Note taking

This post is the 9th in a series exploring note taking. It’s an important concept. In this “Information Age,” our information is no good if we can’t find it when we need it. We won’t even bother to take notes unless the process is easy.

In this series, we have examined both paper and digital systems. This post is for the person who would like to organize with paper in a world that is overwhelmingly digital.

Those who organize digitally understand the convenience of taking information which arrives digitally and keeping it digital. Those who organize with paper may find themselves hand-writing considerable amounts of information from the computer screen to the paper planner.

Those Pesky URLs

The long URL is a headache for those who organize with paper. How many times have you visited a website and wanted to revisit it later? How did you record that URL? With a digital system, you copy the URL, create a new task, paste the URL into the newly-created task, and assign a date. You’re done. On that date, click the link, and you are looking at the website.

How does someone using a paper planner handle the same scenario? Are you going to flip in the book to the day you want to visit that site again and hand-copy the URL? If the URL is short, the job is not so bad. If the URL is long, hand-copying them is not only time-consuming, but the opportunity for error is huge. With a URL, one mistake is all it takes for that address to do you no good.

One Spreadsheet Solves It All

The following procedure allows you to record your URLs digitally and make reference to them in your paper planner:

  1. Create a new spreadsheet. You could use Excel, Numbers (if you use a Mac), or Google Sheets. The important point is that you should be able to access this spreadsheet from anywhere. You could house it in OneDrive, Dropbox, iCloud, or Google Drive.
  2. Notice that each row is numbered.
  3. Copy and paste each URL into Column A of the spreadsheet.  Each URL gets its own line.
  4. Reference the URL in your planner. Instead of writing out the URL, you indicate which line of the spreadsheet it represents.
  5. When the URL is no longer needed, you can delete it. Do not delete the row. Leave the row empty. Later, you can paste another URL into it.

Practical Examples

The following examples illustrate how this concept works:

An email containing information you want to reference during a discussion

In Gmail, every email has a unique URL. Copy that URL. Paste it in the spreadsheet on the next blank line. In the paper planner, write the task. If it’s a phone call to Joe, Write “Call Joe.” Write the telephone number beside the name.  Put a “(1)” at the end of the line.
Call Joe (601) 555-1234 (1) 

When you see the task in the paper planner, the “(1)” indicates some additional information is found on Line 1 of your spreadsheet. Open the spreadsheet, click the link in Line 1, and the email opens.

Internet sites  

While researching a topic, you may have several URLs to which you want to return. Paste each one on the next blank line of the spreadsheet. In the planner, use a set of parentheses to reference all the links. Your planner entry may look like this: Read online reviews (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.) 

Reference a document from your hard drive 

Every document has its own path name. To copy the file name for a document, hold the Shift key. Right-click, and choose “Copy as path” from the menu. On the spreadsheet, right-click on the next blank line of Column A. From the menu, choose “Hyperlink.” Paste the path name into the address box.

Reference an item from Dropbox or Evernote

This technique is much the same as in the last example. The trick is to get the path name for the entry and paste that link into the spreadsheet.

Open Dropbox on your computer desktop. Hold the Shift key while you right-click on the desired file. Choose “Copy as path” from the menu. On the spreadsheet, right-click on the cell where you want the link to appear. From the menu, choose “Hyperlink.” Paste the path name into the address box. In the planner, write the to-do. Beside it, reference the line on the spreadsheet which links to the document.

For Evernote, open the desktop client. Right-click on the desired note. Select “Copy Note Link.” On the spreadsheet, right-click on the cell where you want the link to appear. From the menu, choose “Hyperlink.” Paste the path name into the address box. Clicking the link will open the note in Evernote.

Replace Links as Needed

When a link is no longer of value, delete it. Leave the line blank. The next time you need to paste a link into your spreadsheet, you may reuse the blank line.

Example of how a series of links may appear

Have Your Cake and Eat It Too

Many people love the feel of paper. Walk into any book store or office supply store. The wide variety of paper calendars, paper journals, and paper planners attest to our love to feel that texture.


But, we live in a world where information comes digitally. A digital system makes the information easier to catalog and share. How can we combine the feel of paper and the ease of digital copy and paste? One spreadsheet just may be your answer.
Are you a paper planner user? How do you handle those pesky URLS? Let me know in the comments.