Workflow Design in Notion

Is workflow design the missing piece of the puzzle for Notion beginners?

Hi friend!

I want to talk about the importance of Workflow Design in Notion to help you go from 0 to 1, if you’re new to Notion or just want use Notion more effectively.

Today at a glance

  • You Notion workspace might be lacking good Workflow Design

  • What is Workflow Design in Notion and why you need it to use Notion effective

  • 5-Step Workflow Design Process in Notion

  • What I’m Building In Public in November!

I want to start with a brief story today.

This week, I had a really great video call with a new creator friend I met through Ship 30 for 30. She’s been using Notion for a bit now, but felt like she wasn’t using it effectively. I offered to hop on a call to see how I could help her get more out of using Notion.

One of the first things she said to me during out call was “where do I even begin when I open Notion?”

It made me realise, yes the learning curve for Notion is steep, but it’s going from 0 to 1 in Notion is the hardest part for beginner!

And if you’re not a beginner and have been using Notion for a while now, you might also feel:

  • Your Notion workspace is a bit messy.

  • You can’t always find what you’re looking for.

  • Some resistance going into Notion because you’re not quite sure where to begin or how to use it.

Does any of this resonate with you?

If it does, you Notion workspace might be just lacking good Workflow Design

If you’re not clear on how “things” flow in (e.g. what are you storing in Notion? How are you capturing that information into Notion?) and out (e.g. creating content, reviewing your goals, writing in your daily journal) of your Notion Workspace, it’s hard to use it effectively.

Back to the call with my new friend.

She understood the basics of how Notion works, but we realised not long into our conversation, that she didn’t know how to design functional workflows to use Notion effectively.

So she didn’t really like opening up and using Notion.

Even though she loved the aesthetics, the clean interface and all the possibilities that Notion will open up for her if she knew how to use it well.

She really wanted an organised and inviting workspace in Notion.

A digital home for everything she’s pursuing, for example:

  • Side projects.

  • Taking notes while she deep dived into researching interesting topics.

  • A place she can return to, to regularly review her projects and goals with ease.

  • Replacing the various tools she’s currently uses to manage her tasks, project ideas, writing ideas and so forth (She was current using Apple notes and Google Tasks, while it was fine, she felt it could be better)

Ultimately, she wanted a system made her feel empowered to pursue her various interests in her work, life and passions.

Hearing someone else say that out loud was a penny drop moment for me.

Because that’s exactly the reason why I started using Notion 3+ years ago. And it also made me realise why I enjoy using Notion and why I’m so passionate about helping other people use Notion more effectively.

Over the last 3+ years, Notion has become my Slow Productivity Co-Pilot. It has made me feel empowered to pursue my career in pharmacy, my side hustles (photography, writing), travel and organise my life in general.

So what is Workflow Design and why you need it to use Notion effective?

There is more than one way to use Notion.

It’s literally a blank canvas.

You might prefer to use Notion for a single purpose like content creation and that’s it. Or you might be happy to just download and use a stand alone template from creators you like.

But if you want to turn Notion into your all-in-one life and productivity Digital Co-pilot, then from my experience Workflow Design in Notion is a must.

For me, Workflow Design is simply using the Designing Thinking and Systems Thinking process to:

  1. Identify the problem you want to solve using Notion.

  2. Plan how you will use Notion to solve that problem.

  3. Deciding your inputs and outputs for using Notion.

To help you get started, here are the 5 key steps I took to help my new friend in our 1 hour call, to design a workflow in Notion based on her specific problems.

You can try this out for yourself too.

Workflow Design Process in Notion

Step 1: What problems do you want Notion to solve for you?

Here are some questions I asked my new friend, that you can ask yourself:

  1. What tools are you currently using to manage your personal, professional or side hustle life?

  2. What are your challenges, pain points or frustrations are you experiencing right now your current tools / system?

  3. What does your ideal system look like?

  4. How do you want your ideal system to make you feel?

Getting clear on what you want Notion to do for you, is the first step 0 of making sure you’re using Notion as a tool, a copilot for your life and goals.

Step 2: Decide if you want to build-it-yourself or just buy a template

A question you must ask yourself if you want to use notion is:

“Do you want to learn to build and customise a Notion system that’s bespoke for you, or do you want a done-for-you Notion system?”

Deciding this upfront will stop you from wasting time in Notion.

If you’re a first principles learner, tinkerer or architect-type note taker, you probably want a customised system:

  • Find a Notion teacher for a Do-It-With-You solution.

  • Join a course that teach you the fundamentals of Notion to get you started.

