Using Notion to Manage Your Life - A 12 Part Web Series - Part 1 - Getting Started with Notion

What is Notion?

Notion.so defines itself simply (and accurately) as an "all-in-one workspace".  It is a blank canvas where those without a programing background can create systems for anything they can imagine.

Anyone can create an account for free and use the majority of its features.  The payment options allow for larger file uploads, easier collaboration and the use of its API tools (coming soon).

What Can I Create in Notion?

A better question may be what can you not create in Notion!  Here are a few examples of what Notion can do:

  • To Do List
  • Quick Notes
  • Weekly Planner
  • Journal
  • Habit Tracker
  • Contacts/CRM
  • Budgeting
  • Project Management
  • Reading List
  • Travel Planner
  • Wiki
  • Class Notes

This list doesn't even start to scratch the surface!  If you can think of it, it can likely be built within Notion.

None of this is new.  There are countless applications and systems that can solve any of these individual needs.  Where Notion sets itself apart from everyone else, is that this can all be done effectively and efficiently within ONE system!

How Can Notion Help Manage My Life?

Using Notion, you can create one system that tracks everything that is important to you.  The templates they provide, and that you can find online, are the foundation for your life management system.  I have used it to manage my personal life, my work responsibilities and various hobbies and clubs.

Components of a Life Management System

Anything you need to track can be broken into two categories:

  • Notes
  • Tasks

Notes

Notes are anything that is not actionable.  This can be an idea or a thought, a journal, lists (to-do, shopping, reading, inventory, contact, etc.), meeting minutes or class notes.  All of these can be kept in one "table" within Notion (however we will break some out for ease of use).

A "note" on To-Do lists.  The list itself (note) is not actionable.  The items (tasks) on the list are.

Tasks

Tasks are anything that is actionable.  The action may be something you need to do or something  you are waiting for someone else to act upon.  Action items usually have a due date (or as August Bradley likes to call them DO dates).

At home this may include "Wash the dishes" or "Pick up the kids from school".  At work this may include "Follow-up on Project X" or "Schedule meeting with Person Y".

Relationships

Within Notion, we can link Notes to Tasks and vice-versa.  If we have an idea to try out a new recipe, it can be entered as a note.  Based on that note, you can create an action item to go to the supermarket to buy ingredients.  You may also have a standalone recipe table that you can link to.  When you look at any specific item (the note, the task or the recipe) you see the information for all three together.

This Sounds Too Complicated

I understand this can sound like a second language.  However, I'm confident that anyone can get this system to work for them.  And to help, I am putting together a tutorial to walk you through each step.  From creating pages and templates to setting up tables.  By the end of each lesson, you will have a fully functioning system you can start using right away.

You should follow the tutorials and create this dashboard yourself.  It will give you a better understanding of the system and allow you to customize it for your individual needs.  However, I will be providing the end product for free as a template that can be easily replicated in your workspace.

How to Build a Life Management System (lifeOS)

Each section below will be its own tutorial.  As we progress, we will use the pages and tables created in prior sessions to build upon.  In the end, you will have a fully operational dashboard to track your home life, your work life, your business, your classes and anything else you can think of.

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Notion Tutorials

  1. Getting Started with Notion
  2. Creating and Using the Notes Database
  3. Creating Templates for the Notes Database
  4. Creating and Using the Tasks Database
  5. Project Management Using Notion
  6. Goal Setting and Tracking
  7. Daily Tracking and Habits
  8. Weekly and Monthly Reviews
  9. Creating a Contacts Database or CRM
  10. Creating Book/Recipe/etc. Databases
  11. Using the Notion Web Clipper
  12. Bringing it Together with Global Tags

Lesson 1: Getting Started with Notion

Let's dive right in!

Step 1: Go to Notion.so and sign up for a free account

Step 2: After creating your account, you will be taken to your workspace

Step 3: Go through the items on the "Getting Started" page to get familiar with Notion.  Don't worry, we will be going over everything in detail

Step 4: I prefer "Dark Mode" as I'm using Notion all day to manage my life and the dark mode is easier on my eyes.  This is optional, but you can find the setting under "Settings & Members

Step 5: We are going to start creating our main dashboard.  As the lessons progress, we will continue to come back to this dashboard and add to it.  From this screen, we will have access to all the information we need!

