Trying out Notion: as a task manager, note-taking, and project planning app.

Paul Alvarez

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Like many who care about time management and productivity, I, myself, am always in search of the next best tool that can help. I have always been a believer in some kind of to-do list or task manager to help guide one’s day but have never found just one path to go in.

Currently, I have been using Things as a kind of here and their to-do list or task manager to keep track of big things that I want to work on for either Techuisite or household projects. For work or more detailed tasks for my hobbies, I tend to use notebooks and pens or sometimes Todoist. Again, I have never found that one app or system that works for me, especially when it comes to taking random notes or ideas to have in one place.

I was first introduced to Notion when David Pierce tweeted about it a few years ago. He tweeted how he loved the ability to create an outline with an unlimited amount of indenting. He has since been on the Keep Productive YouTube channel, where he talks about using Notion and wrote a WSJ article about it (Disclaimer: I haven’t read the WSJ article due to the paywall).

I then saw how Matt Ragland recreated his Bullet Journaling into Notion and was mesmerized by the flexibility and robustness that Notion could bring. I am in no way using Notion like Matt or David are, but I have found my way of using Notion that has worked great for me.

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of my workflow in Notion, I want to talk about the app itself. The simple design and aesthetic of the app is very appealing. It is a no B.S. type of app that removes any fluff or unneeded features that some apps may have. Some may be against the simplicity of Notion and its settings, but that is why I think it stands out so much.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=0OUXzx_0Ylq0YQh00There are a variety of different options in planning out your project or day.

A lot of the features are built-in when using the app. Turning a page into a To-Do List, Outline, Plain Text Editor, or any other element that it offers is there for you to choose while using the app. Instead of having to pick what kind of page you want at the get-go, Notion allows you to mix all of the elements within one page, allowing you to have a very complex set of instructions for whatever task you are planning for.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=0JmLHW_0Ylq0YQh00
https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=2DxEqM_0Ylq0YQh00Showing Light Mode on the left and Dark Mode on the right.

It has a dark mode and light mode and will automatically change to whatever the system settings are. I would prefer more variety of dark mode options but am fine with the dark gray that they have chosen. I like the app in the light mode most times even in low-light since the plain white background provides that clean aesthetic that I enjoy so much.

Now when it comes to using the app, I have found that I use it in two ways. For daily work tasks, keeping track of the things I need to work on each day, and weekly writing projects that I do for Medium. Both of these are different, and why I find Notion so great. I can have two completely different workflows but be able to use the same app to capture and keep track of what I need to work on next.

For work, I learned that trying to keep track of the things I needed to do each day was imperative for me to stay on track, especially now that I am working from home. To do this, I have created a workspace called To Do that has embedded pages for each workday of the month.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=0byQ1V_0Ylq0YQh00Daily To-Do lists for work in Notion

Before using Notion I was using a pen and notepad but also trying to keep track of everything in Todoist. Keeping tasks in a Todoist list forever until I completed it was just not something that worked for me. Notion, instead, provides me a blank slate each day.

Now at the end of each workday, I will look at my task list for that day and duplicate it to a new page. I rename this new page to tomorrows date and proceed to uncheck any reoccurring tasks that I need to do the next day again, delete any tasks that I completed and no longer need, and finally keep the tasks I did not complete and reprioritize them based off of my workload the next day.

This has been a great routine at the end of my day. Not only does it provide me the benefit of having all of the tasks that I did that day to report to my boss, but it also gives me a clear idea of what I was not able to complete that day and where I need to focus tomorrow. It can also be rewarding seeing all of the things you accomplished. A lot of time in the middle of a chaotic workday you can forget what it is you are supposed to work on, and what you got done, this routine has helped get clarity on what I did.

I also have a few other Workspaces for specific projects I am on at work that are not high priority tasks but more notes on what I need to make sure to do eventually. I will once a week go through these other Workspaces and add a task to my daily task list to ensure that I get it done that week if needed.

Again, this is a very simplified version of task management, especially with how much Notion can do, but it is a system that has worked for me for almost two months now, and I have felt it is helping my productivity. I am also happy that it is something I can continue using when I am back in the office and not working from home anymore.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=2oex2t_0Ylq0YQh00My Medium Workspace in Notion for upcoming posts.

The other area that I use Notion for is keeping track of the posts I plan to write for Techuisite and a personal high-level to-do list. Most of the time, I just create a new page for a post idea, then create a simple outline on the areas I want to go for that particular topic. Sometimes I go in even more detailed on the outline, as I did for this post, and create a pretty extensive outline on all the areas I want to write about.

That is the beauty of Notion; you can go as simple or complex as you would like depending on what it is you want to do. I do not write any drafts in Notion though. I believe in having separate tools for different tasks. Ulysses is my tool for writing and I like Notion to jot down ideas and map out where I want to go with that idea.

Notion, for me, is great because I can be flexible in how I want to use it. For one project I may divide a page into three horizontal sections to help create a three-part post, or make a numbered list for a timeline of an event or presentation I am planning, or just a simple to-do list that isn’t important enough to put into Things. There are some things I wish Notion could do, though, which would make the app that much better.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=3Jrrjy_0Ylq0YQh00My To-Do list with a Calendar.

The first thing I wish Notion had was better integration. I can add a calendar to a page next to say a timeline list for me to be able to add items to the calendar that coincide with the tasks listed out. But it would be even better if the calendar could integrate with my iCloud or Gmail calendar, which already has events populated.

Another thing I wish Notion had was widget support on the iPhone and iPad. It would be nice not to have to use Things as much and be able to select certain pages out of Notion to use a to-do list and be able to check things off on my iPhones today view or my watch.

In all honesty, it is hard for me to find a complaint since the app is flexible to mold into whatever it is I am looking to do. I was never really good about using the Apple Notes app to take down ideas or notes and never felt my task manager app, Things, was a good place for them either.

Notion has been great in providing me something that I feel was missing for a long time. No longer do I have ideas, notes, or high-level tasks spread out amongst multiple different apps. I am now able to keep them all in one place that is not only useful but nice to work in.

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My passion is in technology. I write reviews about gadgets that interest me but also provide some kind of value in my toolset to achieve my goals. Most of my writing is surrounded by technology and how it plays a role as a tool, help with productivity, and also provide mindfulness for a more fulfilled life.

Turlock, CA
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