How Do You Create a Digital Library for Your Life? | Notion Overview

In this digital age, more and more solutions are out in the market for uploading, storing, and retrieving files. This is a blessing and a curse, after all, with all the choices we have, what’s the best solution to go with?

While Google Drive and remaining apart of the Google ecosystem is a great option, I have decided to use Notion. It is a powerful tool where you can upload your information and find it. After all, what’s the point of storage if you can’t find it when you need it?

What is Notion? 

Notion is a free service that can be used on the web, your desktop, and your smartphone. As most ‘freemium’ services, the free package only is meant for you to test out the system and to get the full benefit, you are going to need to switch to one of their plans:

  • Personal - $4 per month (I have this one!)

  • Team - $8 per month

  • Enterprise - $16 per month

In the simplest terms, Notion is like having your own personal Wikipedia. 

Notion can take notes, create tables, have a Kanban board for productivity, provide a to-do list, give you reminders, and integrates well with other services such as the previously mentioned Google Drive. It’s a powerful piece of software that is constantly evolving and I use it daily.

How do I use Notion?

Notion has become my database for my life. It also doubles as my external hard-drive since I don’t want to pay for extra storage on Google Drive when I’m already paying for Notion.

Notion as my Dashboard

My main page is my dashboard. There I can have an overview of various aspects of my life that I want to keep track of. This includes the following:

  • Goals

  • Ideas

  • Relationships

  • Restaurants + Stores

  • Personal Inventory

  • Resources

  • Reading List + Movie List

  • Inspirational Quotes

  • Misc to be sorted

Each one of those categories has their own ‘pages’ which I could click through to keep track of the various aspects of my life. This means that whenever I want to see what my goals are for 2019, I could click on my ‘Goals’ link that is located on my dashboard.

I could also easily go back and click on my ‘Restaurants’ tab if I ever want to give a recommendation to someone about where to get some delicious Uruguayan food.

Having an overarching dashboard allows me to quickly and efficiently check out the main topics of what I need to look for. Then once I click through that, I could continue ‘going down the rabbit hole’ until I find what I need.

Notion as my Relationship Manager

One of the many aspects of my life that I want to continuously improve are my relationships.

Those who know me can say that I’m a delight to be with in person. I love chatting with people, I enjoy hanging out with people, and it’s great whenever I find the time to spend with those I love. However what I need to improve on is my communication skills.

Due to how busy I can be at work, or working on my own personal projects, I lose touch with people. I do not do it out of maliciousness, it’s just with everything going on, I do not take the time and think, ‘gee… maybe I should reach out to that person’. Whenever my mind does remember to reach out, it’s like 7 in the morning and who wants to take a phone call at that time?

Don’t know what someone wants for their birthday? 

As people tell me what their interests are, I keep notes of that information on their pages. The same goes for anything that they may say in passing about what they want, would like, or need. This way if a special occasion comes up, I could quickly find something that they may appreciate having in their life. This saves me time, stress, and energy. This also gives me a better chance of giving the person I care about, something they’d actually like instead of just picking a random thing and hoping they’d use it.

Saving Files on Notion

I work as an office administrator of two businesses while also running my own projects, business, and life. This means that I have to store and find a lot of files at a drop of a hat.

I recently came to the realization that while I was using Notion as a database for information, I could also be using it as a way to store and keep a backup of my files that I use.

Notion is able to save PDFs, Word Documents, PowerPoint, MP4s, and all kinds of Video Files. What is even better is that Notion handled my PSD (Photoshop), and AI (Illustrator) files without any hassle.

How I Store Files on Notion

The way I use Notion is evolving every day, but this is the current way I store files.

All my files are put in a table

Within that table, I have two columns: File and Tags

Files are where I upload the file. Since I name all my files, it eliminates the need of an additional column which would be ‘name’. However if you do not name your files, I would encourage you to have a ‘Name’ column.

Tags are how I can sort my files. The tags I use are as follows:

  • File type: PDF, PSD, MP4, etc.

  • Key words: These are one to three words that could quickly let me know what the file is about. Examples of this could be ‘Insurance’, ‘AT&T’, ’Meeting Notes’.

  • Names: If a person is associated with the file, I’ll use their name as a tag

  • Version: If a file is constantly changing, I’ll have a tag for version history

  • Year: If the file is one that changes from time to time, such as a driver’s license, or is affiliated with a date, I’ll put in the year for easy sorting.

How I View Files on Notion 

I use the table view 85% of the time. Since Notion allows me to quickly create multiple ways to view files, I tend to have a secondary view in which I can see my files.  

  • Gallery View: For visual files such as receipts and drawings

  • Calendar View: For files that are date centric such as meeting notes

  • List View: For everything else since it’s simplistic and is easy on the eyes.  

These views do not do anything to change or alter my files. They simply enhance the viewing experience whenever I decide to reference my file page.

Additional Notes about File Storage on Notion

Notion allows you to take notes within notes within notes. So if you have any additional comments to add onto a file, you do not need to create another column.  

  • All you need to do is click on the file, click “Open as Page”, then you could add comments or additional notes about that file. At the moment I don’t do this for my files, but I wanted to let you know that it’s most certainly an option.

Adding an additional “Date Created” column however, may prove to be helpful and it’s one that I’ll add to my file storage tables. This is especially true for my receipt pages.  

How did I learn Notion?

I did not learn Notion overnight. In fact I am still learning new things about it everyday. This is due to the fact that this is a complex solution to reduce the amount of applications that we use everyday (task manager, word document, online storage, excel sheet, kanban board, wiki, etc) and it is being updated constantly with new features and integrations.

My #1 Instructor for Notion is Francesco from Keep Productive on YouTube. He has a playlist of over 40 videos to show Notion users of all skill levels on learning and mastering the software. If you don’t want to watch all his videos, then here are a few I highly recommend:

Another way I’ve been learning how to more effectively use Notion has been through the website called Notion Pages. Notion Pages has lots of templates for you to edit and play with.

I am still learning how to best use Notion Pages and how to copy their databases onto my own, but the ones I have managed to copy have been absolutely amazing. Here are a few that I recommend:

Keep in mind that the ones I recommended are for the most part, complex. Thus, I’d recommend you use Notion for a week with the help of Keep Productive’s videos before going for the Notion Pages.

Want to try Notion?

Notion is free to use and try out.

 The free plan consists of ‘1000 content blocks’ which is a good amount of storage to start out with. However I recommend going to the Personal account if you plan to use Notion for everything like I am.

If you have any questions, feel free to tweet at either me or the Notion team.

Otherwise, if you have other solutions similar to Notion, please feel free to share them with me in the comments below. I’m always eager to learn new ways to become more productive with less stress.