How OneNote Optimizes My Productivity

I think we would all agree that there is more information coming at us than ever before. And it seems like there is more information that I have to do something with than ever before.

And that demands that I have a working system in place that is going to help me keep important ideas, information, and conversations systematized in a manner that is efficient, easy to reference, and intuitive to use.

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 10.27.11 AM

Finding what works for you

Whatever you choose, it needs to work for you, and you need to consistently stick with it. As an example, my dad used to be a construction foreman years ago. And so much of his day was going job site to job site checking on progress and noting what he could do to clear roadblocks and help make his crews successful. And he was good at it.

And I remember, before the advent of electronic gadgets to keep life organized, that he would use sticky notes to keep track of conversations, tasks that needed to be completed, or planning that would need to happen. What was humorous for me was getting into his truck and seeing sticky notes all over the dashboard of his truck, each with a note or reminder.

Hey, it worked for him!

Many times, others may just not be aware of tools that are available to help keep their life more organized. And so today I would like to present an option that is working well for me.

If you are in any type of leadership role, you realize that much of your role is the exchange of information that results in a task to be completed, a project that needs to be delegated, or a conversation that needs to be documented.

The older I get, the more I realize that I have only so much available “human RAM.” And so it is critical that I understand how to manage all of my daily interactive data. And staying organized or tracking information is not just for my benefit. The bigger picture is that it allows me to serve others more effectively and show my love to them by giving better attention to items that involve them.

And so I would like to show you what I use.

Now introducing…OneNote

OneNote is a digital notebook or repository for storing free-form drawings, notes, pictures, documents, media or anything digital that you want to store. In close competition is Evernote, which has become very popular in its own right.

I have used OneNote extensively and have used Evernote to a much lesser extent. And so Evernote might be a better fit for you. But from a productivity standpoint, OneNote seems to be the better choice.

In fact, one review states…

Plenty of folks point to Evernote as the go-to note-taking app. Evernote does many things well, but I’ve found its best use is as a digital file cabinet for saving web clips, screenshots, receipts, or other random items you want to be able to search for later. (All tools OneNote also offers, it should be noted.)

OneNote, on the other hand, is better as a productivity aide, with its focus on typing and hand-writing notes, audio recording and search tools, and smart integration with the rest of Office.

The purpose of this post is not to provide a comparison but rather the benefits of giving OneNote a closer look. 

There are five benefits to using OneNote that are most appealing:

  1. Effectively organizing information
  2. Strong formatting features
  3. Quickly storing information
  4. Helpful search feature to find virtually anything that you have stored
  5. The ability to collaborate


OneNote is essentially a blank slate that is limited only by what you choose to use it for. It is organized by tabs and then by pages within each tab. Think of the tabs as categories of information and the pages as subcategories. For example, “RH Team” is my team at work and then under that tab are pages for each of the people that I meet with each week.

Notice there are tabs for each category that I desire to make separate. Those are towards the top and go from left to right. I can name them as well as color-code them for better organization.

Pages are within each tab and are shown to the right of the screen going from top to bottom. All of these tabs and pages together comprise a workbook and I can create as many different workbooks as I desire.

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OneNote is strong with its formatting options. I like that it feels similar to how a word processor would feel in having options for how text should best look.

One awesome feature that is super useful are the icons that are associated with various actions items, such as To-Do, Remember for later, Important, and Question. These are great to insert for notes to remind me of action items to be done at a later point. And OneNote gives you some customization options by allowing you to set up your own icons that are associated with terms that work best for your own setting.

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 9.02.45 AM


OneNote is useful in allowing me to store whatever I need to digitally store: pictures, screen clips, audio, links, and documents. 

In the screen shot below, I have used headers to show a new topic, as well as lists with checkboxes and even highlighting to show a task that I need to own. In addition, note how I added a link at the top. This is helpful when wanting to attach a website page to a conversation or a task that needs completion.

Some other helpful options for OneNote are that you can record audio clips right from the screen. This could be used to provide some audio narrative to a situation so that details are not forgotten. In addition, you can insert all file types including Windows Word and Mac Pages versions, as well as PDF documents.

Meaning, this is a one-stop repository for any and all digital information. If you have meetings with people, want a place to store ideas or media, set and track goals, then OneNote is a must-have tool. I have used mine for drafting my own personal mission statement and having it in an easy-to-find location, keeping links to productivity articles that I like, tracking books that I read, as well as jotting notes from meetings and using icons that remind me of who-does-what.

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OneNote has a powerful search engine that begins showing results with each new word that is typed. So it is very helpful when looking for conversations, pictures, or documents that you have stored but cannot recall where they are filed.


OneNote is also useful for collaborative team use. Simply share the notebook with others through the File –> Share option and they will have access to either view the information or have the ability to edit the information and the edits will show back up in your OneNote workbook. In addition, you can also send separate pages to others as PDF’s.

OneNote has and is continuing to be a great part of my productivity. And one of the best parts is that it is free. So if you are looking for a well-thought-out tool that can help keep you organized as well as facilitate success for you and your team, give OneNote a try. You will not be disappointed.

I’d love to hear from you — please leave a reply below if you have any thoughts to add to the conversation.

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