I used to work on a team developing serious games. The team was pretty stable, but the tools we used changed all the time. These were logical changes, like moving from Gamebryo (RIP) to Unity, or moving to a new version of Visual Studio. Other changes, not so much. Over two years we moved from trac to Trello to Asana to Jira. Trac is not a great project management tool, and Asana was awful for bugs. I love Trello, but Jira is better integrated with source control and other tools, at least until Joel sold Trello to Atlassian. This is a long winded way of saying, I’ve used a lot of tools and switching is awful.
That’s why it pains me to say, it’s time to switch. Not just for project management, but for notes, todo, personal tasks, meeting write ups, and even the grocery list. Notion is more platform than tool, as if an instance of MediaWiki had a database underneath and nobody thought to keep it buried, with two way communication with your favorite tools, great layout on web, phone, and tablet, and a sense of style. Sprinkle on about 1,000 emoji and you’ve got Notion.
I’m studying for the PMP exam and with my test date approaching, I have my reading and review calendar laid out as a card for each chapter on a Kanban board. Easy to see, easy to swap from Not Started to Reading to Finished. But one click and it’s a calendar.
Sure I could’ve done this in Trello (and I did for my last course) but my notes are here, too, not compressed into a Trello card or linked out. Styling and markup is familiar and fast, and keyboard, mouse, and finger all work equally well.
But what’s for dinner?
Getting a little more complex, I decided to take Notion for a spin as a meal planning and grocery list tool. I used to use Google Keep, but in typical Google fashion, that’s gone the way of Reader, and Wave, and Music. It’s dead, it doesn’t sync, and it just doesn’t have the nice tooling.
So here is my Groceries Notion page.
Not a screenshot, not a distillation. That’s the whole thing, with a table for this week’s meal plan, a linked Archive table with meal ideas. Meals are tagged so they can be sorted, filtered, or rearranged based on what I had for lunch. The grocery lists are sorted by store, and it’s easy to drag items from one to another. Even better, the view I want on my desktop isn’t what I’m stuck with on my phone. The lists themselves sync from dedicated sub pages, where sync blocks – a Notion killer feature – keep both up to date. Take that, broken refresh in Keep!
As if that weren’t enough, pages can be exported as mark up or PDF, depending on your use case. Recipe? PDF. Project plan to move to Confluence? Mark up. Easy as can be.
Wrap it up
I’ve tried so many note and task systems. Todo.txt was amazing, if clunky across multiple machines. Evernote is a classic but a dinosaur. MS Todo is solid, if a bit bare bones. As much as I love Trello (and have automated the heck out of my boards with Zapier and powerups) it’s handling of text is pretty rough.
Notion pulled me in. Custom views, smart pages, and while it’s a long learning curve, it’s worth it. You can even publish your notebooks to the web not just as demos but as your entire site, which is neat. Maybe that’ll be what gets me away from WordPress? We’ll see.