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OneNote 2007 and GTD

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  • OneNote 2007 and GTD

    I recently started using Microsoft OneNote 2007 as part of my GTD system. My GTD "hub" is still my task list in Outlook, but I do use OneNote for three purposes:

    1. Capturing daily notes on the fly for future processing,
    2. managing projects, and
    3. storage of reference material.

    I am capturing and storing stuff in OneNote, then pushing it to Outlook during my weekly reviews. OneNote serves as an inbox and as a storage location for project information and reference material.

    If anyone is interested, I created a detailed description of my setup (complete with screenshots) here:

    Is anyone else using OneNote in your GTD system? How are you using it?

    -Carl C.

  • #2
    Great Blog

    Your blog has some very useful information, Carl. I use EverNote, and I found your comparison to OneNote very interesting. I don't plan on changing to OneNote yet, but you gave me some great tips on setting up OneNote to be compatible with GTD if I ever do. I bookmarked your blog so keep those posts coming!


    • #3
      Thanks. BTW, the folks at EverNote are finally catching on... Their new release supports Google Desktop Search, so it's pretty much a toss-up now.

      I did use EverNote in my GTD system for over a year before switching to OneNote. I had some nice scripts for quick/auto capture which don't work quite as well with OneNote. If I get some time, I'll write that up as well.



      • #4
        Nice setup!

        Hi Carl,

        I have a very similar setup. I use Outlook 2007 for my task management and OneNote 2007 for projects. I really like the integration between the two.

        I do have one favor to ask. Would you be willing to send me your projects template? I like the way yours looks and would like to try it out.



        • #5
          I second the request!

          I too like your projects template. I have OneNote on my home computer (I use EverNote at work) and would like to start using OneNote to "kick the tires" and take it for a test drive.



          • #6
            No problem, I threw a new post up there with the file and some instructions on how to install it as the default template for your @PROJECTS section. Here is the link:


            Hope that helps!



            • #7
              Wonderful -- thanks!

              Hi Carl,

              Thanks for making this available -- it is greatly appreciated. I will try this out and see how it works for me.

              Best regards,


              • #8
                OneNote is a delight; perhaps the most under-rated application I can think of... and maybe that's because the interface is so intuitive. OneNote is without peer for collecting and organizing--and re-organizing--all kinds of information.

                A few months ago I openly speculated that OneNote might come in handy for a major web site development project I needed to undertake (made even more major by the fact that I had never created a web site before). OneNote turned out to be more useful that I had imagined. (Web site has been published too, although I'm not certain that I can call it "done". As anyone who creates web sites will likely attest, they're always a work in progress.)

                I also speculated that MindManager would be my primary project organization tool; and bemoaned the fact that I couldn't link a particular brand in MindManager to a particular note in OneNote. As things turned out, I used OneNote far more than I thought I would and MindManager far less. If I could have only one of the two, it would be OneNote. Although if it were possible to link MindManager to OneNote, MindManager would become far more useful than it is. (Is anyone from Mindjet by any chance listening?)

                Much is said of the Outlook-OneNote integration. When I'm working on a large, complex project I find it more fruitful to organize actions by project rather than context. I'll have actions (placeholders, really; things to do, things to research, things to look into) peppered throughout the pages and sections of any of my OneNote project notebooks. These are "tagged" as things to do, and two clicks will create a page listing all of these "actions".


                • #9
                  Problem (bug?) with OneNote Tags Summary


                  I too am in love with OneNote. Having just finished reading the GTD book, after some research, I decided to try to implement it around OneNote.

                  I pretty much did it but I recently realized a problem that, if I don't find a solution for it, will hinder everything.

                  First some details about how I implemented it.

                  1 Hierarchy

                  My notebooks:
                  • Inbox
                  • Personal
                  • Work
                  • For Read

                  Each notebook (except Inbox which is just to dump stuff) has the following sections:
                  • Open projects
                  • Closed projects
                  • Future projects

                  Each section has a page per project (being the first page for tasks not associated to any project). Under the title I have a ToDo list with all actions and make sure they all have one tag. Sometimes, if I get too many actions in one page, I outline them somehow, but in a very informal way just to make it more intuitive, because the real organization happens through the tags. Oh, and notes, reference and such also go on the project page if required.

                  2. Tags

                  Then I use tags to put everything together. I have the following context tags:
                  • @ At home
                  • @ Errands
                  • @ Calls
                  • @ Emails
                  • @ Online
                  • @ Offline
                  • @ At work
                  • @ To read
                  • @ Waiting for someone
                  • @ Calendar

                  And then I use two extra tags:
                  • Process it
                  • Depends on other

                  The first one "Process it" is just used to tag items in my inbox which are still not processed. I use the second one to tag all tasks which are still not doable because they depend on something else.

                  Finally, when I want to postpone a task to, say, on month from now, I create a syncronized task in Outlook with a reminder. So I also get to use the small red flag tag. In about one month I get a reminder in Outlook and I do the following:

                  - delete the task from Outlook
                  - tag the task with the proper context tag

                  3. Everything comes together with the use of the wonderful "tags summary" pane. There I can easily get lists of actions by context and bla bla bla.

