Notion: the productivity app that everyone needs

February 9, 2021 — by Serena Li

From Google Calendar to Trello boards, I’ve tried just about every kind of productivity tool out there. Unfortunately, most of them don’t meet all my organizational needs. 

Some apps, such as Todoist or Wunderlist, produce efficient checklists for daily tasks, but they lack an overview of monthly schedules. On the other hand, apps like Google or Apple Calendar, display monthly events, but they lack a comprehensive to-do list function. My long search for the perfect productivity tool ended when I encountered Notion. 

Notion was released in 2018 by Notion Labs, Inc. It is a free mobile and computer application that provides users with resources like pages, databases, tables and calendars to create their own system for organization and management. After I started using Notion, I fell in love with its extensive range of functionalities and its flexibility to users to customize the pages. 

I found the app last January. As I was perusing the App Store for my next perfect organizational ally, its simplistic white background with pastel colors immediately stood out to me as the most aesthetically pleasing of the countless other apps. 

While the aesthetics are undoubtedly a big plus, the biggest selling points of Notion are its all-in-one workspace for organization and its flexibility for users to customize the pages. 

Notion provides hundreds of templates, ranging from job trackers to meal planners, that allow users to create their own organizational system. The workspace consists of units known as pages, which hold different blocks and embed sub-pages, and blocks. Blocks are pieces that you can add to your pages, and they include calendars, tables, databases, which are a series of interlinked spreadsheets, and more than fifty different types of blocks.

Despite these amazing functions, I had many difficulties trying to navigate Notion at first. It was hard for me to grasp the concept of pages and blocks — I could barely create a simple page with multiple blocks initially — and I was confused about the organizational structure that Notion used.  

As a beginner trying to maneuver the world of Notion, the first (and only page for three months) I created was a to-watch list of movies and television series using the table and filter functions to organize them by genre and country. For a while, that was all I used the application for. 

It was not until I stumbled upon a few YouTubers such as Mariana’s Study Corner and articles such as “A Beginner’s Guide to Notion,” that I was finally enlightened with the endless possibilities of Notion. 

Taking inspiration from online templates and using my own creativity, I formulated a digital yearly planner using embedded pages and blocks. 

I embedded 12 pages, each representing a month, into another page I titled “2021.” Within each monthly page, I created 28 to 31 table blocks, depending on how many days are in the specific month. In each table block, the left-most column indicates the time, the middle column lists down the projected task to be completed and the right-most column records my actual performance on the task.  

Since my adaptation of this method, I have noticed a significant decrease in my procrastination. The middle and right columns directly exposed me to all the time I wasted on watching YouTube videos or TV. As a result, I purposefully limited my watch time so I can mark a satisfying “done” on the right column.  

Moreover, I started using Notion for other aspects of my life, such as bookmarking food recipes, noting artists or albums that I want to listen to and planning a workout routine (though it has yet to be completed).

The Notion team is constantly upgrading the application and improving its user experience. As of now, they are working on enabling offline usage and creating more unique and functional blocks.

Notion has helped me become a much more productive person while using an extremely aesthetically pleasing interface, which is as important as the actual functionalities to me. Despite some difficulties in getting started, I have become a  Notion convert (after watching a few instructional videos, of course). I promise you will be one too if you give it a shot. 

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