I’ve been using Notion consistently since the end of October, and I still cannot yell enough about how amazing it is. I have stopped using Trello, Todoist, AirTable (except for my reading tracker because I haven’t gotten around to migrating that database yet), and WorkFlowy. I still use Pocket, but mostly for personal reading now; all my writing related resources go into Notion.
Here’s a breakdown of my usage of it so far.
Things that work for me:
- Keeping the work highly visible has been the most helpful workflow process improvement I’ve made. Tying that visibility to a weekly check-in on Sunday afternoons has been SO GOOD in quieting down jerkbrain nonsense. I didn’t really think that the physical act of moving cards from Doing to Done to Archived would do anything for me, but my brain really likes it. (Checking stuff off a to-do list doesn’t do much for me, even though this is basically the same thing. Brains. Go figure.)
- I like the robust sorting and filtering functions that allow for different views of the work you’re doing. That has helped me a lot with organization.
- I’ve started taking notes in Notion. Mostly while listening to Writing Excuses or other video/audio education resources. Notion has a built-in Cornell note-taking method template that I’ve modified and started using. I have found it remarkably helpful. I was skeptical at first: I used to take handwritten notes mostly because I retained information better that way. And while I still like the look of handwritten notes, sometimes it was frustrating because my handwriting speed is much slower than my typing speed, leading to missed information or having to rewind. Having to synthesize and summarize the information using the Cornell method has been pretty effective.
Things that haven’t worked for me:
- I originally had the idea to cap the number of tasks listed in Doing to five. That system didn’t work for me at all because it added an extra step of picking new cards to work on whenever I finished something.
- I haven’t used the calendar view at all. Notion doesn’t sync with Gcal, and that’s where I keep all my appointments and events, so that’s the default place that I go. I haven’t found this to be detrimental at all though.
- I set up a workspace view organized by category so I could get an overview of what I was focusing on week to week or month to month. But I found that this didn’t really add anything to my workflow. Different tasks broke out into a different number of cards depending on how many steps were involved, so any data was skewed enough to be useless.
Things that I have learned:
- Got even more granular. Making all work visible and not limiting my Notion workspace solely to writing related things. Included podcast production work, side projects, and some personal things depending on the kind of time they required.
- I did this mostly because I can’t estimate time accurately. It’s even harder to do so when it’s not all on the board.
- Since capping the number of cards in Doing didn’t do anything but add an extra step for me, I built card-pulling into my end-of-day routine. So when the work day is over, I review what’s left in Doing, reassign dates if I need to, and then pull cards from the Inbox for the next day based on assigned working dates and ideal completion date. Then I write out my agenda for the next day.
- Previously, I had one card for each writing project. I started noticing that I felt discouraged when the same writing project card was sitting at the top of my Doing queue for weeks. Since moving the cards from column to column was gratifying, I started breaking the writing projects into smaller steps and making each of those steps into individual cards (e.g. 5 thumbnails sketches, rough outline of story, write chapter 1, etc.) solely so I could archive some of them at the end of the week. This scratched a weird brain itch I didn’t know I had.
Things I want to experiment with:
- Project workspaces — using Notion to collect WIP notes, brainstorming, inspiration, etc.
My main complaint: I wish everything had typewriter scrolling.
And it’d be nice to be able to hide some of the properties in the different views. I use so many of them to try to organize things that it looks messy and distracting sometimes.
Really though, I’m loving Notion. I know (though I fought the fact of it for a long time) that I need externalized systems to keep everything in order. And Notion has been great because it lets me customize it to fit my needs. It’s unfortunate that the learning curve is somewhat steep—the modularity and flexibility can be overwhelming if you don’t have a clear idea of what you’re trying to build. But for me, it has been instrumental in wrangling my workflow.