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6 common Notion struggles I heard from 15 hours of clarity calls

4 actionable solutions I recommended to overcome these struggles

Hi friend!

After 15 hours of talking to people about the problems they face with productivity and using Notion, I found these 6 common struggles almost everyone had.

Today, I want to dive into these struggles, but more importantly what I the strategies I recommended to overcome them.

When I was on the call, I tailored their next steps to their specific goals and what they wanted to get out of Notion.

But these strategies and tips will likely work for you too, if you’re also struggling with using Notion to be more productive in your business, life or work.

💡 Today at a glance

  • 6 Common Struggles With Using Notion (And Why It’s a Problem)

  • 4 Changes You Should Start Making Today to Be More Productive in Notion

  • 3 Resources You’ll Find Value in to Help You Do What’s Important to You

Notion is a double-edge sword.

It’s powerful tool to build the perfect workspace to help you manage the different areas of your life, be more productive and organised in your business and free up more time for a life outside of work.

Lets dive right into the 6 common struggles Notion beginners face.

These are some of my challenges too when I first started using Notion 5 years ago.

6 Common Struggles With Using Notion (And Why It’s a Problem)

1. Only storing information in pages not databases

Notion is very easy and intuitive to get started.

It’s like a Microsoft Word doc or a Google doc. You open up a blank Notion page and start writing, inserting images, links to webpages etc.

But if you’re only storing information in pages, soon your whole Notion workspace and sidebar is filled with a ton of pages and you’ll struggle to find information that you painstakingly saved in Notion.

2. Databases seem overwhelming and daunting

Following on from struggle # 1 above. Most beginners don’t really understand how to use Notion databases effectively or feel it’s too overwhelming to learn about databases.

So they avoid it like the plague and just keep putting information in Notion pages. Adding to their messy workspace woes.

3. Superficial organisation is not the same as real organisation and structure

Many of us are drawn to Notion because we saw so many beautifully designed and perfectly organised dashboards. The potential to design anything we like in Notion is very appealing.

But there is a difference between something looking organised vs. real organisation.

The test for whether it’s real organisation is simple.

Ask yourself this question:

“Can I easily and quickly find what I’m looking for in under 5 seconds?”

If the answer is no, it’s worth thinking about why is that the case.

(By the way, if you feel like you have a messy Notion workspace, here’s a 15 minute quick win you can do today to clean up and mise en place your Notion workspace. And 2 simple tips to stop your workspace from falling back into a mess in the future.)

4. Notion Templates just didn’t work for them

They downloaded templates hoping to solve their problem, but then struggled to adapt and customise it to their needs and goals.

Most of us start using Notion by downloading and playing with templates. They’re a fantastic tool for learning Notion. Especially if you’re a tinkerer.

But unfortunately, cookie-cutter templates don’t work unless you already have a good understanding of how to use Notion (so you can customise it to your needs) or you’re happy to use the template as is off-the-shelf.

Templates are neither good nor bad.

You just have to know what you want and need out of Notion.

5. Learning Notion is hard

With any powerful tool, the learning curve can be steep to fully understand the tool. It can be overwhelming, time consuming and downright hard work to learn it.

Starting to use Notion is pretty easy and intuitive. But it can become a hot mess without structure and intentional design of your workspace, so that it stays organised and supports you in being productive.

That means you’ll need to spend a bit of time learning Notion, whether it’s self-learning through videos and content or getting help from someone to speed up the learning.

6. Trying to build the perfect Second Brain or system from the beginning

Would you run a marathon before you learn to walk?

Tongue and cheek, but you get the point.

I made the same mistake when I first started using Notion. I built my task manager, goal and project planner, travel planner, CRM, personal knowledge management system etc. all at the same time.

I learned a lot (the hard way) by doing this, but it was overwhelming, time consuming and honestly not the most productive way to go about it.

Now onto the four strategies I discussed with my awesome callers to solve some of these problems they were facing.

I customised my answers to their specific situation on the call, but you can adapt these strategies to your situation too. If you want specific help feel free to email me.

4 Changes You Should Start Making Today to Be More Productive in Notion

1. Store information in databases as much as possible (not in pages)

I know it feels scary and overwhelming to learn how to use databases.

But trust me it’s well worth the effort.

