Emojis as Visual Cues in OneNote

Clearly designate types of notes when displayed in a list

Still playing with creating notes that are easier to navigate.  One tweak that has my attention at the moment is the use of emojis in note titles. 

Note Listing
Note Listing

Let’s take the example of creating a rough outline within a notebook.  A top-level note would represent a main idea for a paragraph. Developing ideas would become subpages under that note.  With OneNote Windows 16 in particular, sometimes it is hard to see the indentation level in the Notes listing.  It would be helpful to visually differentiate between main ideas and supporting points.

Main and Supporting leading text

One option would be the use of abbreviations or short phrases, such as “Main” or “Supp”, at the front of the Note title.  However, these characters at the front of the title push the other words to the right where they may no longer be visible.

Use of Tags

We could use tags on the title.  Yet, tags do not appear in the notes listing window.  Nor do they appear in search results unless we specify that we are looking for tags.

Use of Emojis

On the other hand, if we use emoji’s we get bright and easily recognized labels that appear in both the note listing and the search results.  An emoji does this while only taking up a single character in the title. I believe emojis are a better choice that inserting a symbol, since emojis include color inherently and do not need color applied.

There are a wide variety of emoji’s available.  However, I am limiting my use to simple shapes – circle, diamond, and triangle.  While I do try to keep the emoji’s use consistent within a single notebook, it can represent different concepts across different notebooks.

Automate Meeting Planning

Use workflows to create prep checklists for meetings

With the current lockdown, I am having quite a few video conferences.  Before these meetings, there are a few steps I take to help make the meeting as productive as possible.  For example:

  • Verify calendar date, time and location
  • Review meeting attendees
  • Create a Meeting Note
  • Sync relevant documents to iPad
  • Sync OneNote notebook to iPad
  • Check teleconference software operability

Typically, I use Microsoft To-Do to help me with checklist.  That means I have to create each of these tasks before the meeting with enough lead time to avoid a last-minute rush.  To make this a little easier, I can use a workflow in Microsoft Power Automate that creates these tasks for upcoming meetings.

Microsoft Power Automate (formerly Flow) lets you create automated workflows, in particular between Microsoft Office apps.  In this case, I want to create a workflow that creates items in To-Do whenever a meeting appears on my calendar in Outlook.

To create the workflow, I go to my Office 365 site and use the ‘waffle’ in the top left corner to choose Power Automate.  In the left menu, I choose Create.

In this case, as of this writing, there is no template that includes To-Do. Therefore, we will have to create the workflow from Start from blank and then choose Automated flow.

In the next screen we give the flow a name and chose the flow’s trigger.  Search for ‘event’ and scroll down to When a new event is created.  The window changes to the flow editor, with the Outlook trigger at the top.  Within this first step (the trigger), choose which calendar we want to monitor.  Now we can tell Power Automate what we want it to do when triggered.

Click +New Step, which allows us to choose the action.  We want to use the Add a to-do action from Microsoft To-Do.  In the Subject field, enter our first item Verify meeting time and location. For Due Date, we are going to use a little math so that this happens the day before the meeting. Place the cursor in the Due Date field and click on Expression.  Now scroll down to Date and time and choose addDays. In the expression editor, place the cursor between the parentheses and click Dynamic content.  Since we want to start the task the day before the meeting, we add -1 to the expression and click OK. The resulting formula:


Since we will have multiple meetings on our calendar, we will want to know which one we need to verify.  To do this, we enter the meeting subject line in the Body Content field.

We now click on Save  and then use the Flow Checker to find any obvious issues. If there are no problems, we can test the flow with a Test Event on the calendar we chose as the trigger.

That is the basics.  If you want to create items for everything on the prep list, you can add a new step to the workflow for each item.

Use “My Day” as a dashboard across O365

Track activities across multiple applications

At this point we have captured tasks in Microsoft To Do, Outlook, OneNote and Planner. Each application has its own situations that make it the most appropriate way to create a tracked action.  However, this has the potential to make daily planning quite complicated.  How do you check each one of these applications as you start your day, to ensure no tasks are overlooked?

This is where a particular feature makes Microsoft To Do actually worthwhile.  Microsoft To Do can collect all of your pending tasks across the Microsoft product suite.

Let’s start with a simple feature that really helps me psychologically – at the beginning of each day, My Day is empty.  There is no overwhelming list of actions left from yesterday, or the day before.  In many tools, the list of incomplete and overdue tasks keeps accumulating over time until they create frustration and may lead to abandoning the tool.  In contrast, the My Day view in Microsoft To Do starts clean each day.

