The Completely Free Tool That Helps Me Keep My Life Together

Notion website on a computer background"
Notion website on a computer background
Graphics by: Aryana Johnson
Graphics by: Aryana Johnson

We all have our favorite podcasts—the ones we binge for comfort and turn to again and again for advice and insight. Mine? ILYSM, hosted by Kenzie Elizabeth. While much of what she says merits a replay (and an ugly laugh-cry, of course), something she said in a recent episode had me shook. I’m paraphrasing, but essentially her words described her penchant for cleaning. It’s not to impress houseguests or look good for the ‘gram. Instead, she cleans because her anxiety would take over without an organized space.

That’s how I feel about Notion (OK, and my house for that matter). I’ve always lived by the rule that a clear space equals a clear mind—and following that ethos sets me up for success all throughout the day. But with more of my work and life moving into the digital sphere, I’ve learned to apply this approach to everything I do on the internet and social media (so… literally everything I do). The biggest game changer I’ve found in keeping my head clean and clear for a productive and inspiring work flow? Notion. 

You’ve probably heard: everyone’s using Notion. From creators to 9-5ers to founders and more—the productivity app has made a sweeping impact across every industry. Today, we’re diving into the what and the how of Notion so you can start making the most of this *like-magic* tool yourself.


Why Should You Use Notion?

With so much content available to us in 2023, we have the ability to do everything. We could launch a brand, sell a product, learn countless new skills, shop online until the early morning hours—anything. The result? Decision fatigue, y’all. I’ve heard YouTuber and podcaster Ali Abdaal refer to the phenomenon as “productivity paralysis.” Essentially, given so many options, we become overwhelmed with choice. How do we begin tackling our to-do list? What should we prioritize? Cue major anxiety—and nothing getting done.

I’ve always believed that building and relying on systems is the ultimate productivity hack. Essentially, it’s putting in more effort upfront so your work can flow with ease. This creates more space for moving the needle on those larger-impact tasks that’ll push your goals forward. And that’s where Notion comes in.

One of Notion’s biggest draws is that it allows you to bring all parts of your life together—personal and professional—organizing them so that every day you’re greeted with a streamlined system on a unified platform. I use it to organize both my life and my work so that I’m not jumping from app to app. From my to-do list to personal reminders to spreadsheets and everything in between, Notion allows me to do it all.


How To Get Started

Before you begin, know this: there can be a steep learning curve with Notion. (I’ll admit, I actually first tried using the app early in 2022, got overwhelmed, and quickly gave up. Second time’s the charm.) The most important advice I can give you when using Notion? Don’t overcomplicate it! There are seemingly endless features available, but remember: you get to design it to work for you. We’ll be discussing the basics of beginning your Notion journey, setting you up so that you can then dive deeper into the specifics that’ll support your personal use.

Notion is a web application, allowing you to use it in the web browser. To begin, create an account at (disclaimer: it’s free!). For ease, I downloaded the desktop app and the iOS app to use across my devices (also available for Android). The workflow is almost exactly the same no matter if you use it on the web or via the app.

Tip: While you’re just starting out, be sure to also install the Notion Web Clipper. I’m chronically online, and every day I discover articles I want to read start to finish—but never seem to have the time. Instead of copying and pasting the link to my Notes app (yikes), I simply save them to my Notion workspace using the clipper. From there, I can organize the article into my reading list—you’ll discover later that it’s totally up to you how you want to manage this.


How To Make Notion Work for You

With all the templates and customizability available on Notion, the possibilities are endless. Below, I’m breaking down a few ways you can use the tool to streamline your life.



