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Starter's Guide: Using Notion Isn't as Overwhelming as You Think

You’re in school and as you turn your head to peek at your friends’ computers, you see the signature minimalistic aesthetic dashboard that they call Notion. Everyone’s using it and you’re hoping to jump on the bandwagon, but having explored it on your own you’re currently feeling overwhelmed.

If this accurately represents your feelings or your inertia to start is just too strong from overthinking, this Starter’s Guide is for you. I’m here to tell you that Notion really isn’t as scary as you may think!

What is Notion?

Notion is an all-in-one workspace that can help you organize your life, work, and everything in between. This means you can use it for everything from taking notes to project management. This is designed to replace all the other apps you might be using, like Trello, Evernote, and Google Docs.

A Blank Canvas is What Makes Notion Intimidating

Databases? Formulas? Properties? Your head’s about to explode from this jargon!

I believe Notion’s value proposition of a customizable layout is also its downfall when it comes to enticing beginners. The flexibility and the number of tools may feel too excessive for someone starting out.

Tip 1: Use existing templates at the beginning

“I just want to write my notes somewhere!” Fret not, use existing templates. The beauty of the Notion community is that there are thousands of creators out there who’re willing to share their works for free! Take here for instance. There are many free templates out there, specifically for your needs.

Additionally, building on existing templates allows you to explore the functions of different properties and see them applied. This can tell you exactly what you should and want to have if you decide to build a template of your own in the near future. This will slowly help you understand Notion’s structure, and how to create databases.

Tip 2: You only need to know 2 things to start

You’re on a blank canvas. Now what? Just remember 2 things:

  1. Why are you creating this page? [Eg. I’m creating this page for school to keep track of assignments & class notes]

  2. What are some tools on Notion that can help me with this gap?

Let's talk about point 1 first. If your problem statement is clear, half the battle has already been won. What about the second?

What are some tools on Notion that can help me with this gap?”

Before exploring Notion’s blocks and databases, envision all the features you wish to have on this page.

If you want to, doodle on a piece of paper first before constructing. Remember that there’s nothing wrong with simplicity, aesthetics isn’t the main goal.

Typing ‘/’ on your keyboard will bring out an array of tools for the construction of your page.

Once you’ve roughly figured out the utility of the tools, you can start building! Remember that it’s always a work in progress and your dashboard is always changing!

Commonly use tools as a beginner (Cheatsheet)

Finding Resources

Notion has in-built free templates. They’re perfect for beginners as they’re simple and relatively straightforward. Alternatively, you can also support individual creators who are mainly on Gumroad. These creators tend to follow a “pay-however-you-like” pricing strategy.

This is just the tip of the iceberg

Notion may seem overwhelming at first, but I hope this article gives you a good starting point and reassures you that the learning road will be easy! We’ve only covered just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the productivity tool.

Take it one step at a time, and don't be afraid to make mistakes and experiment. Following the two-step process and with a little bit of practice, you'll be able to master Notion in no time.

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