7 Reasons Why Note-Taking Apps and Tools Do Not Work Well Anymore!

7 Reasons Why Note-Taking Apps and Tools Do Not Work Well Anymore!

A look into the top challenges and frustrations that show how these digital platforms aren’t an effective productivity medium for the everyday worker and team.

7 Reasons Why Note-Taking Apps and Tools Do Not Work Well Anymore
7 Reasons Why Note-Taking Apps and Tools Do Not Work Well Anymore

Over the years, digital note apps have taken productivity culture by storm. Some of the most popular note-taking apps out there, like Notion, have been reported to have had nearly 6 million registered users as of 2021. And the user base for these apps is only growing.  However, note-taking apps aren’t without their own weaknesses and pitfalls. That’s why in this blog post, we’re going to dive into the top seven reasons why note-taking apps have become more of a headache to users over the years rather than an asset used to help them reach their goals.

1. Feature Over Load = Distractions

One of the biggest reasons why some people prefer digital note apps is because of the wide range of features that are far more advance than traditional notes. This includes the ability to add image galleries, and databases, embedded files, and more. While exploring these integrations and add-ons can be fun and lead to creative endeavors, these same customizations can become big distractions that affect users’ productivity. Let’s explore some of the effects of this “feature overload” below:

Too Many Features Lead To Procrastination: With the ability to customize the font, color, banner, and other visual aspects of your interface, users may find themselves focusing on more frivolous work rather than concentrating on the main tasks at hand in their note app. Users may find themselves actually procrastinating tedious and difficult tasks while making these customizations. Though users may feel like they are still being productive, they are just wasting a lot of time.

Analysis-Paralysis: Note-taking platforms like Notion give users multiple ways to display information that belongs within data tables. All of these different database views may send users into a state of “analysis paralysis” where they find it difficult to decide on the right structure to organize their information. Should you make your daily to-do list into a calendar or a timeline chart? This decision can be hard to make.

Multi-Tasking Can Make You Get Getting Side-Tracked:
At the end of the day, nearly any online platform or app that we use can become a source of distraction. While engaging with their digital notes, users may find themselves mindlessly switching between different web browser tabs and other apps, and engaging in online activities like scrolling through social media and checking their email. A study by the American Psychological Association even suggests that multitasking can reduce one’s own productivity levels by 40%.

2. Privacy and Security

“…58.2% of people didn’t realize that many notes apps don’t encrypt data by default, which implies that they aren’t seeking out these manual options.”-  InfoSecurity

These days, it’s common for people to find themselves storing nearly everything about their lives in their notes. And for those who prefer to store information in digital notes, there’s no exception for the type of data they choose to store. In fact, it’s reported that out of a study of 1,029 Americans, nearly 45.3% had saved sensitive information within their digital notes. This sensitive information often includes:

  • Login credentials like usernames and passwords
  • Security and secret pin codes
  • Credit card information
  • Social security numbers

Unfortunately, the problem with a lot of these note-taking apps is the fact that many of them don’t encrypt your data. Even if an application does offer encryption services like Microsoft’s One Note, their encryption services aren’t automatically enabled when the platform is installed and thus is a feature that user’s themselves have to enable.

Though you can use third-party software to encrypt some of your media before importing them into your note-taking app (like encrypting your PDFs with Adobe Acrobat), having to constantly switch between and use different applications in order to ensure the integrity of your work can become tedious and confusing.

3. Digital Notes = Less Brain Power Than Paper Notes

With all of the cool features that many digital note-taking tools offer, whether that be the ability to create bullet-pointed lists, as well as being able to upload images and videos, it is easy to think that these apps offer a better way to absorb information than paper notes. However, this is actually the opposite. Let’s explore some reasons why digital notes are inefficient for learning and memory recall below:

Less Brain Activity: According to a study by Umejima et al. (2021), users who took paper notes rather than digital ones actually reported higher rates of brain activity within different regions than those who took digital notes. These parts of the brain include the regions associated with memory retrieval such as the hippocampus, parahippocampal gyrus, and retrosplenial cortex.

Faster Doesn’t Always Equal Better: Though note-taking apps allow users to capture information quickly since many can type faster than they write, this speed isn’t necessarily good when it comes to recalling and interpreting information. According to a study by Bergland, paper/handwritten notes “ take more time to write than to type, allowing your brain to absorb and digest what you are writing and have written for a longer period of time.”

4. Not Reliable: Syncing Issues and Backups

There’s nothing worse than spending hours finishing up a big project just to have all of your work disappear since you forgot to hit save in the application you were working on. A big problem with some note-taking apps is that they offer no automatic save options, backups, or synching solutions so that your notes can be saved to another application or device in unfortunate scenarios. In modern times, you may expect that all note-taking apps offer this backup feature, but some still haven’t gotten on board with implementing this invaluable component into their platforms.

Losing your notes doesn’t necessarily result from human error. There are also technical errors that users may not have control over that can cause them to lose their digital notes. Some of these technical errors include:

  • The device you using crashes or breaks.
  • The note-taking app you using malfunctions forms software bugs and glitches.
  • The internet connection is lost.
  • Power outages.
  • There is an overload of user traffic from the app itself.

