Posts Tagged ‘to-do’

Iheart member Darin R shared his reasons for loving OneNote with us:

Why do I love Microsoft OneNote?  Really, OneNote is an extension of my brain.  I’m a full time business student, work two part time IT jobs, and I actually have a life too.

I use OneNote in the classroom by having a notebook I created with the name of the school I’m attending.  Then I have sections for each course I take.  Within each of those sections are pages including class notes, notes on my meetings with groups, and things like the syllabus/assignments.  I like how you can paste pdf files (or any files) into Onenote and open them straight from there (one central location for all your stuff).  I record parts of lectures, take handwritten and typed notes, and make to-do lists for homework/projects in class.

At work, I always have a running to-do list that I use.  Then I have a section for IT related things of the business, such as how the network is setup, contacts, checklists, inventories, and other related items.  Then I have separate sections for more company related things such as meetings outside of IT, company policies, and more.  I also have pages under the IT section that contain things like static IP addresses of printers, what IP addresses are still available, etc…

My personal notebook is mandatory as well.  As soon as I think of something I need to get done, I write it in my personal to-do list.  If I want to write in my journal, I have a section for that.  Likewise for things such as different topics of interest to me.  I actually have a whole notebook called politics, with different sections covering things like the election of 2008, oil, the economy, healthcare, and different politicians.

Can you live without OneNote?  Of course…but I wouldn’t recommend it.  J


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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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Ok, so you all know how much I love a top 10 list – and the team over at Microsoft has produced a Top 10 Reasons for using OneNote list which I am providing here (looks like at least one person has dedicated 10 minutes to do some marketing for this product!)

So, here’s there top 10 – what have they missed?

Reason 1 Gather your notes and information in one place. Gather, store, and manage your notes and information — including text, pictures, digital handwriting, audio and video recordings, and more — in a single location. Having all your important information at your fingertips can help you make more informed decisions and be better prepared.

Reason 2 Back up your valuable information. Office OneNote 2007 automatically saves and backs up your notebooks, whether stored locally or on a network file share, so you’re less vulnerable to data loss.

Reason 3 Find information more quickly. Powerful search technology with optical character recognition helps you find what you’re looking for more quickly — whether you’re searching handwritten notes, text in pictures, or spoken words in audio and video recordings. You can configure Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 or Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 to index Office OneNote 2007 files automatically to incorporate the data into your company’s knowledge base.

Reason 4 Work together more effectively. Shared notebooks give everyone access to the same information at the same time, online or offline. Office OneNote 2007 manages changes for you so that multiple users can work simultaneously in the same notebook—there’s no need to keep track of versions and changes. With Live Sharing Sessions, geographically dispersed teams can view and edit the same page of notes at the same time.

Reason 5 Avoid duplicate work. Office OneNote 2007 makes it easy to collect, store, and search information about projects in a central location. Capitalize on ideas, notes, and best practices when briefing new project teams or team members. Take advantage of OneNote archives to avoid duplicate work.

Reason 6 Organize your way. Organize information in the way that works best for you. See all your open notebooks in a single view, and easily arrange and rearrange your notes with drag-and-drop functionality. You can add hyperlinks to other pages in your notebook so you can quickly find content relevant to the task at hand.

Reason 7 Prioritize and manage tasks and your to-do list more efficiently. Use note tags to mark and easily track actions and important items. Note tags can be customized according to your needs and quickly viewed in a summary pane. Tasks created in Office OneNote 2007 synchronize with Microsoft Office Outlook tasks so you can manage your projects more efficiently.

Reason 8 Make meetings more productive. Office OneNote 2007 gives you the flexibility to capture all of the information presented in meetings, including status updates, presentations, documents, typed and handwritten notes, and more. With all meeting notes stored in one location, everyone has access to the same information, helping ensure that all team members are on the same page and that everyone walks away with a consistent set of action items.

Reason 9 Get up to speed quickly. The familiar look and feel of other Microsoft Office system programs and an intuitive user interface make it easy to get started using Office OneNote 2007 right away. Integration with the 2007 Microsoft Office system means you can share information between Office OneNote 2007 and other Microsoft Office system programs easily.

