If you’re a creative person, you probably have hundreds of ideas and projects you’d like to work on. But many of them never see the light of day. If you learn to organize your ideas the right way, you’ll be much more likely to bring them to life. The tool you use is not nearly as important as the system you develop for organizing, capturing, and capitalizing on your ideas. Notion is by far the best tool I’ve discovered.
The biggest issue I’ve come across with coaching clients is that they struggle to organize their ideas.
Sometime last year, I interviewed Tiago Forte about how to build a second brain. Your brain is a terrible place to store information. When you try to store information there, you end up using its processing power for storage instead of creativity. Tiago built his system based on Evernote. I prefer Notion because I have one tool for distraction free writing, project management, book notes, and task management. It’s replaced many of our other tools.
In your physical world, you have designated places for things. You might have a closet for your shoes, a kitchen drawer for your utensils, a bathroom drawer for your makeup.
Holding on to thoughts is like trying to catch a fish with your bare hands: They easily slip from your grasp and disappear back into the muddy depths of your mind. Writing things down allows us to capture our thoughts and examine them in the light of day. By externalizing our thoughts, we begin to declutter our minds. – Ryder Caroll
Organizing and managing creative projects is taking that same approach, but to your digital world. Every piece of information you’re dealing with needs to have a home.
What exactly is a workflow? A workflow is the sequence of actions, tasks, or steps you need to take complete a process. For example, the basic workflow for sending someone an email would be
- Compose the email
- Give it a subject line
- Hit send
Every creative endeavor has a workflow. And by identifying what that
The first thing you want to do is put your work into categories. When things aren’t in categories, it will make you feel like you’re working on a hundred things at once, but not making progress on any of them. Unless you know what you’re working on it’s hard to know where you’re going to put it.
The most effective structure I’ve found for organizing knowledge work is Tiago Forte’s second brain methodology. You organize everything into four main categories and all the subcategories live underneath.
- Projects are anything that has a defined start and end date. If you’re working on a 100-day project it would live under projects.
- Areas of Responsibility are anything you work on that has no end date. In my case writing and the Unmistakable Creative go into this category.
- Resources: These are all the reference materials you come across (blog posts, book notes, podcasts, videos, links, apps, tools, etc).
- Archives: Once a project is finished, you want to archive it so it doesn’t take up mental bandwidth.
You can see a screenshot below of how I organize my workspace.
Setting Up Your Notion Workspace with Second Brain Framework
Because it’s an all-in-one workspace you can setup however you want, getting started with Notion can be a bit confusing. I explain how to do this in the video below:
Any project that is more involved than a blog post goes here. This is where I put all the material for e- books I’m working on and online courses we’re developing. How you choose to organize projects will require some trial and error.
But a simple way to do it with is with the Action Method from Scott Belsky’s book, Making Ideas Happen. For every project you’ll have 3 parts:
- Action steps
- Reference Material
- Backburner Items
Organizing project this way helps you to make consistent progress and take steps toward completing them every day.
Areas of Responsibility
Because it’s something I work on daily, writing goes under my areas of responsibility. I have two categories: free writing and the editorial calendar. For free writing I like to create a page for every day so that I can go back and search it easily. The editorial calendar is where all of my content for blog posts goes.
For any task management tool, you want to make sure you know the following:
- What’s the task?
- Who is responsible?
- What’s the current status?
- When is it due?
There two categories I use for tasks: project related tasks which (aka action steps) and daily focus task (the things I will get done today). This is what determines where I write down a task in Notion.
By externalizing all of the information that’s in your head, you not only declutter your mind, you then have all that brainpower to do your most important work: create. And having a resources section in your Notion Workspace is a great way to do that.
The Reading List
When you take more effective notes on the books you read, you’re more likely to remember and take action on them. It’s why I keep a database in Notion of all the books I read. I use it reference concepts during interviews and incorporate ideas into blog posts.
Processes and Procedures
More often than not, we reinvent the wheel for the tasks we do almost every day. By creating checklists, video tutorials and standard procedures for your work, you avoid wasting mental energy.
You can put anything you want in the resources section of your Notion workspace.
Once I’m finished with a project,I move it to the archive. By moving finished projects into an archive, you get clarity on what’s essential and what’s not. Think of your archive as in-box zero for you Notion workspace.
How you organize creative projects can determine whether or not you’ll start and finish them. It’s why Scott Belksy says Creativity X Organization = Impact. Notion can be a valuable tool for that. If you want to learn more, check out my Notion Essentials Youtube Channel.