Is Notion Keeping You in Motion Instead of Taking Action?

It’s no secret.

Fans of Notion often admit to spending hours tinkering and modifying their workspace. In some spaces, it’s seen as a badge of honour.

And I get it; the lego-like flexibility and customizability of Notion practically begs users to continuously improve workspaces.

But it’s one thing to intentionally spend time developing a workspace. It’s quite another when users “working on their space” are lured into a false sense of productivity.

Notion users modifying their workspace can feel like they are taking action when really, they are in motion.

In the book Atomic Habits by James Clear, the author describes being in motion vs taking action:

When you’re in motion, you’re planning and strategizing and learning. These are all good things, but they don’t produce a result. Action, on the other hand, is the type of behavior that will deliver an outcome.

— pg. 142

Being in motion is not inherently bad. Planning, strategizing, and learning are all integral steps to achieving outcomes. Where it becomes problematic is when we believe we are taking action when really, what we are doing is getting us no closer to an outcome.

Some examples:

  • Road Trip
    • Motion: mapping out the route; filling the tank; checking the oil; packing snacks
    • Action: driving towards your destination
  • Exercising
    • Motion: signing up for a gym; buying workout clothes; scheduling workouts; watching exercise tutorials
    • Action: working out
  • Writing
    • Motion: idea generation; updating publication calendar; scheduling time to create
    • Action: writing

Now, imagine I’m planning a project using Notion.

I set up a new project page with linked databases for tasks and notes. I add database filters so new tasks and notes are connected to my project. I set-up headers and placeholders for project resources.

Then I realize it would be helpful if this project had a visual identity with custom icons and branding, so I jump into Canva for a while.

Before I know it, I’ve spent the morning designing a beautiful page for this new project.

And that was all motion. The project is technically no further along.

Will this planning and preparation pay off later on? Much of it will. Remember, motion can play an important role in achieving an outcome.

But it’s important to know the difference between motion and action, and recognize which state you are in. Especially when it comes to Notion.

Questions to Consider

  • What proportion of my time in Notion is spent on the workspace itself as opposed to the work it’s intended to support?
  • Are you spending time on the workspace because it’s poorly designed and causing friction? In other words, is your workspace impeding your ability to get work done?
  • Are you spending time on the workspace because it’s more fun than doing the work or you are avoiding the work?

Next Steps

If you want to adjust how much time you spend taking action instead of being in motion, then you need clarity on a few things:

  1. What you are you trying to accomplish with Notion?
    If you don’t know what work Notion is supporting, taking action will be nearly impossible. Your workspace should be designed to facilitate outcomes, and you can only do this well when you know the outcomes you want to achieve.
  2. What are the friction points?
    In what ways is your current set-up slowing you down? Do you need to evaluate how your data is organized? Are you using the right database properties that allow you to filter, sort, and group? Can you access the information you need within a couple of clicks?
  3. How can you structure your pages to optimize workflows and support attention?
    Can you create context-specific pages that pull in only the data you need to complete specific tasks and move closer to your outcome?
  4. Do you need additional assistance or to develop your skills?
    Like any tool, Notion has many layers. Often users don’t know what they don’t know. There is nothing wrong with getting help so you can remove roadblocks and create a more efficient workspace.

I’ll be the first to admit I enjoy working on my workspace, trying new things, and yes, tinkering. But early on I established a rule: only outside of ‘work hours’. I can play to my heart’s content evenings and weekends, but the purpose of my workspace is to make meaningful progress on the things that matter.

If you are a fellow Notion fan, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on whether the time you are spending on Notion itself is giving you a false sense of productivity.

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