Dee Caulcrick

An introduction to Notion: the OG personal productivity tool for 2023

An introduction to the OG tool of personal productivity

2022 was a somewhat chaotic year for me but it was also my most organized and most productive year mostly because not only did I finally figure out how to use Notion, but I also went crazy with the customization of my Notion pages. As both a freelancer and student, Notion changed my whole attitude toward how I approach both my personal tasks, work tasks, and all my other projects.

In this post, I’ll show you how Notion can help increase your personal productivity, how you can set up your own Notion dashboard, and give you a free template to help you get started.

What is Notion?

Of all the hardest questions to answer, this has to be among the top 3. Because Notion doesn’t do just one thing, it can be hard to define. Here’s how I once described it to a friend:

“Think of it as a notetaking app except way more customizable.”

The Notion website describes it as:

“Notion is a single space where you can think, write, and plan. Capture thoughts, manage projects, or even run an entire company — and do it exactly the way you want.”

At its simplest, a Notion page is a basic text editor. At its most advanced, it combines 50+ content blocks including databases. Imagine combining Google Drive, Trello, Asana, Google Keep, Evernote, and GitHub Wiki. That’s what Notion is and more.

Unlike your regular to-do list or notetaking app which allows you to write notes, add a checklist, or maybe even pin a few images, Notion offers a whole lot more.

What can you do with notion?

The possibilities of what you can do with Notion are a endless. While before, you had to have a whole bunch of other apps, now with Notion you can do everything in one place.

Every Notion page is a blank canvas that can be transformed to fit the individual. You can drag and drop 50+ content blocks (such as calendars, timelines, kanban boards, embeds, databases, code, web bookmarks, audio, video, and so much more) wherever you want.

I use Notion to make lists, track books I’ve read, manage money, plan, manage and write blog post content, manage client projects, manage school work, store code snippets, and also as a digital planner. Some companies use Notion as a collaboration tool, company wiki, and onboarding tool and I have seen instances of Notion pages being used as portfolios, websites, and client portals.

Basically, for anything that requires laying out information, keeping it organized, and enabling it to be shared, Notion is the tool of choice.

How to use Notion for work:

  • Track goals
  • Manage projects/tasks
  • Create design systems
  • Track and Manage content
  • Create automation and Integrations using the Notion API

How to use Notion as a student:

  • Take notes
  • Create to-dos and reminders
  • Track progress on schoolwork
  • Manage class schedules
  • create a directory of linked messages, files, and related URLs

How to use Notion for daily life:

  • Periodic journaling
  • Tracking individual income and expenses
  • Managing my weekly agenda
  • Digital yearly planner
  • Organizing ideas

Why should you use Notion for Productivity?

  1. It’s a text editor.
    If all you want to do is take a few notes or make a list, all you have to do is click + New page and start typing.
  2. But it’s much more than just a text editor.
    Text editing is Notion at its simplest. It has a whole lot of features that can take it from just a simple note-taking app to an all-in-one productivity tool
  3. It’s highly customizable.
    This is one of the features that make Notion such a great productivity tool. Everything in Notion is a block. Every heading, paragraph, list, or embed is a block. This makes it easy to drag them around the page and arrange them any way you want.
  4. It makes organization fun.
    One thing I noticed was my pages beginning to come together whenever I added personal touches such as an anime gif that expresses my mood towards that topic, a fun emoji, or a really cool animated header.
  5. It has a really clean and minimal interface.
    The Notion interface is really clean and simple. Yes, Notion packs a ton of functionality, the interface isn’t cluttered up with a bunch of menus and widgets. So even though the functionality is easily accessible, it is hidden away until you actually need it.
  6. Notion is great for developers.
    What can I say? I have a dashboard filled with code snippets. Oh, and code highlighting supports up to 50+ languages. Need I say more?
  7. Notion is built for teams.
    Notion is a collaboration tool. You can easily reference a team member by just using @ links. Controlling who can access what is also easy with Notion.
  8. Notion databases are highly flexible.
    Notion database tables work just like spreadsheets. Except that unlike Google Sheets, you can convert your database table to a list, a calendar, a kanban board, a timeline, or a gallery depending on which view you like.
  9. Embed anything.
    And I mean anything. In Notion you can embed anything from a simple pdf to a Google Map, to a Figma file to a GitHub gist and so much more. Notion supports about 20 embeds.
  10. Tons of template options.
    For Notion newbies, the functionality might be overwhelming but Notion helps you get started by providing you with in-app templates to help you get started. Also, Notion fans (like myself) have created a ton of templates, both free and paid, which you can also use.
  11. Notion is affordable.
    For most people, all you will ever need is the free version. Forever.

How to set up Notion

Step 1: Go to notion.so and create an account. You can also sign up with the Google account you have logged into your device.

Step 2: Download the apps to your mobile (via Google Play Store or the Apple App Store) or to your desktop via notion.so/desktop. Although you can use Notion via a web page, having the app, especially the desktop app, is way more convenient.

Step 3: Once you have everything set up, you’re ready to create your first page. At the bottom of your sidebar, click + New page. A brand new page will open up with options to view templates or pick a type of page to build.

Step 4: Start with a template or just being typing. Use the “/“ command to bring up a menu of blocks. You can add any block you want by typing its name after the “/” or by scrolling to the one you want.

Free Notion dashboard template to get you started

Because I know how daunting it can be, I created a Notion template to help you manage your weekly agenda. It contains the following sections:

  • A space to write down your weekly goals
  • A space to manage tasks for each day
  • Weekly habit tracker
  • A calendar to track events
  • A space for notes/brain dumps

 

Step 1: Get access to the template right here.

Step 2: On the top right, click Duplicate. If you aren’t signed in to your Notion, you will be prompted to sign in.

Step 3: Start using the template! You can play around with it, add or delete blocks, and change whatever you like.

Tip: Don’t try to edit the original template directly. You have to duplicate and edit your duplicate version. Even if you try editing my version, it won’t work 😆

Tips for your Notion Journey

Notion has a lot of functionality, which is great. But if you’re like me, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the options so here are a few things to remember:

  • Take it easy. You don’t have to use all the content blocks. Just take what you need at that moment
  • It is okay for your Notion page to look “basic”. Start with functionality. You can make it pretty later.

 

And of course, because “no pressure”, I curated a Pinterest board of screenshots of Notion pages that I think are pretty cool and can inspire your own Notion journey.

Have feedback?

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