I started using OneNote as a way to get the Post-It notes off my desk.  It seemed like a simple way to store little pieces of information that didn’t belong anywhere else.  In OneNote, I could easily find and track them.  Now, I hardly ever use Post-Its (sorry, 3M).  The good news is, if you use Microsoft Office, you probably already have OneNote, so it’s easy to give it a try.

OneNote is indispensable for keeping me organized and productive every day.  Here’s why.

OneNote is completely flexible.  You start with a blank workbook and decide how you want to organize it.  The lack of structure can be unnerving at first, but stay with it.  It’s worth it.  You can set up a work notebook, personal notebook, or any type of notebook you want.

Over time, my work notebook has evolved to 12 tabs with multiple pages under each tab.  Each tab is a project area, and within the individual pages are links, screen shots, random ideas, and anything else I think is relevant and that I may want to refer to later.   Plus, I can arrange the information anyway I want on the page (you’re not limited to straight columns, and images and text easily co-exist).

You can use OneNote only for your own notes, share your notebook with other people just on your network, or share it people anywhere by syncing to OneDrive.

If you need to collaborate on something like a meeting agenda, OneNote may be just the thing.  Set up your notebook to be shared and each time someone edits the page the change will automatically be highlighted and show the editor’s initials.  (Yes, you can do this in Word, too, but somehow it just seems less cumbersome in OneNote.)  That page can be linked to a meeting reminder, and everyone attending the meeting can check on the most recent agenda quickly and easily.

Need a to-do list?  OneNote is great for that.  Want to save fun clippings and pictures that make you smile?  Good for that, too.  You could even set up a “daily page” just for short-term work and other pages for notes that you’ll use later.  Plus, searching is quick and easy.

You can take a picture of a whiteboard, annotate it, and share it in OneNote.  If you have a device with a pen, you can add notes to an existing page (it works with a mouse too but is kind of clunky, not surprisingly).

OneNote keeps me organized and on track.  If you’d like to check it out, here are some tutorials to get you started.