GTD with OneNote


OneNote is a unique and great application from Microsoft, maybe the most under-estimated one, from the Office application suite. Though its original purpose is to keep quick notes on your laptop or –even better- your tablet, OneNote hides almost all elements of a full GTD system!

As an application, OneNote is quite simple. It gives you an unlimited open space for your notes, following the classic notebook paradigm. Each file can contain sections and each section pages. There is the ability to create lists of items anywhere, so there’s not much more a GTD-user could ask.

The great thing about it as a GTD system, is the higher focus abilities provided to the user. There are a only few GTD systems having this advantage without requiring a great effort from the user. You can write to OneNote anyway you want. Starting by freeform notes, you gradually build your system, tagging lines of text as actions and flicking through the pages to quickly review your whole system.

Killer features:

  • Take freeform notes and create easily actions out of them by tagging them accordingly
  • Fully customizable to meet user’s needs
  • Easy to review and get the total outlook of your system
  • Export data to many formats
  • Connect your file to the cloud to be available for editing from any web-browser

GTD mode: There are some different views and methods on the exact methodology to use. I will present the one I found the most useful to the majority of users.

  • Sections as Areas of focus/responsibility
    • An overview page into each section
      • List of all active projects in section (optionally tag each one as a project)
    • Pages as projects (active and potential)
      • Project outcome, notes and information
      • Project action list (tag only next actions either with the to-do tag, or customize your tag list to contain each of your contexts)
  • The Inbox section
    • For all random snippets of information you will gather through the week. Make sure you define this section as default for captured noted from OneNote’s settings
  • The ad-hoc Summary page
    • After defining tasks from each weekly review, press Find tags and create a summary page. This will be your master list of the things to do until your next review.


  • Creating entries to your calendar for reminders must be done manually (2010 version). Alternatively, MS Outlook reminders can be used (if you don’t mind being depended on Outlook too).

Mobile access: Versions for iPhone and Windows phone. Web access through the office live page (2010 version).

Cost: Included in all versions of Microsoft Office

Conclusion : Using traditional list managers, usually forces users to repeatedly focus on small things (everyday actions) neglecting the planning process and the higher views of their systems. OneNote is great for planning and supports a unique style of list creation and management. In my humble opinion it could be one step closer to GTD, than any task manager will ever reach. Because thinking cannot be made inside a list.


Read also (other views on OneNote GTD):