You may or may not have heard of Notion, an up-and-coming, multi-purpose organizational application used by many professionals and individuals. From building a code library to a Gantt chart for your project to organizing your movie list on Netflix, Notion can do it all for you.
But is Notion as cool as everyone claims? As an experienced entrepreneur, business analyst, business coach, and certified project manager of 15 years, I spend a lot of time researching and experimenting with various tools to not only stay up-to-date on industry trends but to also ensure I help clients select the best tools for them. Over the last year, Notion became a name that began popping up in meetings, conversations, and articles. So, I thought it was time to give it a try.
In this article, I will provide a synopsis of what Notion is, some neat ways to use it, and its advantages and disadvantages to help you see if it’s worth adopting for yourself.
What is Notion?
As mentioned briefly above, Notion is a popular application used by many professionals and individuals for organization and information management. Notion is designed with a clean and intuitive user interface, making it easy to navigate and experiment with, even when using it for the first time.
You can do nearly anything under the sun in Notion, including:
- Create task and to-do lists
- Create checklists
- Create template documents (such as meeting notes)
- Create product roadmaps
- Create wikis
- Create design style guides and supporting documentation
- Create reading or movie lists
- Create marketing campaign calendars
- Create project timelines and Kanban boards
These are just some examples, of course, but the sky is the limit.
The Benefits of Notion
When using Notion, it’s hard to not recognize its benefits. For the purposes of this article, I began using Notion, specifically for creating a journal entry template that I can replicate each day rather than writing the same prompt over and over. So far, the benefits that I have realized include:
- Easy to set up and navigate
- Clean user interface
- Create to-do lists and notes in seconds
- Turn any note into a task list, timeline, or Kanban board
- Robust mobile app
- Accessible multiple devices without any limitations
- Highly usable, intuitive, and customizable
- Available templates and resources
- Accessible “shortcuts” (For example, simply typing “/” brings up a menu of commands, allowing you to easily and seamlessly format text or check your spelling.)
My Experience with Notion
As mentioned above, I set up my personal workspace to “test drive” Notion. Upon creating my workspace, the first thing I noticed was the various pre-made notes and pages that populated the left-hand menu. I admit that I have always been an old-fashioned, “write-it-down” kind of person. I didn’t think I would enjoy typing my daily journal entry. However, even after only a few days, I was surprised at how quickly I adapted to Notion.
No, I haven’t yet had the opportunity to develop a full-fledged project plan, complete with a Gantt chart using Notion, but it does seem possible and fairly straightforward.
Notion versus Evernote
I have used Evernote as my digital notebook for years to organize meeting notes, research topics, goal outlines, and as my “scratch pad”. After experimenting with Notion, I discovered how much easier it is to organize than Evernote. Evernote can become difficult to keep things organized or even find specific notes or notebooks. I realize that my organization system in Evernote could improve, such as by using tags and categories differently. However, I also dislike how Evernote limits the number of devices you can be logged into using the “free” plan.
For example, with a free account, I can only log into my Evernote account on my laptop and phone OR iPad, not all three, which I find frustrating and very inconvenient. Evernote also constantly bumps me out of my account. I’m in and out of Evernote all day, and each time I navigate away, I have to log back in. It may seem trivial, but the amount of time spent on this each day adds up.
Now that I use Notion, and can pick it up on any of my devices, I realize how limiting Evernote has been for me.
After using Notion for over a month, I edited my daily “journal entry” template to include my specific prompts and sections. I also enabled an automated setting so that Notion automatically creates a new entry with my template every morning.
The New Notion AI
There has been a lot of “buzz” related to Notion’s AI and its ability to write for you. Naturally, as a writer, I was excited to try out this feature. So I joined the waitlist several months ago, eagerly awaiting my turn to try out this new feature. Once I was finally granted access to Notion AI, I noticed this option appeared when I highlighted words or sentences on a page in Notion:
When clicking on the “Ask AI” option, the following menu appears:
I haven’t yet had the opportunity to experiment with all these different options, but the “improve writing” feature makes many great suggestions. I also find the “Fix Spelling and Grammar” function more robust than Grammarly.
Finally, let’s get one thing straight—no, Notion cannot write articles for you, but much like a Roomba vacuum, it can help.
All in all, after using Notion daily for a solid 30 days, I have fallen in love with it, use it regularly, and have even replaced my handwritten notebook. Of course, there are more advanced features of Notion I have not yet explored.
Is Notion Right For You?
As mentioned above, it is incredibly easy to become overwhelmed with all the different apps and tools out there—which is arguably a great problem to have! We have many tools at our disposal to help us get and stay organized, motivated, and productive today, more than ever—and many of them we can use for free.
That said, it is easy to fall victim to “shiny object syndrome”. This often leads to over-complication rather than simplification.
Here are some factors to consider and questions to ask yourself to help you determine if Notion is right for you:
- What do you like most about Notion?
- What do you dislike about it?
- Do your likes outweigh your dislikes? (or vice versa)?
- Can you see yourself using it long-term?
- Does using Notion require more or fewer clicks?
- Can you integrate other apps and tools easily?
- Are there frequent bugs or glitches in your current application?
- Is security better or worse?
- Do you need a mobile app that allows you to access your notes, to-do lists, and work spaces on the go?
- What are your switching costs (if any)?
- Can you yield a higher ROI? (Reduce time spent in the app, # clicks, and so on)
Who Should Use Notion?
Notion appeals to many different types of individuals and professionals. However, Notion seems to appeal most to…
- Writers—You can use Notion as a writing tool to not only craft content, but create outlines, topic lists, content calendars, and more.
- Project managers—Although it will take some configuration and setup time, Notion can be used as a project management tool.
- Software developers—Developers use the Markdown feature in Notion.
- Marketers—Use the many Notion templates for creating social content calendars, campaign tasks and todos, and more.
With that being said, anyone looking for a digital application to organize and store notes, lists, tasks, and other important information can take advantage of Notion.
It comes down to your mindset, which impacts your productivity… and what you need to connect the two that work for you. Remember, you should focus on building systems that work for the way you work, not the other way around.
How to Set Up a Free Workspace on Notion
Creating a free Notion account is super simple.
Step 1. Simply navigate to Notion.so.
Step 2. Click on the “Try Notion Free” button at the top right-hand corner of your screen.
Step 3. Create your account by entering your preferred login details.
Step 4. Create a new “personal” workspace, or choose from the list of templates in the Notion template library.
Step 5. You’re done! Now experiment with Notion.
The Clear Notion
Notion’s “claim to fame” is that you can customize Notion to work the way you do—not the other way around.
Once you integrate Notion into your daily personal and/or work life, you can experiment with some advanced platform features. For example, you can integrate Notion with your Google Calendar.
Notion can also integrate with other third-party tools and apps you might already have in your tech stack, such as Slack, Jira, Google Calendar, and more. And like most cloud-based applications available today, you can use Notion for free, or subscribe to a paid plan, if you want and need more advanced features or more “seats” for your team.