals, and see all of your own tasks at a glance.

For example, where using Evernote you can apportion tasks in this way:

In Wunderlist you’re forced to do this:

As I say, none of these things are deal-breakers; they’re just matters of personal preference.

I’ve also found Wunderlist notes, with their default single-line view, to be marginally less intuitive to edit, especially via the iPad and iPhone apps.

Ultimately, everything I like about Evernote, and everything I have reservations about regarding Wunderlist, comes down to one thing; the ability to present your to-do list exactly as you would like vs. the philosophy that Wunderlist has of ‘We know exactly what the most efficient way for you to do things is, and we’re going to present you with the best system, which you must stick to.’

Then there’s the fact that anyone that has used Evernote will continue to use it in tandem anyway. There are too many things Evernote is useful for; storing encrypted password, encrypted Twitter login details, management notes, personal notes, recipes, shopping lists, whatever…. It’s the perfect open medium, and, once used, is hard to dispel from your life. And in this sense, it could be argued, adding Wunderlist to the mix is ‘just another thing to think about’. Having tasks and notes split between the two systems will inevitably mean that, on occasion, one of the two apps will be ‘backgrounded’, and its content ignored, while you follow a list in another.

Anyhow, let’s give it a go

The way I see it, it’s up to managers to adopt whatever systems make most sense for their teams. If, overall, an app makes a team more productive, it’s the manager’s job to fit that system into his working practices, (even if it means running a couple of different systems side-by-side).

I’ll be interested to see how the Evernote vs. Wunderlist thing comes out. I doubt, ultimately, there will be one clear ‘winner’. It’s more that I’ll grow used to Wunderlist’s different set of advantages and limitations, and learn to adapt to them. We will, at some point, doubtless have an internal agency discussion as to whether we ask everyone to confirm to one simple to-do system, or allow everyone to do what they want with the system they find easiest.

Plus ça change, and all that…

Alex Perryman is a Technology PR Account Manager at EML Wildfire. He can often be found either online talking the ears off someone regarding the latest developments in PR and technology or his clients' latest products, or else out enjoying whatever London has to offer. Connect with Alex on Google+

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