How to Use Google Keep to Create The Ultimate Task List

How to Use Google Keep

While it’s getting more popular lately, Keep is one Google’s of less popular products. It’s been around since 2013, and is a 100% free way to manage your tasks and store information.

What’s more, it links seamlessly with Inbox by Gmail (a material design version of Gmail with intuitive features).

Because of this, you can now use Keep and Inbox together to create a lightweight task management system that lives inside your inbox. If you’re the sort of person who likes to start each day on to-do list / inbox zero and you’re striving to be more productive, you’ll love this.

How to Use Google Keep

Google Keep is a free tool, just like Gmail. As long as you have a Google account you can use it.

Here’s how to get Google Keep — you have a few options:

  1. Go to Google Keep on the web
  2. Get Google Keep for iOS
  3. Get Google Keep for Android
  4. Get Google Keep as a Chrome app
  5. Get Google Keep as a Chrome extension

Once inside the app, you should see something like this:

Google Keep

Not much to see here. Here’s how to use Google Keep:

  1. Add a new note (this can be an image, list or text)
  2. Add a reminder by clicking the finger with a thread tied around it
  3. Change the color
  4. Add a label

That’s the basic workflow for creating a new reminder that will end up in your Inbox. I’ve created a few sample reminders to show you how it looks:

Google Keep with Reminders

That’s about it for the basics, but as you’re about to see, there’s much more to it.

Using Google Keep with Inbox by Gmail

Notice how I’ve got due dates on the cards above? That’s a signal to Inbox by Gmail to put them into my ‘Reminders’ category. Since Keep and Inbox are both Google products, they integrate seamlessly without any setup.

After making those notes, I checked Inbox and here’s what I saw:

Inbox by Gmail Reminders

(Note: I’m using Boxy, an Inbox client for Mac. That’s why it’s windowed. However, you can just as easily use the free web version and it’ll look like it does for me above)

You can either open the reminders in Keep and edit/archive them, or you can just click ‘Done’ from inside Inbox.

The best part, is that when the reminder is due, it doesn’t just sit in a hidden part of the app, it shoots into your Inbox, like an email would.

Google Keep Reminder in Inbox

So, if you’re the sort of person who likes to process everything — their emails and their to-do list — in one place, this trick will be perfect for you.

Google Keep tips and tricks

Now, while I’m on the topic, I’ll take the chance to explain a few Google Keep tricks you can use to make your experience even better.

While it looks like a simple app, it’s got a lot of power under the hood, especially if you know how to use it properly.

Trick #1: Color-code your tasks

Productivity expert Mike Vardy explains how he uses color to divide his task list up in this post.

He uses:

  • Green for professional tasks
  • Orange for personal or family tasks
  • Blue for neither personal nor professional

This is a great way to organize a big task list that encompasses your whole life, but what if you’re using a separate task list for work, like I do?

You can try:

  • Color-coded by project
  • Color-coded by expected duration
  • Color-coded by priority
  • Color-coded by team / assignee

I’ve gone for project because it makes it easy for me to see how I’m splitting my time.

Google Keep Color Code

See here for an in-depth guide on how one HubSpot writer uses color-coding for productivity:

Purple, Red, and Gray: The Colors Behind My Productivity

Trick #2: “OK, Google. Add [item] to my shopping list”

If you title one of your lists ‘shopping list’, you can add items to it directly from Google voice search on your Android phone! This isn’t just useful with shopping lists, though. In fact, you can use Google voice search to add any kind of note, or an item to an existing list.

Here’s how Google explain it:

  • Unlock your device.
  • Say “Ok Google.” Or on your Home screen, touch the microphone in the Google Search bar .
  • When the microphone appears, say “Take a note” or “Note to self.”
  • If prompted to choose an app, touch Google Keep .
  • Google Keep will say “What’s the note?”
  • Speak your note. You can say something like: “Go grocery shopping today and get milk.”
    Note: If there’s a pause in your voice, you may need to touch the microphone again or say “Ok Google” before you can speak your note.
  • When you stop speaking, you’ll see your note with the spoken text.
  • Your note is saved automatically in Keep.
  • To view or edit the note in Keep, touch View notes.

Searching lists with Google voice

If you want to take your voice control skillz to the next level, you can try bringing up Google Keep lists with the power of speech. It’s simple — just say “OK, Google. What’s on my shopping list?”.

You can, of course, substitute out shopping list in any of these examples for whatever list you want to search.

When you give this command, your phone will bring the list up and show you all the items!

See the full Google support documentation here.

