Notion - My Minimalist Productivity Dream

9/13/2020

After years of searching, I think I found the solution that does it all, that is if you are willing to put in the time up front to make it what you want.

I have been in search of a tool that does it all. Something that I can take notes in, create documents, even manage my projects and smaller todo's. During this search I have tried many options. I have tried to conform GSuite to this need, tried a combination of notes and todo apps together, invested months into systems like Trello and Asana, did trials of suites of solutions, but never found anything that worked for me. I got to a point where I was semi-satisfied with a combination of Trello, Apple Notes and GSuite. This ‘worked’, but never really worked as I envisioned. Over the last few years I have heard people, deep down techie peeps, talk about Notion, the tool that does it all. I signed up for the free version a long time ago, but was honestly a bit lost and overwhelmed.

Notion seemed like the tool, but I didn’t know where to start or what to make it do. Sure, I wrote some notes, made a kanban board and a few checklists, but it didn’t really seem like the right solution because there was too much friction to accomplish anything. After months of tinkering here and there I stumbled upon a tight knit community of Notion followers, influencers and productivity wizards. At first I stood back in the shadows and just watched what they used it for, how it changed everything for them. Finally, after a few weeks of just taking it in, I sat down and tried to recreate a few of their pages, boards and databases. When combining the system I slowly started building and a new methodology that I stumbled upon, the PARA Method, it all just clicked. Notion was going to be the place where I dumped all of it: the todo's, projects, reading lists, notes and databases. By doing this I would make a central repository of it all, I was building a second brain.

Side note…

Why am I so focused on being productive and minimizing my tools? Well, there are a few reasons for this. First, I will work for myself, fulltime, by the end of this year. This is more than a goal, this is a must do. So being productive and on time with my goals is a must. The other reason, one that some of you can probably relate with, is minimalism. I have been a minimalist for about a year now, but I am not fully there yet. I am still in the process of minimizing my life, both physically and digitally. I am not doing this to be cool, get better SEO or follow any trends. I am doing this to remove distraction, put a larger value on the things that I have and to declutter life, both literally and figuratively. Finding a solution that takes the place of multiple tools was a must for me and Notion is that tool.

Back to the main topic!

In my opinion, Notion’s true power lies in databases. Databases can be as confusing as they are powerful because they are basically limitless. I use databases for my notes, todo's, ideas, content lists and inspiration. Databases in Notion are useful because of properties and filters. When you combine these, you can collect, manipulate and display data in any way that works best for you. My best use case of databases is project management. I do this in the form of a master todo list, with properties and tons of different views. You can see examples of this below.

All Todos.png
Board View.png

Past Due Todos.png
Todo details.png

With this master todo list, I can then embed this as a relational database on any page I choose. I then filter that board to just show tasks related to that project using properties. See the inline table on this client page.

Client page with todos.png

I follow a lot of business and have become friends with a decent amount of people online. Pairing this with my terrible memory for names, I tend to forget what person does what and how I know them to begin with. So, to remedy this, I have made a database of people and businesses. This has been useful for keeping track of interesting people and companies, but also for linking articles, videos and art to people and businesses within Notion. This way I can remember who made what, it provides an audit trail of sorts.

People and Business database.png

My latest test for Notion is to see how it deals with tracking hours, both on-site and in the editing bay for clients. Prior, I used a Google sheet for this, but it was too clunky when adding hours on-site. Notion’s date picker in a database is simple and easy to use, making it a smoother experience. Tracking the location is also very easy, due to my People and Places database. It is only January, but it is going well so far!

Hour Tracking Template.png

I intend to keep evolving my Notion setup, connecting with more Notioners on the web and building my second brain. What is your opinion about Notion? Would you like to minimize your tools and try Notion? If you are already a Notioner, would you like to have access to a few of my templates, if so which?