What practical affect does this have? Primarily, the day starts off with a win.  Rather than seeing everything still outstanding from yesterday, you can start with by adding your Daily Routine to My Day.  For the Covey fans out there, this is Quadrant 2 – non-urgent, but important. For me, I can usually knock out this list in about thirty minutes. This results in actively responding to priorities, not reacting to crises.

Once you have your tasks added to My Day, simply click the check mark as each one is completed.  You can choose whether to show or hide completed tasks.  I prefer to hide completed tasks, as there is a certain satisfaction seeing the list slowly dissolve to nothing.

Once all the tasks from your first round are complete, click on the Today button (the lightbulb in the top right). A panel will open up with a list of pending tasks to add to your My Day view. The list includes items due today, items from the past that are still open, and tasks that will be due soon.  Clicking the plus sign (+) next to selected tasks will add the item to your My Day view.

This list of pending tasks comes from various sources.  For instance, if you flag an email in MS Outlook, the email shows up in MS To Do.  If you have been assigned tasks from MS Planner, those tasks will show up in MS To Do with due dates.  If you flagged items for follow-up in a OneNote Meeting Note, those items show up in MS To Do.

Since Microsoft To Do searches across the Microsoft Office 365 suite to find outstanding action items, you are free to use the most appropriate tool based on what you are doing when you become aware of the tasks.  Then, when it is time to complete those tasks, they can all be found in one place – Microsoft To Do.

 This is the final part of a series on productivity using Office 365.

Track Project tasks with MS Planner

Coordinate and Collaborate on Projects

So far, we have made use of the Microsoft To Do application to provide us with a simple list of daily tasks. What about more complex scenarios, such as when you depend on others to finish their assigned tasks before you can begin yours? If you are a real heavy hitter, you might turn to Microsoft Project. However, for most of us MS Project is simply too complex. Besides, it does not come with the standard Microsoft Office 365.

Might I recommend that you take a look at Microsoft Planner, which comes with most Office 365 business subscriptions and is part of the standard applications found with Microsoft Teams. Planner allows you to generate a set of tasks, typically related to a single project or effort. You can then assign these tasks to team members and then track progress. Microsoft Planner gives you greater visibility and collaboration than MS To Do, without the significant overhead of using MS Project.

Microsoft Planner includes task boards with buckets, calendar views and a collection of progress charts. Tasks assigned to you can be quickly called up through the built-in My Tasks view.

Adding a Plan to a Team

  1. From Microsoft Teams, select the team and channel to be associated with the plan.
  2. In the channel header, click on Add a tab +.
  3. In the Add a tab window, choose Planner.
  4. In the Planner window, select Create a new plan, and provide a name for the plan. (Note: The name provided will be used on the channel tab, too.)
  5. Click Save.

Opening an Existing Plan from Teams

  1. From Microsoft Teams, select the team and channel associated with the plan.
  2. In the Teams header, click on the tab for the plan.

Usar los blocs de notas de Teams

Comparte tus ideas con tu equipo

Añadamos una nueva herramienta a nuestras herramientas de productividad: los equipos de Microsoft.  Se puede crear un bloc de notas OneNote para cada MS Teams.  Esto significa que cualquier idea o acción que hayas guardado en OneNote puede ser fácilmente compartida con tu equipo.  Sin embargo, desde el punto de vista de la usabilidad, la interfaz de los equipos con OneNote es un poco más limitada que la versión de escritorio de OneNote. (De hecho, hasta el momento de escribir este artículo, la versión para equipos de OneNote se ha limitado a “sólo lectura” debido a que todos los usuarios trabajan desde casa debido a un coronavirus).

Sin embargo, esta falta de funcionalidad no es un problema, porque se puede acceder al mismo bloc de notas usando la aplicación OneNote del escritorio. Por lo tanto, crear el bloc de notas desde los MS Teams, pero mantener y añadir al portátil desde la versión del escritorio.  Esto proporciona la funcionalidad completa mientras se sigue colaborando con otros miembros del equipo.

Nota al margen: En el pasado, he recomendado mantener un solo bloc de notas para todas sus notas.  He abandonado este enfoque debido a las presiones sobre el rendimiento.  Sin embargo, tengo un nuevo enfoque que compartiré en un próximo post.

