I'm not sure whether my job is becoming increasingly complicated or whether I'm just getting older and can't remember anything. Either way, keeping on top of every task seems nearly impossible these days. Fortunately, I've discovered that using Microsoft OneNote to integrate some common tools has helped me keep it all together. Here's a quick look at how I keep myself organized. And check out the sidebar, “Sean Deuby’s Take on OneNote,” for some more ways to apply OneNote.

A Place for Everything

To keep meeting agendas and tasks that I need to accomplish in front of me and their statuses up to date, I use a combination of OneNote on the PC, OneNote Mobile on my Apple iPhone or iPad, and Microsoft Outlook tasks. I start with an outline for each meeting; I store this outline in OneNote. For example, when I have my weekly one-to-one meetings with my director, I use an outline similar to this one

  • Meeting Agenda
  • Attendees
  • Announcements
  • Status of Old Action Items
  • Summary of New Action Items

I have also found it useful to insert the meeting details directly into OneNote, especially if the meeting organizer has sent a meeting agenda in the Outlook invite. To do so, simply click the Home tab in OneNote, choose the Meeting Details button, and choose a meeting from today or from the future.

As my boss and I work through the meeting, I run through my agenda items, cover any announcements, and give him updates on old action items. As we discuss items throughout the meeting, I add new action items to the bottom of the list (using my Apple iPad or iPhone, which I'll get to in a bit).

After the meeting is over, I go back to my desk, highlight each new action item, and choose a due date, as Figure 1 shows. Doing so not only adds a flag to the action item in OneNote, it automatically adds an Outlook task, as Figure 2 shows. These tasks neatly combine all the action items in OneNote into one comprehensive list. The flags in OneNote and the tasks in Outlook are tied together. When I click a flag in OneNote to check off a task as completed, the Outlook task is updated and marked complete in the background. At the end of the meeting, I have a clear picture of what we discussed, which items were completed, and any new action items that I need to keep on top of, as Figure 3 shows.

Figure 1: Choosing a due date for action items
Figure 1: Choosing a due date for action items 

Figure 2: OneNote action items as Outlook tasks
Figure 2: OneNote action items as Outlook tasks

Figure 3: Reviewing action items
Figure 3: Reviewing action items 

Organized on the Go

OneNote Mobile does exactly what the name implies: It allows me to take OneNote with me on the go. By using Outlook 2010 on the computer and storing the files in Microsoft SkyDrive, I can access all my meeting notes via a free app that's available for the iPhone, iPod, iPad, Android, and of course Windows Mobile 6.1, or Windows Phone 7. Figure 4 shows what my meeting notes look like on my iPhone.

Figure 4: Reviewing items in OneNote Mobile
Figure 4: Reviewing items in OneNote Mobile 

No matter where I am, I always have the notes I need at my fingertips -- not on that notepad that I accidently left on my desk. And even when I'm away from my desk, I can quickly add a note to the agenda whenever I think, "Oh yeah . . . I need to remember to ask about this." The PC and mobile versions of OneNote always stay in sync, helping me to keep everything straight.

To set up OneNote for the iPhone, search for OneNote Mobile in the Apple App Store (either on your iPhone or from within Apple iTunes). After installing the application, open OneNote Mobile. You will be prompted to enter a Windows Live ID account. If you don't already have a Windows Live ID, you can create one. OneNote Mobile stores all your data on the SkyDrive that you associate with that Windows Live ID account, so be sure to keep your username and password secure.

The iPad OneNote application takes advantage of the larger screen size, so be sure to install the iPad version, rather than the iPhone version, on your iPad.

You can then access your notes from any computer by signing in to your Windows Live account and clicking SkyDrive. There, you'll find your OneNote documents in the My Documents folder. However, to make the process truly seamless, connect OneNote 2010 on your PC to SkyDrive:

1. Click File, Share.

2. Choose the notebook that you want to share.

3. Choose where you want to share the notebook.

4. Choose where in your SkyDrive you want to share the notebook.

Figure 5 shows an example of how I shared a notebook called Article on the Web, in the My Documents folder in my SkyDrive.

Figure 5: Connecting OneNote and SkyDrive
Figure 5: Connecting OneNote and SkyDrive 

SkyDrive Storage

After you have your SkyDrive set up, you'll no doubt find other uses for it. I keep a copy of important files that I might need to reference on my mobile phone. For example, if a customer is unhappy with my company's response time, I can quickly pull up a copy of our service level agreement on my phone. One caveat: In my experience, using the SkyDrive on a mobile device is best for consuming content, not creating it. Keep this in mind as you decide which files to access via this free Microsoft online file-storage service.

Make Life Easier

This article illustrates just one example of how a mobile version of a common application, an Internet storage location, and an application that you already use everyday can make your life easier. Try it for yourself.