Posted in Techniques

New Ways to Use OneNote in your Personal Life

Recently I asked the OneNote for Professionals community on Facebook for their favorite ways of using OneNote in their personal lives, outside the professional uses. The classic recommendations were made (bullet journals, personal journals, recipes, etc.) but there were a number of less common and interesting suggestions made.

I have a notebook for everything about my home- measurements, projects to be done, to do lists, paint colors, shopping list of items needed for the projects. I love having everything I need in one place – Barbara W.

I’ve been using OneNote to track projects for a number of years now with one my most recent being the replacement of a sink faucet and filter.  While it sounds mundane, the ability to take photos of the process, pictures of the products you’re considering buying, receipts for purchases, and model numbers for replacement items easily fall in the strengths of OneNote.

 I have sections for various areas (home, rental/tenants, etc.) with one main “Reminder” page where I store all my to-do’s including shopping lists. I take pictures throughout projects so I can go back and see it from beginning to end. Luckily I did this with a piano I’m converting into a bar, or I’d never be able to figure out how to put it back together! – Carolyn G.

While I’ve never tried to reassemble a piano (good luck Carolyn!) this is another great example of how the combination of checklists, images, and sections can be put together to make home projects easier.

Crochet and cross stitch patterns – Katherine S.

I’ll admit I’m lucky I can do more than basic Boy Scout knots so anyone who can do this type of work has my admiration. That being said using OneNote to organize patterns for easy reference is a logical use of a natural feature.  I could see taking this to the next level and sharing patterns with others using the online version of OneNote.

I keep a media calendar, via Onetastic, with new shows, movies, and social events. I have a Moviepass, so it’s been helpful. – Michelle V.

Why this never occurred to me before is beyond me.  Being a big movie buff this just makes perfect sense. Create a template in the desktop version of OneNote and enter the information from the movie for reference.  I can even see ordering the pages in the notebook based on how good you think the movie was.  Pass the popcorn please.

OneNote is awesome for so many things, so it’s hard to pick faves. But two of my top likes are my style section for my wardrobe inventory & also my book club notes section. – Kandi V.

The style section is a fascinating idea to me.  Now granted I’m no fashionista, but I’ll admit I have a section in a notebook on different ways to tie a tie, fold a pocket square, and other style tips. There’s an old saying, “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.” I can see OneNote being a great tool in making that happen.

The most important aspect of using OneNote for non-professional reasons is making it a habit. The more often you capture content into OneNote, whether it’s at work or at home, the more likely you are to trust the tool and your system. Now OneNote isn’t for everything but you’ll be amazed how many things it can do with just a little bit of creativity.

How do you use OneNote for your personal life? Come tell me in the OneNote for Professionals community on Facebook or even better, in the Productive Professionals community.—New-Ways-of-Using-OneNote-in-your-Personal-Life-e1mh3c

Posted in Tools

OneNote is dead. Long live OneNote.

If you are a OneNote user you’ve likely heard the news that Microsoft has decided to stop adding new features to the Windows 32 version of OneNote. Ongoing development will be focused on the UWP version of OneNote for Windows.  Now those people who have tried both and are dedicated OneNote desktop users will tell you this is a terrible thing with much gnashing of teeth. I’m here to say that there is a silver lining to this tale and a light at the end of the tunnel that doesn’t happen to be an oncoming train.  To understand though you need to take a closer look at what a UWP app is and how it differs from a desktop application.

UWP in a nutshell

UWP stands for Universal Windows Platform. The basic idea is to create applications that will run on any Windows based device regardless of form factor. Keep in mind this doesn’t impact mobile devices such as Android and iOS. Nor does this directly impact the web versions of Windows applications. The primary impact is how new features are implemented in the UWP version and what the user experience is like.

Emotions running high

There are mixed feelings about the loss of the Windows 32 user experience and the notebook design metaphor being left behind for a more modern look and feel. The consensus concern I’ve heard from the users I’ve polled is the concern that the UWP version is not feature equivalent to the desktop version. Many of the capabilities you’ll find on the desktop (including some of my personal favorites) just aren’t there in the UWP version. So does this doom the future of OneNote? Hardly.

Mistakes were made.

Microsoft jumped the gun in sharing the end of life of OneNote 2016. Yes, I know they’re announcing Office 2019 and that OneNote on the desktop isn’t going to be included as part of the package. Yes, I’m aware of the consternation that causes the OneNote user community. That being said, holding off on the end of life notice until the UWP version was more feature equivalent would have minimized the backlash.

We want it all

UWP means updates can come fast and furious rather than waiting for software installation packages on the desktop. The plan Microsoft has shared so far is to roll out new features over the summer to push the capabilities of the UWP version closer to that of the desktop. They have even gone so far as to ask the user community what features are most important to work on in the UWP version. I for one like the outreach to the user community but as we all know there will always be those who want every feature duplicated from one version to the next.  Honestly that’s not realistic.

