Posts Tagged ‘GTD’

Too Much of a Good Thing…

Another great post from ihearter Steve

I don’t know about you, but for me organizing is a challenge in part because I don’t maintain a single discipline about how I do it over time.  I get some pieces working, add others, read a good article and think “I should do that”, and next thing you know I’ve forgotten all about the basic steps that helped me improve in the first place.

This happens with OneNote too for me.  The ability to ‘TAG’ tasks to do is a great thing, AND I notice that the more I create lists, say for ‘home’, ‘critical tasks’ at work, other ‘tasks’ to be delegated or develop, I suddenly have 7 or 8 pages with things to do.

Here’s a capability of OneNote I’m learning can help.  Do a Tag summary page and see them all at once.

  • On the Command Menu, go to ‘Insert’ and the first choice, ‘Tag’.
  • On the ‘Tag’ submenu the first choice is ‘Show All Tagged Notes.’
  • Click that and it brings up a ‘Tags Summary’ sidebar that will let you see all your tasks, and group them by Section, Date, etc. You can show checked or unchecked.
  • And the really sweet tip here: At the bottom of the sidebar is a button that let’s you ‘Create Summary Page.’  Click that and it creates a page listing all your tagged tasks in the order you’ve chosen.
  • I title that with a date and time and print it out so I can see the various threads I’ve created.  I print it out on paper as a handy reminder, and then I go back and tidy things up.

This saves looking all over for things you wanted to remember at the time, but now have forgotten where the page went to.  You can also do this for items you’ve tagged as ‘Outlook Tasks.’  I don’t know about you, but for me this practice helps me find things before they’ve gone missing for too long.

I notice it actually does help me Get Things Done.


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Iheart member, Steve, shared this:

I try to practice the GTD (Get Things Done) discipline of keeping my Inbox as lean as possible.  OneNote helps me do that in a couple of ways.

1)  I use the print function Send to OneNote to actually save lengthy emails that hold information I might need.  I sort them by client or project and often make them a subpage (Ctrl + Shift N).

2) Outlook lets you drag and drop emails to the Calendar to assign them a date and time to act on.  If it requires action, I’ll make it a Calendar event AND I’ll copy a Hyperlink in OneNote (right click then select ‘copy hyperlink’) and paste the hyperlink in the body of the Outlook Calendar event.

That way, when I go to open the ‘appointment’ I have the link to click to open the corresponding OneNote item.

3) Sometimes in Outlook I’ll drag and drop the email as a Task.  Again, in the body of the Task I’ll paste a hyperlink to the OneNote info I want to have available.

It also helps with this if you use the add-in ‘Replace Outlook Notes with OneNote.’  Then you get a button on your calendar item that shows the OneNote icon and says ‘OneNote Meeting Notes.’

AS A STRATEGY… I actually find OneNote a good place to create sections for things to stay.  So I don’t worry about ‘cluttering’ that way.

What happened to me early on was I had one or two notebooks with a long string of pages.  Learning to drag and drop pages into other sections helped me keep things organized better.  Also learning to use the ‘Search Notebooks’ function was a big help.

Good luck!

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I’ve noticed that a lot of you are using OneNote for managing projects. I’ve also noticed that OneNote seems to get mentioned a lot within the context of GTD – and seeing as how I have no idea what that means, I poked around and found this defininition:

GTD® is the popular shorthand for “Getting Things Done®“, the groundbreaking work-life management system and book by David Allen that transforms personal overwhelm and overload into an integrated system of stress-free productivity. Sounds like motherhood and apple pie to me – who wouldn’t want that?

It just occured to me that Larry The Cable Guy fans may want to change this acronym to GRD – for GIT-R-DONE!!!

Apparently, GTD embodies an easy, step-by-step and highly efficient method for achieving this relaxed, productive state. It includes:

  • Capturing anything and everything that has your attention
  • Defining actionable things discretely into outcomes and concrete next steps
  • Organizing reminders and information in the most streamlined way, in appropriate categories, based on how and when you need to access them
  • Keeping current and “on your game” with appropriately frequent reviews of the six horizons of your commitments (purpose, vision, goals, areas of focus, projects, and actions)

Then, I thought I’d check around to see if anyone has described how they use OneNote to “get things done” and stumbled upon this great blog post.

Here is: Using OneNote for GTD Project Tracking for your viewing pleasure:

In working with OneNote, I realized that it offers a great solution for people using GTD with Outlook who want to see the status of all their next actions on a specific project, regardless of context.  In fact, it makes a great Project Notes (and project inventory list) resource for anyone.

I created a sample project to show how it could work.  (FYI, I’ve collapsed a lot of menus, notebooks, and lists I normally keep expanded for privacy’s sake.)

