I get a Notion life will be different from here on

Yes, it seems certain that life post COVID-19 will be different, but that's not what this article's about. I decided to write this because although on the surface it's a departure from our normal leadership, learning and change focussed material, it actually links in with it really well, being about an enabler. Read on to find out more...

A few weeks ago, I very luckily stumbled upon Notion, an application that runs on Windows, Mac, mobile phones and in a browser.

Why I haven't discovered it before I just don't know because it's exactly what I've been looking for to organise my digital life, myself, and to a degree my business, for years.

I've long been a big fan of relational databases because of their ability to interconnect information, but though developing systems in database applications and making them available on the net is totally possible, it requires time and expertise, and generally significant user costs. I've done it for my business operations, and it works well, but expanding it into areas such as knowledge management, personal life, health and wellbeing, and integrating with other services I use online becomes a step too far.

If you look at most people's computers and the many online accounts they have for different services, what you find is lots and lots of siloed information. Folder after folder of non-connected files, website after website of great material, Spotify, Kindle, Google calendar, Slack.... the list goes on. And the problem is, it very easily becomes fragmented, so when you start work on something like a new project and need to find all the relevant information you already have, you've got a big search on your hands.

Using Notion, however, means much of that can change,. It's so simple to custom build relational databases. I only came across Notion 3 weeks ago, but already I've been able to create and implement:

  • A project management database
  • A database of digital resources, including an automatic sync to my Kindle books so any new notes or new books I add in Kindle feed into this resource bank, and can be quickly tagged.
  • A synced calendar
  • A journal
  • A master task database
  • A weekly agenda dashboard which automatically pulls all the relevant information from my project management and task databases
  • A daily 'things to process' view which automatically shows only the things I need to assign and or tag which have cropped up during the day. As soon as I've actioned them they automatically disappear. No need to drag them to a folder, or even set up automation rules.
  • A virtual training resource webpage which we've added to our website here https://bit.ly/3aq21Qv The integration side was a little tricky to learn first time round, but now we know how to do it, it's a breeze. Creating this resource page in Notion took me around 30 minutes using a webclipper extension in Chrome. It would have taken hours and hours in a standard website builder like Wordpress or even Webflow (which is what we use). To boot, the page load time is nothing short of outstanding. Here's an analysis from tools.pingdom.com:

What's more, it all looks so gorgeous! You can set up custom views so easily too, so if you want a list, a gallery, a timeline, a kanban view etc, it's easily done. Here's an example of a page I knocked up in a jiffy:

Notion example page

All of this would have taken me months using other methods, which is why so many of us don't really get round to doing it. I've still got loads to do to get the most from Notion, but to have got this far already is so motivating. I even managed to put on a week-long virtual conference at the same time as doing all this! Of course I used Notion for much of the organisation and knowledge management for the conference, a big reason for us being able to pull the event off in the timespan we had. Not forgetting lots of effort from an amazing team.

Being able to make so much progress with implementing Notion into my workflow is largely down to a number of outstanding people who post amazing content on YouTube, and on their own websites. I'd like to give a big shout out for @mariepoulin, @augustbradley, @khemaridh, @dkamaritis and @DannyHatcher for all the great learning materials they share. In particular I've found August's and Khe's work to sync really well with my approach because whilst they're amazing with tech development and implementation, what they do is grounded in helping you live the life you want to lead. They're deep thinkers: it's the quality of life and what you want to contribute to the world that comes first, with the tech then becoming an enabler. Perfect.

Of course Notion is most likely not for everyone. One potential downside is that as the information sits on Notion's servers, there's a whole load of business information I shan't be putting into it. There's a significant learning curve too. I'm a bit of a tech nerd at heart, and find it quite easy to understand how to use tech pretty quickly. However, from my perspective this learning curve is one that's so worth it because of what it then makes possible. It's SO much more than all the other to do and note apps.

To give you a flavour, here are just a few of the use cases I'm bringing to life very easily:

  • Land a new project and need to know all the relevant information you already have for it: set up the project with a number of tags in Notion, and automatically get a feed of all the resources you have that are likely to be of use. Oh my goodness, no more searching for that file that you know you have, but can't for the life of you find.
  • Align daily actions with annual and monthly goals: August Bradley's Pillars, Pipelines and Vaults system is fabulous for this.
  • Make interesting stuff you come across accessible and useable in the future: creating a daily processing dashboard makes doing this really simple. Clip something from the web, make a note in a Kindle book, find some interesting music, a pdf, etc: you can quickly add tags, categories etc so all this information will automatically resurface in custom dashboards or projects set to be fed with the tags, categories etc you define, without you having to go and search. Bliss.
  • Supporting long-term learning: creating a dashboard which surfaces previous learning for review at defined periods to support longer-term integration and learning transfer.

If you'd like to know how to add a Notion page to an existing website, get in touch because there are several little tricks you need to know which aren't immediately obvious. Since I discovered how to do it without destroying our main website, I've had a deluge of requests for this information from YouTubers ;-) I'll pull a tutorial together when I get a moment (heads up, the key is a sneaky way of setting up a subdomain and altering some code to refer to this instead of the main domain, which isn't obvious using the recommended tools).

If you're interested to learn more about how to use Notion, I can strongly recommend Kye Hy's RadReads, https://radreads.co/notion/, and August Bradley's channel on YouTube: hhttps://bit.ly/3pDV1Wc, along with Marie Poulin's Notion Mastery: https://bit.ly/2NJk24t Marie is fabulous at helping people get up to speed with Notion and its potential.

Right, I've used up the time I freed up with Notion writing this article (in my journal in Notion, then published to my site so easily) so it's back to work now 😉

If you do dive on into Notion, enjoy, and I hope you find it useful. You can get the desktop apps here: https://bit.ly/3orIx2w

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