How I Use Notion

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that I am obsessed with Notion and all its applications. I first started using Notion in March 2020 – just as we went into lockdown (so it’s fair to say I had a lot of time on my hands). I truly think that using Notion can be absolutely game-changing for architects, students and all kinds of designers and content creators.

The reason for this is that Notion is a workspace tool. If you’ve used Google Drive and it’s other apps like Docs or Slides, it’s sort of the same idea but on steroids. Notion is essentially ‘an application that provides components such as databases, kanban boards, wikis, calendars and reminders. Users can connect these components to create their own systems for knowledge management, note-taking, data management, project management, among others. These components and systems can be used individually, or in collaboration with others.’

Notion is free and has a student / educational plan for you guys to not only create your own workspaces without limits but share them with friends and peers too. This means that you can create an organised system of your own but also share it with other people to track and create projects or areas of your life.

My Notion Workspace

Before I started using Notion, I was using various different notebooks for several things. I hadn’t ridden the productivity wave yet so there was a lot I wasn’t exposed to either. Now, there is no problem with keeping notebooks and I’m definitely not saying that Notion should replace these things, but instead it gives you a digital version that can be filtered, sorted, organised and expanded in several ways – something a regular notebook can’t give you.

I’ll give you an example. Content creating has been amplified by 10 since I started using Notion. Before this, I was still using a pretty organised system, tracking ideas for blog posts on a Google Sheet, planning out my writing in my notebook and writing any sort of idea down on any page that I probably wasn’t going to go back to again. There was stuff that I had to keep going back to such as my branding elements (think fonts and hex codes) but sometimes didn’t have my notebook on me. This caused some friction. With Notion, there is a dedicated space where I’ve kept this information and it can be easily accessed through search by hitting Ctrl + P. I can do the same on the Notion app, share it with other people I am working with or just have a record of my branding elements.

The way I use Notion has changed a lot over the past year. I’ve ‘re-done’ my workspace / wiki / dashboard a handful of times so far and just tried to keep the things I really do use. Most people go two ways of creating their workspace.

  1. They use the sidebar to create pages and pages – all separated. Then they link back to these occasionally and as needed
  2. They create one page and make sub-pages within them

So what I’ve done is a mix of both. Initially, I didn’t even bother with a ‘Home’ dashboard because I wasn’t really using it since I jumped from page to page or just focused on one thing at a time. I then realised that my main use of Notion was to track my tasks so I made my Task Box the opening tab and really where I spent 90% of my time on Notion.

Now, I have 6 key areas that are their own dashboards. Inside, there are sub-pages, databases and links but overall, it covers the 4 key areas I need and stuff I was previously using which has been archived. By simplifying the sidebar, it makes it so much easier to jump if needed and hide it completely (to maximise screen space). Very recently, I archived my task box and switched to Todoist. I was finding there was an increase in friction and due to my timings at work, I just wasn’t inputting tasks because there was a lot of extra information to fill in. The Notion app is good, but it’s not that useful for inputting tasks (in my opinion). Todoist is just pretty easy to see on my phone and sort and has built-in features like priority and labelling which you don’t need to worry about keeping a track of.

In the ‘home’ dashboard, there are mainly links and personal pages that don’t really need to have their own dashboard as well as my frequent pages list. This is more than often a subpage of a project that I’m working on and it makes it easier to have this in front of me so that I can start working as soon as I open my window.

The :scale section is where all of my writing, organising and planning happens. I’ve got stuff like ideas and goals for the coming months as well as general guidelines I can send to guest authors. 90% of my content creating happens in Notion – in fact, I’ve recently switched over the writing portion from Google Docs into Notion too. The table view is AMAZING by itself because you can add in all kinds of fields and sort and filter them and the best feature in Notion is the ‘Create Linked Database’. It allows you to replicate any kind of database in any view and apply a completely different set of filters meaning you only need one master database that holds all the information.

You can also build your own templates to optimise your workflow as I’ve done in the Ultimate Archi Student Hub. This means whenever you add a new project in there will be a set of headings and blocks already in there so that you don’t have to rebuild everything every time you create a new page.

The Possibilities of Notion

It’s been a year since I first started on Notion and in that timeframe, they have released a number of updates and new features. It’s also not a secret that the API is due to release soon 🤫 which is going to bring even more integrations and connections to other platforms and applications. I think this will be an amazing step forward because it’s almost like re-discovering Notion and getting to build or edit your workspace.

You should also keep in mind that there are numerous other productivity applications like Trello or Asana as well as phone applications that might even do a better job than Notion for specific things. I keep a close eye on the Keep Productive YouTube channel to find out about updates or new releases of interesting apps and occasionally give them a try – that’s how I found Todoist!

Another great part of Notion is its community. There is an awesome Discord server, subreddit and a bunch of cool content creators, template makers and bloggers who love Notion as much as I do. This means there will surely be new ideas and uses for Notion that could influence how your workspace takes shape and you can learn almost everything from these guys. We’ve linked our Resources page where we’ve got a dedicated Notion section for you to check out!

Architecture Students

As a working Part 1 Architectural Assistant and content creator, I love Notion for its wide range of applications to what I do. I really think that students will benefit most from an organised system they can build and keep track of. The open-ended structure means that you don’t have to try and cram things into one place nor is there a limit on what you use Notion for.

Notion would be great for the design side as well as a wiki or organisational tool. Here are a couple of examples:

  1. Keeping track of multiple projects and deadlines at the same time. By linking this to a task management system you can also re-surface pending tasks depending on the priority level of the project. If your dissertation is due in 4 weeks, you can plan out each day or week and assign tasks that will help you stay on track throughout.
  2. A reference library for precedents, articles, helpful resources that you’ve used or interest you. Think about how Pinterest works except in Notion you can clip entire webpages including the text and images as your own personal copy. It’s like bookmarks but you’re able to sort, filter and favourite ones you regularly use.
  3. Portfolio planning; you can track the status of which pages you’ve completed or need to work on as well as creating a library of pages that you want to create and include in your portfolio. The best thing about creating instances in a database is that each one will have its own page.

If you want to learn more about the applications of productivity and using Notion as an architecture student, you can find out more in our 🧠 Building an Archi Brain course.

The most important takeaway from this is that organisation is the key to being more productive, having a set workflow and direction and this can be achieved with Notion – but not exclusively! Remember, it’s not the tool that magically makes you more productive, you need to put in the work to create the habits and systems as well as the Notion pages and databases and then keep testing and adapting in order to find the correct balance.

Plus, who knows where Notion can take us aspiring architects right?

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