How I use OneNote

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Per MarcV’s request in the comments for that last post. Here’s a brief description of what I’m using OneNote for. I’ll break it down into two sections, because I use my official work copy on my desktop at work, and my free “thanks for beta testing and attending the rollout event” copy on my personal laptop.

First at work:

  • General Section: includes pages for a my weekly tasklist, ideas for my weekly email tip to staff, training notes, various tech ideas and the details involved in implementing them, (one idea per page) instructions on how to prepare year-end accounting reports, (I only do them once a year, it’s hard to remember!) and all the various passwords to things like Postini, our site’s admin section, the rotating guest passwords for the year, etc.
  • Job Documentation section: Pages detailing my responsibilities based on Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Ongoing and Special Projects 2005.
  • Meetings: For meeting notes, obviously.
  • Personal: Used to track sick/vacation time, health insurance information, etc.
  • Archive: Folder of notes taken about projects that have been completed, sectioned out into each year.
  • Side Notes: Random bits of information that don’t fit anywhere else, or that I only need to remember for a short time.

On my laptop:

  • General: Mostly used to track ideas for both of my sites. Things to blog about, things I want to experiment with, notes if I’m going to be doing a tech chat or writing an article for another site, etc.
  • Side Notes: Similar to the way I use it at work, also extra pages for things like a wishlist, so I know what to put on my birthday wishlist when my family asks for one, or to note when seminars or classes I want to take are and what the registration deadlines are.
  • Work: Copies of the Personal section from my work notebook, and the page of various passwords for work-related sites that I might need to access from outside of the office. (This page is password protected on the laptop, obviously.) BTW, this is where a better sync feature would come in handy.
  • Friends: Folder for work with the Board of Friends of the Library. One section for Board meetings, one for committee meetings, and another for the RFP I’ve been working on, including a tasklist of what needs to be done.
  • Networking: Notes and ideas about networking opportunities, notes on networking books I’ve read, notes from the networking class I attended.
  • Travel: Details of travel rewards programs, also a section is added for every trip with reservation information, websites of places I’m visiting, addresses, basic directions, etc.
  • Copied from PocketPC: Notes, both written and verbal, that I want to keep on my PocketPC yet have available in OneNote. (For example, (and attention husbands) I keep a list called Angela’s Gifts. If we’re out somewhere, traveling or just in a store and she shows a particular interest in something, I can, when we get home, or whenever she’s not looking add that item and where we saw it to the list in my PocketPC, then sync it with the OneNote section on my laptop. Then, when it comes Xmas or birthday time, I already have a list of things that I’m pretty sure she would like!)
  • Archive: Mostly this turns out to be notes from previous Tech Chats, or lenghty blog posts that aren’t immediately needed, but that I want to keep around just in case.

As you can see, I’m not even using all the features, but for me, having all of this information in one tabbed interface makes life so much easier. You can certainly keep all of this information in various Word docs, but while you’re opening and closing different docs, I’m finding things and dealing with them much more efficiently. On top of that, being able to flag certain items on different pages and then get a grouping of those flagged items, or unfinished tasks, and their context, helps keep me from missing details. I also routinely use the Outlook to OneNote Powertoy to insert email messages relating to a project directly into that project’s section, and the screen clip tool to grab bits of information from .pdf or web pages to do the same.

In all, I think OneNote is a great organizational tool, even if you don’t use it to take notes during a meeting. I don’t use it that way, I’m no good at taking notes in real time electronically, I need a pen and notepad, and I still love it! It’s too bad that even folks who have heard of it tend to think it’s just a note-taking application.

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