To organize your life

Inspired by Ali Abdaal’s popular Notion Masterclass, I’ve organized my Notion to include a “LifeOS.” Essentially, this is a Notion workspace that comprises all areas of my life—work, life, reminders, to-do’s, etc. You can get all the step-by-step instructions in Ali’s class, but essentially, it looks like this:

  • Add an inspiring quote. Mine comes courtesy of writer Anne Morrow Lindbergh, but this can be any quote that resonates with you. Whether it’s about inspiration, creativity, or simply seeing the opportunity in every day—this is a great way to center you when you open your Notion every morning.
  • Add a dashboard heading. Below, create a dashboard that includes pages for all areas of your life: Health, Wealth, Love, Creativity, and Happiness (or any combination of life disciplines you want to focus on). I dedicate each of these pages to writing out my goals for the year and month. It gives me a place to check on my progress, reflect on my intentions, and make sure I’m working toward what I want to create for my life.
  • Add calendar reminders. Need to remember to call your mom, run an errand, or pick up a prescription? Write your reminders here.
  • Prioritize tasks. Create a to-do list block that includes the day’s priorities. I’ve also created a separate to-do list block for my “Might Do List.” That way, I’m ensuring that I’ve accomplished what needs to get done and can log off *actually* feeling like I had a productive day.


To plan your wedding

Can’t shell out for a wedding planner? Use Notion to organize every aspect of your wedding—from wedding dresses to honeymoon planning to making sure your bachelorette goes off without a hitch. What’s more, you can also share this template with everyone, from your parents to your bridal party, for easy collaboration. If you want to stay on budget, manage vendors without the headache, and keep everyone’s respective assignments in check, The Ultimate Wedding Planner template has you covered.


To create a reading list

If you’re as reading-obsessed as we are (and none of the tracking apps work for you), try Notion. While you can make a basic database with genre, title, and author, you can also use a template that organizes your reading in a more sophisticated way. This template by Ellie Huizenga helps you keep track of your reading progress in a series and how much you’ve read in a year.


To plan your small business’s content strategy

Whether you’re a creator or own a brick-and-mortar store, Notion is a great tool for organizing your content. I love that you don’t need to purchase or sign up for an additional platform—you can simply create a new page dedicated to planning.

  • Add Content Calendar template to your Notion. Good news: Notion offers a free Content Calendar template that you can use to plug and play.
  • Tailor template to your content needs. Based on the social and content platforms you’re publishing on, you can customize your content calendar to support your business goals. 
  • Utilize databases to track content. The built-in database in the template allows you to track content development through every stage—from conception to launch. You can also quickly view tasks by assignee and status. What’s more, I love that it offers separate calendars organized by deadline and launch dates. Lastly, you can view a list of all published content to easily refer back to and check on your timeline to see all your content and dates at a quick glance.


Using Notion AI

This has to be one of the app’s most exciting capabilities to date—and it’s one of the best AI tools I’ve worked with. I’ve used it for everything from summarizing meeting notes to helping me brainstorm headlines to even designing workout plans (yes, really). It’s like a built-in teammate/life coach that you can bounce ideas off of and collaborate with to improve your writing, make your routines more efficient, and honestly just do everything better.


Notion Creators To Follow

Remember: the goal is to not overcomplicate things with Notion. Taking time in the beginning to learn the basics will clue you into how you can use the tool most effectively for your specific needs. Once I did that, I started diving deeper into templates and getting inspiration from creators who already use Notion. Below are a few of my favorites.

  • Jules Acree: A proponent of organized, intentional living, Jules and Notion just makes sense. She created this in-depth YouTube video that shows how she uses Notion to organize her life, content, and business. You can also purchase her Design Your Year template for additional support and inspiration.
  • Katie Steckly: YouTuber and founder of Creatorly, a creative marketing agency, Katie is an expert when it comes to making the most of Notion and designing systems that let the platform work for you. If you are a creator looking for effective ways to organize your content and track brand deals, Katie’s Content Creator Notion Bundle is a must-have. She also has tons of Notion resources available for almost everything a creator could need, including a YouTube script template, a sustainable Instagram strategy planner, and a goal planner and tracker template
  • Thomas Frank: Arguably the most knowledgeable resource when it comes to utilizing Notion best. His YouTube channel, Thomas Frank Explains, is your one-stop shop for just about every possible thing you could want to know about Notion. From fundamentals to building a personal dashboard to using Notion AI, he explains it all.


The Takeaway

As a reminder, everything I shared is just the beginning when it comes to using Notion. The beautiful—and at first, intimidating—thing about Notion is that the options are endless. For that reason, it takes a bit of time and understanding to get comfortable with it and to know how to use it best for yourself. But once you get familiar with the tool, it’ll become your go-to for up-leveling everything in your life.