People may adamantly love or hate Microsoft and it’s suite of products (just as they love or hate Adobe’s) but it’s undeniable that they’re ubiquitous in the workplace.

And since I’m kind of a creeper on people’s organizational systems (like, I will actually search YouTube for videos of people explaining their systems in hopes of improving mine), I thought I’d share the one I use at work. It’s a somewhat simple and yet sometimes complex system using Outlook and OneNote (although I may be the only person left on the face of planet Earth who uses OneNote and not Evernote).


Outlook Mail

  • Folders: I’d be lost without these. Everything from my inbox that does have active followup HAS to be filed in a folder. My folder tree is pretty extensive but the gist is General, Departmental, Special Projects, Misc…..and then the folder trees flow down from there
  • Categories: That little rectangular box next to the followup flag is the category box. I use Current (as in current project), Next Most Important (yes, I really named it that), On File (because I like to print things I flag things I’ve printed for the file), On Hold, and then any long-term special project gets their own category
  • Followup Flags: I mostly use Today, Tomorrow, and No Date. Any emails flagged for followup will appear in the right-hand to-do bar (more on that later)
  • Conversations: Kind of random but something of note. I have all of my emails arranged by date (newest on top) and then organized by conversation. So if there are 20 emails in the chain instead of having 20 separate emails in my inbox, I have them all in one neat little cascade. The best part? If someone replies to the same email twice and doesn’t hit reply all, outlook will let you know (via an orange line) which email the email you’re reading was in reply to
  • To-Do Bar: On the view tab under layout you can view the to-do bar. I use this little bitty like whoa. I have it set to show the monthly calendar, appointments, and all items flagged for followup (as well as OneNote items flagged as outlook to-do items)

Outlook Calendar 

  • Overlay: View > Arrangement > Overlay. If you manage multiple calendars, this is a blessing. It keeps them from otherwise getting squished side-by-side
  • Week/Month View: My calendars are almost always in work week view because I can visually see when meetings are during the week
  • To-Do Bar: Same bar from above can also be viewed alongside your calendar
  • Categories: Carry over from mail! And it color coordinates your calendar.
  • Show As: I make it a point to block off time, even if I’m just sitting at my desk, to get things done. If I’m working on a project I’ll chunk off say everyday at 10am for an hour to work on it. I just make sure to set it as a tentative appointment in case someone sends me a calendar invite. That way they know I’m technically free although I’m dedicated to a certain task at that time
  • Add Outlook Items: Oft overlooked when making an appointment is the fact that you can insert outlook mail items and type notes into the appointment box. This is especially useful if you’re meeting with someone to discuss a project that has several email conversations tied to it. You can insert them all into the appointment



  • Notebooks: General, Weeklies, Projects, etc.
  • Sections: As an example, for General the sections are To Do, Done, Notes
  • Pages: Again, as an example, for General > To Do, the pages are April (or whatever month) with a checklist of items (organized by Today, Sometime, Holding, Out There, and project specific lists), Meeting Notes (by vendor or person met with), any other project specific notes
  • Sync: online to my OneDrive account every time a change is made in case I don’t have my work laptop on me. Also, I have the OneNote iphone app for quick reference to notes

It’s hard to fully explain how much I utilize OneNote. It’s scary the layers and layers of information housed in this program…

Bringing It All Together

This system works beautifully as is because I have three computer screens on my desk so I can have everything going side by side but I also get a certain level of enjoyment from actually writing on my list and highlight things to cross them off so I like to print them:

  • Print Monthly work calendar (a couple time a month but it usually doesn’t change that much once it’s set for the month)
  • Print Weekly Agenda Style personal calendar
    • 1 page/week
    • include daily task list (from outlook mail/OneNote items)
    • Only print workdays
    • From 6a-7p
  • Print OneNote to-do/weekly to-do


And that’s that!¬†Stay tuned, in the future I might share my personal system (which is much more tame than my work one, I promise).