Reason 10 Improve productivity away from the office. Synchronize your Microsoft Windows Mobile–powered devices with Office OneNote 2007 so you can take contents of your notebook with you and view them on your mobile device. In addition, information you capture on your Smartphone or Windows Mobile–based Pocket PC, including photos and text, can be transferred to Office OneNote 2007 and made text-searchable.

Remember to share this with any non-believers in your life!

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I have to admit it, but I  love Top 10 Lists. Today, I found a Top 8  list – which is only a little  less appealing than 10! So, here is Donovan Lange’s Top 8 list of Reasons to use OneNote.

Let’s see if we can make it a Top 20 list (much better than 10 even) – so share your reasons in the comments section.

1. OneNote allows me to put all of my little bits of information into a single place, organize them how I like, and always be able to find them instantly.

  • There’s a ton of information that doesn’t naturally have a good home otherwise.  Like the URLs I find when researching a topic, or the notes that I take during meetings.  Sure, I could use text files and notepad or post-it notes; but I’d have to create my own method for filing them into folders, navigate to the correct file to open them when I want to read them again, make sure I remember to hit Save (and give it a filename) before my laptop battery runs out and I lose my content, etc.  It really doesn’t scale when you have a lot of data.

2. It’s page surface allows me to outline, brainstorm, and collect rich forms of data better than any other tool out there.

  • Specifically, the ability to click anywhere on the page and just drag-drop any line of text to anywhere else on the page means that I can use this for random brainstorming and when writing out document outlines/drafts.  Things that don’t have linear or well-known structures.
  • Plus, there’s a million features built into the application that allows me to embed non-textual forms of information.  So I can use screen clippings (via the Windows + S key) to take a picture of something currently on my screen, or embed a full document via the included OneNote Printer or the Insert Menu, and then annotate on top of that information.  And I can find it again, since we’ll OCR the text within the pictures.
  • Even without a tablet PC, the drawing shapes and click anywhere to type means that I can create simple diagrams without having to load up Visio.  With a tablet, I can draw directly on a page, and use a pen when I’m in a meeting where typing may be viewed as distracting.
  • It works with audio as well.  We record the audio for all of our spec reviews using the built-in laptop microphone.  Any notes typed during the meeting will be synchronized into the audio timeline for later review.  And OneNote will search the speech in the audio file as well.

3. It’s really good at capturing information quickly.

  • Sometimes I need to get information written down as quickly as possible.  I don’t want to worry about making space in my word document, I can just click anywhere on the page and type.
  • Ditto for inserting tables.  Just hit tab!
  • I can launch a side-note window (which is a lot like a post-it note) from the system tray and grab down that phone number that someone just spouted off while I’m on the phone.
  • I can paste web content from a web page and it automatically includes the URL the content came from.  Huge time-saver.
  • I can apply metadata (flags) to my information or create Outlook Task items “in situ” along with the rest of the context that gives that task meaning.
  • I’m no longer restricted to keeping a single task list in Outlook.  When I’m in a meeting, or estimating a feature in OneNote I can tag a line as an Outlook Task, and it’ll create an Outlook Task for me, which is automatically kept in sync as I mark it completed, etc.  As a result, all of my ToDo items can live in the place where they’re most appropriate (like in the middle of my meeting notes, or in my shared notebook with you on a page of house projects) and yet have them rolled up appropriately in either OneNote or Outlook.

4. Outlook Integration, Outlook Integration, Outlook Integration.

  • In addition to task sync’ing, I find that there’s a ton of information that gets sent to me in email, which should live in OneNote instead.  (As email is more of a dynamic source of changing data, vs. an authored knowledge base.)  I can send an email to OneNote directly from Outlook 2007 via a single toolbar button click.  For someone who tries to keep their inbox nearly empty, being able to store messages like “how to access the internal newsgroups” (for instance) in a Notebook feels much cleaner than keeping them in my inbox
  • In addition, I can also take notes about meetings (and have it find my previous meeting notes for a recurring meeting) or keep information about people from my Contact List / GAL in OneNote directly from the Outlook meeting and contact windows.  The link between the two stays present regardless of how that gets filed in my Notebooks.

