One of my most popular posts last year was the one where I explained how I use Notion to organize my writing, but I avoided giving a proper tour because I still needed time to settle into my set-up and use it properly. Only then could I know how to make adjustments.
That’s what makes Notion such a powerful organizational tool – unlike other tools like Trello or Evernote, Notion can be re-organized into something that better suits your needs.
But it’s been almost a year now, and I feel pretty settled in my current notion set up. I figure it’s time I gave you the full tour, and maybe this will inspire your own workspace or give you some ideas on how to change yours to make it work better for you.
Buckle in friends and fellow notion addicts, because this going to be a long one.
Not interested in building a workspace? Fear not, fellow writer: my template is now available for you to duplicate!
Table of Contents:
- What I’ve Kept
- What I’ve Removed
- My 2022 Setup
The Things that Haven’t Changed
I’ll start off by mentioning some of the things that haven’t changed since the last post. While I have made many adjustments since I started using Notion, there were some aspects of my workspace that worked for me right away, and I don’t plan on changing them anytime soon.
The Dashboard Calendar
Having a full calendar of all my projects and deadlines has been vital to my productivity and helping me schedule my time accordingly, so I didn’t see any point in changing it. It was important that whatever changes I made to my overall system, my dashboard still included the calendar. It’s where I do the vast majority of my work.
The Master Database
I mentioned in my last post that I use a very large “master” database, and pretty much everything I do in Notion is connected to that database.
Your mileage may vary, but I juggle a lot of roles right now and I want to have access to most if not all of them from that oh-so-essential dashboard calendar, and to do that, they all need to be a part of the same database.
While you can link databases together, there is, at the moment of writing this, no way to display additional database information on a calendar view as I like to do. The only solution was to keep everything in one.
To help organize it further, I created a property called “database” where I can sort everything into various categories – project database, blog database, etc. It’s a sort of database of databases, and it really forms the backbone of my Notion setup. Aside from some finagling with the properties, this part of my setup has not changed.
The Things That Have Been Removed
Previously I had an inbox page that served as a task dump bucket, but I found that I didn’t use it very much. Once I integrated my bullet journal into Notion, I stopped using the inbox completely, as the bulk of my task work was handled with my daily logs and rolling to-do lists.
The individual tasks were just bulking up my calendar, and because I hadn’t introduced any sort of nesting system, they would often be out of order and became confusing. So the inbox section is gone, and for now, it’s going to stay that way.
I found a really interesting habit tracker that I duplicated and integrated into my setup back in January of last year, but I barely used it. I’ve never been good with trackers. I might eventually integrate something into the daily logs of my bullet journal, but as a separate page it was just taking up space on my dashboard, so it has been retired for now.
My 2022 Notion Setup
The Home Dashboard
My new dashboard has become a lot more streamlined for this year. I wanted something less busy but still functional. As much as I love looking at complex Notion dashboards, they don’t work so much for me in practice.
My dashboard last year was much the same, but I’ve made a few improvements to keep it cleaner and more minimal and to emphasize the parts that do work for me.
The all-important calendar is still there, and now with even more space. I kept the same quote because I like it, and it’s something I want to see every time I sit down to work.
In case you were curious, it’s a quote from Neil Gaiman, and it says: “If you dare nothing, then when the day is over, nothing is all you will have gained.”
The only other element on my new dashboard is my Index on the left, which is most of the pages that were there before, but neatly tucked away into smaller, toggle-able menus. Oh, and it’s now synced throughout other pages in my set-up.
Aesthetically, I’ve done some adjustments to the icons that I use on my pages, and I’ve sourced a lot of them from flaticons.com. They have tons of different icon styles which are perfect for sprucing up your Notion set up and giving it a bit more of a cohesive look. I opted for some simple outlines, and I really like how it looks.
The Synced Index
This is definitely one of the bigger changes I’ve made, but I really wanted to have a menu that could move throughout my set-up and allow me to quickly access anything I needed. I also wanted to be able to move things around as necessary without always having to search through Notion’s “move” tool, which can get tedious when you have as many pages as I do.
One of Notion’s more recent features was the synced block, a block that can exist on multiple pages and syncs between them – any changes made to it on one page will appear on all the others. So I made a synced block and moved all of my dashboard pages into it under those handy toggles, creating the perfect index that I can easily access on any page.
