So in this holiday week I have decided to have a closer look on my task management. Working in different spaces (school, home, lecture halls, computer rooms,…) and being in different „working“ roles (teacher, workshop leader, public speaker, it-geek, blogger, guitarist,…) I naturally have a lot of different tasks to handle. Correcting assignments, preparing talks and workshops, preparing for lessons and collecting ideas for blog posts, e-mail conversations … the workoad is very high for me and I thought about getting some structure in this mess.
Optimizing processes – OneNote and Outlook usage
OneNote, my daily companion since years
I have had a closer look on how I am dealing with all the incoming information right now and how I am get through my weekly workload. As a mathematician I am used to solve problems and optimize processes. And as a OneNote-Fan I am already documenting and organizing lots of stuff in dedicated OneNote Notebooks. For example, I have one for my workshops and talks since 2012, where I put in all relevant information and preparation. This is quite useful, as I can rely on things I have done in the past and can quickly come back to preparations I have done earlier.
I got another dedicated notebook for my little band project, where I store all the playlists, lyrics and information for gigs. So I just take my Surface with me and I have all set up for the „show“.
School work is widely mainly in OneNote Class Notebooks, so I can do all preparation within the „Content Library“ – section which I renamed „Teacher-Place“. So my students can see, what I am up to in the future.. 😉 Assignments, tests, quizzes are stored in a seperate notebook, so I can use templates and quickly edit and create similar questions.
I have also started to create dedicated workshop notebooks for my events to provide the participants with all information and documents they will need.
Outlook – more than just e-mails
I am also a heavy Outlook user since 5 years, as a lot of information and communication in my school comes by e-mail. I also organize my workshops and talks by e-mail and I manage my complete time schedule with serveral calenders in Outlook. I have imported my lesson schedule (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYFR2W6aPtk) as a calender and also established an ical-calender with all my personal events (workshops, talks,…)
So since two or three years I (try to) use the tasks management within Outlook, but I never figured out a good way to keep track of all the things, so I thought about getting a better „system“. I have also tried different Smartphone apps, but it was hard to get used to them. There are a lot of to-do list systems and apps out there. One of most interesting apps I found was Droptask , a cute visual way to organize your tasks, but I wanted to keep my things in OneNote and Outlook.
Outlook + OneNote = Perfect Match
So this is my situation. And now I have come up with a new idea to manage my tasks effectively:
- Creating a new quick note by WIN + N
- Sending content (mails, appointments, files,…) to OneNote
- Using Office Lens to capture „real life“ objects
There are some basic thoughts behind this process according to my requirements. As I do a lot of different work in completely different fields the only „fix part“ is OneNote. I really love the blank canvas to collect all materials, documents and ressources, to annotate on it and to get the whole picture. So OneNote has to be my „collector“, where I start the whole process. I have changed my default „new quick note“-section to the new „ToDo“-section in the OneNote settings in OneNote 2016 AND on the smartphone app.
I even set up my smartphone by pinning the ToDo-section to the start screen, so I can quickly add a task to my „Inbox“
When I assign Outlook tasks from within OneNote the bonus thing is that the Outlook tasks are linked to the OneNote page and so I can easily switch to the „working space“ for the task.
This features even remains with the drag-and-drop of the tasks into my calendar. This is the kind of functionality I have been looking for for a long time:
I created the different OneNote sections to get a bit more structure into my tasks and to be able to concentrate and focus on the different parts of my working load. This is still work-in-progress and I hope I will find the most useful sections, but I also think, that this is a „living thing“, that changes frequently.
Every now and then I can see through my working-sections and start working on tasks that are similar or require the same ressources.
The other thing I wanted to achieve is that I can focus a bit more on dedicated tasks. Everybody knows the problem of getting distracted by a short e-mail or other little time-stealing-things. So I wanted to find a way to plan my working day and I hope assigning dedicated time slots will help me to get things done effectivly.
So this is my plan and I will try to stick to it for the next weeks. I will give this complex process a try and hope that this will help me to be more effective and handle my different working tasks better.
What do you think? Does this all sound practical? How do you organize your tasks?
I will surely give you some report in the coming weeks about wethter and how this combinatio of OneNote and Outlook is working for me. So stay tuned and I would be very happy to hear your feedback!