How I Optimized my Note Taking using Notion

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Written By Kevin

The insights I gained over the years help me lead and motivate teams to achieve business and operational goals. Allow me to share my learnings with you.

Have you ever spent hours sifting through your notes, desperately trying to find that one crucial piece of information you jotted down months ago? If you’re like me, you’ve probably experienced the frustration of an ineffective note-taking system. 

But what if I told you that by leveraging the power of Notion, you could revolutionize the way you capture, organize, and resurface your notes? In this post, I’ll share my personal journey and the game-changing strategies I’ve implemented to create a truly efficient note-taking process.

Using Notion to Take Notes Productively 

Note-taking has always been a critical skill in both personal and professional life. It allows you to capture important information, brainstorm ideas, and organize thoughts. I’ve gone through various methods and systems, each with its own set of challenges and benefits. But the game-changer was when I discovered a system that reduced the friction in capturing, managing, and retrieving my notes. 

That’s when I truly started to see the impact of an efficient note-taking process.

Finding ways to effectively reduce barriers at all stages of note-taking, from initiation to revisiting content, has dramatically changed my approach. 

I’ve realized that the effectiveness of a note-taking system is largely determined by its ability to resurface the right information when needed, something my previous practices failed at. With my current system, I’ve improved my workflow significantly, enabling better management over an increasingly diversified set of notes ranging from book summaries to business strategies.

Components of Effective Note-Taking Systems

When setting up my note system in Notion, I prioritize a frictionless experience which boils down to the three stages of note-taking: before, during, and after.

Before Phase

In preparing to take notes, simplicity is key. My aim is to minimize friction right from the start:

  • Accessibility: Ensuring note-taking tools are readily accessible without multiple clicks or loading delays.
  • Mobile-ready: A system that works on-the-go, compatible with smartphones for use anywhere, like in a car or a bus.
  • Initiation: A streamlined process for creating a new document (I use the shortcut .new).

Doing Phase

The main focus during note-taking is efficiency. Here’s how I keep it streamlined:

  • Simplicity in Formatting: Avoid the need to adjust default formatting before typing.
  • Keyboard Shortcuts: Utilize shortcuts for frequently used actions, like bolding (Ctrl+B), to maintain the flow of thought.
  • Structured Input: I record the date and topic for each note, which could be a bit awkward, but it’s manageable.

After Phase

The after stage posed significant challenges within my old system. I’d have to comb through long documents to locate a specific past note. 

Resurfacing information efficiently when needed can be challenging. Here are some insights into my current method:

  • Chronological Organization: I organize my notes in reverse chronological order for easier recollection.
  • Diverse Content: Categories span from book summaries to video ideas, requiring a versatile organizing system.
  • Resurfacing Test: A note-taking system needs to allow me to pull out relevant notes effortlessly rather than sifting through long documents.

Personal Note Structure in Notion

The Notion Project Management Software has been a game-changer for my note-taking process. By creating a system that consists of a stable backend and an interactive frontend, I’ve been able to streamline my workflow and easily resurface relevant notes whenever I need them.

Backend Setup

My backend is effectively the infrastructure of my note-taking system. It is the foundation that rarely changes once set up. It consists of five different notebooks within a note-taking application, covering various aspects of my life. 

The composition of these notebooks can be illustrated as follows:

Notebook Categories:

  • Personal: Ideas, daily reflections, and personal growth notes.
  • Work-Related: Meeting minutes, project outlines, and professional development.
  • Learning: Educational materials, online courses, and workshop notes.
  • Creative Outlets: Drafts for articles, sketches, and music composition ideas.
  • Miscellaneous: Random thoughts, quotes, and other uncategorized items.

Each notebook functions as its own database, storing related information that can be sorted and filtered as needed.

In terms of the backend, here’s an outline of a typical note:

  • Platform: Select the relevant platform the note pertains to, e.g., Project Strategy,Business Goals.
  • Status: Assign whether to Resurface or Archive for future reference.
  • Properties: Include URL, date of creation, and last update.

note taking status tag in notion

Frontend Interaction

The front end, however, is much more dynamic, involving pages within Notion that correspond to different projects I’m working on. Basically these are the pages I interact with daily. This includes various projects like weekly management meetings, business strategy ideas, goal tracking etc.

