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Cover image for From Evernote to Notion in Four Weeks

From Evernote to Notion in Four Weeks

jennapederson profile image Jenna Pederson Updated on ・7 min read

I’ve used Evernote for a decade. A DECADE. Evernote (combined with a few other tools) organizes my entire life. I use it to:

  • Take meeting notes
  • Automated my grocery/Target list via Alexa and IFTTT
  • Collect client-specific notes and research
  • Save photos of recipes, my driver's license and passport, and Skitch screenshots
  • Manage my career
  • Run multiple businesses
  • Do my business planning
  • Build business communication templates
  • Write blog post drafts
  • Collect ideas
  • Start multiple books (or let's be real... titles and outlines)
  • Plan my travel
  • Keep travel packing checklists
  • So much more!

With some of the organizational changes happening recently and less frequent feature updates along with not being able to really export my data in a non-Evernote format, I’ve been exploring other tools.

I’ve also been bullet journaling for the last couple of years and it’s been a great way to force me to plan my days more intentionally upfront. Instead of using Evernote for this I’ve used a paper notebook (this moleskine one here). I'm not necessarily looking to replace my physical notebook but I do wonder if I could better incorporate that process into my digital life. I just started a new notebook and now I need access to notes in the previous one. And it's stuck back at home.

For the last 4 weeks, I’ve been exploring Notion. For the most part, I love it! I’m wondering what the catch is and what (other) challenges I’m going to run up against. There are a few things I haven’t figured out how to handle and a few quirks that I’m learning my way around. I’m still on the free version of Notion and am waiting to upgrade until I’ve made the final decision to switch.

Note: Three quarters through writing this draft post I hit the 1000 block limit and had to upgrade. I went back to Evernote to finish my draft but 25 minutes later ended up just upgrading Notion because I was quickly annoyed.

Here's what I've done in the last four weeks, how I organize some of my life, and what I think about Notion so far.

How I’ve organized my Notion workspace

At first, my eyes glazed over when I saw Notion. It has some great templates but I wasn't sure what I would need or how to organize it all. Then someone mentioned sitting down and planning out my workspace. Just like I do a new notebook! And that was super helpful and how I got to here.

Similar to Evernote I have a notebook or top-level page for each client, ideas, technical notes and howtos, travel, finance, etc. My default Evernote notebook just became a dumping ground so in Notion I’ve turned my workspace into a daily landing area with a few key pages to keep me focused. Everything else will go underneath a top-level page.

My workspace landing page looks like this

My workspace landing page

How I'm using these pages

2019 Business Goals

This is a landing page for what I want to do in my business this year. It could be a blog post in itself, but it's broken up by quarters and then by months where I set goals. I track it here and revisit it at the end of each quarter and each year.

Conferences

This is a landing page for CFPs and their deadlines, a list of talk ideas, and talk drafts.

Blog Drafts

This is a landing page for blog post ideas and drafts.

This Week

This Week contains a weekly focus (or two), personal, general business, and client-specific to-do lists, and a couple of daily trackers (meal planning/tracking, etc.).

The best part about my weekly to-do lists is that they are IN.ONE.PLACE. They used to be spread across Trello or Asana boards and to some extent, I do still keep track of work items there, but what I'm doing this week lives here and is IN.ONE.PLACE.

Client Situation

I keep track of my current client situation here and how much time I have available and planned for each. This changes week to week, so it's a nice overview and I can see how far out I need to start planning for more work (or less if something is ramping up).

Accolades

A list of why I'm awesome (I am). These are my pats on the back, public recognition, things I knocked out of the park, little reminders when my day gets tough or when I'm having a string of tough days. It's also a place I can go to grab a few to share when I need to share my accomplishments with others.

Nopes

A list of things I said no to. I'm allowed to say no, and sometimes this is super hard for me to do. I keep this list as a reminder to myself that it's ok and the world won't crash and burn if I decline yet another what it's like to be a woman in tech panel or a client engagement I know won't be right for me.

Rejections

This is a new one for me, but I wanted to track rejections from conference CFPs and figured I might as well track everything I've been rejected from. It's a good way to remind myself that it's ok to be rejected and it's ok to not be perfect. In most cases, it probably just meant it wasn't right for me.

What I’m liking about Notion

  • Nesting of pages and pages and pages and pages. And even more pages. I don't actually know the limit here but so far I haven't hit it.
  • Everything is a block in Notion — a chunk of text, a bullet point, an image, etc. The rearranging of blocks makes rearranging super slick. This was always something that was difficult with Evernote.
  • Um, yes, the emojis. They brighten my day and make it easier to recognize specific pages or types of pages (👯‍♀️ Be like Beyoncé or ✈️ Travel)
  • I’m writing this post from my phone. Navigating is awesome on the phone and so is formatting and rearranging blocks.
  • A landing space. I spend most of my time on my main workspace or This Week page.
  • The different text and highlight colors - super easy to apply rather than the default Mac color selector that looks like a lame crayon box or the color wheel. At least now I know that if I pick green I’ll get the same green every single time rather than tree green and lime green and sea green to indicate "good to go!"
  • Ability to share a page publicly (though I haven’t used this yet)
  • I was able to import specific notebooks and notes from Evernote and boards from Asana. I picked a couple of each to start with. There’s support for other tools too. I think this was key to me getting started in Notion. I was able to start with content I'd already built up.
  • At first I didn't like that the lower-level pages didn't automagically sort by date modified. I like to have my most recent changes readily accessible. But I've found it super easy to rearrange them myself. For instance, sorting client meeting notes by date. I can name them "☎️ 09-23-2019 - client call" and then sort it my own way. Then at the end of the month or year, I can collect them into their own month or year top-level page.
  • For my one user workspace, the price of Notion ($48) is less than Evernote ($69) for the year. And I can get free credit by sharing Notion with my friends. Want to sign up and get $10 in free credit while giving me some free credit too? Here ya go!

