How using Notion.so improved my productivity

Here’s the thing: a few years ago I wanted to start out side projects like learning Portuguese, compose music or even start drawing for personal leisure. What happened? I bought some online content, spent 1 to 2h working on it and soon enough felt like it wasn’t going the right way, that I wasn’t making enough progress as fast as I wanted.

While trying to progress on those projects, I built up an inventory of tools that could help me to achieve my objectives: Trello, Evernote, a personal notebook. None of them gave me satisfaction over 2 needs: seeing the picture and create a customized workspace that fits my expectations.

Then, early this year I discovered Notion.so. It blew my mind how I got things done with it and how I became more productive while using it.

What is Notion?

Notion is an “all-in-one workspace”. It’s a SaaS designed to concentrate all information and documents that you need doing your thing. It works very simply as a pyramidal system of pages that are all connected and that can take a wide variety of formats.

The Good Things:

Create your definition of clarity.

You and I have working habits. When we are using a tool, we are testing the tool limitations to your habits. Notion goes reverse and adapt itself to your habits, it helps you to personalize your definition of clarity.

You start with a few templated pages that can fit your job position: sales, marketing, product, or HR for example. All the pages can be 100% created from scratch with a wide variety of items such as boards, tables, files, images or text. You can do it in 2 ways:

  • You feel like using the templated pages and adapt them to your needs.
  • Or you can discover the tool, dig into all the possibilities and create the workspace from scratch (which is more exciting but also time-consuming).

Notion created a tool that recalls the modding culture in video-game which is to offer a product to a community and allow them to craft it and share it back with the community. You can find a great variety of templates or tutorials created by users helping you to create the pages that fit your needs.

We can argue that Trello does the same but the main difference is that Notion templates come in various formats whereas Trello templates always have the same board with different content.

Adaptable to different business teams

With its ability to stretch and adapt to various needs, Notion can be adopted by any department of your company/startup.

Working as a product manager I can create different sections of the product cycle, where I can concentrate all my data about user research and interviews or another one my backlog and all my sprints.

If you are a sales representative, you can create your board with prospects, if you are an HR representative you can create an onboarding page with all steps that newcomers need to achieve before kicking out their job position.

Minimalist Design

The cherry on the cake is the global design experience offered by Notion, it’s simple, lean and clear. Using only 2 colors (black and white) and emojis as icons give you a feeling of working in something very personal as you can craft it everyday little piece by little piece.

It’s somewhat similar to other platforms that give power to their users like Medium.com, the product wants to give the feeling of freedom and space to let the user’s creativity express itself by creating templates to share with other users.

The (not so) Good Things :

A bit difficult to start with

At first, Notion can be a little bit overwhelming. If you are afraid of the white page, it will be tricky for you to kick start using the tool. You can start by using the templates that showcase all the possibilities that Notion can do, take the time to explore all of them and find out which one fits perfectly to your needs.

It becomes blurry when you don’t find any template fitting your expectations, try something then: type on Google.com “How to |your need| with Notion?”. You will find probably a few tricks from community members that already tackled your issue and will give you some clarity on how using the tool.

As every good product manager does, using Notion needs few iterations, don’t be in a rush to find the right fit between the tool and your needs right away, take the time to experience the tool and find out what’s best for you.

Can be time-consuming

When you will find your needs fitting with Notion, one thing that usually happens is that you create many pages to track, monitor and follow. The danger comes when the time spent on navigating in your workspace takes too much time over the deep work sessions that you want to achieve while using the tool.

After a few iterations, you can be tempted to add layers on your workspace, a page to monitor your to-do list progress or another one to evaluate your work.

How using Notion did improve my productivity:

Keeping track of my progress

Notion becomes rapidly your work library in which you can look back, look now and look a what you want to achieve in the upcoming future. It’s easy to keep track of your achievements by creating the archives of your work.

Doing so, you visualize with more ease what you need to focus right now and for the upcoming days. It takes time to find the appropriate format and after a few iterations, you may end up with the best tracking journal helping to get work done and as a consequence: be more productive.

Find templates examples for tracking pages here:

Liking to daily use the tool

Another powerful aspect is how logging in daily with the tool becomes a tiny pleasure. As you see your daily tasks according to your monthly or weekly objective, you get the feeling of actually making daily progress.

Trello gives you almost the same feeling based on its own very visual user experience but it does not go as deeper functionally as Notion does. This is where the brand is very important as it is deeply connected to product usage. Notion’s positioning is summarized by how the product is presented and its value proposition. The more you use it, the more you feel connected to the brand and as so ending up to get an emotional link with the product.

Learning to use the tool helped me to fight procrastination

Notion isn’t a magic stick that can transform suddenly your working habits into a productive superhero. It gives you the means to define your objectives, track them and break them into little pieces of work. The solution doesn’t come from the tool but the tool helps to get you where to want to be. Take the time to create your checkpoints to track your progress in any project you are investing on, when you will check the to-do list boxes by the end of the day or the week, you will feel more accomplished.

Breaking down your ideas into small tasks to monitor your progress is a way to fight procrastination and as Notion helps you to do that, you become more productive.

3 points to conclude:

100% customizable tool:

Notion is a powerful customization tool designed to help you making progress: as we saw, Notion is a tool that you can bend, adapt and personalize to your professional or personal objectives. By giving empowerment to users that can share templates and examples of workspace, the product is self-developing. A big perk that can erase the little issues like onboarding time in the beginning.

Being more productive DOES NOT depend on the tool:

Using Notion isn’t the solution to be more productive: as we stated, Notion isn’t a magic stick. Being more productive is a state of mind that needs to be developed with rigorousness and patience. Wanting to be more productive takes time and needs the correct investments at the right spot: understand how your brain works, identify procrastination and develop tools and methods to be more productive (like chunking). I recommend this online course on Coursera that will give you starting key insights.

But using a smart tool can help you with being more productive:

If Notion isn’t the magic stick, see it more as a flashlight that can guide you through the darkness of the modern world based on constant notification and attention-seeking. Starting on the tool will help you identify how people use it with some templates, it will give you ideas that you can iterate on and then find the model that suits your expectations. If you are motivated enough to change your working habits and become more productive, discover notion like a beginner: don’t expect too much, be curious and see if it suits you.

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Product Manager & Product Marketer 🔎Experienced with fast-growing startups 🌱🌳 🔎Productivity maniac & design enthusiast

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Philippe Larroque

Philippe Larroque

Product Manager & Product Marketer 🔎Experienced with fast-growing startups 🌱🌳 🔎Productivity maniac & design enthusiast

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