Are you using sticky notes to manage your Todo’s? Do you have to constantly clean off your computer’s desktop because there are so many icons? Do you have a small notepad for passwords, another for phone numbers, and yet another for miscellaneous snippets of thoughts? You’re not alone. I’ve been there. Most of us have.
There’s a voice in the back of your mind that says, “I’ll organize all of this some day! Maybe tomorrow!” But tomorrow comes; as do the weeks and months. Before you know it, it’s been 12 years and now this ‘system’ is what you’re stuck with. This system is a three legged table that you’ve gently been eating dinner on for years. It works, but it’s also failed you many times. Do you get a new table? No. You pick up the spaghetti and meatballs. Scrape everything off the floor. Put it back on the plates and sit down again. No. More.
It’s time to stop saying ‘some day’. ‘Some day’ is today!
Lets Begin at the Beginning
The first stop is deciding on what system we’re going to use. For our little project here we’re going to use Microsoft OneNote. There are dozens of worthy platforms out there, so in order to not get bogged down we’ll just go with OneNote. Bear in mind our goal isn’t to teach OneNote; it’s to teach a way to think about organization. OneNote just happens to do this really well; and its available on PC, Mac, Android, and other platforms. If you create a free outlook.com account you can create a notebook online and it will be saved automatically and will never be lost.
Also note that we’ll go over the techniques shown here in the context of running a business. In our example we’ll call the business Fictional Farms. I want you to consider that we chose the organizational model of a business because the principles can be transferred to other areas that need organization.
Let Me Show You What I’m Talking About
A Business is an organization. It’s called an organization because it is comprised of departments that have distinct functions: Executive Management, Finance, Marketing, Operations, IT, etc; Each department has it’s objectives. Sometimes those objectives over-lap but mostly they don’t. Someone in marketing isn’t going to be responsible for handing out payroll checks. So, in OneNote we’ll create a new notebook and when prompted call it “Fictional Farms”
A new notebook will have a new section and a new page. We’ll ignore those for now. What we want to do is create a section group. Right click in the blank area of the sections and select New Section Group. Call it Marketing. Now repeat this for each department. In my example, the Departments are Business Administration, Finance, Marketing, Operations, and Technology.
Click on the Finance Section Group then click on where it says + Section. When prompted call that section Accounts Payable.
So lets just take a look at what we’ve done. We have a notebook that represents the whole company. We have Section Groups that represent the departments in the company. And we have Sections that represent sub sections in that company. Just like a real business!
No imagine you want to set up a notebook for your household. What would be the Section Groups? Sections? Subsections? Maybe you’d have a vacation section or a finance section group. This illustrates that sometimes sections and section groups are not always obvious. Don’t let that stop you. Just make a section. Then make a few more, and eventually you should come to realize what can be grouped together.
Then there are pages of each section. Do you see how each section is like a tab in a real notebook. So of course you’ll have pages in each section. The beauty here is that you’re not just limited to one or two tab levels. You can build up to larger and larger categories and go down to the smallest detail. And likewise you can have levels of pages. Going back to our Fictional Farms example, you’ll notice that under the General Accounting Section, there is a pages like Assets, Mortgage, and Liabilities. Under liabilities, there are two sub pages; one for a truck loan and one for a tractor loan. Notice how these are under liabilities but are shifted to the right a bit indicating that they are sub-pages.
In our last example, since this a business, lets find the Org Chart. We can easily do a search but what if we just want to browse? What section would it be under? You could make a case for it to be under any one of the four main section groups. In this case I’ve just chosen to put it under Business Administration. Once we go in there you’ll notice I have a template for an org chart and the current org chart for the year. I did this to illustrate the use of templates. That way if something changes you can document how it changed over time.
There is no right answer here. Don’t be too worried about what’s right and what’s wrong. Don’t let the options overwhelm you. Just begin. Begin wrong if need be. Part of the beauty here is you can change it on the fly, update, iterate, and try again. Don’t be afraid to blow it all away. If you want, don’t blow it away. Just change the name to something like “Fantasy Farms 2018.01” and make a new one called “Fantasy Farms 2018.02”.
Feel free to message me with any questions.