How to Organize your Life Using Microsoft OneNote

by Barrett

If you suffer from ‘yellow-stickie-syndrome,’ I’ve got the perfect digital solution to help eliminate your analog clutter.

I have a problem with paper. It’s those little yellow stickies, to be precise. Whenever I have an idea or need to remember a detail, I quickly jot it down and stick my thought onto my home office desk. Needless to say, it’s not a strategy for organization. That said, whenever I complete a task, I take great pleasure in crumpling up the little stickie and throwing it in the basket behind me. Swish!

I know there are better ways to organize your personal to-do notes, and I do have digital solutions in place (Apple’s ‘Notes’).

I Love my Yellow Stickies
But my yellow stickie fix still remains in my personal preferences.

I must admit I like having those little reminders facing me when I sit down with my cup of Joe in the morning. The visual cues keep my home headlines at the forefront of my consciousness.

It’s messy, but effective.

Digital File Cabinet
On the work front, I’ve had more success preventing message clutter. I never suffered from ‘yellow-stickie syndrome’ in the office, mostly because I used a notebook, which I brought with me to meetings. When laptops became a common work tool, I would carry mine about and type up my notes into the computer. Easy. Right?

But the question remains how to best organize that flow of digital information.

If you maintain a Microsoft Word document that houses your ongoing meetings, that will mimic a paper notebook and eventually generate an overflow of details. If you create a Word doc for each meeting or project, then you’ve got to maintain dozens or hundreds of files. That’s too many. Plus, if you forget the name of your file or the date you created it, you may not have a sufficient bread-crumb trail to easily get back to it.

Sure, you can create folders for all of these docs, but it’s a clunky and ever expanding process to maintain.

The goal is to create and easily maintain a virtual version of the perfectly organized file cabinet. There’s got to be software that does this for you.

Well, of course there is.

Microsoft OneNote
My app of choice is Microsoft OneNote. (There are others, but OneNote is baked into Microsoft Office… so it’s right there for you.)

Plus, it’s exceptionally intuitive to use.

I first create ‘Sections,’ which are my broader categories, and then ‘Pages’ which live in each Section. My Pages represent individual projects, meetings or topics.

Yes, you’ll eventually create a massive number of individual Pages, but because they’re organized into dedicated Sections, it’s much easier to keep track of them.

Finally, after I’ve completed a project on a Page, I move that Page into a ‘completed’ Section. This little trick goes a long way to keeping my digital clutter to a minimum.

I think once you set up your own OneNote file, you’ll never want to use a physical notebook again. Just be sure to back it up or sync it to the Cloud.

Happiness is a Completed Chore
I’ve also set up Microsoft OneNote on my home iMac in the attempt to replace my yellow stickie notes. It’s the perfect cure for my touch of yellow madness.

OneNote initially cleaned up my desk in no time. But I eventually slid back into my old stickie patterns.

I think many of us have certain analog crutches that are difficult to part with. That’s okay. If I want to feel the crumple and swish of a completed chore, is that so wrong?

Alternately, when you need some serious help organizing your brain, chances are Microsoft OneNote is already right there for you. Just click on the program icon!

Satisfaction across time can be elusive. So I recommend you employ every tool available to regularly hit that pleasure center in your brain.