For almost a year, I am using Notion. I started using it as a ‘cleaner Google Doc,’ later it became my Wiki of choice, and from April as I moved to a new job, I started using it as my planner, task manager, to-do list, and bookmark manager.
Last week I spent some time and made a template framework based on my current setup, which I call ‘Focus Dashboard.’ It’s a simple system that follows concepts from Getting Things Done, Bullet Journal, Resonance calendar and tons of blogs I read. Also, the template allows you to create a simplified Zettelkasten/Slip Box.
Here is how I do it.
The template has four primary databases — Inbox, Objectives, Task List, and Slip box.
Inbox is the bookmark/resource/knowledge manager. Use Notion Web clipper and add all resources to it. The tags allow you to categorize the content.
Objectives contain a list of you define your goals. Break your big projects into definite objectives. You can create ‘Epic’ to club your objectives under one roof.
Task List contains things you have to work. Add all ‘tasks,’ link it to a specific objective, and tag it to a Due Date / DO Date. Add any references, related documents, and inspirations — add that to the Inbox and link it to the task as References. That’s it! Now get it done, and once done, make sure you check the done.
That’s all. Now strategize your objectives (or Define your goals), add them to Objectives database, create related tasks. Keep using Web clipper to add references and inspirations to Inbox, link those to specific task tickets, and get things done!
Now coming to the Dashboard, it’s a simple page that provides access to a list of all sub pages (left column) and shows the task list in the calendar view. Also, there is another reference table below that lists all inbox items without a tag, so that you can tag and provide some context! — (Notion, Web Clipper needs this as a feature, like Evernote.)
The Slip Box/Zettelkasten
I loved the Zettlekasten method / Slip Box on the first reading. The clarity in thought process and how that system is build inspired me. But moving to a tool like Roam or Emacs org-roam felt like a tedious task. Hence I copied three concepts from the Slip box method — 1. Create atomic notes in your own words 2. Add meta-information about the source. 3. Link notes to each other.
In this Simple Slip Box, you add Notes to the table, add keywords. Add sources to Inbox (I add Kindle Highlights to Inbox with loc number, one file per book) and link to that.
Now when you are thinking of any topics, tag them with the Topic Title. The Board view (Kanban) provides you preview to all cards under one column, which helps you arrange/move cards.
It’s not Zettel as it is, as there is no bidirectional linking, or unique ID, etc., but the Board view provides a way to see all notes, categories and arrange them and build a connection between them.
Other “Customization” I do
The Notion is not a replacement for your to-do app. It’s software that lets you build your system. Quoting Clay Skipper, “Really, it doesn’t matter how your system works. It only matters that you have a system.”
There are a few things customization I did over this that worked for me, but I was not sure if it’s a generic solution.
#1 Nickname for Objectives. In the objective table, I have added more property called ‘Project Name.’ I add a nickname to my projects. The task list has a roll-up that shows the project name. The Calendar will look cleaner with a tag instead of a long objective sentence;
#2 Nickname only for Current Objectives. The objective table contains completed objectives, future ideas, and things planned for the next quarter. I don’t add a Project name for those. And on Dashboard, I filter “Project Name is not empty,” thus assuring shelved projects are not listed to distract me.
#3 Done Percentage. Every task is a subset of some objectives. Hence you can find Done% with a roll-up related to the task list, property “Done,” and percentage checked. (If you want to make it visually attractive, you can build a progress bar too!)
Work-Weekend Balance. It sounds funny, but working from home and lock-down has made me forget which day is when. And that made me feel that I am not using my weekends fruitfully. To create a work-life balance, I created an ‘Epic’ called ‘Kaleyra,’ (where I work) and on Dashboard, I have two calendar views — Work Tasks with Filter “Epic is ” and weekend with filter “Epic is not ”
Use of Checklists. For all repeated/similar tasks, I have created templates (inside Task List) that include a checklist. And that helps me a lot with using Notion.
For the last four months, I am using this format, and it’s helping me a lot. But it has its flaws — like I can’t share objectives with a team as they will get access to the central task list, or notion web clipper is not efficient as a “content collector.” And I still use my Bullet Journal to jot down ideas and meeting notes and Google Calendar to plan meetings.