First, say I’ve just been on a call with Bob.  With his permission, I’ve recorded it in OneNote, which can search audio files for key words.  I’ve also typed a few notes.  If I click on these notes, it will play the audio that was being recorded when I wrote down any specific word.

My OneNote page might look something like this:


So, I process the call.  First, I highlight the due date and add it automatically to the “hard landscape” of my calendar in Outlook as an all-day event.  (In OneNote:  Tools>Create Outlook Item>Create Outlook Appointment).  An Outlook appointment window will open automatically that I can add more info to:


Then, I go through the rest of the notes in OneNote and process them.  By tabbing as I type, I can automatically create a table of next actions and due dates, if any:


I can do the first four steps immediately, so I turn them into Outlook Tasks, adding them to my Next Actions lists.  By inserting a cursor just before the text on each item and pressing Control-Shift-K, OneNote will open up an Outlook task that I can customize, adding whatever category/context or additional info I need.

Here’s the task I created for Research Acme Industries.  I’ve added the @computer category, but OneNote and Outlook created the rest automatically.  Clicking on the link in the notes section of the task will automatically open my Johnson briefing page in OneNote.


As I create the tasks from OneNote, the program flags each item that has a task associated with it.  If I left-click the flag, it will mark the task as complete in both OneNote and Outlook.  If I right-click the flag, I can review the status, delete the task, or open it it Outlook.  If I hover over the flag, it will show the date started/date due info.

Here’s what the list looks like once I’ve added tasks to all the actions I can take right now:


Meanwhile, my Next Actions list in Outlook looks like this.  (I’ve filtered out all my other NAs for these screenshots.  Normally, all my NAs from all projects would appear in their contexts. )


So, I get to work doing these next actions, checking them off in Outlook like any other tasks as I finish them.  The next time I do a project review, I go back to my project page in OneNote, and I can see at a glance that I’ve completed two of the actions, but I still have two on my next actions list.  If I want to change the status of any of these — converting something from complete to incomplete, for example — I just have to right-click on the icon next to the task.  That will also update my Outlook Task list automatically.


If I want to add more tasks to the project, I can go back into my table in OneNote and add rows or columns, just as in Word or Excel.  Or, I can simply click in the last box of the table and press Enter to add a new line at the bottom.

I could also create a subproject within a task by indenting within the same box, or move existing tasks into other boxes to create hierarchies.  (Unfortunately, there’s no way I know of to link these hierarchies within Outlook’s tasks automatically.)

Within the list, I can create check lists of things that don’t need to go on my Next Actions list.  For example, in the list below, I’ve put check boxes next to the things I want to take with me on the trip.

Once I get into the project and get more of a sense of the steps and dependencies, my list in OneNote might evolve to look something like this:


Meanwhile, my next actions list in Outlook still reflects the context view of things that I actually work from:


That should provide an idea of the extent to which OneNote and Outlook can integrate to support GTD.  Using notebooks, lists, and sections, as well as multiple lists on the same page, those who need a little more project planning and review than a straight list option offers may find what they’re looking for.

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Steve, one of our iheart members contributed this blog:

In the interest of truth in advertising I should probably point out that I’m not doing true GTD (Get Things Done) using the format that David Allen uses.  I’m inspired by the approach, but also found that while I hold myself accountable to the work flow practices, the distribution of items and lists he uses don’t naturally work for me.

I like the Autofocus approach ( http://www.markforster.net/autofocus-system/ ) approach, mixed with the hipster       ( http://www.43folders.com/2004/09/03/introducing-the-hipster-pda ) index cards.

Autofocus fits my intuitive temperament by allowing me to keep a simplified number of running lists of things I need to do.  Forster suggests keeping a notebook.  I find OneNote works great for this.  I’ve created an ‘Autofocus’ notebook that has a primary section entitled “Critical Tasks” where immediate things go,”Tasks” where longer term or less pressing actions go, and one for personal stuff entitled “HOME”.  Another section entitled “Futuring” gets a variety of ideas for longer range things to develop.  A section group holds various resources I use on an ongoing basis, like printouts (Send to OneNote) of my Outlook 2007 calendar for the next 3 months, and hyperlinked items that show up on my “Critical Task” list.

I’ve set-up the pages in both “Critical Tasks” and “HOME” to a 4″ x 6″ index card format.  This is where the ‘hipster’ piece comes in.  I like to print off the current critical and home to do lists on index cards and carry them with me in an index card wallet so I can add notes, cross things off, and generally not have to be attached to the TabletPC all the time.  I also carry a printed out Outlook 2007 weekly calendar with this week on one side, next week on the other.  This way I can quickly add or change appointments, note kid pick-up times etc. all on my index cards.

