Notion Doesn’t Work. Here is Why.
One day I noticed a change on my YouTube feed. There were videos about this new product called Notion popping up all over my homepage. I am passionate about the topic of productivity, so naturally, this hottest productivity tool on the Internet piqued my interests. After watching about 8 hours of YouTube tutorials and fiddling with a million features in Notion, I realized as good as everything all looks, Notion won’t make me a more productive person. It won’t magically turn all my goals into reality.
To be fair, this is not what Notion claims to do. It’s simply an organization tool. “A new tool that blends your everyday work apps into one.” What I am afraid of is that the marketing messages I am getting from these YouTube videos will create illusions of dramatically improved productivity for an average user. The celebrity effect — a productivity guru on YouTube discussing how Notion “hacks” all aspects of life is very powerful indeed, but I have reasons to believe that the value one gains from switching to Notion may not be as glorified as it sounds.
The Learning Curve
Notion is a beautifully designed product. The minimalist UI really wants you to believe that it’s easy to use. However, the amount of time it took for me to understand basics of Notion is longer than any other productivity tools I’ve used. I am talking about Google Doc, Evernote, Google Keep, etc.., all products Notion wants you to give up.
I find the database management experience confusing, which is supposed to be one of the most powerful, unique features Notion has to offer. It took me over 10 hours to get my pages set up, and I still haven’t figured out how to make some things to look like the way I want it to look. I understand I am not a power user yet, so I’ll need to be patient in learning the more advanced features. But I am starting to feel that the time investment I’ve had to put in is counter-productive.
The Switching Cost
If you’re an average person trying to be a little more organized, you probably already have a set of tools you’ve been using. The personal organization software space is very crowded already with a few big players. The organization techniques we’re familiar with are simple: checklists, calendars, notes, links, planners etc.. All these products we’re using incorporate one or more of these techniques, which means the fundamental ideas for organization are the same, no matter what you choose to use to help you facilitate it.
As a life-long organizer, I have my knowledge stored in various systems and they’re organized in a way that’s quickly accessible. Switching to Notion as this all-in-one workspace is non-trivial to me. I also haven’t found any features in Notion that I can’t achieve in any tools I am already using. And the lack of a better calendar view is a deal-breaker.
Let’s say you finally have your workspace set up and pages all organized. Now what? The Notion pages won’t start filling up with content themselves. It’s now on the users to maintain and scale the content. If you don’t actively do this, Notion is useless. However, the lack of motivation to stay on top of things is something people struggle with constantly. Notion isn’t helpful in addressing this. It won’t magically help you discover motivations and stay persistent in your journey. Simply put, to organize knowledge, knowledge has to exist first. This will not come from Notion, or any other tools for that matter. It has to come from you.
As a designer, I appreciate the simple yet powerful design behind Notion as a product. What I am reluctant to say is that a new productivity tool alone can change lives. It’s not necessary to glorify design for the purpose of selling an idea. By the end of the day, our intrinsic drives are going to keep us stay on track, not a software.