What is Notion?
There are plenty of productivity tools available out there. Finding the one that suits you best is an effort worth taking. Notion is an information hub where you can put in all the data that is relevant for your life. It is a mix of all the Microsoft Office programs with a vast array of options to customise every notch and cranny to your liking. On a first glance it looks fairly simple to use with pages, tables and charts, but when you investigate further you will find yourself browsing the web to find how to guides. Notion has several subscription options, I am using the free version and I didn’t find any limitations so far or must have features that you only get when you pay for the program.
Don’t fall in the rabbit whole
About two years ago I first discovered notion. Personally I was instantly in love with the gamification/customisation options. I am someone who can get lost in a power point presentation tweaking it over and over again to look more appealing. If you fall into the same category be aware not to fall in the rabbit whole. When I first installed notion I spent a weekend designing several pages, changed the cover pictures and added smileys for each topic. While this was fun, a couple of days later I felt overwhelmed by the limitless possibilities and decided that this is not for me. I uninstalled Notion and forgot about it. Notion was again replaced by my trusty old Notebook to store most of the information that I consumed physically.
What went wrong there?
The main problem was that I jumped right into it customising the life out of Notion without having a plan what I actually want to do in Notion. There are plenty of Videos on Youtube where people present you their impressive Dashboards with sophisticated spreadsheets and systems that look great and took weeks to build. This again is not a good idea, what you should do instead is start small and see what value you can get out of it.
So why did I come back?
In the last couple of months I read on Retire in progress and Net Eliason about the new kid on the block of productive tools called Roam Research. Roam is note taking tool to store and interlink a vast amount of information similar to Niklas Luhmanns Zettelkasten system. If you consume a lot of data for a scientific paper, a book or your personal enjoyment I encourage you to take a closer look at Roam. For me Roam seems interesting but I prefer something with a bit more structure and something that meets the eye as well. Recognising the value of a note taking tool and given my preference I went back to Notion in hopes to rekindle the old love affair.
What do I use Notion for now
After my failed first attempt I decided that this time I will take a different approach to Notion. I deleted all my pages and tables I had in place and started from scratch. Currently I keep it simple and use it for the following topics.
1. Notes & Drafts aka Varia
The first page I have is a Notes & Drafts page where I take notes of ideas and topics I want to investigate further. It is basically web version of my trusty old physical notebook that I laid to rest for now.
2. Reading List and book summaries
Books that I read and want to buy are tracked on Goodreads. The fact that Goodreads is connected with Amazon is bothering me a bit but the value I get from people I follow and books that they read eases my worry for now. Over the next couple of months I will transfer the books I read to Notion. There I will track what I read and put there a structured summary of the book as well as my Notes and Highlights from Kindle or Goodnotes from my tablet.
3. Postings for OpticOptimist
For my blog I started a page in Notion to list the Blog Topics I would like to write about. While doing that I realised that I am also able to write whole blog posts in Notion that I can basically copy then to my webpage.
This saves me a lot of time instead of creating a post in word and then transferring that to the webpage where I need to format it in elementor.
4. Habit tracker
Lastly there is a habit tracker, which you will find on almost every notion setup. This helps me keep track of my routines and recurring tasks that I want to do on a weekly basis. After the week is done I put the week into the archive and start with the next week.
🛠Expense tracker to be added later
As I am keeping it simple for the moment these are the four main areas I use on Notion. It is convenient that I have Notion setup on all my relevant devices so that I can access it any time I want. That was always a reason I used my old notebook until recently because I was not willing to put Notion on my pc, tablet and phone.
The one thing I would like to add is an expense tracker that I currently have on an excel spread sheet. I want to track my monthly savings rate but the templates available don’t suit my needs. As this will take a while I will do this at a later stage. Again I am doing this not to overload Notion right away and get fed up with it as it was two years ago.
Is Notion the right tool for you?
The beauty of Notion is that you can track and collection all relevant data at one place and on several devices. This is a game changer compared to a physical notebook. In a physical notebook all the data gets lost once a new year arrives while in an online tool you have your archive at your convenience. Notion is relatively light weight so you can install it anywhere or use the web browser to access your data. The basic version is free with no must have features missing which surprises me a bit.
If you need a place to store all your ideas, plans and hobbies plus you like to customise the visual looks of things to your liking than you should have a look at Notion.
If you have any must own template for Notion please let me know 😎.