Included in the Synced Index
1. The Rolling To-Do List
I mentioned that my inbox was replaced, and it was replaced by this: the rolling to-do list. It’s the first toggle on my index, and it is simply a running list of things I need to get done that have no deadlines.
When I start my day, I can check my rolling to-do list and migrate tasks onto my log. Conversely, if I find I’m pushing tasks forward a lot, I might move them into my rolling to-do list and come back to it another time. It’s been a really handy bucket for collecting all those little tasks that need doing that don’t have a time frame.
2. The Author Dashboard
My last author dashboard was not as useful as it could have been, though I’m still not sure what the best layout is for this particular part of my workflow. This will probably change as I begin publishing properly, but for now, I have something I think I can work with.
To start, I have a gallery view of the writing projects I’m currently working on, and below that is another master database instance with two different views. One is a slice of my notebook, for any notes about writing projects or publishing stuff. The second is a writing tracker, where I can see at a glance when I wrote and how those days went for me. The writing tracker, in particular, was inspired by Sarra Canon’s Notion setup:
To the left of that, we have my synced index (you’re going to see this show up a lot in my set-up), and links to series pages which let me see the overarching plot, and an assortment of other pages for things like cover inspiration, future story ideas, marketing plans, a wiki for my fantasy world and so on.
The Writing Project Template
Because using a master database can make things really complicated, I use a lot of templates to help me quickly sort my work and create a space for me to start working. I use templates for my blog posts, my social media posts, my daily logs, and of course when I’m starting a new story.
When I’m ready to start working on an idea, I create a page for it in my master database and use the template you see above. It’s nothing overly complicated, but it includes a place for a one-line elevator pitch, a longer synopsis, my outline, the various drafts, meta-data, and of course a glimpse into the notebook database, where I can see all of the notes I’ve tagged for this particular project (Note: I don’t set up the notebook database until I make the project page, so the template is empty for that reason).
If you want to know more about how I use my notebook section for brainstorming, I would check out my original post, where I explain Rachael Stephen’s Story Toolkit briefly and explain how I integrated that into my Notion workspace.
Notion’s gallery and kanban boards are extremely helpful when plotting, as they are cards you can click and drag around like you would in Scrivener.
I think this template works as a nice snapshot of the project, and because it has been integrated into the master database, I can see it on my calendar.
3. The Blogging Dashboard
Creating a blogging dashboard that works for me has been a struggle since I do a vast majority of my work on my home dashboard or in my WordPress dashboard.
As a result, my blogging dashboard has become less a place for drafting, and more for planning and brainstorming or creating a cohesive catalogue of all of my posts. It’s more of a resource at this point than a functional workspace, but I think it’s effective for what it is.
Along the top I have a bunch of links to resources and a backup of page content. Underneath that is my ideas toggle, where I have all of my blog topics – the primary ‘content pillars’ that I create content for – and a big list of future post ideas under each. After that, you can see my synced index, along with a master database instance that lets me see all of my posts for the year at a glance. I also have a view for upcoming posts.
The Blog Post Template
This right here is the real workhorse for my blog. I’ve mentioned that I use a lot of templates to help me organize my master database, and this is probably the template that I use the most.
If you read my last post you might recognize it, but I’ve adjusted it slightly for the new year. I simply didn’t like having to scroll to start writing the first draft, and I never used the photo ideas portion, so I removed that completely. It’s not a very complicated template, but it hits all of the basics and stops me from getting bogged down by all the blogging minutiae.
The checklist includes everything from my Blog Post Checklist, so you can check that out if you’d like to know a little more about what goes into each of my posts. It’s a simple template, but it’s worked well for me this past year, so why change what works?
4. The Freelance Dashboard & Client Work
I’m only going to go over these briefly as I’m just starting my freelance journey and these workspaces are subject to change.
My dashboards all follow a fairly simple concept – important links and resources on the left and the “workspace” on the right. For my freelance dashboard, I’ve done the same.
I have a calendar for project deadlines, and to the left, I have a toolkit where I keep information and resources, profiles for freelance sites, and a place for all of the services I am offering (or will be offering soon) along with references, rates, and other pertinent details.