  • Dive into the millions of free articles, videos and content out there to learn how to use Notion, for free (The Notion creator and education space is massive)

If you’re happy to follow someone else’s system and skip the learning curve, then downloading one of many template systems (free or paid) could be right for you.

A word about Notion templates.

From my observations, many people who just download Notion Templates without learning at least some fundamentals of Notion, will eventually give up on the template as they can find it restrictive.

But templates are a fantastic way to get started in Notion if you want to use it as a tool to learn how to use Notion.

As a beginner, I learned so much from downloading and playing around with templates.

But to really build my Notion workspace into my Productivity Copilot, learning the fundamentals was necessary.

Step 3: Look at other people’s Notion systems

On the video call, I asked my new friend to share her Notion workspace and talk me through the problems she was facing in Notion.

So that I understood where her current knowledge was at, her pain points and the solutions she was ultimately looking for.

I also showed her my Notion workspace so that she could see:

  • How I organised my Notion workspace.

  • Designed different workflows for different purposes.

  • How all the parts of my system to worked together.

Another penny drop moment I uncovered during my conversation is that Notion beginners don’t know what they don’t know. Getting a visual and verbal walkthrough of a Notion workspace and system is helpful for newcomers so they can see the possibilities.

This also gives people a ton of Workflow Design ideas.

So I suggest jumping onto Youtube to watch Notion videos from popular Notioneers like Marie Poulin, Thomas Frank and August Bradley.

While my friend and I talked about a number of her Notion problems, lets focus on just one problem as the example for this Workflow Design Process.

She realised during our call that she needed a better Capture + Content creation workflow in Notion.

🛠️ Interested in a custom designed solution in Notion?

No two people are the same.

A one-size-fits all Notion templates likely doesn’t work for you (it didn’t for me).

The biggest advantage of Notion is the ultra-flexible ability to design a productivity and organisation system that fits your work, life or business like a glove.

Step 4: Consider your Inputs and Outputs (CODE)

If you’ve read Tiago Forte’s book Building A Second Brain or his articles, you would be familiar with his CODE framework.

Your Inputs are what you’re going to Capture and Organise.

Your Outputs are what you’re going to Distil and Express.

Lets use the Capture + Content creation workflow as the example for our Workflow Design process in Notion.

At a very basic level, the inputs in this case would be capturing content ideas or knowledge that might form the inspiration for your content idea.

The output would be writing an essay, article, tweet and so forth.

To keep things simple, I suggested to my new friend to focus on the Capture and the Express steps of CODE.

If you want to learn more about how I use CODE for my writing and content creation, I wrote an essay on this recently that dives into more detail.

Step 5: Design your workflow to handle those inputs and outputs

I want to circle back to answer the very first question my new friend posed to me at the beginning of our conversation:

“where do I even begin when I open Notion?”

If you’re new to Notion or want to simply up your Notion game, my biggest suggestion is learn how to use Notion by solving just one problem (Designing one workflow) to start with.

Use that workflow for a little while to get really comfortable with it.

Only then do you design and add in the next Workflow to solve your next problem using Notion.

I ran through the 1-Workflow-1-Dashboard (1W1D) Method in a previous newsletter issue, and that’s the method I suggested she use to create her Capture + Content creation workflow in Notion.

Here’s a quick recap of the process I suggested to her during our call:

  1. Create a Library of content database to store her content & writing ideas. Add properties like Status, Content Bucket and the URL link to your published content.

  2. Create a new page called Inbox and create a Notion Button to quickly add new items to her Library of content database.

    Putting this Notion button on it’s own page means she can open up that Notion page on desktop or mobile to quickly add ideas when she thinks of it.

    I recommend that each Notion page should serve one workflow. The Inbox page serves the purpose of Capturing her content ideas (Inputs)

    My Inbox Dashboard, where I capture content ideas and other items into my various Notion databases

  3. The Writer’s Hub OS is the Dashboard I use to work on my writing ideas.

    Example, Writer’s Hub OS Template

Save 25% while it’s the early bird deal is still up! Ending 13th November 2023.

🛠️ Building in Public

This month, I joined 50+ creators for Kevon Cheung’s Build In Public Sprint!

My goal for the 30 days of November is to answer all your Notion questions, and at the end of the month I’ll be compiling this “Ask Me Anything” to share with you all.

Drop your burning Notion questions in the comments of the Tweet below (or just hit reply to this email!).

I would love to hear from you!

I’ve got 10+ questions so far and I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts and answering all of them

That’s it!

Thanks for reading.

Hit reply and ask me any anything about Notion or your struggles with using Notion—I will reply with a specific suggestion for you!

See you next week,


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