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An Ode to Notion

Episode 1 | Cultivating a Life that Encourages Writing If you frequent the Writerverse Discord server, then you're most likely rolling your eyes at the title of this blog post and thinking, "Really, Anna? More overzealous talk of Notion? Do you think of nothing else in life?"

To which I would like to look you dead in the eyes and say, "No."

It is true, folks. Notion is my life now. After pushing beyond Notion's initial barrier of infinite-possibility-to-the-point-of-paralysis and into the realm of I-am-a-god-in-full-control-of-every-aspect-of-my-life, I've watched my life adopt a level of effortless productivity that I previously thought impossible for my scatterbrained way of functioning. Why it works so well for me is a mystery, however, as Notion relies on the sort of detail-oriented approach to task completion that hasn't served me historically. My best guess would be that it emboldens me to give that detail-oriented approach a try at least once — and by channeling that effort into the creation of a template immortalized by Notion's coding, you really only have to do so once.

I've tried bullet journaling, hardcopy and digital planners, various calendar apps, sticky notes and reminders, and nothing thus far has worked as well as Notion — and I don't think that's because Notion itself brings anything new to the table, as much as it is that Notion is thus far the only program I've encountered that allows you the liberty to structure it as you so desire, thereby allowing you to play to your own strengths. My mind works in mysterious ways, but there is a method to the madness, right? I think there is for everybody. We all think and function in different ways, which standardized planners are never going to tap into or squeeze the potential out of. And while bullet journaling afforded for a similar level of customizability, its very nature was counter-intuitive in terms of the time required to not only set it up once — but set it up weekly, monthly, and annually. At least in the world of Notion, that upfront effort is a gift that keeps on giving. For this reason, I've decided to formally feature Notion in my latest blog series: Cultivating a Life that Encourages Writing.

I've found that my creative energy is exclusively comprised of excess energy. It's the energy I have left over after my "cup runneth over," so to speak — therefore, living a stress-free life is singlehandedly the best strategy in my arsenal when it comes to my writing goals. Now, I am of the mind that a truly stress-free life is impossible, but I'm going to cultivate a life that is as close to stress-free as I can. This means using Notion to stay consistently productive, to track tasks that often get lost through the cracks of life, and keep my non-writing life generally in tip-top shape. But given Notion's capacity to be whatever you want it to be, it can also act as a way of organizing your creative writing — meaning it can function quite well as a Scrivener alternative or replacement in outlining and structuring your novel or series. (For an excellent tutorial on creating a Series Bible on Notion, check out my friend Brittany Wang's tutorial on YouTube here!

For now, you can check out a few screenshots of what I've done on Notion below, which I've added mostly for fun. I think it's cool to see the way others organize things, and sort of get a small glimpse at how their mind works. Do you use Notion? Do you enjoy it? And if not, what puts you off about it? Let me know!

I include the above picture because I am absolutely obsessed with the gray-scale icons they offer instead of emojis. The aesthetic is just . . . *chef's kiss*

I start every day off by using my very own Five Minute Journal — writing a few sentences on what I'm grateful for today, an affirmation, and a daily intention. Setting the energy for the day goes a long way, interestingly enough. After that, I review the week's important dates and appointments.

You'll notice I changed my tracker from "days without sugar" to "days without booze" — the reason for that is because while both are huge goals for me, I literally can't go two days of my life without sugar, lol. So, I'm setting myself up for success here.

To the right, I've got my hourly breakdown for the day, covering morning, afternoon, and the evening. I've got a notes column, as well as a "tomorrow" column, which I have found to be really helpful in keeping track of non-recurring events, like my yoga schedule.

The important events in the upper-right of my dashboard are linked to actual pages with all of the details one could ever need regarding those events: contacts, addresses, and all sorts of other details, such as required paperwork, etc. They are also located on this calendar with my regular appointments.

There's no high greater than ticking off tasks on a Habit Tracker. This is the one I'm working with currently. I've loved the inclusion of "act of kindness" as a daily goal; it's been a great way to keep my energy in the right place. (Side note: WTF. I just realized Friday and Saturday are flipped, lol. I shall have to fix that.)

Reading is also a big goal for me, as it's something so integral to my life as a writer, and yet it is often the first thing to fall to the back-burner if I'm feeling behind, stressed, or off track. So it definitely deserves to be on my Habit Tracker.

I like to be a huge, gigantic, insufferable geek when it comes to titling my pages — so, while I could've very easily titled this page "Work Projects," I decided to title it "Plan to Take Over the World" instead. Hey, it's cool, okay? Love the energy it brings!

This page is still in its infancy, but I'm deliberately trying to keep it simple. I have a tendency to overwhelm myself with pie-in-the-sky task-making, so keeping this to a few projects that must be completed on a weekly basis, I've set myself up for success.

We can't function at our best if we don't take rest days, which is why the Weekly Reset is one of my most important pages. I've got a special Habit Tracker for the weekend. Most people prefer to do a "Sunday Reset" specifically, but I like to distribute these tasks over the course of two days rather than cobbling them into Sunday. Either way, this has helped me start the following week off on the right foot.

Another addition to this page was the "Weekly Reflection Entries" — or a journal organized into monthly pages, with drop-down toggle lists to keep things organized. This has been a fantastic addition to my Notion experience; I didn't expect journaling to help this much, considering I prefer handwritten journals usually. But by checking in with myself on a daily basis, I feel way more organized, clearheaded, and focused. Love it.

Last but definitely not least is my Revisions Master page. Yes, there are a couple of spoilers on this page, but oh well! 😈 The point is to demonstrate that Notion hasn't just been a hub for all of my non-writing-life stuff, but it's obviously an excellent hub for all of my writing stuff as well. I'm one of those writers who almost always has an existing Word document that has the sole purpose of hosting all of my sporadic thoughts — or "brain dumps" — that pertain to my writing. That gets messy very fast. But with Notion, it's super easy to organize all of my thoughts with toggles that represent the corresponding installment in the series, along with my priority goals for the day, and of course, my favorite YouTube playlists. (If you have yet to listen to Pandora Journey, what are you even waiting for?) I plan to greatly expand on this page to include every installment in the Europa series, but I did have enough forethought not to do so before taking this screenshot (as I said before: I've already got a couple spoilers as it is).

If you've got a different system for organizing your writing-related brain dumps, outlines, and revision notes, let me know! I'd love to compare, contrast, and maybe even steal a strategy or two if you've figured out something more effective than I have. And if you haven't given Notion a try yet — I encourage you to! I've clearly loved it.

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