Trick #3: Pull editable text out of images

Google’s OCR (optical character recognition) technology is fantastic. Basically, what it can do is extract text from images and parse it into real, editable text.

This is great for making scans or handwriting searchable and copy/pasteable.

Nintendo Quote OCR Google Keep

Just upload an image, then hit ‘Grab image text’ to insert the image text into the note field, making the text searchable.

Trick #4: Use Google Keep’s search to filter notes

You’d expect to be able to search within notes for certain words, or even just search titles, but of course, being a Google product, Keep has excellent search.

Click the search bar at the top of the window, and you’ll be able to filter down every note you have. This is great if you use color coordination or if you want to only see images, for example.

Google Keep Search

Using Inbox by Gmail as a To-Do List

While you can get a better experience by using Keep and Inbox together, it’s also possible to turn your emails into to-do list items.

As I’ve looked at before, Inbox has a great snooze function. You can bounce emails out of your inbox for later, clearing your list and getting notified again when you are ready to act. Another great feature is that you can add reminders when you pin emails.

Pinning an email means it won’t get archived when you mass-archive your inbox. To add a reminder to an email and turn it into a to-do list item, pin it and start typing:

Reminder in Inbox

So, to sum it up, you can create reminders in different ways, and then process them accordingly:

  • You can add a reminder with Google Keep to get it into your Inbox
  • You can pin an email inside Inbox and type a reminder
  • You can snooze emails and Google Keep tasks so they appear in your Inbox later
  • You can mark tasks as done either inside Inbox or Google Keep

As you can see, these two apps work really together! Have you tested this out? Are you thinking of switching over?

Let me know in the comments! 🙂

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Benjamin Brandall

Benjamin Brandall is a content marketer at Process Street, and runs Secret Cave on the side. Find him on Twitter here.


12 Comments

Google Keep is a fine example of a good tool theoretically, but in practice it misses the mark – and you end up feeling stupid and incompetent after failing to implement it properly.

While it looks handy and smart, you’ll notice that this person in the example has about a week’s worth of work due on the same day. Who doesn’t experience the same thing with all of these great looking task tools.

The problem with so many task tools is that they don’t take the actual process of execution into consideration.

I migrated all my notes from Evernote to Google Keep and have been preaching its benefits to friends. Recently I’m using Inbox and Gmail views equally. Now you’ve shown us how the reminders work with Inbox, I’ll be using it more.

since merging everything to Keep (from Evernote), have you regretted that decision or has it worked well? I’d love to hear more on how you utilize Keep in lieu of Evernote.

Great! I’m a user of both Keep and Inbox, didn’t know the “image to text”option. The only thing that I don’t like very much is that when I create a reminder in Inbox it doesn’t appeard in Keep.. I don’t know is just me or that is how It works.

+1 Maxi’s observation that Inbox reminders don’t show up in Keep. 90% of the time my to dos come from emails, so it would be perfect to see them all in the Reminders page of Keep. It certainly seems like they should, but they don’t for me.

Re: both Sarah and Maxi’s lament – the one-way of reminders; from Keep to Inbox, seems to be the elephant no one wants to discuss. However, i have found a wonky work-around that is ok – it’s an eponymous Chrome Extension called Google Keep Chrome Extension. right click on emails in Inbox, and the menu offers Save to Keep. You have to go into Keep and edit the due dates and collaborators; an extra step, but it’s better than nothing, mostly coz it’s FREE. Something i tend to forget when wading into the bewildering sea of choices for Inbox and Keep.

Some Parkinson’s here so bear with me. Familiar with Keep & Note to self. If I set up these categories in Keep ( say): Shopping ToDo Tremors MedsOff time:

How do I phrase: “ok google now, take a note in my “tremors” list “6PM”
or “okgoogle now…note (to self?) to do ” check tires”

Since my handwriting is getting crummy I want to create a “notebook: with (six?) chapters and then be able to say ” ok google ( now??) show me my “to do” list?

I hope this isn’t too vague.
Thanks
BillNock

Hi Bill, thanks for the comment!

I don’t have much experience with Google Now, but the help documents turn up something that sounds about right:

1. Say “Ok Google.”
2. When the microphone appears, you can say things like:
“Add cheese to my grocery list”
3. The items will be added to your list. If you don’t say the title of a list, Keep will create a new list.

So I suppose you could say, “Ok Google, add X to my meds list”.

Here’s a link to where I found those instructions: https://support.google.com/keep/answer/6356960?co=GENIE.Platform%3DAndroid&hl=en

And here’s some more advice on Google Keep with voice: http://www.computerworld.com/article/3064305/android/11-ways-to-get-the-most-out-of-google-keep-on-android.html


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