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. Naming Notes and Folders

A simple trick to create more order in your folders and notes is to  prepend a number before the name. First, you need to change the sorting to Title in the menubar under View → Sort Notes By. Then add numbers to your main folders. An easy way to get started is to combine this system with 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  

▶️ Watch a short video about PARA and the number system "Johnny.Decimal"

Numbering also allows you to map your workflow onto NotePlan. In the example below, a note begins it's life in the folder  00 - Planned and moves down as you process it until it retires in 04 - Archive

Here is a  Kanban Board example:

00 - Planned 
01 - In Progress 
02 - In Review 
03 - Done 
04 - Archive

Also, number the notes inside folders. Notes with smaller numbers (which are at the top) have a higher priority and notes at the bottom have a lower priority. If you are done working on one project note, move it to the next folder (= stage).

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 here more.

2. Radar and Index Notes

It’s usually not a big deal if you are handling 1-2 projects and have only a handful of notes. But things become really stressful if you need to keep control over a lot of things at once. Both Index and Radar Notes can be entry points into your projects and help you to keep an overview.

Index Notes: If you have a folder that contains too many notes, create an Index Note at the top of it by naming it 00 - Index for example. In this note collect links to notes in the same folder. You can add headings, comments, and schedule projects into your daily notes from here, too:

Radar Notes: They are similar to Index Notes, but instead of mainly linking to other notes, a Radar Note summarizes your projects. Create one heading for each project, capture links to related project notes if any, and then track the progress using bullet points. Additionally, plan the next steps using scheduled tasks.

If you schedule the next action points from here, they appear as a reference at the top of the Daily Notes. This way you can't miss due dates if you review your Daily Notes regularly.

3. Chaining 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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