There are two other pieces of software I use to brainstorm and organize that are helpful to me.  The first is Inspiration (http://www.inspiration.com/ ) for quick mind-mapping and brainstorming.  I love to do cluster diagrams to help me think of key steps, projects, things that need doing in the big picture.  Part of my system that works so well right now is that I:

  • Do cluster maps of various projects, responsibilities, and stuff in Inspiration.
  • Hyperlink to particular OneNote sections where the outlines or details live.  This means I can ‘see’ the concept maps in Inspiration in a way that helps keep them alive in my head and then go work on the detailed lists in OneNote.
  • I also print the maps to OneNote so I have a current refreshed view without opening Inspiration when I’m actively working the details / action steps.

The other piece of software that helps me go from idea to action is Project KickStart ( http://www.projectkickstart.com/ ).  This is a quick project management organizer that walks you through step by step developing a new project, assigning phases, tasks, responsibilities, and even lets you print and maintain GANT charts.  I also love the fact that it integrates tasks and calendars with Outlook 2007.

This means that I can do the step by step thing, print out a professional looking project plan to share with board and colleagues, and connect it to reminders / actions / events in Outlook.  AND I can:

  • Print to OneNote a project overview including task lists and actions to take or follow-up on.
  • Make notes on the project in OneNote, including using the assignments / task lists in shared notebooks so the whole team can see, work with where we’re at and who is doing what.

I also like to print the Inspiration mindmaps and the Project Kickstart GANT charts out in poster size (taping pages together) so I have a quick visual reminder on my office wall.

All of these things help me keep more or less on top of the 1,001 things I’m responsible for / working with.  I’m not naturally anal or detail-oriented.  What this system does is helps me:

  • Get more done
  • Not forget things
  • Dump details out of my head so that I’m not thinking about them when I’m doing something else
  • Do better by taking more timely action
  • Actually make space for attention to the more creative aspects of what I want to do

So tell me please, does this help anyone or give you ideas…?  Did you even read this far…?

he other thing that OneNote does that Autofocus on paper doesn’t is let’s me hyperlink to action resources or appointments and such.

More from Steve:

A key thing I realize is keeping my “To Do” list do-able.  I deal with some complex projects and often get tripped up by creating to do’s that are too general and not actionable as in one defined step.

I do impossible one’s like “Update website.”  What that can mean is get a full blown redesign.  I then of course don’t start it, but simply stare at it.

INSTEAD, if I start with “Spend 20 minutes in ProjectKickStart doing a general project plan for updating the website” I get more concrete and think more clearly about what tasks are needed.  So I get a task like ‘do quick outline of what we want to the site to do’ or ‘talk to designer’.  Those things I can do and cross them off.  They move the project forward.


From McDaniel:

Someone, maybe you?, posted up an Autofocus notebook a while back and I loved the entire concept. I went to the site, read up on it, designed a notebook and started my list.

Then nothing.

I know what I want to do, but I’m still coming up with ways to not get it done. Sucks. But, I wholeheartedly agree that OneNote is absolutely perfect for Autofocus and in many ways, improves upon the initial concept with the different ways that you can catalog and move your lists, etc.


From CafeKing


Found your comments really useful. I am integrating OneNote with my wrirting and speaking commitments.

Have you read “Take Back Your Life!” by Sally McGhee and John Wittery?

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If you are a little more technically inclined, here is how OneNote is changing how this Software Architect who is the author of the TechSoda blog works:

For the last several months, I have had several changes in my environment that has caused me to take a look at how I collect information.  I am now doing more research than ever, my job has changed, and I am working to become a more organized person (although I will never reach GTD nirvana).  Lately the questions for me have been:

  • Where did I see that sample?
  • Which email account did I get that information in?
  • Do you mean I have to retype all of these meeting notes?
  • What are my next priorities?

Sound familiar?  After playing around with OneNote for a couple of years, it took an aha moment for me.  I learned about sharing notebooks across computers.  This concept has now become invaluable.  Below are a few tips and tricks that I am starting to use with OneNote:

  1. Poor mans Tablet PC.  Last Christmas, I was given a Digimemo L20 for a gift.  This is a pretty  ingenious piece of equipment and one I take with me whenever I go to meetings.  The software now includes a way to transport my notes (even in digital ink) to OneNote very quickly.
  2. Use a command line argument to start OneNote on a specific page/section (/hyperlink).  I usually take a little bit of time to discover command line arguments. This time I was a little late in looking at these, but what a time saver.  Every OneNote section or page has a hyperlink that is associated with it, which can be discovered by right-clicking on the page tab/section tab and selecting copy hyperlink to this page.  Combined with SlickRun, this is truly invaluable. OneNote Command Line Switches
  3. Using a notebook on multiple computers. Here is a link.
  4. Using it as a ToDo list manager.  I combine a Slickrun magic word with Todo to go to a specific page in my notebook that is shared across computers.  Get this, the tasks even integrate well with Outlook 2007.

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