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Beginner’s Guide to Notion

Notion is the ultimate no-code tool of your dreams. Notion’s capabilities may seem relatively basic at first glance, but as you dive further in, you’ll begin to see that the uses for Notion are literally endless.

But these limitless possibilities this can also be a little intimidating the first time that you use Notion. Blank Canvas Syndrome can take hold if you’re not careful.

In this beginner’s guide to Notion, I’ll show you exactly how to use the Notion software step by step, and by the end of this article, you’ll be one of the newest members of the Notion cult!

(It’s a good thing. Promise.)

What is notion used for?

Notion is built on a few basic concepts that all combine in endless ways to create pretty much anything you want. The main features of Notion are its tables, databases, and word processing features. Sounds pretty simple at first, but let’s dive in a little further.

Is notion easy to use?

Notion is very easy to use, once you grasp the basic features of it. Notion has a lot of drag and drop capabilities, and many of its features are intuitive and user friendly.

The great thing about Notion’s popularity is that there’s always help available should you become stuck on anything, and plenty of resources should you need some ideas to get started.

Just Like Legos!

The basic building unit in Notion is what’s called a block.  A block is simply a line inside of a Notion page, that you can turn into different elements.  Each block has its own six dot handle that allows you to drag the block around your page, and place it where you want.

Each block also has it’s own link, so  you can not only link between pages in Notion, but also link to specific blocks.

Blocks can be placed anywhere on a Notion page, even side by side to each other to create columns.

If you type ‘/’ inside of a block, you’ll see a block menu pop up with many different options.  Let’s take a look! 

Text – This is self explanatory. Text just allows you to type with plain text. Nothing fancy there!
Quote – places a simple vertical line at the start of your block to indicate this is a quote.
Call-out creates a box around your block which helps your text to stand out. You can customize it’s icon as well as place various other elements inside your callout.
Numbered List – Is exactly what it sounds like
Link to page will allow you to create a link to any other page in your Notion.
Headings– This is also pretty self explanatory, and allows for different title or font sizes.
Toggle – changes your block into a section you can open and close to hide or show information. Your toggle can contain it’s own blocks as well.
Page – You can use this option to create a new page that will be linked inside of your current page.
To-do List – This adds a convenient little checkbox to the block which allows you to check it off, just like any other list
Bullets – This changes the block into a bulleted line.

Inline

Those are the basic block options. Below these options you’ll see a section that says Inline. Inline means you’re creating one of these options inside of your current block:

 

  • The first inline option is Mention a person. This tags someone within your Notion workspace and sends them a notification as well. You’ll have to invite someone to your workspace in order to use this function.
  • The second option is Mention a Page. This allows you to “mention” (link to) any other page inside your Notion. It’s different from new page in that it doesn’t create a new page, just creates a link to an existing one.
  • Next there is Date or Reminder. This allows you to insert a date into your block (any date), and you can also turn that date into a reminder. At the time of your reminder, you’ll receive a notification inside of your Notion workspace.
  • Emoji is just what it sounds like
  • Inline equation allows you to insert a mathematical equation or characters

Databases

Below the inline section is the database section with tons of database options.

Each database comes with the option to create a new page as its own database, or to create a database on your current page which is referred to as ‘inline‘.

If you change your mind, you can always turn your inline database into it’s own page, or view a database page as an inline database. Nothing’s set in stone!

Tables

Tables are a simple database that looks like this!

You can give it a title, and begin to customize your properties.

There are lots of different options for the types of properties your database can contain. Those are explained below.

Gallery

Galleries almost look like a digital photo album. You can display specific properties, a cover photo for each page, the contents of the page, or neither.

List

Lists look exactly the way they sound! This is great for a simplified view of database entries.

Timeline

Timelines shows any of the date properties of your database entries in a timeline view.

Board

Boards allow you to sort database entries by the ‘Select’ property. They look similar to kanban boards, and can be used the same as well!

Calendar

The Calendar view shows you dates on a monthly calendar view.  If you have multiple date properties, you can choose which one you would like to view,

Property Types

Properties are the characteristics that you can give to each database entry. Databases can have as many properties as you want to give them. When you click on a database entry, you’ll see a the entry as a page with all of the database properties listed at the top.

