Why notion has the potential for being the best task manager!
After spending a long time with different task management app, I have come to the conclusion that notion.so does not only have a great potential to be the leader of the space, but it already is more powerful than many dedication systems for the purpose.
Moving to notion
I have been using notion for past 6 months as a paid subscriber. Although, the cost of using notion unlimited for any workspace is a bit high than what I can usually afford for such tools, it also put me in a position where I had to ensure that I get the most out of it. I started using notion as a wiki. My earlier post about wiki.js suggests it to be the best wiki software to use as a single personal knowledge base tool. However, I really needed the power similar to notion to do what I wanted with my knowledge base (as well as the fact that hosting services tend to get pricy over the years) and so, I moved from wiki.js to notion.
It was evident from the way notion is designed, that it is many things at once. A simple task manager, wiki software, document manager, resource area and so on, making it quite natural for me to move all my stuff from google drive, dropbox, wiki.js to notion. I was also using todoist for around a year (with paid subscription) and didn’t like the fact that I have to pay for multiple apps, where I can actually just use one. So I stopped the todoist subscription and moved all my tasks to notion. One great thing that happened after that was, I could use bigger kanban boards for bigger projects and simple todo list for daily errands all from the same place. But, I felt something was off and it just wasn’t right to use notion for so many purposes at the same time.
Enter Personal Kanban and getting results the Agile way
Since, I have also been trying with a lot of productivity systems (include GTD, Pomodoro, ZTD and so on), I was at my wits end with various nuances that each of these systems introduced in my daily work life. Due to some compulsive disorder, I just couldn’t leave these systems altogether, nor could I get them to work for me. Then I started reading the book Make time, Personal Kanban and Getting results the Agile way, one after the other. ****I found a lot of valuable stuff from those books, but as usual I couldn’t get them to be part of my life. I had been using something similar to personal kanban for a long time, so integrating “Personal Kanban” into my daily life was not really an issue. The book talks about the following two take aways, which I ended up taking away.
- Limit Work In Progress
- Clarity on the state of work, as it stands at any given point.
I did a bit of paraphrasing or may be I mixed in a concept from other systems, but it went something like that. The other book “Getting Results the Agile Way” gave a lot of interesting things that I could incorporate into my system, but it was too much to do it from get go. Therefore, I will list the things that I decided to use as follows:
- 3 outcomes per day and per week and so on
- Life concerns as a major goals to be tracked and tasks to be brought out from
- Monitoring ability to see the progress and using scheduling and boundaries to manage the time you give to each area of concern to fine tune the outcome.
I loved these ideas and really believed that having a way to visualize the progress would help me to keep myself motivated at tasks that are important in the long term. So I went to work on my system with these new facets that would help uplift my workflow.
Why it had to be only Notion
I tried using Notion, Todoist, Clickup, Microsoft Todo, Wunderlist and Task list, etc. Each of these tools fail at one point or the other when trying to accomplish what I was doing. I will talk about my workflow with screenshots later in this article. For now, I’d like to focus on my journey to notion. Out of all these tools I had tried only Click up was even close to be able to manage and monitor the goals. I loved click up but it was not as easy to use as I have gotten use to with other systems. Also, it is expensive too. My first go at notion failed miserably too and I am not sure if what I have right now will continue to be useful or not. It may fail too. Therefore, as a disclaimer, I am not making a claim that the other apps were not useful and notion is. That is not the case. The other apps are meant to solve different or to be precise the general take on task management. What I was trying to build is a workflow that will allow me to plan, track and monitor, manage daily tasks along with all the resources in the same place. Notion happens to have all the tools necessary for the purpose and so it made sense to rely on notion’s flexible approach to structuring data. Now, let’s dive in what the current workflow is.
In notion I created 4 sections as listed below with explanation of them each to see how it fits in the workflow
- Personal Kanban: This the Kanban board to track daily tasks on a simple board with three types (todo, in progress and completed). Out of these, In progress shouldn’t have more than 3–5 tasks. We do this to limit the work in progress to stay focussed. Also, the three major outcomes for the day would be marked with @highlight tag, which is an idea from Make Time. Well, they said it should be just one and I’d rather be doing three. Each of these tasks will have a linked database field called associated milestone or objective, which we will look at after this.
- Routines: The next in line is routines, which I would rather skip, as it is more of just a list of things that I need to start as routines. I’m reading Atomic Habit right now, which I will use to structure this section as well.
- Milestones and Objectives: The milestones and objectives can be seen as projects (small ones) or short terms goals that we want to accomplish. They are what will produce the daily tasks for personal kanban for the most part. All the planning should happen here and it will collect all the stuff related to the said objective, which over time will move to the personal kanban. Another interesting thing to notice is that I have used the cover image as a image with progress tracker using external apis such as google charts. We just have to enter the tasks done, remaining to get the image on the cover, making it easy to keep track of which objective is doing well and which isn’t. (
- Major & Long Term Goals: This is where we will collect the major life concerns as suggested by the book Getting results the agile way and they will be the source of all the objectives, milestones and projects we can collect. As can be seen, the invidual cards in the card view will internally contain list of all the major timeline based outline of future can be traced. One thing I do miss in Notion is the ability to create Mindmap that you can also link the nodes to other elements in other databases. Even so, without the mind mapping capabilities, we can still track and manage the major life goals, all in once place.
Finally, at the end I keep the mind map of all the major goals I care about, which I create and export from coggle.it and keep it updated, just so I can see the heirarchical connection between the goals I set as well as to identify the related tasks or objectives that I need to create while working on a given goal.
Another thing to use it to use roll up to track the percent of objectives or tasks completed, but that will have to wait as the roll up option does not allow the counting by the content of the element we are referencing. Right now, the only thing we can roll up by is to check if it is empty or not empty, which I hope will change in near future.
Although, I already mentioned earlier that this may not be the ultimate approach that I will use but it goes to show that notion can be a very powerful tool that is able to connect disparate sources of important tasks, documents, etc in one place. There is much to be desired when considering how the system will grow over time. I would much prefer to generate the progress automatically by the number of tasks that are completed. I don’t know yet, how the apis for notion.so will behave and so, I cannot plan anything on that front. But if it is possible, I would rather prefer updating the google charts image programmatically based on the sub todo list is checked.
Hopefully, I was able to do justice to notion and bring interesting ideas to use notion for task management. That would be all for now.