To give a clearer picture of this interaction, below is a brief overview of my workflow with projects:

  • Define the Project or Task: Whether it’s for a Partner negotiation, a book I’m reading, or business strategies, I set the purpose here.
  • Set Up a Dedicated Page: Within Notion, I create a new page for the project, which might follow a predefined template.
  • Capture and Organize Information:
    • Date & Topic: I ensure every record is timestamped for context.
    • Key Takeaways: I use a callout feature to highlight the most important points.
    • Actionable Items: These are clarified to ensure follow-through.

For the actual content in the frontend I make sure to include:

  • Callout: The most salient takeaway from the content.
  • Action Items: Immediate steps or actions to be taken post-review.
  • Detailed Notes: Comprehensive recording of insights and information.

Every new note or project begins with a status of ‘open’ and transitions through the process until it’s either resurfaced or archived.

I usually follow a bottom-up approach while writing. Which means I first start with detailed notes, pinpointing action items, and finally highlighting the key takeaway. However, when revisiting notes, I read from the top down, which suits this structure.

With regard to projects on the front end, I might, for instance, open a new note with a predefined template, reducing friction in the note-taking process. This is critical in both the “before” and “during” phases of note management.

To ensure relevance and ease of resurfacing, I employ a linked database within Notion. This comes in handy, for example, when strategizing content across different platforms. Notes from the backend seamlessly integrate into this front-end overview, allowing swift access to pertinent information as needed.

By using the linked database feature, I keep the notes on various platforms organized. When working on Strategy content, for example, only notes tagged with ‘Business Strategy’ from the backend are displayed at the front end. 

It’s quite straightforward really. Using the filter option, I adjust settings to only show notes that are applicable to whatever context I am focusing on.

By tailoring my Notion space to suit these needs, I’ve managed to create a cohesive system where the before, during, and after stages of note-taking meet the demands of my workflow.

For example, when a new idea strikes during a discussion with one of my senior management team, I’d simply use a pre-made Notion template to quickly capture the thought with minimal friction. The template allows immediate entry with just a title and status assignment. This simplicity caters well to the before and during phases.

Overall, the system supports ease of use across all stages and aligns with my need for efficiency, particularly important for consistent content production and strategy development.

Note-Taking Workflow Example

To give you a better understanding of how my system works in practice, let’s walk through an example of my note-taking workflow.

Key Takeaway Highlighting

In my personal system, I ensure that each note leaves a clear, highlighted takeaway. For this, I use the callout feature to mark the main point after compiling a note. Here’s a simple structure:

SectionContent
CalloutA bullet point or a sentence capturing the essence of the note, placed at the very top.
DetailsThe main body of the note, capturing all relevant information.
Action ItemsTasks to be done post-note, explicitly listed for immediate reference.

By emphasizing the key takeaway at the top of each note, I prioritize takeaways for quick access later.

Action Items Documentation

For any immediate steps from the notes, I list action items clearly:

Action Items:

  • Bullet point actionable steps related to the note.
  • Keep it concise and imperative for clarity.

These items are documented right under the key takeaway so that I can spring into action without missing a beat.

Note Details

Here’s where the full note lives. It’s everything from raw thoughts to meeting highlights, summarized neatly. The note starts with the key takeaway and action items for a top-down flow that makes re-visiting notes intuitive:

  • Content:
    • Use bullet points to structure main ideas.
    • Bold or italicize for emphasis.

My bottom-up note-taking method ensures that the details facilitate the creation of actionable steps and a key takeaway, making everything I do purposeful and efficient.

Conclusion

Creating an efficient note-taking system has been a game-changer for me, and I hope that by sharing my strategies and Notion setup, you’ll be inspired to transform your own process. Remember, the key is to reduce friction in the before, during, and after phases of note-taking. By leveraging Notion’s powerful features and creating a system that works for your specific needs, you’ll be well on your way to mastering note-taking and unlocking new levels of productivity. 

So, start experimenting, iterate on your process, and watch as your note-taking becomes a seamless and effective part of your daily workflow.

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