The client work database is also accessible directly from my home dashboard, as that is where I do most of my work. The plain table and all of it’s properties are pictured above.
This is also one of the only databases that isn’t connected to my master database, simply because I want to keep my personal work separate from my paid work. If that becomes cumbersome, I may consider migrating it into the master database in future.
5. The Social Media Dashboard
I have struggled with staying consistent on social media, and while I’ve tried using apps that help you plan and schedule your posts in advance, I just don’t use them.
The fewer programs I have to use, the better it is for my productivity – that was what drew me to Notion in the first place. It could take the place of so many apps I already use, and make my life that much simpler.
While browsing the web I saw several templates for organizing your social media posts, including an Instagram feed planner, so with a bit of adjusting my master database, I created one of my own. It’s not quite the same, but it allows me to see a glimpse of what I’m posting and to plan ahead, and it integrates with my dashboard calendar.
I made another for Pinterest pins as well, and I can toggle between the two with the database views. Hopefully this makes it a lot easier to post on my socials a little more regularly.
6. The Project Index
While my usage of this page has altered a bit, the overall format of my project index has not changed much. The only thing I added to it were more list views so I could easily sort my projects by category – like books I’m writing or notion templates I’m working on. I also have views for completed and ongoing projects so I can see them at a glance.
Beyond that, I moved my writing projects into the master database where they were previously separate. It was easier to find and then they could be more easily included on the all-powerful calendar. With the new views, it was also easy to see all the fiction I’m currently working on as well. I use tags to classify them more specifically as short fiction, novellas, or novels.
7. Resources, Learning and Reading List
The first two are databases separate from my master database, with Resources being a collection of useful tools and websites, and Learning a database of research notes and how-tos. Both have been appropriately tagged so I can find them more readily when I need to.
The reading list is just a bunch of bookmarked links to articles I want to read and take notes (which will then move into my Learning database).
8. The Tracking Collection
The tracking page is just a list of the various trackers I use, though it no longer includes a habit tracker. I mostly use it for recording recipes (under meal planning), tracking and making notes on the books I read (in my reading tracker – pictured above) and making notes on the games I play (in my gaming tracker).
I also have a financial tracker for tracking income and expenses and organizing each purchase so I know where my money is going. This tracker is separate and connected to my master database so I can see which projects my money is going towards.
9. The Bullet Journal
This is a bit of an experimental one for this year, as I’ve really taken to the daily log. If you take a look at my dashboard, you’ll see I have a small block with the date on it for every day – those are my daily logs.
They look very much like they do in the Notion Bullet Journal template I made last year, and it was because I’d enjoyed using Notion as a digital bujo so much the last few months that I was inspired to create a dedicated template.
This bullet journal includes a lot of aspects of that template. I’ve included a button that will launch a new monthly log and I will archive the old one when the month comes to a close. If you’re curious about how it looks I would check out my template or read the post I made detailing how I made it.
10. The Notebook
This is by far the most helpful of all the additions that I’ve made to my dashboard. Having a place I can quickly log notes and assign them to projects has been extremely helpful. It’s an idea capturing system, inspired by the Story Toolkit by Rachael Stephen, who I mentioned in my last Notion walkthrough.
This notebook is not for anything concrete. It is for jotting down ideas or exploring ideas more deeply. Once I have committed to something, the note can be archived or deleted.
I created a notebook database as part of my master database, and I use relevant tags so I can sort through them. You will also see the notebook database appear again on my author dashboard and under each project, so I can refer to related notes when I’m working on said project. But I also wanted to include an instance on my dashboard so I can quickly log ideas and notes without having to seek out the specific page.
If you’re interested in checking out this template, click the link below!
And we made it to the end! I adore Notion and have gushed about it many times now, but I felt it was only fair that I do a detailed tour of how exactly I’m using it if only to hammer down just how versatile it can be.
When I start working every day, this is what I sit down and use, and it has helped me immensely in the past few months. Maybe it can do the same for you. Hopefully, this tour through my system will inspire your own Notion dashboard.
Are you still using Notion in 2022? Have you made any changes since you started using it? What inspired you to use Notion in the first place? Let me know in the comments!