Notion + Todoist Setup for Creatives
My creative workflow capturing the big picture to everyday tasks
If you’re a beginner at Notion, this might be a little confusing. If you’re a Notion power user, this might be a little simplistic. Having seen many tutorials, I wanted to create something in the middle to track everyday life that is functional, lean, and aesthetically pleasing. If you’re in the creative field with bustling thoughts and finding it hard to organise everything, I hope this is a good starting point to jump on the Notion bandwagon (or try it again)!
After exploring tons of productivity concepts like PARA from Marie Poulin and Tiago Forte, and reviewing creative workflows from Ali Abdaal, Keep Productive and Thomas Frank, the starting point for me was to flesh out a system of thinking for Notion that connects from the big to the small.
The idea is a bit like a waterfall: taking unstructured, fragile ideas and thoughts and slowly trickling them down to increasingly tangible, actionable tasks — with an overview to see everything in place (at least until it breaks). This is an ongoing experiment that will iterate many times over I’m sure.
First off, I create a ‘Buckets’ database that are the general pillars or key areas of my life. These fields are consistent and are designed to relate with any/most information in Notion — essentially, everything has a ‘Bucket’. I simply create a database page, name the buckets, and give it a general description. Once they are set up, it’s maintenance-free and can be left as is.
In the PARA method, this is known as ‘Areas’ which can be as broad or specific as you would like, e.g. Personal Life or separated out to Finances, Health, Travel etc. They should be simple, clear, and feel natural to your top priorities. For creatives who are juggling new ideas and sorting incoming information, this is a start to sorting out the loose ends so everything has a place it belongs.
- 🔥 Christ: all things related to faith, gospel & church ministries
- 🍔 Work: freelance projects that pay for bills & burgers
- 🛠 Build: long-term creation of products/platforms
- 🚀 Create: short-term, community-based projects
- 🏡 Home: personal health, travel, finances, and family
The next part is setting up long, mid, and short-term goals relating to each ‘Bucket’. The ‘Growth’ page is a combination of two databases: ‘Goals’ for tracking big targets and ‘Habits’ to log down routines.
Goals are achievable targets in foreseeable future. In this inline database, each goal is connected to a ‘Bucket’. This helps to put aspiration into paper by making it as specific as possible with metrics, due dates, and status to systematically define upcoming milestones and actions (see more below).
- Goal: Finish UX for Freelancers course
- Metrics: By Q4 2020, invested $150
- Status: In Progress, This Month, This Quarter, This Year, Completed
- Due Date: Dec 31, 2020
- Bucket: 🍔 Work (relational property)
Habits differ from goals as recurring routines over a sustainable period of time. This database is an overview of my current and new habits with similar properties as ‘Goals’. For the daily tracking of habits, I set them as recurring tasks in Todoist — which works great! There are many Notion habit-tracking templates like this, and this available.
- Habit: Daily devotions and prayer
- Frequency: 2 hours/day
- Status: Recurring, New, Not Started, Terminated
- Bucket: 🔥 Christ (relational property)
- Daily habit tracking set as recurring tasks in Todoist*
Projects are a connected series of items to get something done. Based on the PARA method, a ‘Project’ database page is set up to house individual projects that connect to a ‘Bucket’, ‘Goal’, or ‘Habit’. I add some matrix properties like urgency, impact, timeline and status to sort them according to their respective priorities. I save a template for new ‘Projects’ so that every project has a similar dashboard. There’s more elaboration on this topic here.
Before this change, I only put work projects in here. But now, even hobbies and home-based projects are thrown in here for better accountability. It also helps me put a priority to plan time and space to work on these ideas.
- Project: The Neighborgood Project
- Urgency: High, Mid, Low
- Impact: 3-star, 2-star, 1-star
- Status: On It, Waiting, Completed
- Timeline: Oct 11, 2020 — Nov 11, 2020
- Client: John Doe (relational property)
- Team: Weiee Ying, Jane Doe (relational property)
- Resources: 2020 Roadmap, Product Wiki (relational property)
- Milestones: Complete x5 user interviews (relational property)
- Bucket: 🛠 Build (relational property)
Replacing my previous task management database in Notion (more on that below), I now determine weekly, monthly, quarterly ‘Milestones’ for progress tracking. These are not singular tasks but achievable targets set in concentrated time blocks that serve to achieve progress for a ‘Project’.
‘Milestones’ from each quarter move to each month, and each month move to each week like a manufacturing line — you get the idea. Completing milestones should give a sense of yeah, baby! at the end of each week, and for now, I recommend putting at most 3–5 weekly milestones.
- Milestone: Complete this Notion Setup post
- Project: Medium Monthly Posts (relational property)
- Status: This Week, This Month, This Quarter, Completed, Archived
- Goals: Write a post every month (relational property)
- Bucket: 🚀 Create (relational property)
- Additional properties: Impact, Urgency, Assignees
After using Notion exclusively for task management, the input process was just too slow for daily use. I noticed an increased hesitation to add new tasks in Notion because every task needed to look ‘perfect‘ — filled in due dates, urgency, assigned persons and related projects, which took a lot of time.
Instead, I now use the good ol’ Todoist for handing singular tasks. The key difference is speed. It’s a joy to enter, sort and complete tasks when it’s built to optimise that. ‘Buckets’ from Notion are labeled as main projects in the sidebar and ‘Projects’ from Notion are nested as sub-projects in Todoist.
Most tasks serve to fulfill a weekly ‘Milestone’ in Notion. I also use tasks to remind me to check-off daily habits. Additionally, the Inbox function is super handy to offload random tasks from my brain for future sorting.
How It Works
And now — how it comes together! Every day, I’ll see what tasks are listed today in Todoist and reorder what needs to get done, putting them in Google Calendar, with confidence that it’s working to clear a ‘Milestone’. As I complete tasks throughout the day (ideal scenario, really), I simply put in new tasks that pop up in my head or based on external requests.
Throughout the week, I’ll look at the ‘Milestones’ are in Notion to check on weekly progress. There are usually 3–5 milestones each week that really ground my focus, and marking them complete is always a compelling motivator. New milestones are moved down the chain to ‘This Week’ and reviewed at the start or end of the week.
Since most ‘Projects’ are on an ongoing basis, I’ll review them maybe every 4 weeks to a month. ‘Growth’ is reviewed on an on-and-off basis to track what’s important in a short, mid, long time frame. It’s beautiful when you see all tasks, milestones, and projects aligning to longer-term goals and aspirations!
Last tip: Set up a ‘Life Dashboard’ page and pull in all these pages into inline databases for a complete overview of your creative workflow.
This is just a general take on my daily use of Notion with a lot uncovered but are mostly auxiliary to this general structure. I hope this is useful for newer, slightly frustrated Notion creative users. Always feel free to send in your thoughts anytime ☕️