I began exploring Tana in October 2022 and here you can read and find my initial thoughts.
At first, I was skeptical as it reminded me of Roam Research’s rise to fame.
After decades in the productivity realm, trying (literally) countless software tools, and growing older (I was born in 1976), I’ve become more doubtful of so-called “life-changing” tools.
Despite my skepticism, which I believe can dampen enthusiasm and happiness (that’s why I always try to distance myself from it), I constantly keep trying new software tools, a practice I’ve maintained for decades.
Tana was no exception and caught my eye too.
My first experience with it was promising and, like savoring a fine wine, it gradually started to fill some gaps in my productivity system, being focused on the PKM (Personal Knowledge Management) area of my ICOR® Framework.
It evolved from a simple outliner to a key component of my productivity tool stack.
Now, if I stopped using Tana, I’d notice a significant drop in my productivity and performance.
I believe a software earns its keep through trust, service, and security. I’m convinced Tana transcends the initial hype, not just for its current capabilities but also for its promising future.
At the Paperless Movement®, we’re meticulous about the tools we integrate into our ICOR® Framework. We stick with our “core apps” and seldom switch them, unless we find something better to implement our ICOR® concepts and workflows.
Tana has earned its place in this elite group.
In this article, I’ll outline the 10 main reasons why Tana is crucial in my productivity system. While there are many more, I value your time, life’s most precious asset.
Let’s dive in!
1. The Vision Behind Tana
I firmly believe in the long game.
Quick fixes and overnight solutions have never been my thing. Instead, I focus on creating a robust foundation, maximizing leverage, and steadily growing returns through the power of small, consistent daily efforts.
This approach of daily commitment towards a singular goal is key for me. It’s how I’ve reached my major life achievements, and it’s about living a life guided by common sense (my common sense).
For me, vision is paramount, especially when it comes to new software. Whenever a software company approaches the Paperless Movement® for a trial, our first question is always this one: “What is your vision?”.
Without a clear vision, there’s no meaningful direction, leading to time, energy, and financial losses.
I’m particularly impressed with Tana’s vision: “On a mission to reinvent how humans, teams, and computers work together”.
To me, this statement encapsulates everything.
At the Paperless Movement®, we’ve never subscribed to the “Second Brain” approach. Instead, we advocate for the “One Brain with Two Parts” concept.
We see ourselves as a single, integrated system, that seamlessly blends concepts, workflows, and tools into a self-reinforcing positive loop. This integration in one productivity system eliminates friction and aligns technology with our natural processes.
When the physical and digital parts of our brain (just one) converge into a unified “productivity system,” they resonate in perfect sync and harmony.
This is why our vision and Tana’s align flawlessly.
I recommend watching this video where Tana’s leaders, Tarjei M. Vassbotn (CEO) and Olav S. Kriken (COO), discuss and share their vision.
When you align your vision with a software company’s, it paves the way for trust, confidence in the project, and full commitment.
2. Outlining (a Real Outlining) Helps to Develop Your Thinking
I’ve said this countless times: Outliners mirror how our brains operate.
To me, each bullet in an outline represents a concept or an idea, neatly framed within its own space, making it easier to grasp what I’ve written and intended. Plain, lengthy text tends to lose me.
Outliners are fantastic when ideas get complex. They add structure, letting me move and adjust thoughts, zoom in and out, and view things from various angles, something essential to harness the full potential of my thoughts.
It’s crucial to match the speed of my physical brain’s processing; otherwise, I lose momentum, my flow breaks, and I miss out on growth opportunities.
For me, outliners are the bridge between the speed of physical thought and digital expression. They’re perfect for a keyboard-centric workflow, eliminating the need for a mouse or trackpad.
This uninterrupted flow is the secret to mastering my thoughts, capturing every detail, every comma, without missing a beat.
3. The Perfect Digital Representation of an Idea: a Node
Nodes are the heart of Tana, and it’s a spot-on choice.
How else can we truly capture what a thought or an idea is?
Let’s face it, an idea isn’t a card (even less a page!). Those digital elements are too bulky to represent those fleeting sparks of thought that flit through our minds.
A node, however, is perfect for this. It’s like capturing a tiny spark, yet it’s flexible enough to grow as your idea grows.
Our thoughts are complex and expand rapidly, often evolving as we’re jotting them down.
In expressing thoughts, I’ve found no better method than a node paired with an outliner. This duo lets me represent anything from a fleeting thought to expansive, complex knowledge. It’s all about following the “node line” and hierarchy, if needed.
Together, outlining and nodes lay a solid foundation, a cornerstone for building a powerful, robust PKM System.
With Tana, the journey doesn’t stop there. It only gets more exciting as we dive into the world of supertags, allowing us to explore our knowledge both broadly and in-depth.
4. How to Represent Our Brain’s Objects: The Role of Supertags
Over years of working with information and knowledge, I’ve reached a crucial realization: effective PKM hinges on adopting an “object approach”.