You can use the six-dot menu next to each property to tell Notion whether to display the property on the page, or hide it. You can also use this menu to reorder, change, duplicate, or delete your properties.

Basic Property Types

Text – A simple, plain text field.  You can place links or mentions in these fields as well

Number – A simple number property.  You can format the number by placing your cursor over it in the database view

Select – You can create a menu of options that displays just ONE of the options

Multi-Select – You can create a menu of options that displays multiple options

Date – You can pick an date you like as well as add a reminder

Person – You can use the Person property to select a person inside of your workspace. This is useful to do things like show who is responsible for the database item.

File & Media – You can attach various forms of media to your database entry in the form of a simple attachment.  Your attachments will live uploaded inside of your Notion, similar to cloud storage.

Checkbox – A simple true or false checkbox

URL – A clickable web link

Phone – Formatted phone number

Email – Formatted email

 

Advanced

Property Types

Table of contents – Will display a list of links created from the headings on your page. This allows you to quickly jump to a section on what may be an extensive page.

Block equation  You can use block equation to input mathematical equations. You can also use these to make some fun customizations using Latex.  Red Gregory’s FAQ goes over a lot of these options.

Template Button – Template buttons are great for actions you might do repeatedly in Notion. With a template button, you can specify what blocks you want Notion to create with the button, and watch them appear with one click.

One of the methods I’ve used for weekly recurring tasks, for example, was to create a list of them inside of a template button. Each week, I just click the button, and a new list of all my weekly tasks will appear.

Breadcrumbs – This shows the hyperlinked location of the page you are viewing, which makes it easier to go back to the top page.

Synced Block – These are what used to be called “global blocks” by the Notion community. Its a block that you can embed anywhere, in multiple places, and it whatever changes are made to that block, will be made to all instances of it, no matter where it’s located.

 

Using media

As we continue back down our block menu, you’ll see the Media section.  Notion allows you to include many different forms of media on your pages.

Image – Will embed your chosen image onto the page including an image you upload, copy and paste, or provide the image link

Web Bookmark – You can paste or type a link into your page and Notion can create either a plan text link or even a nice-looking bookmark link with a preview

Video – Embed any videos into Notion by uploading a file or providing the link.  You can also copy and paste the link of a video into the page and Notion will provide you the option to embed it.  This is great when you run across YouTube videos you may want to save for future reference, or to watch later.

Audio – Similar to video you can embed an audio file, or link to it

Code – Allows you to write out code in its own box in a red text

File – Similar to the File & Media property, this simply attaches a file to your page

 

Other Embeds

Speaking of things you can embed, the Embed section of the block menu is enormous. You can scroll through it to view the various types of files you can embed including everything from a Google map to a Typeform.

I love to embed mind maps or charts I’ve made with Whimsical or Miro.  The possibilities here are nearly endless. 

Database Views

Database views allow you to make customized views of any of your databases. You can use the different views to display or hide specific properties.

For example, I can make a view in my tasks database that displays tasks only from a specific project, or tasks that are assigned to a specific ‘Select’ property. There are numerous different ways to create database properties. This is a part of Notion that you’ll have a better understanding of, the more you practice with it.

 

Notion Menu

Organizing Notion

Notion organizes itself in a side menu bar in a sort of hierarchal fashion. Each page has a toggle that displays the databases or pages within that page.

You can move the order of your pages around in the sidebar, as well as use the ‘Favorite’ feature at the top of the page to make the page appear in the ‘Favorites’ section of your sidebar.

What Can I do With Notion?

Phew, that was a lot of explaining.  Now that we have the basics down, what the heck are we even going to do with all this?

The possibilities in Notion are endless which makes it such a great tool to use both in your business, and your personal life.  It’s so flexible, it can often be overwhelming for people to build something when they first start.  My suggestion is to start simple, and work your way up as you go.  Identify what you need the most.  It might be a to-do list, or a project management tool.

Here are some ideas to start with!

 

Bullet Journal

I use Notion as my personal journal to keep track of everything in my life from what exercise I did that day to how much revenue my business generated. Since all of these daily entries are compiled into a database with various properties for each day, it gives you a fantastic insight into any patterns occurring in your life. I track my energy, mood, hours slept, and general effectiveness.

