Windows only: If reading the comments on GTD-related posts is any indicator, many of you have found yourself in the situation I recently found myself in: you love getting things done but somehow your system isn’t working like you planned and you’ve fallen off the wagon. While reading up on ways to more effectively use Microsoft OneNote as a GTD tool I came across a brilliant tag based implementation courtesy of Rob from the productivity blog 7Breaths. We featured Rob’s integration of OneNote and Outlook back in August, but somehow I had completely overlooked his method of using OneNote tagging system to move ideas through the Capture – Process – NextAction/Project cycle.
Here is a quick summary of Rob’s system, definitely read his series of blog entries on the topic in detail:
Within OneNote you set up tags for things like Processing, Contexts (@home, @calls, etc.), and for Projects. I additionally set up a tag for Someday/Maybe which was absent from Rob’s implementation. The tags are the most critical part of the implementation and the part that has done the most to radically improve my workflow. OneNote has checkbox style tags that allow you to tag and then check off items, very handy.
Create a Notebook for GTD, with tabs for Today, the current month, Active Projects, Support Files, Archived Months, and Archives projects. I, again, added a Someday/Maybe tab.
The Today tab is where you do all your capturing. Here is where you would enter something like “Upgrade Computer” and tag it as “Processing”
During the day when you sit down to process your new inputs, you search using the “Processing” tag to make sure no newly captured items have escaped your attention. As you process each input you tag it appropriately if it is a single action: “call insurance company and request copy of accident report” receives the @call tag. A project, and this is where using OneNote and tags really shines, gets its own dedicated page. An input that is multi-stepped become a project. By right clicking on the project item in the list you can create a linked page in OneNote. This linked page can be dragged into the Active Projects tab and will serve as a base for all the information for that project.
The beauty of the tagging system is that no matter how many projects you have, because the next actions in each project are tagged a comprehensive list is a simple search away. The tags-as-checkboxes feature I mentioned above is especially handy during searches, you can search only by the unchecked tags to ensure the list is current. Searching for the @call tag will generate an instant list of all the phone calls you need to make across all projects while still giving you, thanks to OneNote, the flexibility to lay out your projects and accompanying information as you see fit.
Finding Rob’s OneNote workflow helped me break through the mental resistance I was experiencing fully implementing GTD the way I wanted. If you’ve had a similar breakthrough, share it below in the comments and help out your fellow readers!