If you’re reading this you may very well be a lot like me. Using OneNote for personal notes, jotting down key meeting highlights and organising thoughts and ideas.
If that sounds familiar, you’re probably a long time user of OneNote and a happy user. Personally I’ve always enjoyed using it. It’s fast, fluid design and easy navigation make it a great note-taking app. OneNote is good at one thing, notes. What if you want more?
Well, that’s where Notion comes into play. Notion excels at note-taking too, but it’s variety of widgets enables you to store day planners, habit tracker and so much more. So this is my story of how I’m changing from OneNote to Notion as essentially my second brain.
For me, OneNote entered my life back in 2012. I remember clearly as it was my final year of high school and we were introduced to the 1-to-1 laptop initiative. So every single student had a school-issued laptop, sounds great, as it did at the time! Just a few years later the whole thing failed as schools were spending so much on laptop repairs.
Anyway, young Ashley new he had a lot of class notes and assignments to organise in his final year. I remember thinking of a simple, yet extremely inefficient method or word docs and folders. Yes, I was going to organise my entire schooling life into docs n folders. Which now, sounds like a terrible means of note-taking, but at the time, that’s all I knew.
Until, my friend Rhys said, “I’m using OneNote”… “What’s that?” I stuttered. And at that moment, everything changed. For a student, OneNote was the perfect method for notes. Microsoft took a physical school book and digitalised it.
A book has sections and has pages, boom! OneNote could easily organise math, english, music and all my subjects while keeping a nice timeline of class notes and assessment. Done!
As 2012 wrapped up I continued studying and began my journey into web design, where OneNote played a big part. After further study’s OneNote had already begun organising other aspects of my life. My own personal inner ideas had a place to go, goals and aspirations had their own space. Then for my own spiritual routine, I could keep weekly meeting notes. Then later when I entered the business I continued to store important information.
Fast forward to now and I’ve got a workbook for each space of my life. Personal, Spiritual, Professional, Business & Work. Each workbook is organised either by sub-spaces or in a year by year timeline. These two methods have worked great to easily access whatever I’m after and at the same time organised each space.
As life has gone on, being married now, I’ve realised more things are connected in my life. As each space has been separated in OneNote, I have years of information with no easy way to filter or receive that information. And with my method of separate spaces, everything is essentially, unconnected.
Pairing this unconnected state, amplified by the current world situation, I’ve actually lost my organised way of life. OneNote always helped me stay on top of things, but honestly the last 6 months I’ve felt like things are on top of me. Unknowingly, I’ve really needed a new system to get back on top of my life. Enter Notion.
There are two areas that I needed to address when switching from OneNote. Can this system do everything I can do in OneNote? And, is it easy to switch from OneNote?
First, features and possibilities. Yes, Notion can do everything OneNote can do. After all, I use OneNote mainly for note-taking and information storage. Notion can easily do those two things.
Now is it easy to switch to Notion? Well no, not from OneNote, from other apps, yes, but no for me. But it’s a good thing. It’s not easy switching to Notion because theirs no quick n easy way to copy all my years of OneNote information into Notion, but if there was, I wouldn’t be utilising Notion, it’d just be a different looking note-taking app with the same old structure I’ve been using.
Notion is in a different category to OneNote. For example, I’ve been attempting to create life organising databases. Databases for sensitive information, future planning and goals, OneNote is not designed for that, essentially I’ve been using it wrong for the past 5/6 years. But Notion is great at easily storing AND connecting all of these areas.
So I’m taking this opportunity NOT to just copy-paste my OneNote pages over to Notion. But completely revamp and improve my system for organising everything. So far, the journey has felt great. The new user interface has felt refreshing, learning the new tools and figuring out what works for me has been a lot of fun! Notion is a big piece of software it can be a bit overwhelming at first.
As of right now in May of 2020, my notion setup is a very big ‘Work In Progress’ as I have a feeling it will change a lot of the coming months. However, here is my game plan.
So far I have three common spaces, start, thoughts and learn. Which all have their interconnected organisation behind them.
Start Space: This is the homepage to my life, what I need to do, want I want to do, everything is getting stored here to easily access. Already this is a massive step in connecting all the different spaces in my life. At a glance, I can see what tasks I need to think about, a history of my mental health and future plans.
Thoughts Space is to store ideas. For example when listening to a podcast, if that sparks a blog post idea, instead of writing it down in a void of notes. I can store it, tag it and have it ready for later use. This level of efficiency for idea storing is exactly what I’ve needed.
Learn Space is all about storing knowledge and actively engaging that knowledge. I have a big problem with consuming tutorials or courses and forgetting the information sometimes overnight. My Learn Space is to make it easy to navigate through my notes and find what I need. I’m planning a system to practice active recall to better remember what I’ve learnt.
Then are the five life spaces I’ve always had. To be honest, I don’t have a solid plan for this space right now. Currently, my thought process is to just keep notes under each one but then I’m just going back to how I’ve always used OneNote. So the answer is, I’m not sure what to do with them yet.
As for everything back in OneNote. I’m actually taking a staggered approach to converting pages. I’m not worried about moving everything across, rather more focused on what I should move across. I want Notion to be lean, without bloated notes or areas. It’s a bit of a mental facelift for me or a mind clean, so I’m only keeping what I’ll need.
Notion For All?
Now you might have been reading this post for a few different reasons, but if you’re deciding if Notion is for you, here’s a few areas to take note.
Notion has lifted their Personal Plan limitations. Before this month there was a 1000 block limitation on the free tier for Notion. Now being unlimited, it’s a great time to try Notion out.
Notion has an awesome, active community. I love seeing how others use the software I use, and the people who use Notion are an awesome bunch of people who create a lot of great content.
Notion is also backed by a great team of designers and developers. They’re a small, focused group dedicated to creating Notion great. Which means Notion will continue getting better and better.
Notions features make itself nearly limitless. As individuals, we can use this personally to organise our own life. But for teams, Notion can be a powerful project management tool. Some even use Notion as a complete website and blog, pretty cool.
However, with all of those pros, I do recognise there are cons to Notion. It may be confusing and feel like it’s ‘too much too learn’. Which actually was me a few years ago. Yes, I’ve tried Notion in the past and couldn’t commit to switching because, honestly, I didn’t quite get how to use notion. So from experience, Notion will take some time to adapt too. If you’re patient and want to learn, then it will be fun, and you’ll get a lot in return.