5. My stuff is available everywhere.

  • I can’t emphasize how much this rocks.  My OneNote notebook is available at work, at home, on my phone (using OneNote mobile) and on my laptop.  All I did was point OneNote at a file share or Sharepoint Site, and OneNote takes care of the rest.  Plus, it synchronizes embedded documents as well, so I don’t have to use Sharepoint to upload a document or email it to myself.  I just drag-drop it right onto the OneNote page, and voila it’s everywhere I need it!  No sync’ing, no file locking, nothing.  It just works.
  • Moreover, it works when I’m offline.  Even those embedded documents… when I pick up my laptop and go to a conference room in another building, I can still keep typing, regardless of whether or not I’ve got wireless.  Go on vacation to the beach, and make changes to my notebook.  Whenever it comes online, it all merges back in without any user interaction.

6. It allows me to collaborate with others.

  • Word track-changes?  Sharepoint edit locks?  Yuck.  OneNote is a breeze by comparison.  Think of it like a Wiki on crack.  Everyone just opens up the same Notebook (or Section or page) and just types away.  It’s magic.
  • For those without OneNote, I can create PDFs of my pages, or send a page as an email with a single click.  The person on the other end of that email doesn’t even need OneNote to view my stuff.

7. I can store sensitive information and password protect it.

  • I generally use this for my personal notebook, but I find it invaluable to store my Credit Card numbers, Bank Account Information, Website Passwords, Frequent Flyer accounts, etc. all in a section that I then password protect.  Because the bits stored on disk are encrypted, I can access that file from a server and not worry about the security of the server, across the network, etc.

8. I can automate repetitive things.

  • I keep a work journal, and find that it’s really convenient to create a stationary (templates) page which is applied automatically to all new pages created in my Journal section.  It’s such a simple idea, but saves me a ton of time.
  • Not to mention all the cool add-ins that power-users have created that extends the functionality of OneNote.

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OneNote is easily the best note taking tool available. In this article from  NerdBusiness you’ll learn how to effectively use OneNote to organize your life’s information. Ideas, daily notes, business projects, clients & contacts and anything else worthy of typed notes on your screen.

Here goes:


At this point I assume you have evolved from an old school pen & notepad style of note taking. In fact, if you were like me the next step was to begin organizing your notes in Word documents. Using Word documents to organize notes certainly does work… you’ll soon notice however, that this method is just not practical for managing a large amount of notes on a variety of subjects.

Which is why OneNote is far superior . In a nutshell, OneNote is a word processor that allows you quick access to all of your separate documents (pages) from one simple interface. You can then organize pages in Notebooks, Sections, or Sub sections. Enabling you to have all your notes at the tip of your fingers. Working faster & taking notes more effectively.


Step 1: Get OneNote

OneNote is free to try for 60 days so you can download it right now directly from the Microsoft OneNote homepage. Thereafter the price tag is $99.95 so it certainly is a a good value if you intend to use OneNote how I explain.

Step 2: Use OneNote

OneNote is a rather simple program so getting started is easy. Remember, your objective in using OneNote is to simply take notes & organize them. Anybody can do this – but doing it effectively is another thing altogether. So here is a basic model I use for my own OneNote installation.

First, feel free to browse through the sample Notebooks Microsoft includes by default. You can keep them handy if you want, but eventually I recommend deleting this clutter by right clicking each Notebook menu and pressing “Close Notebook”.

Create a Notebook called Day Planner. Then within that Notebook, create a section called Daily Notes and Tasks.

The Difference Between Daily Notes & Organized Notes

Daily Notes are just that. Each day, our nerdly minds come across interesting things that we’ll want to take note of. Ideas, reminders, phone numbers, website links, to-dos, and other random thoughts that need to be typed as notes.

Regardless of what topic, type these kind of day to day thoughts into your newly created Daily Notes section.

