OneNote Tip: Keep It Stupidly Simple

One of the ways that I differ from Microsoft’s official line about OneNote: Do NOT create a notebook for everything and anything. What I have found is that this complicates finding notes. While OneNote is very good at searching for terms within notebooks, the notebooks have to be open to be searched. This means having all of your notebooks open to ensure you can find what you are looking for. As well, after creating a note, which of the myriad of notebooks do you put it in?

My recommended structure:

  • One Notebook
  • Three Sections

That’s it.  Compare that to the days when we would carry around our paper-based personal organizers.  We didn’t carry around an organizer for each client.  We didn’t keep a separate organizer for our business and another for home life. We had a single organizer and kept everything timely and relevant in that organizer.

As far as the three sections are concerned, I use:

  • Quick Notes – Basically, my inbox for unprocessed notes.
  • Agenda – Includes a Work Journal for planning my day, as well as tracking events of the day.
  • Archive – At the end of the week, everything goes to the Archive.

The general flow in this structure:

  • All notes come in through Quick Notes.
  • Once processed, they move to the Agenda section.
  • At the end of the week, everything moves to the Archive section.

This simple structure ensures I am able to leverage the core benefit of OneNote – I can find my notes when I need them.

To see how this hierarchy has evolved over the last couple of years, compare this to the article OneNote Hierarchy.

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