Using just these properties, I can see if there’s any correlation between how much I sleep and my productivity. I could also see if there’s correlation between increased productivity and a better mood! This is just ONE example of the various ways you can track your “quantified” self inside of Notion, and quite literally study yourself.

Flor de Blog has a great article about how building their own bullet journal in Notion.

 

Note-Taking

My other favorite thing to use Notion for is to take notes. I take notes on everything from articles or books I’m reading to courses I’m taking. I can change the colors, the type, the headings, make lists, embed pictures, and tons of other things, just using the different features of blocks.

Thomas Frank has one of the most comprehensive note-taking templates I’ve seen, and offers it here for free!

 

Company Wiki

In a professional capacity, Notion makes a great company wiki! You can add each of your team members to a company workspace, and create pages and links for nearly anything that they need to access. For my team, I made links to their employee handbooks, company policies, our mission and vision, our business goals, client contacts.

You can even use Notion to create documents for your business planning.

RedGregory (one of my favorite Notion bloggers) has a great article about building a company wiki and even includes a template.

 

Notion resources

There are so many wonderful sources of Notion goodness out there that it would be impossible to list them all.  These are a few of my very favorite Notion experts to keep up with!

Marie Poulin
She also has a great YouTube channel and a course called Notion Mastery.

Red Gregory
A VAST amount of Notion knowledge here, will take you weeks to consume.

August Bradley
Start with his YouTube channel!
I will warn you that this a very deep rabbit hole, but one you’ll be happy you went down!

Templates

One of the other super fun features of Notion (I know, you can’t even believe it could get more fun that it already is) – templates!  You can make a template out of any Notion page.  Sharing your page as a template allows others to duplicate your page into their own workspace.

For example, I might make a journal page, and then share it as a template.  Anyone who has the link can view that page, and then use the Duplicate button to make their own copy appear in their chosen workspace.  It doesn’t change the original page at all, but makes an entirely new copy for that user.

These are my favorite resources for Notion templates:

 Notion Pages

Notion Official Template Gallery

Notion Everything 

Notion Templates

Notion VIP

 

Pricing

With all these incredible features, you must be thinking that Notion costs a fortune, but the pricing is just another great point of using Notion.

IT’S FREE!

Notion has a 100% free plan that you can use to create an UNLIMITED number of pages, tables, blocks, etc.  Whatever you want to make in the free plan is completely unlimited, except for your file uploads. File uploads are limited to 5MB. You can even share your workspace with up to five other people.  You can sync your Notion space across all of the platforms offered including desktop, web app, and iOS and Android mobile apps.  You can even take advantage of their API which allows you to integrate Notion with other wonderful tools like Google Calendar.

A step up from the free plan is the Personal Pro plan for a whopping $5/month, or $4 if you pay annually.  The difference between this and the free plan is that it allows you unlimited file uploads, and you can share with an unlimited number of other people as opposed to only five other people.

The Personal Pro plan is the one that I enjoy using.  Even if I didn’t upload a lot of files, or share with a lot of people, I’m more than happy to support an app that has improve my life and business in so many wonderful ways.

If your business has several team members, you may want to consider the Team plan.  This is $8/team member per month.  It includes everything the personal plans do, plus it gives you access to a more collaborative workspace that includes advanced permissions.  Permissions come in handy when you want to limit access to some parts of the workspace and share others, but this changes widely depending on who is involved.  For example, if you had clients you wanted to be able to access specific pages.

Finally, there’s the Enterprise plan that has more complicated business features including more advanced security, a dedicated manager for your account, custom contracts, and some complicated acronyms.  You have to contact Notion to discuss the pricing for that, but needless to say the Team plan is more than appropriate for most small businesses.

 

make your first notion page

The Notion rabbit hole runs deep!  I hope this has given you a great start to your Notion journey.

If you’d like to practice using Notion, I’ve built a simple daily planner template that includes related goal, project, and task databases. It’s a great example of just a few of the things that Notion is capable of doing, and will give you some great practice for getting started!

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Hey you, I´m Lauren.

An entrepreneur and systems nerd for the last 7 years! Combining my education & experience, I want to help you love your business and leave the overwhelm behind.

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