You might be wondering, “if we’re organizing notes why not create separate sections to organize this information as we type? ”

Trust me – it’s easier to keep one page for daily notes. And then from these notes you can later extract and organize them into different notebooks & sections.

Particularly when you’re first starting with OneNote you don’t want to get in the habit of creating a whole plethora of different Notebooks & Sections. Because they’ll end up as clutter. My philosophy of note taking is that only key information actually justifies organization. And when you’re simply typing notes off the top of your head you are often not ready to determine if exactly what you are writing is relevant. That’s why it goes into the Daily Notes: so later you can cut & paste them into their appropriate sections if necessary.

Keeping a Task List

The “to do” list is certainly a fundamental type of note.

Maintaining a big list of tasks can be effective, but it can also be a burden. That is, if you allow yourself to become a slave to it. For my main Tasks section I keep it fairly general – having to do with mostly stuff outside business. For those important projects & clients – I’ll keep separate task lists specific to them.

OneNote isn’t particularly innovative when it comes to a task list (although it does integrate with Outlook’s Task system if you use that, which I do not) but it does have a simple checkbox feature. Let’s make a brief list now.

Type a brief list of tasks. One per each line. Then from the the “Tag” menu you can select “To Do” and the line you’re currently on will turn into a tidy little checkbox. Click inside the checkbox to control checked/unchecked.

This is about as far as it goes in terms of functionality – yet the visual cue certainly does go a long way.

Time for Business

Organizing information about your projects is crucial for staying on track. Nerds have complex projects on the go. Software apps, website networks, and other technical stuff which requires regular note taking. OneNote is a perfect home for this project related information.

Let’s start by creating a Notebook called Projects.

In my project Notebook pictured below, I’ve created a section for NerdBusiness.com. This section gives me an easy place to write down ideas about my blog Nerd Business. So when I’ve got a great idea about a new feature or an article I want to write – all I have to do is open OneNote and click this section to begin typing it.

As you can see I’ve setup the first page of my Nerd Business section to feature it’s own task list. If you have a number of projects on the go, having a unique task list for each one is a big advantage.

Just below the Tasks I’ve got a bold headline for Ideas. I like to classify each idea with a general name so it’s easy to remember for a possible future implementation.

Further down from Ideas, I’ve got another heading for the Log (not pictured). I generally like to keep a project log for documenting progress. So as I bounce around from several different projects throughout the work week I can easily jump back into a project after reviewing the latest status from the log. The log outlines my latest progress & what I was working on last so that I can easily pickup where I left off.

To further organize information for this project, I have created a number of additional pages. These are listed along the right hand side (pictured to the right). One of the pages here is called Content and the notes here are specifically for content related material, such as article ideas or drafts of new articles I intend to publish here on Nerd Business.

Clients & Contacts

As I’ve demonstrated, keeping a project log is a useful tactic – and the same can be said about keeping a log for your clients. What was said during that last phonecall ? What are some of the requirements you need to complete for this client? The information surrounding a client can get rather extensive – so OneNote fits the bill.

It can also be useful to have notes on just about anybody! A loved one, friends, or family – little notes such as birth dates or special reminders can go a long way.

So let’s create a new section called Contacts. In my example below (click to enlarge), I have created the Contacts Notebook and three seperate “Section Groups” to contain Clients, Prospects (people or businesses I am hopeful will become clients), and Providers (professionals & freelancers I collaborate with). Let’s take a look at my OneNote page for an imaginary prospect, Mike Duffield.

In this example, I’ve got a project lined up with my client. It’s just getting started, so the information is rather light. I’ve got a couple key objectives I want to keep near the top. His contact info is conveniently placed so I can quickly refer to his number when I’m about to make a call. Tasks and Ideas are also here. And I’ve even got a Q&A section for questions that I want to ask Mike next time I talk to him.

Any important client or prospect justifies having a simple page like this. There are indeed CRM (customer relationship management) software packages out there which are much more extensive, but personally I enjoy the simple flexibility of a big white open page to type on.

