This is the second entry in a series on my Notion architecture for various life management systems. To see the full series, please visit the home page, Productivity In Notion .
So I wanted to follow-up on my piece praising Notion (Notion Notion Notion!) with a few pieces about some of the architecture I've done to make Notion work for me.
If you are trying out Notion, you'll be able to find a bunch of pre-built templates that you can use, and various videos where people discuss their Notion system. These are great resources for you to get ideas, but ultimately you will be best served by creating a system catered to your life and your way of thinking.
Thus, I want start a series outlining my current approach. If I may brag a little: it's a pretty sweet system. I've always given a lot of thought to how to design what I consider "life management systems" as a former co-founder of a software platform designed for just that.
So with that said, let me explain the overall framework for the core of things, which is projects. What is a project in my system? A project is anything that I focus on. They can be one-time efforts (e.g. building cornhole boards) or ongoing efforts (e.g. running).
These all exist as a row within my Projects Database. The database contains meta information about each project: a category or "area" of life it relates to, how complete the page is, whether it is one-time or on-going, et cetera. Here's what that looks like:
How many projects do I have? 94. That sounds like a lot - and is a lot. But this includes a whole bunch of things: some are simply ideas I want to think about doing, some are projects that I've put on the backburner or haven't even started yet, etc. But the idea behind each is that as soon as you make an entry for a project, it has a home.
The beauty of giving each project a home is that you know exactly where new things should go. As I come across useful information online, hear a recommendation, or have a useful thought, I know exactly where to put that. There's one app for it, one interface, one tap away.
Now looking at the projects themselves, each project has its own page (this is done by default for entries in a database within Notion). So this page is the home hub for that project. This can look radically different for each project - the idea here is that it should be purpose-built for that project. Some projects are really just aggregations for to-do list items while other projects are expansive spaces with many databases held within. It just depends on the use case.
Here are some of the simple-but-useful examples:
- 2020 Holiday Gifts - has a table with each person I need to get gifts for, and room for links to ideas. Check them off once purchased!
- Achievement Board - basically a bucket list plus list of cool things I have done.
- Golfing - a hub for a few things I track with golf each round as well as any "highlights" from my time on the course.
- Recipes - a great looking recipe board, shared with the family!
- My Resume - the up-to-date version of my resume, accessible on the web if needed.
Some other sections are more involved, and I'm planning to share separate posts on how I've built out my, say, journaling structure, or my publishing structure, or my personal CRM, and likely a few more 😃.
An aside: even right now: this very article is housed in my "Publishing Project", but is then displayed through a separate "Productivity in Notion" project that will be the public-facing home page for this whole series!
But since today's focus is projects, I'll add that there are a few more views that I use on the core database. This is an awesome feature of Notion, but it lets me go with the pretty view that makes my life look exciting:
Or the "page buildout view to see what projects need to be laid out in more detail:
There are a few more views, but again you get the idea. In this case each view on Projects DB serves a specific purpose for how to look at them. I'll likely add another view that sorts by the date of latest modification - this will give a good sense of what is truly "active" or let me dive to something I haven't touched in too long.
So these views are one approach to help focus down from the 94 projects. But it really isn't as bad as it seems (I know this makes me sound like an addict). The projects largely follow the 80/20 principle where ~20% of the projects comprise 80% of the value (and time invested). So while I could have kept this to 15-20 projects, it is nice to have a dedicated space for the others when they do pop up.
So I don't view this project proliferation as a deal breaker, and rather it is an improvement over the status quo! Prior to Notion, all of these things were still somewhere on my mind or somewhere in my hard drive or somewhere on the web. All these things still existed, they were just tougher to find, less organized, and tougher to build up. Now they are all in one place, and that is immensely valuable and reduces my decision processing time for where to go with a new piece of information. That, and the accompanying piece of mind, is immensely valuable!