The “Just Use Apple Notes” Meme: Two Truths & a Lie

This meme has been making the rounds. It depicts the midwit who uses an overly complex system of integrated tools for productivity and "knowledge management" while the fool and the genuis simply use Apple Notes.

The Midwittery of Overly Complex Systems

The meme highlights a trend in the productivity space - the promotion of overly complex systems by self-proclaimed experts. These systems often involve the use of  complex apps like Notion or Obsidian that are then further tied together with an app ecosystem through integrations. While these systems may initially seem appealing and satisfying to build, they come with a significant drawback - creating and maintaining them is enormously time consuming.

This is all part of the "productivity as entertainment" niche. You can find loads of tutorials on how to build "life dashboards" and complicated project management systems.

Lengthy tutorials and endless customization options may provide a sense of control, but the more complex the system becomes, the more likely it is to crumble under its own weight. Forgetting to update tasks or failing to move items to their designated places can quickly derail the entire system. Ultimately, complexity does not equate to increased productivity; in fact, it often hinders it.

This is the first truth revealed by the meme: complexity can feel productive, but it's not actually productive.

Basic Notes to the Rescue!

On the other end of the spectrum, there's Apple Notes. Every MacOC/iOS user has access to this and - something like notepad aside - it's the epitome of simplicity.

So, by using Apple Notes you're dunking on all those productivity wannabe midwits, right?

Let's find out how it's done!

The video above references the meme and has garnered hundreds of thousands of views... but it's nothing more than an overview of Apple Notes' basic features.

And I think this example is representative. I've seen loads of people share the meme - I have yet to see someone demonstrate HOW they manage to make Apple Notes a superior productivity tool.

This reveals the lie in the meme: yes, simplicity has value, but just dumping all your note taking into Apple Notes does not make you a productivity master.

Finding the Sweet Spot: Simplicity & Functionality

If you are managing complex work, you will probably have some complexity in your productivity tools. You're not going to manage an international team of 200 people in Apple Notes.

But neither is the available complexity in PKM tools or "serious" project management tools like Jira a guarantor of a good workflow. More often than not, overly complex systems become the downfall in the management of highly complex work.

And this brings us to the second truth in the meme, although this one is rather hidden: there is indeed value in simplicity, if it is used right.

As you develop your system for managing work, it's best to aim for "as complex as needed, as simple as possible".

Never add complexity for the sake of it. Never use a feature just because it's there.

Every new step in a workflow, every potential point of friction needs to fight for its right to be in your system. Only when an added step removes overall friction in the system and no lower friction alternative can be found, should it be added.

Of course, this too is easier said than done.

But at the end of the day, it's not a bad idea to start out with Apple Notes and only move to a more intricate system when the complexity of what you're building demands it.

Somewhere there lies the sweet spot.

About the Author

Shane is a half Swiss, half Irish person who's managed to channel his very perfectionist and somewhat obsessive nature into a relentless pursuit of personal improvement. Then that kinda got derailed by a relentless entrepreneurial pursuit and now it's something in between the two.

Shane Melaugh