Step 6: Click "Add a page" in the sidebar

Step 7: Let's give the dashboard a name.  Where it reads "Untitled" type the name of your Dashboard

Step 8: Select the "Empty with icon" option to create the body of the page.  Icons are not required but add a nice personal touch to your page

Step 9: Your page should now look like the screen shot below.  A random icon image will appear.  Click on the icon and you can select any icon you want to use.  You even have the option of loading your own icon.

Step 10: Next, we will add a cover image.  Again, an optional step, but a nice touch of personalization.  Hover the mouse over the icon and select "Add cover".

Step 11: Again, a random cover image will appear.  Select "Change cover" and you can search Unsplash for free images you can use.  Or, like always, you can upload or link to your own image.

Step 12: As this will be our main dashboard, we want to ensure we use all the screen space available to us.  In the upper right of the screen, next to "Favorite", select the three dots.  In the menu that appears, turn on "Full width" by clicking on the toggle.

Step 13: While we are on that area of the screen, let's also add this page to our favorites as it will be one that we keep coming back to.  Select "Favorite" or select the three dots again and select "Add to Favorites.  You will now have a new group in your sidebar with this page listed under it.

Step 14: I like to add an inspirational quote to my dashboard to keep my grounded and remind myself to stay positive.  You can add whatever you'd like or skip this all together.  Again, this is your dashboard and should represent your personality. Click the + icon under the title to insert a new "block".  Here you have a list of all the blocks Notion supports.  Everything from text to sub pages to images to equations.  Select "Quotes" from the list and enter your inspirational quote.

Step 15: Hit enter after inserting your quote.  You will see that a blank block is inserted below it.  I chose this quote deliberately.  Don't fall into the habit of trying to make this perfect.  This is a work in progress and will always be changing the more you learn.

Step 16: Now we will make three areas where we can capture some quick notes.  In future lessons, these will change, but the purpose now is to get you familiar with the system.  Click the + icon again and select "Header 1".  This will make the text block big and stand out.  Type "Notes" and hit enter.

Step 17: Let's make this stand out even more.  We can change the color of the text or the background of the block by clicking the six dots to the left of the block (seen above).  Select Color and choose the background color of your liking (I'll go with blue).

Step 18: Repeat Steps 16 and 17 to make two more Header 1 blocks.  We'll name one "Tasks" and the other "Shortcuts"

Step 19: The page is starting to come together, but we want to make three columns so the Notes, Tasks and Shortcuts are all next to each other.  Move your mouse over Tasks and you will see the six dots appear to the left once again.  Click this and drag it to the right of the Notes section at the far right of the screen.  You will see a blue line appear at the end of the Notes block.  Release your mouse and Tasks should be next to Notes.

Step 20: Now repeat the same steps to move the Shortcuts block to the right of the Tasks block.

Step 21: We will put a bulleted list under each section so we have a place to start documenting our Notes and Tasks before we create the tables.  Click on the + icon to the left of the empty block below "Notes" (the empty block is where it reads "Type '/' for commands") and choose "Bulleted list".

Step 22: Click on the six dots to the left of this new list item.  You will see that the entire block is now selected and highlighted.  However, we see that it spans the length of the page.  To move it under the "Notes" section, we will need to drag it underneath the words "Notes".  You will notice a blue line showing where the list will be placed.  Once there, release the mouse and repeat Steps 21 and 22 to make two more Bulleted List Blocks and move them under Tasks and Shortcuts.

End of Lesson 1 - Getting Started with Notion

Now that you have the basic understanding of how to navigate Notion, we will create a table to store our notes.  The dashboard will be updated so our Notes section we just created will have a button to let us quickly add new notes to the table.  Also, we will link this new table to the dashboard so we have a view of the notes we already added.

  1. Getting Started with Notion
  2. Creating and Using the Notes Database
  3. Creating Templates for the Notes Database
  4. Creating and Using the Tasks Database
  5. Project Management Using Notion
  6. Goal Setting and Tracking
  7. Daily Tracking and Habits
  8. Weekly and Monthly Reviews
  9. Creating a Contacts Database or CRM
  10. Creating Book/Recipe/etc. Databases
  11. Using the Notion Web Clipper
  12. Bringing it Together with Global Tags

If you haven't already, sign up for our newsletter where you can be notified as additional lessons are published.  The goal is to publish a new lesson each week.  Feel free to contact me via Twitter, Facebook or email if you have any questions.  I'll do my best to answer everyone in a timely manner.

Lesson 1 - Notion Template

As promised, here is the link to the dashboard template we just created.  To add this template to your workspace, click the "Duplicate" link in the upper right of the screen.