Creación de cuadernos de equipo

  1. De Microsoft Teams, seleccione el equipo correspondiente.
  2. Dentro del equipo, elija uno de los canales, como General.
  3. En la parte superior de Teams, seleccione Agregar una pestaña (+).
  4. En la ventana de diálogo Agregar una pestaña, elija la aplicación OneNote.
  5. Expanda el bloc de notas de equipo predeterminado haciendo clic en el triángulo junto al nombre del bloc de notas.
  6. Haga clic en el signo más (+) para crear una nueva sección.
  7. Proporcione un nombre para la nueva sección (recomendación: use el nombre del canal).
  8. Si lo desea, deje la marca (check) en “Publicar en el canal sobre esta pestaña” para notificar a los miembros del equipo que el bloc de notas ya existe.
  9. Haga clic en “Guardar”

Esto es parte de una serie sobre la productividad usando Office 365.

Use Teams Notebooks

Share your ideas with your team

Let’s add a new tool to our productivity toolbox – Microsoft Teams.  A OneNote notebook can be created for each MS Team.  This means that any idea or action item you captured within OneNote can easily be shared out to your team.  However, from a usability standpoint, the Teams interface with OneNote is a bit more limited than the desktop version of OneNote. (In fact, as of this writing, the Teams version of OneNote has been limited to ‘read only’ due to all of the users working from home because of the coronavirus outbreak.)

This lack of functionality is not a problem though, because the very same notebook can be accessed using the OneNote desktop application. So, create the notebook from MS Teams, but maintain and add to the notebook from the desktop version.  This provides the full functionality while still collaborating with other team members.

Side note: In the past, I have recommended keeping to a single notebook for all of your notes.  I have abandoned this approach due to the strains on performance.  I will share my new, evolved philosophy in a later post.

Creating Team Notebooks

  1. From Microsoft Teams, select the relevant Team.
  2. Within the Team, choose one of the Channels, such as General.
  3. In the Teams ribbon, click the plus sign (+) to add a tab.
  4. In the Add a tab dialog window, choose the OneNote application.
  5. Expand the default team notebook by clicking on the triangle next to the notebook name.
  6. Click the plus sign (+) for Create New Section.
  7. Provide a name for the new section (recommendation: use the name of the channel).
  8. If desired, leave the check in ‘Post to the channel about this tab’ to notify team members that the notebook now exists.
  9. Click Save.

This is part of a series on productivity using Office 365.

Use Quick Notes

Don’t let random ideas interrupt your productivity

Good ideas can happen at any time – which is good and bad.  While creativity is key to competitive advantage, you still have to maintain productivity if you want to get anything done.  David Allen goes into great detail describing how the mind is for having ideas, not holding them.

So, how to clear your head without losing these great ideas?  I recommend the use of Quick Notes.  Windows is able to call up Quick Notes from any application.  You just have to use the keyboard shortcut ÿ+n (Windows key and the letter n). This will pop up a stickie-note window.  Now, simply jot down the thought or idea on this note, with just enough information that you can make sense of it later – do NOT try to capture and clarify.  Just capture the idea.

After capturing the idea, go back to whatever you were working on, giving it your full attention.

Later, such as your next break or at the end of the day, review your Quick Notes. At this time you can make an initial attempt at clarifying the idea, expanding and filling in details such you can identify any actions that you need to take.

Creating Quick Notes

  1. From whatever application you are using, use ÿ+n.
  2. Type your thought, idea or reminder on the new note.
  3. Return to whatever you were doing.

This is part of a series on productivity using Office 365.

Usar Notas Rápidas

No dejes que las ideas aleatorias interrumpan tu productividad

Las buenas ideas pueden ocurrir en cualquier momento, lo cual es bueno y malo.  Mientras que la creatividad es la clave para la ventaja competitiva, todavía tienes que mantener la productividad si quieres hacer algo.  David Allen explica con gran detalle describiendo cómo la mente es para tener ideas, no para mantenerlas.

Entonces, ¿cómo despejar la cabeza sin perder estas grandes ideas?  Recomiendo el uso de Notas Rápidas.  Windows es capaz de llamar a Quick Notes desde cualquier aplicación.  Sólo tienes que usar el atajo de teclado ÿ+n. Esto hará que aparezca una ventana de notas.  Ahora, simplemente anota el pensamiento o la idea en esta nota, con la suficiente información para que puedas darle sentido más tarde – NO intentes guardar y aclarar.  Sólo guarda la idea.

Después de guardar la idea, vuelve a lo que estabas trabajando, dándole toda tu atención.

Más tarde, como en su próximo descanso o al final del día, revise sus Notas Rápidas. En este momento puedes hacer un intento inicial de aclarar la idea, ampliando y completando los detalles, de manera que puedas identificar cualquier acción que necesites hacer.

