How are you implementing OneNote & Outlook?
April 17, 2017 12:19 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in knowing how other people use Outlook & OneNote to capture and manage information.

I'm familiar with how to use both tools from a functionality standpoint. What I am interested in, is how you are actually using them together (and/or with other tools) in a corporate environment to capture, act on and reference information.

* What do your Notebooks look like in OneNote?
* Do you have special naming conventions to keep things organized?
* Do you use icons/characters to denote additional information (e.g. "!" means important, ">" means delegated)?
* Are you using Section Groups or just Sections?
* How do you groom your notebooks throughout the week, month, year?
* How do you keep them tidy?
* What does your workflow look like?
* Do you take meeting notes directly in OneNote?
* Are you using a stylus with a tablet or Surface or do you type?

posted by GernBlandston to Work & Money (5 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Outlook, to me, is sort of a terrible nightmare place that is nearly unsearchable.

However, OneNote is a huge deal to me in a "capture info fast and have it forever" way. I am a consultant in a very specific type of software, so I do the same half dozen types of jobs for different customers over and over again which means a) I do a lot of recyclable work b) I have a hard time remembering who wanted their whosit configured this way and who wanted it that way.

I have a notebook for Current (ish) work, and a notebook for Archive. If a customer gets stale enough I move them to Archive and bring them back if they start a new project with me. Each customer is a Section with pages underneath, and usually the first page is a list of my contacts there and how to access their system, and then after that just comes pages and the occasional subpage of whatever I need to do or did do or screenshots of support questions, meetings where I get requirements for new projects or changes (and sometimes, if I'm on-site, I use the recording function to capture those conversations - this has saved my ass a few times). Scripts/views/stored procedures I write for reports, customized forms, I try to stash everything of that I can in there since it's so searchable. I pretty much never throw anything away. I try to copy over anything really important from email, though I'm not great at that. I have a corresponding set of folders that I keep in "Customers" and "Customers Archive" folders in Dropbox where I save every document.

I'm working at my fourth VAR in my career, all my colleagues have almost the exact same system that they all came to on their own, and that has been true just about everywhere I've worked. It's almost eerie how similar everyone's systems are, though some people absolutely live and die out of their OneNotes and for me it's part of my life but doesn't replace my Outlook Calendar or my Dropboxes.

I have one Section just called Misc where I might stick general useful info, some SQL stuff I always have to look up (like how to format dates in all the ways), blog posts and KB articles I'm afraid might disappear one day.

Part of my system is that it's not meticulously organized, it's just captured and I can trust that it's synching to our Sharepoint if my laptop croaks or I get hit by a bus. Every note I take is time-date stamped, which is fantastic. I might drag subtabs around, but mostly I just try to name them things I'll recognize if I go hunting, and then I'll try to write some phrases in the page that have search terms I might use later.

I work on a Lenovo Yoga 2, but I am at my desk with two giant external monitors 90% of the time, or at a conference table face-to-face with customers typing as a laptop the rest. I don't have a stylus, though I do photograph whiteboards on my phone and (mostly remember to) stick them in my OneNote later.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:05 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]

So I am a Knowledge Manager at my company. I use SharePoint a lot. I tend to keep useful info about how to do things in SP and now in Office365, in addition to stuff specific to the sites I maintain and admin stuff. Notebooks: I have about seven, chunked out by general large topics (in my case: Admin, (MySite), Knowledge Management, SharePoint, (AnotherSite), Training, Office365). Within each notebook I have varying numbers of sections (the tabs across the top), and within each section I have many pages (although one rule is I don't ever want to scroll down in the far right page lists, so if I have created too many in an enthusiastic haste, I will take the time to groom them down). I take notes from meetings right into OneNote (handy because then I can email them directly to my boss if needed), including screenshots of slides or attachments of files. I save important informative email right from Outlook into a particular page (or maybe a new page) within the sections.

Because the search is good, I don't bother a lot with characters or icons. I started to, but it was a little too much work for me to maintain/care about. Instead, I keep a running TO DO at the beginning of each notebook. If it's something long-term or requires a budget that I don't have, but I still want to remember thinking of, I just put it in with the other project stuff. Sometimes I put REMEMBER at the beginning. I also track what I do weekly on one tab (in ADMIN) so that I can report what I've been up to during my boss 1x1s.

I guess what I'm saying is in my own notes I don't put in the kind of organizational effort that I would if other people had to see it, too.
posted by clone boulevard at 1:08 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]

I confess I don't often clean these out. I have deleted whole sections (old SharePoint files when we've updated to a newer version, but only when I think about it), and I've also moved around pages to put stuff that I am actively using closer to the top.
posted by clone boulevard at 1:10 PM on April 17

I'm not a fan of Outlook, but I love OneNote. I use it primarily at work for saving emails, because there's a handy button on every email which drops it directly into OneNote with just one click. I'll have, say, a "Client" notebook, with each page being a client's name. Then I indent new pages under each client's name so it's a subpage and I title each subpage with the date of the email or any other topics I want to keep under that client's name (notes from meetings, etc). The subpages can be collapsed under the client's name so the whole thing looks cleaner. And like someone else mentioned, the search function is very good.

I also use it to keep basic shared documents that everyone on my team can access. I like that I can update things like spreadsheets and the changes will save in the version in OneNote (if I've opened it from OneNote). I do sometimes take meeting notes directly in OneNote and it's nice because anyone else with access can also type notes in the same page at the same time and it updates in real time. So we can keep track of what everyone is typing when we're on a conference call or something. It's a pretty nifty little tool.
posted by triggerfinger at 2:20 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]

I work on a team of eight and we use individual OneNote books and a team one. The team is where we share tips, solutions, on call notes and important workflows. Everyone can access it and add to it but we rarely organize it beyond the basic sections that we set up. We just use search. I stick with sections pages and subpages and for some sections I title them by year.
I use my outlook calendar to track what project task I was working on and for how long; update as I go along through the day. I'll also block time out ahead like two hours on Thursday for project 69, and put a calendar entry with the due date. I set up rules for my mail and mark things that need followup so I can tell at a glance.
posted by SyraCarol at 6:29 PM on April 17

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