I am a loyal Google Keep user and, over the last year, it has really improved my workflow and organizational system. With all of their recent updates, I took a step back and assessed what was working and what wasn’t. Here are a couple of tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way to help keep myself focused and organized.


Keep recently introduced a Chrome extension that made it easy to bookmark any page, write notes about the page, and label it for when you need to come back to it; all without leaving the page. I’ve been using it almost obsessively since installing it. If I find an article and don’t have time to read it or want to go back and write more detailed notes about it, I’ll label it as #ReadLater. This way I can go back and read them when I have more time.

When I do get around to reading, I use it as an opportunity to go through the article and grab any highlights I want to remember or images I want to note. Then, I update the label and write any general feelings about the article. It’s actually made my bookmarks WAY more useful, and I actually remember why I bookmarked them in the first place. I feel like I’m taking away more from everything I read now with this new process.


My task list for blog stuff.

I’m a list maker. I need them to stay focused at the grocery store, remember to pack extra socks when I’m camping, and to not forget to update the font size on my mockups. So the checkbox lists are right up my alley. I even get the satisfaction of checking it off and it gets a strike through. But, did you know that you can also create lists in the text notes? Just add a hyphen (-) at the front of your line, and when you hit return, it’ll automagically add one at the start of the next line. Now you can do combination text and list notes. We just need to get some markdown added and we’ll be good to go.

Meeting Notes

Some notes from a brainstorming meeting.

I take all of my meeting and project notes in Keep. As a designer, most of the meetings I attend include whiteboard drawings to work out problems. So, once a meeting is over, I take a picture of the whiteboard and attach it to the meetings notes. Now all of my notes and relevant drawings are all neatly together in one place that I can easily refer to, and I can edit them, add to them, or do whatever else is needed as things come up. No more looking through my notebook for important notes or my phone for the original pictures.

Voice Notes

An audio note that I followed up on and pulled some excerpts from the article.

My office is located near the 360 bridge in Austin, and for those of you familiar with the area, you know that traffic is absolutely horrifying. This means I have quite a bit of time to sit in the car on the way home listening to my local NPR station. When I’m listening to a story and want to follow up on something or remember something, voice notes comes in handy. I have a shortcut on my phone’s home screen, and I just dictate what I want to remember. It’ll attempt to translate the voice note to text, and, for the most part, it’s pretty accurate. If it gets weird, I can always re-listen to the note to hear what I said.

Other Features Worth Noting

My list of labels, so many!

Labels – I use these pretty liberally to organize my notes so I can easily refine the view from “Books” to “Artists”. However, I learned recently that 50 is the maximum number of labels you can have. At first I was a little miffed, but now I’m looking at this as an opportunity to reassess my labeling system. The search function for Keep is so amazing (obviously) that I only really jump around to a few key labels anyway and, beyond that, use the search to find what I’m looking for.

Colors – Notes can also be different colors to further categorize them, if that’s what you’re into. I was trying to do it for a while, but I’m not a color code organizer. I can never remember what colors mean what, so now I’m just coloring the notes I really want to stand out from the others (like my grocery list or a current project).

Reminders – To help keep you accountable, you can set a note to have date/time reminder and you’ll get notification on your desktop or phone. There is also a location based reminder, which is really interesting. So you could have it notify you of your grocery list when your near the store (or actually there) so you don’t forget to get everything on the list and not just a carton of Blue Bell and a six-pack of beer.

Card Layout – There are two options for card layout, masonry (similar to Pinterest) or single column. I’m usually staring at the masonry layout because I’m able to see many notes at once, but I can see how that might feel overwhelming or chaotic to some people. The single column is nice when you’re trying to focus on one thing at a time in your notes. It would be nice to get a grid option as sort of an in-between option.

Other Features I’m Still Exploring

A doodle of a plant. I swear it makes sense.

Doodles – I’ve never really used this one, but it’s pretty neat. Recently, I was hanging out with a friend discussing which part of the plant you need to successfully start new growth, and I needed her to sketch it for me to show me (I’m a very visual person). We didn’t have anything to write with and, rather than flag down our waiter, I pulled out my phone and had her doodle it right there. Now I understand the idea she was explaining, AND I have to remember forever. Also, this guy does some crazy awesome stuff with Keep doodles.

Sharing – In true Google fashion, you can share notes with other people to more successfully collaborate. The tricky part is getting people to add Keep to their daily routine if they don’t already use it. I’ve shared notes with people about projects or ideas and they’ll look at it that first day, then never return, and it’ll totally fall off their radar. That said, I have been able to get my significant other to adopt it for our shared grocery list. Now, when either of us goes to the store, we have a full list rather than just our own.

Photo to Text – Keep has a neat feature where, if you upload an image with text, it can attempt to translate it. Every time I’ve given it a go, it’s worked pretty well. I just don’t find myself taking pictures of signs or presentations I want to capture the text from very often, so it doesn’t get a ton of use from me right now. Maybe you’ll find it useful.

Have you ever used Google Keep? How do you use it and what are your favorite (or least favorite) features?

Staying Organized with Google Keep

Jamie Aucoin

Designer @ Spiceworks

Category: Organization

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