Creación de Quick Notes

  1. Desde cualquier aplicación que estés usando, usa ÿ+n.
  2. Escriba su pensamiento, idea o recordatorio en la nueva nota.
  3. Vuelva a lo que estaba haciendo.

Esto es parte de una serie sobre la productividad usando Office 365.

Usar las notas de reunión

Antes, durante y después de las reuniones

La función de notas de reuniones de office 365 conecta el Calendario de Outlook con Microsoft OneNote. Sirve como una gran herramienta para prepararse antes de una reunión, guardar elementos de acción durante la reunión y luego revisar las notas después de la reunión.

Dentro de Microsoft Outlook, el Calendario guarda las reuniones y citas.  Al seleccionar una reunión, aparece el icono de Tomar notas de la reunión en la cinta de la barra de herramientas. Si usted es el organizador de la reunión, tiene la opción de tomar notas para todos. De lo contrario, puede optar por tomar sus propias notas.

Una vez que elija si desea compartir sus notas, Microsoft Office crea una nueva página en OneNote.  La página incluirá los detalles de la reunión como una sección de encabezado.  Debajo del encabezado, se proporciona un espacio para tomar notas.  Si tiene una tableta con lápiz, puede utilizar este espacio para tomar notas escritas a mano.

Si alguna de las notas requiere una acción, puede marcar ese elemento para su seguimiento mediante la función Tareas de Outlook.  Los elementos marcados aparecerán en la lista de tareas de Outlook y en Microsoft To Do.

La función notas de la reunión facilita la búsqueda de las notas guardadas de varias maneras.  Si tiene una estructura de OneNote bastante organizada, puede, por supuesto, navegar por las carpetas de OneNote para localizar la nota.  Si recuerda el tema de la reunión, los asistentes o las palabras clave, puede utilizar esta información en el campo de búsqueda de OneNote.  Si sabe cuándo se celebró la reunión, probablemente la forma más fácil de encontrar las Notas de la reunión sea abrir el elemento del Calendario de Outlook y hacer clic en Notas de la reunión.  Office localizará y abrirá la Nota de reunión asociada a ese elemento del Calendario. De este modo, las Notas de reunión le permiten prepararse antes de la reunión guardando sus propios elementos de debate y recordatorios.  Durante la reunión, puede anotar respuestas y otros elementos de interés. Después de la reunión, puede revisar sus notas para identificar y luego marcar cualquier elemento de acción.

Creación de notas de reunión

  1. En el Calendario de Outlook, cree o seleccione un elemento.
  2. En la ficha Reunión, haga clic en Tomar notas de la reunión.
  3. En la ventana emergente, elija si desea crear notas compartidas o tomar sus propias notas.

Office creará una Nota de la reunión en OneNote.

Esto es parte de una serie sobre la productividad usando Office 365.

Use Meeting Notes

Before, during and after meetings

The meeting notes feature of Office 365 connects Outlook Calendar with Microsoft OneNote. It serves as a great tool for preparing prior to a meeting, capturing action items during the meeting and then reviewing notes after the meeting.

Within Microsoft Outlook, Calendar captures meetings and appointments.  When you select a meeting, the Meeting Notes icon displays in the toolbar ribbon. If you are the meeting organizer, you have the option of taking notes for everyone. Otherwise, you can choose to take notes just for yourself.

Once you choose whether to share your notes, Microsoft Office creates a new page in OneNote.  The page will include the meeting details as a header section.  Below the header, a space is provided for taking notes.  If you have a tablet with pen capabilities, you can use this space to capture handwritten notes.

If any of the notes represents an action, you can flag that item for follow-up using the Outlook Tasks feature.  Flag items will show up in the Outlook Task list and in Microsoft To Do.

The Meeting Notes feature makes it easy to find your captured notes in multiple ways.  If you have a fairly organized OneNote structure, you can of course browse through your OneNote folders to locate the note.  If you recall the meeting subject, attendees or key words, you can use this information in the OneNote Search field.  If you know when the meeting occurred, probably the easiest way to find the Meeting Notes is to open the Outlook Calendar item and click Meeting Notes.  Office will then locate and open the Meeting Note associated with that Calendar item.

Thus, Meeting Notes allows you to prepare before the meeting by capturing your own discussion items and reminders.  During the meeting, you can capture responses and other items of interest. After the meeting, you can review your notes to identify and then flag any action items.

Creating Meeting Notes

  1. In Outlook Calendar, create or select an item.
  2. In the Meeting tab, click on Meeting Notes.
  3. In the pop-up window, choose whether to create shared notes or to take notes on your own.

Office creates a Meeting Note in OneNote.

This is part of a series on productivity using Office 365.