discovering notion, or one system to rule them all

I’m always on the look out for better ways to organize my chaotic brain. But because each application or tool is really good at one thing and then medium or bad at everything else, I end up with a vast collection of tools that I barely use while trying to hold all of my workflow stuff in my head.

This works about as well as you would expect.

And though I know exactly how it’s going to end (i.e. poorly), my system consistently devolves into this state. Entropy, man. It’ll get you in the end.

At the beginning of last week, I had once again reached that threshold where this “system” was untenable. I was only paying attention to my day to day agenda without thinking about how each of my tasks impacted my overall trajectory towards long-term goals. Was I moving in the direction that I wanted to go? Was I prioritizing things correctly? Is it possible to know any of those things without writing them down somewhere? Maybe for some people, but definitely not for me.

So I found myself looking at the vast array of tools I already use to track parts of my life—AirTable for submissions, Excel/Sheets for story outlines, Word/Docs for brainstorming, Pocket (prev Evernote) for interesting articles or resources or inspo, Calendar for tracking appointments and life stuff, a bullet journal for day to day agenda items, Trello for workflow, variably Todoist or Keep or Workflowy or scraps of paper for checklists…—and despairing. I mean, the process of listing all of those things out gave me mild palpitations.

The idea of adding something to this list was daunting. The idea of shoving a writing workflow/goals tracker into one of these systems, having it fail because it doesn’t quite fit right, and then winding up back in this exact same position a handful of months down the line… It’s so demoralizing.

You see, I end up at this place because I am very particular. I have an idea of how I want to track things, of what might be useful to my brain, and of how I want to interact with a program. The problem I have is that nothing seems to work quite the way I want it to. It’s a lot to ask for, one organizational system to rule them all.

Enter Notion.so.

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macaron lab notebook

Remember those lab notebooks you had to put together in high school and/or college chemistry? The graph paper, the carbon copies, the wrinkled and warped pages from when the notebook got inevitably wet. Those were the days…

Sort of.

I was thinking about them today because I’ve restarted my macaron experiments in earnest. I’ve made these cookies successfully previously –

 

Those smooth tops! Those ruffled feet! – but the notes I took at the time were sloppy and incomplete. Although I have a bunch of flavors that I want to try baking kicking around in my head, I’m reluctant to experiment too broadly until I’ve nailed a base cookie consistently (because that’s how my brain likes to work). There are a few major parts to doing that – the recipe, the technique, and the oven.

For the most part, I’m using Stella Parks’ French macaron recipe (with some adjustments here and there for cooking time, oven temp, etc. – I try not to mess with the ratios too much). I’ve had good success with it in the past, and I love that she breaks baking down very scientifically and demystifies the process. (Her book, BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts, is the next on my cookbook wishlist.) There are a couple other recipes that utilize a different cooking methods that I want to try at some point, but this hers is definitely my go to.

As for technique, I have a method of doing the meringue and macaronnage that I think is pretty consistent at this point. I’m sure there are variations between batches, but that much can’t really be helped.

So the part that I’m really trying to dial in right now is the oven and baking method. My oven has both convection and conventional settings, as well as a removable divider in the middle that transforms it into a makeshift double oven (that I rarely use because I find that it does not separate different temperatures all that well). It’s calibration is a bit off, and it loses heat pretty rapidly (about a 25 degree drop in temp every time the door opens – I checked with an oven thermometer because the display does not tell you that). But it’s a poor craftsperson that blames her tools, so I’m still trying to learn the weird ins and outs (there seem to be many) of my particular oven.

To do that, I need what every scientist needs – documentation.

Enter, Airtable. (There are several pictures of sexy, sexy spreadsheets coming up. If that’s not your jam… too bad, I guess?)

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