Note-taking system, reminders, to do list

Do you find yourself saying “I’ll do it later?” Sometimes it’s because of procrastination, but mostly we’re too busy with other matters to “do it now”.  Using your preferred choice of note-taking systems is vital to help you remember both important and less important tasks.

If you’re working from home, for even part of the time, business, household, family and personal tasks can become blurred, and add to the list of tasks you delay.

The busier you are the more tasks need putting off, and the more you put off the more you’ll forget. Some tasks aren’t vital and rightly belong in the brain’s recycle bin but what about those that remain in its unread section. Our brain only has a “mark as important” system for those tasks we do regularly or those we constantly think or worry about.

Whether our task is online or offline, there are tools to help you remember. A combination of offline, online and manual tools is often best for prioritization. Let’s look at a few of them:

Traditional Note-Taking Systems

The In-tray

I use the term loosely here as a work at home in tray doesn’t have to be a container of papers sitting on your desk. It could be a tray on your kitchen bench, documents attached to a cork board, your fridge or your walls. The problem with in trays is that they can get too full or you might forget to look at them. Consider using two in-trays, one for important and one for less important papers. Create reminder notes for the more urgent tasks.

Sticky Notes

For things you absolutely must to do tomorrow, place sticky reminder notes where you can’t possibly miss them. Those stuck to your computer screen partly obstructing your view are effective. In case you don’t go there first thing, find places you will see straight away, such as the kettle or coffee jar. Now you know my morning priority; although the first thing I usually see is the cat with his feed me/let me outside please, and if I could find a way of sticking a reminder note to him I would.

Funny Cat Sticky Note Message

Photoshopped – If real. the cat would shred the sticky note in seconds.


These are good for making lists of to dos as long as you remember to look at them and update them as needed. Those with tear out sheets are good as it’s satisfying to rip out a page of tasks completed. Keep separate notebooks for other notes so you can find your important notes easily. An example is a separate note pad for making notes from video presentations and webinars.

One disadvantage with notebooks is that they get wet if a child spills water over them. It’s not as satisfying writing on dried out, crinkled pages:

wet notebook drying out

Heating vent reading a notebook

Digital Note-Taking Systems

There are many digital note-taking systems around but I’ll only cover a few of the more popular here:


I’ve talked about OneNote before because it’s my favorite note keeping method.  It’s available as Windows software, an online version, and as an app for phone and tablets. If you use the desktop version, you can sync your notebooks online and access them anywhere. Notebooks can be shares with others if you want. I keep all my notes organized into sections and categories. The first tab is my Important To Do list. You can find out more about One Note in my posts “Productivity with One Note” and “One Note Examples of UseDownload OneNote 2013 for free or install the app from the Microsoft OneNote page


Because I use OneNote I’m not too familiar with all the features of Evernote which is the digital note-keeping tool for many. Lifehacker describes some of the ways to make the best of Evernote in “I’ve Been Using Evernote All Wrong. Here’s Why It’s Actually Amazing

Active Desktop Calendar

Active Desktop Calendar, a Windows program,  has been my companion for years.  There is  a free version but I found it useful enough to pay the one-off USD 29.90 fee for the pro which comes with free upgrades.  It features pop up alarms, notes displayed on your desktop and task lists.  It supports multiple calendars and there’s the option to share them across a network so you can create reminders for other people.  Alarms can be set to remind you well in advance, repeatable at a set schedule.

Desktop Reminder Alarm


Clear Tasks, Reminders and To do Lists is a  simple, list making and reminder app for iphone, ipad and MAC.


Todoist is a popular, cross-platform,  note taking, task management and reminder system. The basic features are free but others, such as reminders and backups, are part of the $34 a year pro version. As well as desktop version and mobile apps there are add-ins for Chrome, Firefox, Gmail, Outlook and Thunderbird.  It’s recently been given a facelift so if you’ve tried it before you might like to take another look.


Claiming to be “a whiteboard with super powers”,  Trello is a free cross-platform, cross browser, note-taking app. It allows insertion of videos, images and pdfs. Apps are available for iPhone and Android, tablets, desktop and the Apple Watch. Your notes are synched from whatever device you use it on. Team sharing features are included in the free version and there is an upgrade version for larger organizations.

Other Keep for Later Systems


Pocket is a tool that allows you to save webpages, articles and videos for later viewing. It’s a mobile app and browser add-in for Chrome, Safari and Opera, and recently an inbuilt feature of Firefox.  It’s also integrated into over 1500 other apps such as Twitter apps, News Readers, News Sites and Bookmark apps.

RSS Reader – Feedly

My choice of RSS reader is Feedly to inform me of updates to favorite blogs.  This avoids subscribing to multiple sites for updates by email, emails I never get round to reading. The favorite and send by email features are good for saving posts to re-read or read later.  It’s available for desktop and mobile devices so that you can see your subscribed feeds anywhere.  The pro version comes with integration with a large range of other apps such as Evernote, IFTTT and Pocket but as an RSS reader the free version is enough. I’m currently  using the IFTTT integration to auto post updates from the blogs of members of the PAC network to my Facebook Page.

Flash Video Downloader

Don’t have time to watch a video now? Flash Video Downloader will find and download videos from most websites. It’s a browser extension for Firefox (the Chrome version is not available since recent updates to Chrome).

Well Organized Bookmarks

Make a habit of saving bookmarks into categories/folders so you can find them easily. A “To Read Later” folder added to your bookmarks is really handy. If you’re researching for study, or for writing blog posts, add a folder (with sub-folders) for this too.

Your Turn

If I’m getting bored writing this you must be getting bored reading it! There are so many tools available and I’ve only covered a few that I use.  Please do leave a comment and add to this list. Tell us if you have systems in place to “Do It Later”.

Reader Recommendations:

The DotComGal is having good results with Remember The Milk She says “I have tried all sorts of things for “to do’s” and never really stuck to it. However, I recently started using “Remember The Milk” and so far it’s working great. It’s so easy and simple to use and makes you more organized as it integrates with Google Calendar”