If you do a quick google search for “how to get started with Notion,” you’ll be greeted by a plethora of how-to articles detailing the platform’s features.
They’ll tell you about the different block types and how to create pages and format everything.
And nearly all of them will compare the platform to building with LEGO. (I don’t fault them for this at all…it’s apt.)
But they are all lacking one critical component: how to actually use the platform.
So while these articles seem helpful, they’re just adding to the overwhelm that probably sent you scrambling for a new platform to begin with.
Sure, now you know what it can do, but how do you make it work for you?
Today I’m sharing the tips, tricks, and secrets that I wish someone had told me when I first encountered this marvelous platform.
Start with an Inbox
At its most basic level, Notion’s job is to house information that you collect throughout the day: ideas, thoughts, tasks, resources, research…anything. And the biggest way we overcomplicate that is by having a million places we could put it.
Most of us started experiencing this issue when we had a million different apps. Now we have Notion, with a million different pages and templates.
It’s still too complicated.
I’m repeatedly asked, “will I be able to stick to this system?” The answer is that it all depends on you. If you overcomplicate it, no, you won’t stick to it. And I think we sometimes do that just to sabotage ourselves.
So, I encourage you to create an Inbox page, whether you have three pages or thirty in your Notion account.
A blank page, titled Inbox, nothing in it. And be sure to mark it as a favorite and keep it at the top of your navigation pane.
All of the information you collect goes straight here. You’re not wasting time trying to decide where to put it or getting distracted by anything else in your account. You’re recording it in the Inbox and getting back to what you were doing.
Make Notion Part of Your Routine
The inbox works exceedingly well when we make two things a habit:
- Gathering every piece of information in that one place.
- Making time to review the information we’ve gathered.
Make adding things to your Notion inbox as easy as possible.
Make sure you have the app downloaded and in an easily accessible spot on your home screen on your phone. Also, check that it’s enabled in your share settings so that you can easily send information to it from other apps.
On your computer, download the app and again, make it easily accessible. I also highly recommend adding the web clipper to your browser extensions.
The key to building a habit of using it consistently is to make it as easy as possible. And then to make alternatives more difficult.
Go ahead and remove or hide other competing apps so you aren’t tempted to use them instead. Evernote and Google Keep were banished to a folder on my phone, and I removed the Evernote and Keep web clippers from my browser.
Your brain shouldn’t need to think about where information goes. Let that thumb reach for the Notion app become muscle memory.
Make time to review and process what you’ve gathered in your Notion inbox.
Information gathered is excellent. Information processed is better. Information used is the goal.
Once you’ve built the habit of gathering the information, you have to develop the habit of reviewing and processing it.
For me, this is the time every day where I sit down and look at what was added to my Inbox and process it.
Tasks I already completed get deleted. Events/dates get added to my calendar. Everything else gets moved to it’s home within Notion or stays on the page.
It’s truly okay if some things don’t have a home and just stay there for now. It’s actually better to leave oddball pieces of information to linger there rather than create a home for them just because.
Don’t try to build out a complicated Notion eco-system all at once.
Speaking of creating homes for your information, please don’t try to do it all at once.
I actually think this is why most people give up on Notion (or any system, really). They see all of the things it CAN do, and jump right into the deep end with a million templates and pages.
None of it works quite right, and it’s confusing and complicated. And then you’re off to hunt for something better.
So, I implore you to start small. Once you have your inbox, start looking at the type of information you’re collecting and see where themes pop up. Or pick your biggest daily pain point and start there.
If you find your inbox is full of recipe links and things to add to the grocery list, then it sounds like a meal planning setup might be useful for you.
If your biggest daily pain point is staying on top of client project statuses, how about starting with a client project database to visualize your workload?
By starting with two or three areas where you’re collecting various data and learning how to use Notion to make them work together to make your life easier, you’ll be able to get in a groove with the platform and then add things as they make sense.
Use databases to organize information and then pages to display and use related information together.
One of the downfalls of creating a ton of layouts all at once is that you don’t have a chance to see how different collections of information might work together.
Using meal planning as an example: You might build out a grocery list, recipe gallery, pantry inventory, and meal planner and then display specific views of them together to make meal planning a breeze. But you might also display the meal planner on your family hub page, too.
As you review the information you collect in your inbox, you will discover themes and trends, enabling you to build databases that strategically organize related information.
But the real magic happens when you connect the dots between the different types of information you’ve gathered and create an ecosystem that combines them into truly usable tools.
When you link together your thoughts/ideas/quotes database with your content creation database and can actually search for and use that idea you had six months ago, you realize everything clicks.
Instead of gathering information and leaving it to wither and collect dust, you’re building a system that empowers you to use that information, bringing everything full circle.
It’s all fun and games to play with a new platform and discover the millions of things it can do.
But when that initial burst of excitement wears off, you’re left with a complicated, unusable platform, and you’re right back where you started.
Start small, create a routine, and take the time to build out your own personalized system. I promise it’s more satisfying and productive.
Want to get the most out of notion? Check out my Reliable External Brain Blueprint. It’s a full training on creating your own Reliable External Brain using Notion and includes a plethora of templates and tech tutorials to help you get started without getting overwhelmed.