By “objects”, I mean entities that our brains can attach thoughts to. They are like “mental containers” where we store, retrieve, and connect information. These objects are abstract concepts that our brains naturally and seamlessly use.
However, when transferring these concepts to the digital realm, it’s vital to find an equivalent concept to maintain the harmony between our physical and digital parts of our brain.
We need a concept that mirrors the physical brain’s function to maintain efficiency and a seamless workflow in our unified system. This is where the concept of a feature to represent these mental objects comes into play. In Tana, this feature is encapsulated in what they call “supertags”.
People often mistake Tana’s supertags for simple databases because you can add properties to them. But, thanks to Tana’s innovative implementation, they’re much more than that.
Supertags allow you to swiftly link a physical thought (physical part of your brain) with a digital node (digital part of your brain), directly associating it with the relevant object (indicated by the supertag) at the speed of thought.
Your thought process remains uninterrupted, smooth, and efficient. No flow interruption at all.
Moreover, Tana’s supertags come with additional capabilities like inheritance, for example, enhancing your ability to classify and structure your knowledge. This makes Tana an intuitive choice.
Tana is what I call an “entropy machine”. It effectively helps transition from a state of high entropy (disorder or random thinking) to low entropy (structured and organized thinking), adapting to various situations.
The beauty of Tana lies in its real-time adaptability, mirroring the operational style of our physical brains, which fluctuate between randomness and structured thinking.
In essence, ideas and thoughts thrive in randomness, while information and knowledge needs structure and organization. Tana leverages this by providing the necessary boundaries and frameworks. This is the key to harnessing ideas and gaining deep understanding and knowledge in any area of interest.
The potential of supertags is boundless, offering an almost infinite array of possibilities in managing and understanding our interests and knowledge.
5. Tana, the Serendipity’s Enhancer
Tana’s ability to add a supertag at any moment is a game-changer. It lets ideas surface naturally, either when needed or completely at random.
This fosters serendipity, an aspect I highly value in life because it allows for effortless growth and unexpected discoveries. Serendipity is the occurrence of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
Here are some practical examples for the busy professional: You can list agenda items, note down points to discuss with others, quickly create tasks as they arise, or add spontaneous thoughts to a journal.
The process is simple: jot it down, tag it, and it’s filed away exactly where you need it, ready to be accessed whenever required or naturally and automatically emerging where it’s expected to appear.
This process is the epitome of smoothness. No interruptions, no breaks in your workflow. Just pure, streamlined efficiency.
6. The Appeal of a Gorgeous GUI/UX
I’ve always been drawn to software that prioritizes GUI (Graphical User Interface) and UX (User Experience). I often recommend an article titled “Why did I build Craft?”, written by Balint Orosz, the founder of this note-taking app that truly excels in this area.
For me, engaging with visually appealing and user-friendly software is crucial. It’s not just about the look; it enhances my engagement with the tasks at hand, motivates me to excel, and energizes me by streamlining my workflow and meeting my needs.
Tana stands out in this regard. Its GUI/UX is a blend of subtle details that transform it into a masterpiece.
The features are numerous, and each new addition is meticulously designed to enhance user engagement, reduce friction, and make the entire experience enjoyable from start to finish.
I particularly love the “little things”, like, for example:
How text is centered, allowing for comfortable scrolling and viewing without straining my eyes or neck.
The clarity when selecting nodes is exceptional, making it easy to see what I’m working on.
The way supertags pop with color.
How I can add an inspiring header to my content just adds to the overall experience.
These aspects are crucial for a tool that I use for hours on end, day after day.
7. Flexibility: The Key to Unlimited Possibilities with Tana
What sets Tana apart is its inherent flexibility. It can be as basic or as intricate as you require.
The power is in the user’s hands to customize it to their unique needs.
This level of personalization in apps is something I greatly appreciate, especially in a time when every user’s needs and preferences are incredibly diverse.
The idea is to have an app that evolves with you, without being constrained or having to request specific features from the software company. Tana embodies this philosophy. It offers boundless possibilities, allowing you to explore as deeply as you wish.
However, this flexibility can be a double-edged sword.
Sometimes, users might feel pressured to overcomplicate their setup or worry they’re not using the tool to its full potential. When you see sophisticated Tana setups out there, it might seem like you need to replicate them.
I’ve noticed people transforming Tana into task or project management systems. Personally, I don’t subscribe to the “one app fits all” philosophy, despite having experimented with it many times.
In my view, a productivity system excels when it plays to the strengths of the software.
Tana, for me, is not about action-based tasks like task or project management. It truly excels in the realm of (personal) information: capturing, processing, and leveraging it.
Use Tana’s robust features for managing information (its object-oriented approach, database functionalities, outlining capabilities, properties, backlinking, or search features), and you’ve got everything you need for a top-tier PKM system.
All these awesome encapsulated features in just one tool elevate your PKM by providing diverse perspectives and viewpoints, depending on your current needs.
Always remember: the ability to view the same information from different angles can lead to vastly different insights and outcomes.