Being Organized is Efficient

Organizational efficiency is something that you need to work on as a skill in itself. And it’s something that you never stop doing. So while OneNote is a great solution for note taking, it’s not the end all solution. You still have to maintain an effective process for keeping your notes organized. Because after using it for an extended period of time with any regularity you’ll eventually experience the clutter factor.

So you’ve got to be aware of this as you type notes – and consciously organize them as best you can. In fact, I often allocate a big chunk of time each week specifically for organizing notes. As part of an effeciency FOCUS day, which is apart of an even broader strategy for being a well oiled business nerd. A strategy that I would like to reveal for you in an upcoming post. Subscribe to my feed or the newsletter to stay up dated.


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Ok, so, here’s a OneNote feature I did not know about and, I tell you, I am in love with it! Today, I found out that you  can add a checkbox to a note (typically an action item)  and then come back and mark it with a check mark when it’s been done. Read on to find out how much more you can do with Note Tags thanks to the OneNote Tips blog. My boss has no idea what’s about to hit him…. I am going to be “to-doing’ everything in OneNote and assigning it all to him. Because we share Notebooks, everyone will be able to see just how little he actually does around here. Good times!


Note Tags:

Note Tags are interactive checkboxes Unchecked Tag that can be applied to your notes in OneNote. They can be applied to text, ink, pictures, drawings and much, much more. What’s more, you can search your notebook for any and all checkboxes and filter your search based on the checked status, type of tag, date applied, etc.

You can apply a note tag by pressing <Ctrl + 1>. This places a checkbox on your page. Then you just begin typing or writing your note. If you want to add another checkbox, move to a new location on the page and press <Ctrl + 1> again, then take your next note. Once you’ve accomplished your task, you just click on the checkbox Checked Tag and it marks it as complete.


  1. Use the <Ctrl> key in conjunction with the numbers 1…9 to access additional predefined tags.
  2. There are also many other available tags in OneNote:Alternate Tags
  3. If you don’t find a tag that suites your needs, create your own
      • Click View -> Customize My Tags -> New Tag, then give it a name and choose from any of the available formatting options.
Now, let’s say you have multiple projects going on at the same time. So you may have multiple notebooks or sections you use to take notes and track your work. You might be using note tags across many of those notebooks and sections. So, now you want to roll up all the unchecked tags into one easy to see view so you can determine what you have left to accomplish.

To view a list of all your tags click View -> All Tagged Notes.


1. To display only the unchecked items, place a checkmark in the ‘Show only unchecked items‘ checkbox’.

Tags Summary
2. To broaden or limit your search scope click the Search dropdown menu then select the desired scope. Group Tags By:
3. To sort the list, click the Group tags by dropdown menu.

4. If you need more context to understand what that note was about, just click on the note in the summary pane and you will be navigated to the page where you originally took the note.

Search Scope

5. You can also create a new summary page of all the tagged notes found in the summary. Click the Create Summary Page button. With the new page you can print out a copy of your to do list and take it on the run with you.

Note: It’s important to understand that when you create a summary page, all the tags that are currently in the Tags Summary pane are duplicated onto the new page.  This means you will have exact copies of these tags and once you refresh the results of the pane, you could potentially be seeing double, (depending on the search scope you have selected).

So, what’s actually happening here?  Well, tags have several properties associated with them, one of which is ‘archived’.  When a summary page is generated, all the original tags become archived, while the new duplicates are active.  Now, generally, this doesn’t really mean anything, other than the behavior described above.  However, OneNote has some tag settings that allow you to utilize this little known feature.

You can cause the original, (or archived), tags to appear dimmed once the summary page is created, giving the appearance of a disabled tag, (even though the tag is still enabled).  To do this, click Tools -> Options -> Tags -> mark Show original tagged notes as dimmed.  By the very nature of the note tags being dimmed, they will be excluded from the search results in the summary pane.  But suppose you don’t want them to be excluded.  Easy.  Just place a checkmark in the Show dimmed tagged notes in the Tags Summary pane of the Tools -> Options -> Tags settings.

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