Leaders can’t keep everything important in their heads. For centuries leaders kept notebooks and commonplace books. I love and often use paper notebooks, but am increasingly happy to use a “digital brain” to support my efforts to become a better leader. OneNote is my tool of choice, because I can synchronize it across multiple devices.
Below are my suggestions for how you can use OneNote to sharpen your leadership ability and extend your influence as well.
Keep track of items for your boss (or bosses)
Keep an active list of items to review with your boss at the next appropriate opportunity, especially those things which are not urgent, but are important. Make notes here about the things your boss considers important and how he/she is being evaluated. Capture notes from your discussions. Store a copy of your goals and the organization goals.
Keep track of items for direct reports
Set up a notebook for your direct reports with a section for each person. Add in items like their performance goals for the year, specific tasks you’ve assigned them, your thoughts on development opportunities and how they fit into succession plans. You can add kudo letters that people send you about them. List key items coming out of your 1:1 meetings, and scan the section to make it easy to prepare for the next 1:1 meeting.
Prepare for meetings
Before an upcoming meeting, go to the Outlook calendar item and click on the OneNote icon. The meeting agenda information will be added to a new OneNote page. Add any agenda details, key thoughts, text from email messages, charts from Excel, images, etc — whatever helps you run the meeting that can be added in advance. When the meeting time occurs, simply open the page and begin capturing notes. Grant others access to the same notebook and then someone else can capture notes while you actually manage the meeting. Overall, you’ve made it easier for yourself to set up for an effective discussion and decision-process, and you have a record for everyone to refer to.
You have an extended network of friends, professional contacts, and colleagues. Keep a few pages for storing notes about your conversations or news you hear about their promotions, accomplishments, and families.
Track your goals
You should have annual goals and 6-week deliverables. Park a copy here, and update them with commentary as you go. This makes writing up your part of mid-year and annual reviews much easier. I also recommend you have a personal vision and longer-term goals for yourself and your organization. I tend to forget about these, so I set up an Outlook task to remind me to review them periodically.
Keep your basic templates in a convenient place
Store your checklists for weekday and weekend activities, travel packing list, upon-return list, master list of interview questions, etc. No more fumbling around wondering what file folder you had those in.
Capture articles that you want to read later
From your web browser simply Print to your OneNote notebook, and you can read offline when it’s convenient. This is especially handy when traveling.
Keep a personal reference notebook
It’s helpful to have a digitally-accessible reference file for personal and family information. You can list family member contact information, birthday, and anniversaries. Track information related to that upcoming vacation, and ideas for where to travel or experiences to enjoy in the future. Track book, movie, and restaurant recommendations. Capture gift ideas when you think of them. Record your clothing sizes and the sizes for your spouse and children. You can store the active “Honey-do” list that your spouse has been asking you to complete. Keep tabs on your elder parents’ doctors, prescriptions, etc.
Capturing useful information
OneNote is very flexible and a great place to store information which interested you or you thought would interest others. You can capture quotes, images, links to good articles, book reviews (and your own comments on books), stories and examples. Use this as fuel to improve future presentations. Share good information with your direct reports and others you hope to influence.
I hope you find these useful. What other suggestions do you have?