Everyone who interacts with me on a daily basis has heard me rave about Notion at least once since I started using it. This program is lightweight, installable or fully online, and is available for all platforms and operating systems. I discovered it through a YouTube video posted by one of my favorite productivity coaches, and I have been positively in love with it ever since. Not only does it offer a wide range of tools, but also it is such an absolute joy to work with that it boosts my productivity.
Since starting graduate school, I have been struggling to find the organizational and note-taking app that I will use for good. I dabbled with OneNote for a semester and while it was not bad, it often had syncing problems across my devices. This issue, paired with the handwriting lag in the iPad, left a lot to be desired. I used GoodNotes through the spring semester and that was quite a wonderful experience but it still felt like something was lacking for me since there wasn’t a good enough integration of handwritten notes and typed notes and I missed the organizational system of OneNote. Enter Notion. Not only does it sync beautifully across all my devices, with apps available in several platforms, and allows me to build my own organization system, but it can be also accessed through the web from virtually any device. Lastly the file export capabilities are far superior than those of OneNote. I now embed my handwritten notes directly into Notion after exporting in PDF format from GoodNotes.
While I will most definitely recommend Notion to students for course organization and task tracking, to people who manage teams, and to basically anyone who is juggling a lot of information and projects at one time, the program does have a learning curve as a result of its wide range of available tools. For some people, starting with a blank page may be intimidating. Others may not have the time and energy to set it up properly. Fret not! To alleviate this issue, Notion has made available a library of templates that anyone can use! And, as if the program was not already wonderful, the Notion team has made its Pro plan free for all students!
This is how I organized my Notion space and its main components:
This is my home page and the first thing I see when I open Notion. I have it divided into three categories with different purposes:
- The Life category holds large projects or things that I may not need to think about daily but still need in a visible way.
- The Daily category holds my Journal (more on that below), my Resonance, an idea I adapted from Ali Abdaal to track all the content I consume which literally resonates with me, and links to the weekly sessions for my current classes.
- The Brainstorm Inbox category is quite possibly one of my favorite additions to the Dashboard. I have it listed first because that way when I open Notion on my phone it is the foremost thing in my screen. I use this category as a sort of idea dump. I may jot down quick notes on content or projects, capture a task I need to schedule, or use it before bed when I have something going around in my mind that I know will not let me sleep until it has been recorded. This category is basically the initial step into my scheduling workflow. I do not use Notion as a calendar or to-do tracker since I have been using OpusOne consistently for the past 7 years for that.
The Course Manager is the pride and joy of my Notion. I have courses organized by semester and clicking one will take you to the course home where I have the syllabus, contact information, and the course content. The content page takes you to a weekly session page where all the weeks and their respective topics are listed. Opening a given week will give you the assignment list for that week and the materials. Under materials I have notes I have taken, the posted lectures and any articles or additional reading for that week. Needless to say, I enjoy hierarchical organization!
The Side project section is quite new still. It is organized in a similar fashion as the dashboard but by project.
- Blog is where I track the writing assignments and entries from the writing staff and the topic brainstorms.
- Lecture Series is where I am organizing the content for the lecture series I will be teaching in Discord. I use a table to track lecture status and outlines and I added a YouTube extension since I probably will be recording/posting them.
- Other is where I put projects that are not related to the main two.
Mental Health Tracker and Journal
For the past few months I have been making an effort to be more mindful in the way that I spend my time and reflect about my mood.
I used Diarly for quite some time and it is such a beautifully designed app that I do miss it sometimes. However, in my quest to reduce the amount of apps and programs I use, I transitioned to Notion for my journaling. I used the standard template that Notion has designed, but I adjusted it to give me specific prompts when I click on new and select “Daily”. I also use the color coded emojis to track my mood, which I find quite useful because I can see my own trends at a glance when looking at the entries.
So this is basically how I use Notion. I am sure that as time goes by I will continue to build upon it and it may become more extensive and complicated. I think it is important to start small. I did not build all of this in one day. Rather, I have been slowly working on it and improving it for some time. Aesthetics are important, but this program goes beyond just that. Though I call Notion the ultimate productivity app, it is just an app. The real work still lays with us and our ability to stick to our goals!
Feel free to contact me and share your favorite Notion features!
This post was originally published here!