A few weeks ago, I started getting emails from readers telling me that my commonplace book wasn’t working…
Notes were disappearing in the browser, and when they weren’t, they were taking too long to load—my commonplace book was riddled with bugs.
As a longtime Evernote user, it was a reality I wasn’t ready to accept. Was Evernote no longer a viable option for note-taking? Was there a better solution on the market? My feeling aside, giving customers anything but a great user experience (UX) was unacceptable.
So, I began researching alternatives to Evernote. And after much research, one solution came up, again and again, more than any other…
I recently moved my Commonplace Book—and the rest of my Evernote contents—to Notion and I must say, I am FLOORED.
It’s THAT good.
Today, to announce with my move to Notion, I want to share my three favorite Notion use cases (#1 is my favorite). I’ll also show you how you can use Notion to get more organized in your personal and professional life, starting from today.
Notion Use Case #1: Build a Commonplace Book
“A commonplace book is a central resource or depository for ideas, quotes, anecdotes, observations and information you come across during your life and didactic pursuits,” writes author Ryan Holiday. “The purpose of the book is to record and organize these gems for later use in your life, in your business, in your writing, speaking or whatever it is that you do.”
If you’re a longtime reader, you know that I’m a big advocate of having a commonplace book. In fact, a few years ago, I began building one in Evernote (which I wrote about here). In it, I kept notes on books I read, course I enrolled in, quotes I liked, and more.
The problem, though, was as it grew, and bugs began hurting the UX, it became harder to navigate.
For example, jumping from one book summary to another made it harder to return to the Table of Contents. This meant I had to add a “Back to Book Summaries” link to each note, which, as you can imagine, was time-consuming.
Thankfully, that’s NOT an issue with Notion.
Not only are my book summaries now easier to navigate, but they’re also viewable without having to open a new page.
I can now read a book summary without having to leave the book’s category page.
What’s more, I can add tags like “Sam’s Favorites,” or “Books with Bibliographies” to give each summary more context.
For examples, if I’m looking for a new book to read, I can browse titles with the tag, “Books with Bibliographies.” Or, even better, I can create a filter for ONLY books with that tag, and save that view to reduce having to browse in the future. (More on that shortly.)
My favorite addition, though, is Notion’s blocks feature. With it, I can format book summaries for greater readability using subheadings, dividers, block quotes, and more.
Notion Use Case #2: Build a Swipe File
Having a swipe file—a collection of tested and proven advertising material—is an essential resource for any marketing professional.
For years, I’ve managed a swipe file in Gmail for good marketing emails, organized by brand.
But for (Facebook) ads, sales letters, and other online marketing efforts, I couldn’t find a good way of capturing them.
I tried building and maintaining a swipe file in Evernote. But because I used nested tags, I often ended up with notes three, four—even five levels deep, at times, defeating the purpose of quick retrieval.
If I knew the name of the ad I was looking for, I could use Evernote’s search feature, of course. But how often do you remember the name of something you’re searching for, especially something you saved years ago?
With Notion, I’ve simplified my swipe file as much as possible. I have one page called “Swipe File.” Then, within that page, I have subpages, tagged by ad type, copywriter, and more. Finally, I save my favorite views to avoid having to view all subpages upon each viewing.
Here’s an example.
I often write Facebook ad copy and need inspiration for two angles to test against each other. (If you’re curious, an example might be fear vs. proof of value—angles I learned from Josepth Sugarman’s book, The Adweek Copywriting Handbook.)
To get an overview of ONLY ads, I can choose one of my saved views (e.g. “Ads”). Then, I can add a filter to ONLY see ads with angles.
You don’t have to get THAT specific, of course. But the more through you are with tagging, the easier it is to retrieve what you’re looking for when you need it.
Notion Use Case #3: Implement Getting Things Done (GTD)
Learning David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) time management method changed my life. Whether I’m woring through next actions in my personal life or managing big projects in my job, nothing falls through the cracks.
One of the reasons for that is because, a few years ago, I began experimenting with implementing GTD with Evernote. In the beginning, I used notebooks for lists (next actions, projects, waiting for/on hold, etc.), before eventually moving to nested tags.
It was highly effective, and in hindsight, it was a good approach to using GTD. But over time, as I got better at scoping and taking on more projects, I struggled to get a good overview for everything I was working on.
For instance, if I was creating a digital product, I would have several next actions like send a product teaser, cover the product details, announce the product is available, and more.
But due to Evernote’s project management limitations, it was impossible to get a good overview of the project.
Part of the reason I implemented GTD with Notion, is because you can:
- Create multiple views, incliding Kanban views WITHIN pages;
- Assign deadlines to each action; and
- Add additional properties for more context (e.g. “@Home, @Work,” etc.)
Let’s take a concrete example.
If you’re a GTD practitioner and thinking of moving to Notion, it’s likely you will want to have a page for projects. One project category might be annual goals like “run a half marathon,” “learn French at a conversational level,” “read 30 books,” etc.
These goals, among other projects you take on over time, will each have their own actions. If your goal is to run a half marathon, you might need to register for a half-marathon, choose a training plan, research running routes, and more.
With Notion’s “Board – Inline,” you can create a Kanban view for a project’s action and, if necessary, add deadlines—giving you everything you need to get a good overview of a project’s status.
I’ve already found managing my personal projects much easier to navigate, and more importantly, move forward with and complete. I’m looking forward to sharing more as I continue to iterate on the above process.
Migrating from Evernote to Notion wasn’t an easy decision.
I was an Evernote advocate from day one and was the last person who would even consider moving. Heck, I was willing to ignore bugs out of loyalty, even if it hindered my experience.
But what I wasn’t willing to do, was take people’s hard-earned money and deliver a poor experience in return.
I was afraid to migrate to Notion, but I’m pleased to write that, so far, the feedback has been nothing but positive.
I haven’t even begun to explore all of Notion’s features, but I’m looking forward to leveraging it both for myself, and my customers.
Are you a Notion user? If so, what do you think? Leave a comment below.