8. “On the Go” with Tana Mobile: Capturing Ideas Anytime, Anywhere
Since its launch, Tana Mobile has been an essential tool for me.
I’ve always believed that capturing thoughts as they arise is key to building an amazing life. Ideas can pop up anytime, and being able to record them in the moment, just as they are in your mind, in their truest form, sets you up for peak performance.
Tana Mobile excels in this aspect.
Tana lets you capture any type of content right when it happens, setting a solid foundation for later development. This approach ensures that your initial spark leads to the end result you’re aiming for.
Consider the voice recording feature, for example. You just speak, and thanks to AI, you receive a concise summary and an accurate transcription of your words, even if your English is as inaccurate as mine.
But it’s not just about voice notes. You can also jot down a thought and expand it “on the go” with an amazing outlining experience on your mobile device, the one you need to develop your thinking “as it happens”.
Whether it’s taking a photo, scanning text, or any other form of content, Tana Mobile makes it possible with just a click.
It’s simple, easy, and pragmatic. The essence of effective knowledge management, right in your pocket.
9. Speed, Speed, Speed
When it comes to ideas and thoughts, speed is everything.
That’s exactly what Tana offers: it’s incredibly fast.
We, busy professionals, live in a fast-paced world: one moment we’re in a meeting, the next we’re on a call, and then suddenly, an idea strikes. In these moments, the ability to quickly jot down and expand on thoughts (context) is crucial.
I prioritize speed. I seek a seamless, frictionless experience. I want to swiftly navigate through my knowledge base and retrieve information when it’s needed.
For busy professionals like me, this approach, which we refer to as “Shallow Thinking” in the ICOR® methodology, constitutes about 80-90% of my daily interactions.
What I require is a tool that not only matches this pace but enhances it.
Tana does just that. It’s not just a tool; it’s a seamless extension of my thought process, perfectly attuned to the speed of the busy professional world.
10. A Project and Company You Can Trust
Last but certainly not least, let’s talk about trust and reliability.
My knowledge is invaluable, and I need assurance that it’s being stored for the long haul.
Tana stands out as a robust and trustworthy choice.
They consistently deliver remarkable features at a steady pace. Surprisingly, they still label their product as “beta”, yet it’s even more robust than some other established products in the market.
What impresses me most about Tana is the maturity and experience within their team. It’s comprised of veterans from the software development world, individuals who have been part of big tech companies that profoundly impacted society. This kind of background fosters trust.
Additionally, their commitment to the long-term vision is evident.
I’m particularly struck by the thriving Tana community, which is rapidly growing. The Tana community on Slack, for instance, is nearing 17,000 members and expanding weekly.
There are many indicators suggesting that this company is here to stay, providing reliable service for years, perhaps even decades. More than enough for me.
Supporters of the “local first” approach often suggest that using cloud services for something crucial as our PKM might lead to problems in the future. I totally understand these concerns.
However, when I stack up the risks associated with cloud services against the trade-offs of sticking strictly to “local first”, I honestly find the former to be more appealing. So, I continue to place my bets on cloud services.
In today’s digital age, I trust reputable companies to manage my data more securely than I could with local backups.
Having experienced the hassle of managing files on mainframes in the past, I have no desire to return to that era of personal responsibility for data storage and availability.
By placing my trust in solid cloud-based companies, I’ve never faced issues transferring my data between different software services. I’ve always had the freedom to switch tools whenever I felt the need, without feeling trapped.
It’s about choosing serious, sustainable companies and willingly paying for the quality of service they provide. Just as we trust and pay for essential services like electricity or gas, I view software services in the same light. I pay for solutions that simplify my life, not for added complexity.
That’s the essence of what I seek and gladly pay for.
And that’s what Tana offers to me.
Last Thoughts: The Significant Impact of Tana
I’ve shared 10 key reasons why Tana is impactful, but, honestly, I could go on and on about how Tana has been a game-changer in my life.
Its impact is hard to put into words. I liken it to the significant influence Evernote had in the realm of note-taking and PKM, a tool I relied on for a decade.
But I see Tana surpassing Evernote, given its expansive potential.
It fills many gaps I’ve faced for years, addressing concepts and workflows that make up 80-90% of my daily professional work.
I believe that we, as humans, perceive the world much like Tana does, viewing it through the lens of Object-Oriented Programming. To us, the world is a network of objects, each with its own features, processes, and relationships. It’s this interconnected system of elements that shapes our understanding and interaction with the world around us.
Tana has become an integral part of both my work and personal life.
The real connection with a tool comes from daily use, witnessing its role in your growth, evolution, and becoming a better individual.
We spend our days immersed in thought or managing a stream of ideas. A tool that aids in this process becomes indispensable, and Tana excels in this regard.
It truly hits the mark.
For those looking to create their ideal suite of tools, that’s exactly what we offer at the Paperless Movement®. Here, you can find a video that describes and explains our tool stack and the “Best Productivity Tools for Busy Professionals in 2024!“.
I encourage you to join the Paperless Movement® Membership and embark on the ICOR® Journey.