Next steps

So where does OneNote go next? With the change in management, the change in platform strategy, and the growth of the tool in the education markets, up is the only direction OneNote is headed. We’ll see it continue to spread and become an even more integral part of the Office 365 environment. Only time will tell as to how successful the UWP strategy is for OneNote, but in the mean time we still have the desktop and UWP versions to meet our OneNote needs.

Posted in Tools

Some interesting updates made on OneNote for Windows 10

Always on the look out for new features in OneNote, they’ve now released:

  • The ability to take your pens and highlighters that you have selected with you from device to device
  • Suggested recently opened notebooks from other devices
  • Notifications on changes to shared notebooks in OneDrive

OneNote continues to grow and mature as an organizational product.  Now if they could just make tags uniform across platforms…

Posted in Tools

Using Todoist to manage reminders for OneNote

One of the recurring complaints about Microsoft OneNote is it’s inability to handle reminders on tasks. (Yes I know Evernote can do this…but we’re talking about OneNote right now.) I needed a way to create action lists in OneNote and then be able to track and follow up on items to do in the future without having to remember to check the OneNote task list frequently. Fortunately one of my favorite tools comes to the rescue…Todoist. 

Here’s the process I use to generate multiple tasks in Todoist from OneNote so I can ensure everything gets done on schedule: 

Step 1 – Create your action list in OneNote 

Type in your list as you would normally in OneNote. You don’t even need to use the To-Do Tag, just put in a return at the end of each line. 

Step 2 – Use Todoist syntax in OneNote 

For example, if I have something on the list to do on Friday at 3:00 p.m., I would enter: 

Call the vendor Friday 3pm 

Todoist can leverage this format to turn the last part (Friday 3pm) into a scheduled reminder when the item is added to a list. If we expand the example a little we get: 

Call the vendor Friday 3pm 

Follow up on meeting action items Next Monday 8am 

Follow up on vendor action items Two Weeks 

Step 3 – Copy and Paste 

Creating the Todoist tasks from the OneNote list is nothing more than a matter of copying the list from OneNote and then pasting the list into a new task field in Todoist on the web. Todoist is smart enough to recognize you are pasting a list AND will read the date formatting to create reminders for each task it loads. (It’s pretty impressive to watch the first time.) 

From this point you can complete the tasks in Todoist, get reminders, and know nothing is falling through the cracks. 

Pro TIP: 

If you add in the label and project syntax on an item, Todoist will assign the task automatically as well. For example: 

Call the vendor Friday 3pm #cloudhosting @Art 

Finding ways to make the tools in your productivity toolkit work together can make all the difference between just getting things done and truly being productive. 

Posted in Strategy, Techniques

Three ways to help a college freshman succeed

Capture all the things

College freshman have stuff.  Lots of stuff. Lots of that stuff is papers, forms, and other information necessary for day to day college life outside of classes. Rather than trying to keep track of all that stuff use a cloud based tool like Google Drive, OneNote, OneDrive, or Evernote to make digital copies of things.

Each one of these supports taking photos of printed materials and then making the text in the photos searchable. Now when you get that flyer for the glee club meeting (I know, I know) you can just take a picture of it and be able to find out when and where it was at any time with a simple search.

Getting from A to B

You’ll hear suggestions about using an online calendar to track your class and activity schedules so you don’t miss your commitments while on campus. What these suggestions normally miss is allowing for how long it takes to get from here to there.  When you create entries in a calendar such as Outlook or Google Calendar, put an entry before your commitment with enough time to get from where you would be when reminded to where the commitment is.  So for example if it takes you 15 minutes to walk across campus, put an entry 15 minutes long before your class so you are reminded when you need to leave to be there on time. Some calendars allow you to adjust the timing of reminders, but I’ve found it easier to be able to see everything on the calendar as blocks rather than trying to remember to adjust the alarms one at a time.

Use Facebook to keep the parental units in the loop

One of the ways a college freshman can keep parents in the loop without dozens of text messages back and forth is the “letters home” approach with Facebook.  Yes, I know Facebook isn’t the cool thing for college students, but since Facebook has over 56 million users between 35-54 it might just be the easiest way to keep them in the know.  So how do you accomplish this without broadcasting your need for more dining hall money to the rest of the world?

You can set up custom lists of people in Facebook to limit who will receive an update when you post it.  This way you can write up an update (letter home) and then share it to the custom list. Another option is creating a private, unlisted group in Facebook and sharing information there.  It may feel like a lot to ask, but remember while you’re steeped in the day to day of college life, the people at home are always wondering how you’re doing and how college is going for you.  If you don’t tell them, they’re going to ask…and ask…and ask.

A little prep makes for less stress

Productivity on a college campus is no different than anywhere else.  It’s about doing the right things at the right times in the right ways. Take a few minutes to set yourself up for success and you can enjoy and benefit from your time at college that much more.


Know a college freshman? How are you helping them in their first big year. Tell me all about it in the comments.