                  I'm still fine-tuning and there as there are still somethings I didn't manage to implement:
                  • my reference material is still scatered
                  • I lack a way to sync OneNote tasks which must happen in a given moment with Outlook calendar appointments
                  • etc

                  Well, that's it. This is my OneNote GTD system. Comments and suggestions are welcome.

                  And now here's my BIG problem: The tags summary doesn't find all tags. Even when I choose "all notebooks" the list greatly depends on which notebook/section/page I am viewing at the moment. This is really awkward and spoils everything. To be honest I still didn't understand if this is some kind of strange behaviour I still didn't grasp or if it is a plain bug in OneNote. Did anyone else get this problem? Any ideas?

                  Apart from this, OneNote is amazing. I really hope I can solve this problem.

                  Last edited by nununo; 11-22-2007, 02:05 AM.


                  • #10
                    Best Practices Setting Up OneNote/Outlook 2007

                    I searched the GTD Forum and have read with great interest all the threads discussing the +/- of using OneNote and Outlook 2007 together.

                    As I will be setting that up tomorrow, does anyone have anymore information on "Best Practices" or where to go to find that out (i.e. do we have any MS OneNote developers as part of our resources, or has David come out with an up-dated Outlook 2007 GTD brief to maximize this configuration)?

                    Any additional help would be appreciated. My set-up is a Motion 1700 Tablet PC (it's a pretty neat trick if anyone's interested, I'll be happy to share more details), and a Samsung Windows Mobile device, a Small Business Server running MS 2003 (but we may want to go to a hosted MS solution as we have a boutique real estate firm).

                    Thanks in advance for anyone who might offer additional help. I'll be happy to share my experience.

                    Audie Cashion CCIM


                    • #11
                      RE: Problem (bug?) with OneNote Tags Summary


                      I have not seen the same problem with tags that you describe above. One difference is that I try and keep everything in one single notebook labeled "2007". At the end of the year, I will archive that notebook and keep it around only for search via Windows Desktop Search (WDS). I'm not sure if pulling tags across multiple notebooks is your problem. The system I use (see original post above) is pretty simple and doesn't require too many levels, so a single notebook works for me.

                      I had a similar question come up on my blog related to OneNote tags. Here is the answer I gave:
                      "In general, as a former EverNote user, I can say I am pretty disappointed in how Microsoft implemented the tags in OneNote. Initially I was using OneNote tags to track which items had been processed vs. which were still "not done". This was a bit awkward in OneNote since there are no rules to automatically assign and unassigned tags, and no tag intersection panel like in EverNote. I tried to get around this by creating the tag "Summary Page" in OneNote during the weekly review. My problem with the summary page is that it's just a dead list with no links back to the original content. If you need to see beyond the title or first line, you have to navigate back to the original page. Finally, I settled on using the note location (@DOING tab vs. @DONE section) instead of tags. The only thing I use tags for in OneNote now is to categorize material for future reference. I wouldn't say it's part of my GTD system, just more of a filing method really."
                      Honestly, even these tags aren't really necessary because I tend to find stuff via WDS and not via tags.

                      Hope that is somewhat useful.



                      • #12
                        Hi Carl,

                        Thanks for your answer. I tend to agree with you that the way OneNote handles tags has lots of space for improvements. I followed your advice on keeping everything in one Notebook. I kept my logic but moved all sections to a single Notebook and gave them shorter mnemonic names. I still didn't test it carefully but it seems to be working fine now. Thanks!



                        • #13
                          Thank you, Carl, for sharing your ideas and your template. I have been using OneNote for a few months, but had been struggling with making it flow. I eliminated all the "extras" - I now have implemented a @Doing, @Done, @Projects, and @Someday sections for my DAILY OPERATIONS notebook. The Projects template is a lifesaver, and I love being able to plan out my projects and assign tasks to them in Outlook as I go along. When the project is completed I move the entire page to @Done. I have a @ToDo section also where I collect my thoughts on "things to do" and assign tasks as I go.

                          I also have a @Work notebook and a @Home notebook. The work notebook is mainly for meeting notes, and receipts of customers orders - I run an online store, so as orders come in, instead of printing them out physically I print them to OneNote - I then have a searchable system, I can add tracking numbers, reference notes, etc.

                          I feel like I've cleared a hurdle - just wanted to say thanks.


                          • #14
                            How to get a next-action list in your solution

                            Hi Carl and lmw,

                            I understand your system is simpler than mine and that you even can do without tags. But how can you get a list of next-actions across all your projects? That's the single main reason why I need tags. So that I don't need to browse through my dozens of projects in order to decide what to do next.



                            • #15
                              Tags still wrong


                              Much to my dismay, after moving everything to a single notebook the tags summary problem still happens. And I still didn't understand exactly what happens.

                              What I know is that in some pages, when I do a tag summary, I don't get any tags of type @Email for example. Then I set a @Email tag on that page and refresh the tag summary and I get all my 5 or 6 @Email tags. If I remove that @Email tag from that page... all the others disappear. The strange thing is that this doesn't happen in all pages. It really looks like a bug.

                              I don't know what to do