How to Use Microsoft OneNote for Project Management

Updated on October 9, 2017
Max Dalton profile image

Max earned his project management professional (PMP) certification in 2013. He holds an MA in Communication from U of I.


Microsoft OneNote doesn't get nearly the credit it deserves as a remarkably powerful tool to support project managers. You can use OneNote as a soup-to-nuts solution where you store everything from your meeting notes, generate and manage your to-do list, add links to where relevant files are located, share your OneNote notebooks, and more. OneNote is incredibly flexible and every project manager will invariably use it a little bit differently, but this is definitely a tool that's worth project managers adding to their tool belt.

Microsoft OneNote comes with the Office 365 Enterprise edition.
Microsoft OneNote comes with the Office 365 Enterprise edition. | Source

Meeting Notes

Project managers will often create meeting notes directly in an email that will get sent out to the team after the meeting, in Microsoft Word, or in some other word processing application. Over the course of a project, meeting notes will often live in separate files, making them difficult to go back through if you're looking for one particular item that may or may not have been documented in a meeting months ago. You can create a primary page for your meeting notes in OneNote notebook section associated with your project, and then create subpages for all of your subsequent meeting notes. You can keep your notes directly in the OneNote page using either the built in bullets or numbering system, similar to how you would add levels in Microsoft Word. The best part is that if you do build out all of your meeting notes in Microsoft OneNote, everything will be searchable, so you can find key terms from old notes in seconds rather than hours.

What to Do When a Project Goes Bad

To-do List

If you're a project manager juggling multiple complex projects, keeping track of all reminders you create for yourself over the course of the day can be an absolute nightmare. Those reminders end up scattered across meeting notes, sticky notes, and piles of paper. They rarely ever all get collected in one place, and they may never make it back on your radar until you get an angry phone call from your boss reminding you to do something. Creating a to-do list as a page at the top of the Microsoft OneNote notebook section where you store information for your project gives you easy access to that information. If you created your meeting notes in OneNote, you can simply copy the relevant items you want to pull into your to-do list for that project into that separate list. From there, you can right-click on any of the items in a list to tag that item as a to-do item with a check box, an important item with a star icon, an idea with a light bulb icon, a password with a lock icon, and more. Additionally, if you have Microsoft Outlook set up on your computer, you can also create reminder flags associated with those items that will also display and pop up in Outlook.

Link to Relevant Files

You can also either add shortcut links to relevant files on your computer or websites in-line anywhere in your document. Additionally, you can insert active versions of Microsoft files directly in your OneNote pages. Alternatively, you can insert some files that are not associated with Microsoft applications, but they will display as a PDF, if they can be displayed at all. The links can be especially helpful if you build a page within your project's notebook section out as a table of contents for your project's files and then link back to them. This will let you access those files quickly from one location without having to work your way through a bunch of folders to get to what you need.

Microsoft OneNote lets you move text and images to any location on a page. Additionally, you can insert a variety of iconography to call out to create visual flags associated with the text on the page.
Microsoft OneNote lets you move text and images to any location on a page. Additionally, you can insert a variety of iconography to call out to create visual flags associated with the text on the page. | Source

Easy Sharing

Perhaps the best part of Microsoft OneNote is that if you have a OneNote notebook section dedicated to a project, you can easily share that notebook section with anyone else who has OneNote. You can email that specific section, or you can go out to the location where it's saved, copy it, and send it to that person via other means. A good use case around this is if you are going on vacation and you need to get someone up to speed on your project so they can serve as a point person while you're out, you can send them your OneNote file and literally give them all of the information about the project. Additionally, if the files you call out within the link file are in a shared location where the other person can access them, they they'll be able to easily find your files as well.

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 Max Dalton


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      • Max Dalton profile image

        Max Dalton 7 months ago from Greater St. Louis, Missouri

        Hi Darren. Awesome! Very glad you liked it. I've received a lot of great feedback on write-ups I've done around this.

      • profile image

        Darren Manley 7 months ago


        This was probably the most direct and germane explanation I have encountered to date using OneNote to support a project method.

        Thanks for taking the time to write this up.


      • Max Dalton profile image

        Max Dalton 15 months ago from Greater St. Louis, Missouri

        Best of luck! I've used it for a few years, and don't think I could live without it.

      • The Dirt Farmer profile image

        Jill Spencer 15 months ago from United States

        Thanks for this tutorial. You provide some great ideas for using OneNote. I'm going to try the to-do list and links to files. Best, Jill