Notion is the underrated productivity app that may change your work life

Before using Notion, I used Trello, Google Calendar, Google Keep, Google Drive, Evernote, and countless other applications to keep my life on track. They were all terrific applications, but switching between them just for changes in features quickly became a chore – staying productive became a chore. 

It took me at least a year before I settled on the best productivity app. I even switched to paper agendas and bullet journaling, but my lack of art skills killed that dream. I needed something centralized and consolidated; a place for anything and everything in my life.

That app was – a digital productivity application that provides easy-to-use features in task management, organization, and more.

I’m not the only one raving over this product. On Capterra, a software comparison website, Notion is rated in the in task management software, document management software, remote work software, and collaboration software for 2020. Its clean and functional platform has attracted more than one million users in two years. 

What features does Notion have?

From study trackers to personal journaling, Notion has a huge variety of templates. The app is highly customizable with its pages, task lists, kanban boards, and dashboards.

One of the most commonly used features is the task list, which is a replacement for apps like Todoist. Notion provides an easy way to tick tasks off your list, just like you would on a planner. The digital version lets you move around and rearrange the items as needed. I keep a task list for every day of the week at the bottom of my central dashboard, rearranging them when necessary or changing them to different days. Once ticked off, the line grays out.

One of the best features is the ability to create new pages and each one of those pages can have their own subtopics. I have more than 15 pages that help me manage all aspects of my life, including freelancing, Urban Asian, my website, and school. Within those pages, oftentimes, I create more subpages to keep organized. It sounds complicated, but it basically mimics pieces of paper inside folders. Within my freelancing pages, for example, I have a long list filled with possible pitches, embedded links at the bottom with resources, and a subpage with editorial contacts in an Airtable-style spreadsheet. Meanwhile, my Urban Asian board is a simple kanban board to track the status of several articles. Being able to combine a variety of formats without leaving the platform is a huge advantage – most other apps I’ve used give me one or two of these layout types, but not all of them.

Drop-down lists and kanban boards are often used in Notion spreads as well. Users can also change statuses on various subtasks to be able to track things at a glance. Notion also allows users to embed links, create Airtable-like bases, add quotes, lists, files, and images. 

A clean user experience

Notion really aces UX design, using white space to provide a clean and fresh look. The emojis used on each page are aesthetically pleasing and functional for identifying categories of information. For instance, my school subpage has a school emoji and my personal journal page has a journal emoji, making it easier to find within all of the subpages created on the platform. 

Although it can take time to master, the effort learning Notion pays off.

When you first land on the Notion workspace page, the interface is completely blank – a fresh space to create a beautiful dashboard. Its Lego-like structure allows users to build up their dashboard how they see fit; many have taken the opportunity to design their own layouts and teach others how to do the same.  For example, on my dashboard, I added an emoji, a name to my workspace, general goals, a list of all my subpages linked for easy access, a picture of myself, and below all of that, a general list of tasks for the week. This freedom to add anything to not only the front dashboard, in addition to any subpages, mimics the usefulness of widgets on your phone’s home screen. You can check the weather at a glance, so you get in and out, and then onto the actual work you need to do.

Notion’s drawbacks

Notion has a built-in calendar option, but it can’t be integrated with Google or Apple Calendar. This is frustrating if most invites to meetings or time-blocking are done through another service like Google Calendar. The pain will be particularly acute for organizations, which probably already have a calendar that’s integrated with their email suite. There is also no offline mode for desktop usage.

Other tools have powerful software integrations and are more thoroughly developed in certain sectors, such as notes, bases, or calendars. Although some might find Airtable, Evernote, and Google Calendar as better organizational tools for some of these functions, Notion provides a centralized workspace that works well enough in all of these areas that I don’t notice the loss of features. Even without a full suite of features, Notion’s other virtues pay off. 

Notion uses a freemium model for pricing. While their free plan works well for individuals with unlimited pages and blocks, businesses can opt for a paid pricing plan of $8 per member per month. The paid plans provide a more collaborative workspace with unlimited team members.

Final Thoughts

Notion brought my love for working back. Having my thoughts down in one place helped me gain a lot of time and energy back in my life. It connected the lines between my personal life, such as my health and journaling, with my professional life, such as tracking freelancing articles and emails. I still use other applications, but much less frequently. Notion is truly the superior productivity app and encapsulates features that anyone could love and use for every aspect of their life.

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