Three Months into Going “Cold Turkey”

January 11th, 2018

This was the day I purchased an iPad Pro and dove head first in using Microsofts' note taking application OneNote to replace the paper notebooks I've been using and carrying my entire business career.

I'm currently two months into this experience/experiment, I can confidently say so far so good! I now use my iPad Pro exclusively to take notes during meetings, planning events, doodle and constantly keep experimenting with different ways to maximize my workflow.

So, you're all probably wondering the positives I've experienced so far with switching to taking notes exclusively on the iPad Pro with OneNote? Let me list them:

1) I imagined this would be way more difficult than it was

I had attempted to use an iPad (non-Pro) for note taking a couple of years ago and it felt clunky and took effort to capture information. Perhaps it was the note taking applications I was using, the third party styluses that weren't as accurate as the Apple Pencil, or a little of both. Regardless, technology changes quickly and I find the combination of the iPad Pro (with Apple Pencil) and OneNote works very well compared to my first attempts. It was really easy to get down to business taking notes. Some informed me that the glass surface might seem "slippery" when writing with the Apple Pencil. As of now, I have had no problems writing on the iPad Pro's surface with the Apple Pencil. Initially I was thinking of using a cover over the glass to give a more "textured" feel when writing, but I have yet to use anything of the sort.

2) Seemingly endless pages to take notes

I never have to worry about running out of space. My thoughts and ideas can be grouped together in a continuous flow. In the past my ideas and notes could be spread out over multiple pages. This was disruptive, hard to keep ideas/information together and time consuming. Using the iPad Pro/OneNotes combination, all my related notes are organized together much like a thread of emails or folders on the computer.

3) Search-ability

With the iPad Pro/OneNote combination, it's a snap to search for a note. Although handwritten notes are not searchable as text, as handwriting does not automatically convert to text, I start each note with some text identifying the topic along with keywords. If I ever need to reference the information in the future, all I need to do is to type in a date, keyword or phase related to the topic then "voila!" any notes that match my search come up. Once I got into the habit of creating this text heading, along with the date, the notes I took became highly searchable.

4) Transport

Compared to the paper notebook I used to carry (sometimes multiple during large projects), this sure is a compact and lighter alternative. Additionally, never will I have my information unavailable since one of my notebooks is at home, due to weight or space constraints, while I'm in a meeting somewhere else in the world.

5) Revising and updating previous notes

Previously with a paper notebook, if I had additional thoughts or ideas to extend what I had already written on a page, I had to staple or tape additional loose pages to each other to complete the thought.

Now, two months into this experiment, I find that I usually start taking my notes on the top left of a "page" and zoom in/out or move the note-taking surface so I can write on the side or bottom of the previous notes on that "page". Also, I can now move the locations of notes I had written. All I now need to do is to circle (select) the text/handwriting I want to move then drag it to another part of the page to continue my thoughts. This works well when you are writing down plans and want to add additional thoughts to already existing notes.

6) Highlighting key points

Highlighting comments is so easy now. Previously, I would carry an assortment of multicolored pens and a couple of highlighters so I can edit and mark my notes. Now, I don't need to carry these around as OneNote offers a rainbow of colors to write or highlight my notes with.

7) Automatic sync to the cloud once online using Microsoft online services

From my understanding, anything I do is continually synced to the cloud when I'm on a Wi-Fi network and have OneNote open. This acts as a "backup" of my notes. I have not tested having to restore from the cloud and hope I never will have to do this. This is a great peace of mind for me especially since I was a bit concerned I would lose my notes if anything went wrong with my iPad Pro. But, I had the same concerns when I used paper notebooks and might forget it someplace, have the notebook damaged or spill coffee on it one day. At least with this iPad Pro/OneNote solution there's a copy of the notes in the cloud.

So what are the downsides to the switch so far?

To be honest… not much.

I will admit that I was a bit apprehensive to go "cold turkey" with this change initially. It's difficult to switch methods and processes someone has developed over the past 40+ years. I did however carry around my notebook for the first few weeks "just in case". But, I never used the paper notebook during that transition time. I didn't trust myself that I could capture all the important information on the iPad or that I would cause a glitch that would make the new system not work. If you were to ask me now, I feel very confident in this new system where I don't need to carry around my big notebook anymore. This is an incredibly liberating and refreshing feeling.

One hiccup I experienced as I entered a meeting was that I realized my stylus showed having only 5% battery life left. This was during one of my first in person meetings using the iPad and I had forgotten the stylus needed to be charged occasionally. Luckily the stylus charges extremely fast so there were no problem taking notes during the meeting. I'd say it was a good experience to have gone through and now I make sure to keep everything well charged.

I am taking this entire experiment one step at a time. I still only use the very basics of OneNote on the iPad. When I first saw one of my trainees, Rachel, using a similar solution at a training session in Singapore last November (you can read about my August 2017 trip here), she had all her notes categorized by day, her virtual notebook was more organized and she was very "fluid" in taking notes. I don't know if I will ever reach her level of digital note taking, but I am looking forward to learning more that will make it easier to capture, search through and edit the information that I need for running my business.

Stay tuned for more updates in the coming months.

Please feel free to comment and ask any questions about my experience to date on LinkedIN here. Also, if you've recently made a switch in your business or daily workflow I'd like to hear about it too! Hopefully we can help each other out be better sales or business professionals.