5. Slow Loading Time

“At least 80 percent of the users have faced this issue [slow app loading times] and after a second trial, they surrender and uninstall the app.” – FreeCodeCamp

The worst part about the lag within these note-taking apps is that when you’re experiencing the problem, you might not be able to decipher whether this slowness is coming from the app itself or from a technological issue with the device you are using the application on. Some of these technical issues that can create lag and low-response times in your app include:

  • Malware on your device.
  • Overloaded disk space.
  • An un-updated device driver.
  • Unbalanced workload between your device’s client and server.

No matter where the problem is coming from that is causing a note app to act slowly, users with tight deadlines for their work may not have the time to troubleshoot the source of the issue – leading them to abandon their note tools for quicker, handwritten notes instead.

6. Paper Note-Taking Is Easier To Use: There’s a Learning Curve For Note Apps and Tools

A big reason why some may shy away from digital note-taking tools is that there may be a big learning curve for actually setting up and knowing how to navigate the platform’s interface. Let’s take a look at the top three learning curve challenges that some users may experience:

Seeking Out the Right Resource:
For new users just starting out on an app platform, they may decide to look up a video tutorial to learn how to navigate around. While tutorials are a great way to learn, knowing the right one to pick can be challenging. When it seems like there are hundreds of online resources and videos that can be used to become proficient in the latest tools, picking the right resource based on one’s own goals, purpose, and expected outcome for using an app can become difficult.

Lack Of Time: Once a user is actually able to find a sufficient learning resource or tutorial, they may struggle to find the time to actually sit down and go through a course on top of their other obligations. Here we can see that app tutorial for Notion usually range from 15-30 minutes long.

Limited Support: Even once you’ve gotten your bearings on how to set up and navigate around your chosen note-taking app, any user is bound to run into issues sooner or later. Whether your notes just aren’t looking the way you want them to or you have some unexpected changes to your interface that you don’t know how to fix – solving these issues can be truly frustrating. Though the majority of note-taking apps have online forums and documentation that discuss solutions for common problems that users run into, there’s no guarantee that you will actually find the solutions you’re looking for.

7. Collaboration Can Be Difficult

The collaborative feature of note-taking apps offers an engaging way to share and edit work alongside team members. However, the downfall of these note apps is because of the expansiveness of their interfaces, communication can quickly become disorganized and vague, leading team members to abandon chatting within the platform itself entirely.

Setting the Wrong Permissions: Within some note-taking apps like Microsoft OneNote and Google Keep, users can assign others permissions to what they are able to do on their shared note interface. This includes whether they can just view work or edit text. Though this tool is helpful, collab features can be destructive in situations where you accidentally assign a user the wrong permission like being able to edit sensitive information they shouldn’t have access to.

Incorrect Message Recipient: In addition to assigning permissions, users who collaborate with each other on a note app can create comments under certain pages. This comment feature can turn into disorganized communication in situations where there are lots of users working on the same page. Users who don’t specify the intended recipients of their comments can send mixed messages about who’s assigned to each task on their team, ultimately leading to costly errors in their work.

Updates and History: Using comment features in a note app can be challenging for team members who work in different time zones. These users might not know if they are responding to comments that are the most up-to-date. According to Buffer, nearly 20% of remote workers say that working across different time zones is one of the biggest challenges they face while on a team.

8. Too Much Screen Time

Some of the most common tasks that people use note-taking apps for include administrative duties such as note-taking, scheduling, planning, and recording. It may be shocking to discover that the average worker can spend up to 13 hours per week on this type of admin work. And when it comes to some note apps like Notion, the average user can spend up to 3 hours a day on the platform. If you choose to complete this type of work on a digital note app, maybe you’ve realized by now that spending this much time in front of a screen isn’t the healthiest decision. Below, let’s discuss some of the following health consequences of too much screen time:

Reduced Sleep Quality: Many people choose to use their note-taking apps either first thing in the morning to plan out their day, or late at night to plan out the next day. Using a note app at night can have some negative consequences on one’s sleep that aren’t experienced by those who use paper notes. Any device that accompanies your notes app produces blue light. This form of light exposure can reduce melatonin production by nearly 50% more than other types of light.

Additionally, the notifications and alerts offered as a feature of some note-taking apps can lead users to be woken up during the night and thus disrupts their sleep cycles.

Eye-Strain: According to a study by CBS News, nearly 70% of Americans experience digital eye strain as a result of increasing the use of electronic devices. Continuously having devices like your phone near your face for hours can lead to headaches, neck pain, irrigation, and blurred vision. All of these physical implications are sure to affect one’s own productivity.


While there’s no denying that note-taking apps are convenient and have a few cutting-edge capabilities, it’s important to understand what they can and cannot do. Whether it’s from the overload of features, lack of security, communication issues, or more, people who prefer a simple way to capture information may consider opting for handwritten notes as opposed to apps. In the end, users should think about their unique note-creating requirements and preferences to decide which digital tool can best maximize their productivity and workflows – or whether they want to use an online platform at all.

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