Part 4: Project Notes Best Practices

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In the previous articles, you’ve learned how to schedule tasks and link notes to each other using  [[note name or date]] and >date. And you know you can organize your notes in the left sidebar using real folders. 

In this article, you will learn some best practices so that every note is where it should be and easy to find. 

1. How to structure your sidebar?

An easy way to get started is to use the system  PARA (Projects, Areas, Resources, and Archive).

Here is an example of how you can name your four main folders: 

10 - Projects  
20 - Areas
30 - Resources  
40 - Archive  

What should you file in these folders?

File notes for things you are working on  right now, your current projects. 

Areas in your life you are maintaining at the moment. Such as your health, relationships, sub-areas of your job or business (marketing, hiring, growth, strategy...). File notes here that help you keep up your areas: insights, learnings, things you read somewhere, lists, plans, etc.

This folder contains topics of on-going interest. Read something interesting in a blog, book or tweet? Create a note for that and file it under the appropriate topic. Some day you may need the notes you capture here. But at the moment they are just interesting.

Completed projects and areas of your life that are not relevant anymore (you quit your job and started a business). Or resource topics that are not interesting anymore. These are notes you probably won't need, but they can become useful reference material later. 

(Please do not use @ in front of the folder. @ is reserved for special folders like the Trash and Archive. This is to avoid naming conflicts. NotePlan excludes folders starting with @ in many ways like task detection). 

Learn more about setting up a folder system.

2. 📅 Meeting Notes

There are roughly three different ways to take meeting notes:

  • One note per meeting
    • Use this if you write very long meeting notes
  • One big note with meetings as sub-headings
    • Use this for shorter, reoccurring meetings. Collapse the headings to hide irrelevant information.
  • Meetings as sub-headings in your daily notes
    • Add meetings to your daily notes only as a form of inbox. Make sure to file the meetings later somewhere.

Where should you file your meetings?

  • If the meeting is on a specific project file it in your project folder (see "PARA" above).
  • If the meeting is across many projects file it in an area folder under a topic.
  • If projects and areas don't work for you, create a general "Meetings" folder and file them per month (each month in the year gets one folder, prepend the month number, such as "08 - August 2022" so they sort nicely).

Finally, use templates and the integrated meeting notes feature to automate your meetings. Learn more here (with video).

3. 🔗 Linking Notes

Every  [[note link]] creates a backlink at the top of the target note. You can use the backlink to navigate backward and the links inside the note to move forward. Or vice-versa.

Create a chain of notes to find related notes faster without having to search for them. This works especially well if there is a sequential relationship between notes like in meetings.

For instance, you had a meeting with Client A and want to plan the next meeting. The first one took place on the 21st March and the second will be on the 29th March. 

Open the 21st March note and write a link to the new meeting note. Then click on the link (which will create the note) and prepare the agenda for meeting #2:

Now, the meeting notes are linked together, and it doesn’t matter how many other notes are stored in the same folder. 

You can have hundreds of meeting notes in a folder. But you need to find only one of the "Client A" notes to find the rest of the meetings in the right order.

Combine Chaining Notes with an Index Note, so you have an entry point. The first note in the chain is the only one without backlinks. 

It's your turn

Sort notes by  Title using the menubar option View → Sort Notes By. Then create numbered folders that fit your workflow. Summarize your current projects in a single Radar Note and scheduling tasks for the next steps.

In the next email, you will learn how to switch between notes quickly without using the sidebar, nor mouse.

Pro Tips

  • Add emojis to your folder and note names.
  • Clicking on links to non-existing notes will create that note and copy the link name.
  • Learn more about PARA and Johnny.Decimal, and how you can implement these methods in NotePlan.
  • Open notes in separate windows by right-clicking the note in the sidebar, then "Open In New Window". Or CMD+Click a note link inside a note.
  • Open notes in a split view using Option+Click.
  • When you chain your notes, you can also "branch out" from one note to create another parallel chain.

Next up: → Part 5: Find Notes With the Command Bar

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