Notion for Non-programmers and Drop Outs
Luke Peters |unsplash

What is Notion and how does a non-programmer get started using it?

The Notion application is for everyone: novices and dropouts. That is if you are a non-programmer (Novices) or have tried Notion and become frustrated(dropouts), this series is for you. If you don’t know what a URL, API, or what a relational database is, and are sure you don’t want to know, then this series of articles is for you. We are going to start below ground and build a solid foundation for you so you can effectively use NOTION even though you may not know or want to know the programmatic nuances of Notion.

As Notion master Marie Poulin stated in one of her blogs, “in the productivity space, NOTION is the one tool to rule them all.” It is the Swiss Army knife of productivity tools- Whatever you want to do can be done with it. It is ultimately flexible. This flexibility is what makes it so daunting for the non-programmer trying to jump into NOTION. If you start without having a solid foundation you will waste a lot of time. (I lost over a year by trying to start without spending the time to first build the foundation first.)

Notion for Novices And Dropouts

What we are going to do in this series is to walk through how to build a solid foundation of understanding of your current situation, then begin building a step-by-step Notion workspace that contains the beginnings of your productive space or if you are really brave a Life Operating System!

 Then we will add on additional systems and feedback loops so that you grow your space into a beautiful working system that fits your specific needs. We will go over in detail each step.

NOTION Exemplifies Flexibility and Extensibility.

 NOTION is a very flexible tool. It can be molded to fit your needs and your way of thinking. NOTION can handle either a simple to-do list or complex interrelationships between team members. It can handle annual tasks, weekly tasks, it can handle planning, plan reviews, or just keep track of your day. You can build project lists, task lists, or laundry lists, and much more. Let’s get started. But not with NOTION, first, we start with you.

Step one: Forget about how to use Notion and think about what you want Notion to do for you. 

Here are some questions to consider during this step:

Does your productivity revolve around keeping a list of projects and tasks? do they have the same properties, due dates, person, project, goals, part of, etc?

Do you keep notes from meetings, books you have read, movies you have seen, etc.? Are these lists going to reside in your Notion someday?

Are you making a product that you sell and need to keep track of inventory, ingredients, customers, or orders?

Are you going to keep track of a long list of people? Do you want to make sure you contact them regularly? Do you want to be reminded?

When you open up your “This is my day” page what do you want to see? What is your most important item to complete to make your day a success?

Do you eventually want to keep your business life and personal life in the same Notion space or two different spaces?

Do you keep a journal?

The list of questions and uses is unlimited. But before we start setting up Notion you need to know what you want it to contain, how you want to see it and where you want to begin.

Step Two: think about common threads in your answers.

Step two: think about the common threads contained within your answers-. Are they referring to lists of items, with the items on the same list having common characteristics? The items in the list are called data and each list is called a database.  A task database would have an entry or item for each task you wanted to keep track of. Then each task would have various characteristics or properties you wanted to be able to see, such as due date, status, type of event, (meeting, phone call, or collections.) Those answers to any of the questions that are not lists are usually a landing page, dashboard, or roadmap. This is just a fancy way of saying the picture that you want to see first when you open your Notion space. 

Step Three: Notion here we come

Step Three: let’s begin to think about Notion before we jump in and start using it. NOTION can be described in several ways: as a blank canvass that allows you to paint any picture you want using the color palette (commands) that are provided by Notion. It may also be described as a set of LEGO building blocks that you can use to build anything you want- a house, a garage, or a fence. NOTION can also be described as a Swiss Army knife – a multifunctional tool that can be used as MacGyver did to get yourself out of any situation. Whatever metaphor makes it clear to you is the one you want to use.

Work on your answers to the questions, it will save you time. The time you spend here will save you an immense amount of time when we start using Notion in the next lesson. In preparation for the next Lesson take a blank sheet of paper and draw a rough sketch of what you want to see when you open notion to start each day – what do you need to be reminded of to start each day? Here are some ideas.

Tasks and meetings that are due this week.

A monthly calendar showing everything happening this month.

A list of family members having birthdays this month

In order to do all of the above we are creating two things: a couple of databases and a page that we call a dashboard (because it shows you what is going on) or a roadmap (because it shows you where to go.) 

 We will build a simple task and a meeting database and a dashboard in the next lesson. The picture below shows my dashboard.

Version 2 of my dashboard – soon be a version 3