Written By Keshav Mohta (Grade 8)
This lockdown has changed our lives and one of the main transitions we have made is to the world of technology. As online school started, I realised the importance of note-taking since we no longer had a whiteboard to reference and it was much easier to get distracted. The most popular app I came across was Notion and for very good reason. Notion is an incredibly powerful app which allows you to do so much more than just note-taking. So, in this article, I want to dive into what Notion is and how it can be very beneficial for you.
There are multiple problems with the current system of note-taking. Let’s start with the fact that most notes in the pre-COVID world were taken on paper which creates its own set of challenges.
Paper notes are scattered and not easy to organise. Notion has helped create a structure which helps you organise your notes easily. Once you create your Notion account, you start off with something called a workspace. Think of this as a notebook within which you could create pages for each subject. Or you could create a separate notebook for each subject i.e. multiple workspaces. Within each workspace, you can create pages inside which you can create subpages and so on. This can help you build out a structure you like and is easy for you to use. Using Notion is almost like using a page which doesn’t get over, eliminating the need of looking through multiple pages of notes while instead just going through one long page with all your notes.
Physical notes can also be very tedious to search through. You would have to sit through folders and binders of pages to find something you might need. While it is not the best search function Notion still allows you to search your notes easier than searching through handwritten notes. This can help track down a specific keyword or a phrase and find out everywhere it was used.
One of the biggest challenges while taking physical notes is the inability to edit them. You cannot make additions to a part of your notes or easily change something in your notes. Eventually, all these edits make your notes look very messy and you wouldn’t be able to understand much out of them. Notion allows you to add text wherever you please while easily deleting text and replacing it without an ink mark.
You may think that most of this can be done using most note-taking apps including Microsoft OneNote, Evernote and Roam Research. But Notion stands out from all of them in the way you can write content. Apart from plain text, headings and lists you can use many other elements like quotes, images, embeds, audio, files or videos to enhance your notes and give you more information.
One of my personal favourite elements is the Toggle List and it is unique to Notion. What Toggle Lists allow you to do is hide content when you do not need it and then show it when you do. I find this especially useful when testing myself for exams. I hide my notes within a toggle list and have a bunch of questions below. Then I force myself to think about the answers to the questions without seeing my notes and this helps me get information into my brain very quickly while also actively recalling the things we did in class.
However, it can take some time to wrap your head around how to use Notion. Therefore, the Notion team and other content creators have made millions of templates to help you quickly get to know the software and start using it to supercharge your workflow. The Notion template gallery is a great place to discover what all you can do with Notion and how it can help you in your day-to-day life.
So, I just used up 650 words talking about how great Notion is but here are two major cons which I wish the team would improve on. Firstly, the app doesn’t work too well offline. If you haven’t preloaded pages you can’t view them offline and sometimes editing them offline will not result in them syncing properly. Along with this, the app doesn’t have any support for drawing. On the iPad, one cannot use the Apple Pencil to annotate PDFs or notes and on a 2-in-1 PC switching into tablet mode will not allow you to use your finger to draw anything. Apart from these cons, I think the app is perfect for managing day-to-day life and is a pleasure to use.
The best part about Notion is that it is free and there is almost no need to upgrade to the paid versions. The free version gives you everything you need but as an added bonus if you have a school email address with .edu or .ac in it you can upgrade to Personal Pro plan for free which allows you to invite unlimited people to collaborate in real-time with you on a page. Along with this, you do have Team plans which you can pay for to use Notion as a primary workplace for your team which increases collaborative functionality.
I would 100% recommend Notion to anyone from a student hoping to increase productivity to an office-worker for organising everything from project management to keeping track of their gym workouts.
PS: I planned this entire article in Notion and wrote an outline for it in Notion before using MS Word to edit and format it the way I want
Featured Image Courtesy – Nat Eliason