Notion’s true power lies in understanding how to store, organise and retrieve information from databases.

If you learn just that, you’ll know the fundamental 20% of Notion that gets you 80% of the benefits of Notion.

📢 Side Note:

Pareto’s 80/20 rule is my favourite rule to follow when learning anything new. It’s a simple approach that reduces the friction to doing something new and uncomfortable.

By the way, if you want help get in touch and I’m happy to help you, or to point you in the right direction to save you some time and effort.

2. Structure is the secret to real organisation

Design the structure of your Notion workspace before you start creating your databases, page or dashboards.

If you don’t have a basic structure of how you plan to use Notion and organise information ahead of time, it can get messy quickly.

Structure creates calm, freedom and the focus to progress towards your goals.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when structuring your Notion workspace:

  • What challenges and pain points are you trying to solve using Notion?

  • Why do you need to solve these problems?

  • What does you ideal system look like in 90 days?

  • What databases do you need to create to get one step closer to this ideal Notion system?

(If you haven’t already, spend 15 minutes to clean up your Notion workspace. Your future-self will thank you.)

The key to structure is putting information in databases as much as possible. Because databases naturally forces you to structure how you want to organise your information.

3. Learn Notion by picking just 1 use case to start with

If you want to build your Notion system from scratch, or just want to learn the basics, then the best way to learn Notion is to pick 1 use case and build out your database and pages.

Not sure how to pick your use case to focus on?

Here’s my tip that I gave to my clarity callers. There are 2 ways to pick the use case:

  1. A really annoying and painful problem that you want to solve with Notion OR

  2. A simple use case to lower the learning and experimentation curve for Notion

Once you’ve decided on your one use case, then you can start looking up some video tutorials or online content for ideas on how to build the database and dashboard for that use case.

Use your 1 system for at least a few weeks.

You’ll start to get comfortable with all the basic features of Notion and most importantly how databases work.

💡 Example:

If you’re finding your tasks are scattered everywhere (e.g. in a notebook, post it notes on your desk and an Apple Notes list) and you’re always worried that you’ve forgotten something important, start with the use case of “managing my tasks in Notion”

1. Create a Task database so you can collect all your tasks in the one place

2. Build a 1-page Task Dashboard where you can see all the tasks that you’ve plan to do TODAY, TOMORROW and THIS WEEK.

4. Don’t try to build the “perfect” system from the get-go

Actually there is no perfect system.

Your system will and should evolve as:

  • Your life changes

  • You become more experienced using Notion

  • You start to really understand how you enjoy working and using a system.

So don’t aim for the perfect system. Instead focus on designing your Minimum Viable System.

Relating this back to Notion, if you’re creating a database for the first time, ask yourself:

“what are the minimum number of properties you need to get things going?”

The key is, the fewer properties you have, the less time you spend maintaining your Notion system or inputting data.

You know you have a good productivity system (whether its in Notion or any other tool), when you’re actually spending more time outside of your system.

Systems should supports you in achieving your goals—working on an important project, spending time with family and friends, carving out time for hobbies that recharge your energy etc.

I hope these 4 strategies help you design a better and more joyful Notion system and workspace, saving you time and frustration.

🛠️ Website Progress Update!

In the last 2 weeks, I been a busy-bee building a website landing page in between client work.

It’s coming along… but I’ve got a bit more work to do!

That’s it! Thanks for reading.

If you’re struggling to figure out how to turn Notion into a simple and productive tool you actually enjoy using, hit reply and I’ll help you out.

See you next week,

Janice CK

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Whenever you're ready, here are 3 ways I can help you:

  1. Book a 1:1 strategy call with me. I’ll share 5 years of Notion experience and 13 years of experience with workflow and process design, productivity, organisational management and project management expertise. I’ll provide you actionable strategies to help where you feel stuck

  2. Ultimate Guide: How to create your digital writing system in Notion under 1 hour (Free!): Ready to learn how to use Notion to create your own writing system so you can write consistently?

    Join 110+ people who have downloaded this guide to build their own Writer’s Hub OS in Notion with built-in slow productivity principles.

  3. Travel Hub Notion Template (Free!): All-in-one Travel Planner that helps you ideate, plan, research and organise your trip stress free using Notion.

    Join 780+ people who have already downloaded this system and upped their travel planning game.

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