OneNote Tip of the Week – Duplicating Days

If you create a task list as a note in OneNote for a given day, you can use the Move or Copy command to copy the list to the same section. Next clear out the completed items, update the date, and add your new tasks for the day you can roll over the incomplete items from the previous day and never lose track of anything. Don’t set a template to do this because you won’t get the benefit of the roll over items. This works on the web, Windows 10, and OneNote 2016.

Posted in Strategy, Working from Home

When dual screens aren’t dual monitors

I’ve been dealing with a challenge for some time when it comes to my home office. My primary job requires me to use a client’s laptop for all connectivity and work. As is understandable that laptop is locked down pretty tight and precludes me from doing things I need to do also such as research and review of content off the client network. In those cases I need access to my personal machine and juggling the two has become a bit of a productivity nightmare.

For a while I was using a setup with the two machines hooked to one display which had some functionality but changing between machines became problematic. I not only needed a way to switch machines but also keep using the same keyboard and mouse. I added a USB switch to solve the keyboard and mouse issue but still wasn’t happy with the screen switching process.

It was at this point I referred back to my mantra…simplify. The two laptops had screens already and the only benefit of hooking them to a central monitor is to provide dual-screen displays (something which I can live without the vast majority of the time.) If I could set up a rig to put the two laptop displays at a usable height I also gained the added benefit of placing the webcams at a better angle (something that has become much more important over the past few months.)

A little scrounging revealed a laptop stand I had bought a few years ago that unfortunately was only big enough for one machine. A shelving blank, some self-drilling screws, and a few cup hooks for wire management and I would up with this:

The new workstation setup

What you can’t see from this photo is the boom mic within easy reach for podcasting:

Recording on standby

What is most important about this configuration is it now fits the way I work rather than making my work fit the setup. If you’re trying to maximize your productivity dedicating time to focus on your workplace is a key piece of the equation. Whether it’s a desktop, workshop, office, or lab an organized space that matches the ebb and flow of your work makes all the difference.

We’re in a time when setting up workspaces that are not provided by an employer is more the norm than the exception. Evaluate your workspace for not only optimization while you’re working but also when you’re not. In my case it was important to configure my set up for digital as well as analog (notebooks and pens). Look carefully at the way you work and then make the workspace work for you.

Posted in OneNote

OneNote Tip for Android – Creating Shortcuts

If you’re an Android user (sorry iOS) you can press and hold on the OneNote icon on your phone to pop up a list of the quick actions available for the app.

But that’s not the tip. The tip is that if you press and hold on the double line to the right of the shortcut on the menu you can create a shortcut to that entry. Press, hold, and drag from the menu to a space on the desktop to create the shortcut so it looks like below:

This is a great way to put shortcuts where you need them.

OneNote Tip of the Week – Custom Checkboxes

This quarantine thing has caused me to switch from coffee to tea (for no real reason aside from a change) but it has also resulted in a new hobby…trying various teas and keeping track of their information for my own reference. As such I wanted to see if I could come up with an effective, efficient solution using OneNote to track this information and sure enough I found an answer that works for me. Before I get started though one caveat…this solution requires OneNote 2016 and won’t work on other versions because of requiring a specific feature in 2016. Sorry in advance for that. Let’s dive in.

The main issue I had when coming up with this solution was how best to organize the information. This is what I was working with:

  • Tea Brand
  • Name
  • Flavor
  • Type (loose, bagged)
  • Rating (excellent – poor)

My first instinct was to go with the old standby the outline layout:

But before I even got part way through that design I knew I could come up with something better. I wanted to avoid typing so much information so I needed a way to provide and select options. Checkboxes are what came to mind:

Now if you’re of a sharp eye you’ll notice my checkboxes are yellow, not the normal black and white boxes you get with the To Do tag. What I did was create a custom tag in 2016 called “Toggle”, assigned it to position 4 in the list (so I can use Ctrl+4 to assign it to a line) and chose the yellow checkbox as the symbol for the tag.

Why do this instead of using the normal To Do tag? I want to avoid confusing these selections with things to do (for which I use the To Do tag frequently). By creating a custom tag I can have the same functionality while letting the To Do tag do it’s thing.

After defining the custom tag I decided to try a different, table based layout for the information:

This format works very well on the desktop application: it takes a minimum of space while still providing all the information I need. Unfortunately it isn’t mobile friendly so a little tweak and that problem was fixed:

Now I can update the information on mobile as easily as I can on desktop and still have access to everything I need. I keep a blank copy of one of these pages in the section with my tea notes and I can make a copy of it on mobile to the same section and have it act like a template for new entries.

You may also have noticed I didn’t include the name of the tea in the table. I name the page using the name of the tea to make it easy to locate and reference.

There are any number of ways to adapt this structure:

  • Create a section for each tea manufacturer and page for each of their teas
  • Create a section for each tea variety (black, green, etc.) and then add pages for the teas
  • Use stacked pages in a section to group the teas
  • Use page links to connect these teas to other content (for example: teas and music)

The flexibility always surprises me when it comes down to what you can do with OneNote. While it may not have the embedded databases that other tools have there’s no question in my mind you can make it work in almost any situation with a little creative thinking.

Posted in Notion

Notion Tip of the Week – Roadmap Template

Notion is known for the number of templates out there not only from Notion but from the Notion user community as well. This week I want to highlight one from Notion called the Roadmap Template.

If you’re familiar with Agile methodologies of software development the Roadmap template is a great way to kick start using Notion for planning and sprint management. Providing cards, epics, sprints, and structures for capturing user stories and requirements you can use it as is or customize it to your heart’s content. Just add a new page, select Templates, and look under Product Management.