What I'm not liking

  • I'm using the task board for tracking CFPs but I’m not convinced that the reminders work properly. Still need to test this out more on less important things.
  • No integrations with IFTTT or Zapier. UGH. This is a hard one for me. I hear the Notion API has been "coming soon" for months.
  • I’ve had some lag in typing, even as I type this out on my phone it was lagging. When I typed too fast, it crashed. On desktop, while taking calls, it's been hard to keep up with taking meeting notes.
  • I don't like not (easily) being able to view multiple pages at once. I think the only way is to open a whole new Notion window (CMD+SHIFT+n) and then navigate to the page I want to view. I'd love a pop-out window. Otherwise browser tabs, but personally I'd rather use the desktop app.

What I'm still figuring out

  • I still haven’t figured out if I want to use this for bullet journaling or just change my process (it could use some recharging).
  • I’m still getting used to needing to write a quick note on the go (mobile) and then not knowing where it lands or having to file it later.
  • Still trying to figure out what to do with temporary notes. Evernote's Quick Note was awesome and I just filled it with temporary notes that eventually landed somewhere or got deleted.
  • My shopping list is now totally manual whereas in Evernote I could be like "Alexa add carrots to my shopping list" and IFTTT would add it to my Evernote shopping list note.
  • Search. So far it's worked or I haven't needed it. But with Evernote on mobile, it's pretty much the only way I used it so I still need to figure this out in Notion and see if it will meet my needs.

Before I officially cutover and cut myself off of Evernote, I'm curious how other people are using Notion for personal and work notes management. What am I missing out on? What is not working for you? What do I need to watch out for? How can I level this up even more? Is Notion going to be around in another decade? Will Evernote pick up speed again? I guess only time will tell.

Posted on by:

jennapederson profile

Jenna Pederson

@jennapederson

sr developer advocate @awscloud / board @minnestar / she/her / opinions are mine and only mine

Discussion

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I've spent months trying to pull off what you're doing. I feel like my Evernote usage is much simpler than yours, although I've been using it just as long.

I was absolutely unsuccessful.

I love Notion for it's beautiful formatting and it's page nesting. I'm absolutely nuts about the database objects, although they have some rough edges still. The editing experience is terrific and I really enjoy writing in it...but mostly I write in it and then copy/paste into Evernote (except images, Notion won't let you copy those).

Here were my challenges:

  • No native apps, so it misses out on OS-specific features, like Spotlight on the Mac. Also: SLOW.
  • Terrible mobile applications with no reliable offline methodology
  • Completely non-scriptable (I'm on a Mac, I'm used to AppleScripting the heck out of Evernote)
  • No text recognition in images
  • No ability to search within attachments
  • No simple tables. Tables are always databases, even if I just want a simple grid which I use...in like 40% of all my notes.
  • Can't edit attachments in place, for example in Evernote I can double-click a Word attachment, edit it, and save directly back to Evernote replacing the existing file. In Notion I have to download, edit, delete original, upload new.
  • Web clipper is still a long way behind, and only available on Chrome.

So that's a huge list (sorry Notion!). I think success depends a lot on whether or not you use all the features of Evernote. I do, and unfortunately Evernote is still the undisputed king in that case.

 

Yes! This is exactly the feedback I was looking for and even reminded me of some of my other uses of Evernote that I would miss. Thank you for this list!

The lack of text recognition in images is going to bite me (whenever I start really playing with search). That is an amazing feature of Evernote.

I wondered about the "tables as databases" thing and was frustrated with it right off the bat. I don't need a page for every row for simple use cases!

I'm super curious what you were AppleScripting in Evernote! Any examples to share?

 

Over the years I've used AppleScript for all kinds of different things in Evernote. Some of the most important ones have been replaced by software lately.

My big ones are:

  • Automating a regular export-to-HTML of all my Evernotes for backup purposes
  • Using a script in conjunction with Pandoc & TextUtil to let me write in Markdown and convert to RTF. The script would copy all the note text, convert it, and paste it back formatted. Now I just use Evertool bound to Keyboard Maestro keys to make it so much easier.
  • When I was using EN as a todo application, I used scripts to manage my different task notes, like copying unfinished things from my "due today" note, moving them and anything due tomorrow into a new, "due today" note. Those were super fun, but got ridiculously complicated. I finally switched to Things 3.
  • Automatic naming, taging, and moving notes from the inbox based on the content of the note. I'm planning on switching to Hazel for this, because its easy to set up rules based on the content of PDF files, among other things. Probably still need the AppleScript to actually move and file the document though.

Anyway, I'd be happy to share if there's something you'd like to accomplish and I've already done it. I did a lot of experimenting. :)

Edit: If you're on a Mac, you might also like DevonThink. It's at least as scriptable as Evernote, maybe more so. It is much, much worse at basic note taking - it doesn't have anything like Evernote's custom note that can contain everything - but it will accept almost any file, has great search, multiple databases, file indexing...super powerful. Mobile app is kind of a mess, but an update is coming now that 3.0 has been released on the desktop.

 

I've also used Evernote for a decade. But not for my shopping list. I prefer the simplicity off Google shopping list. I like looking over at my Google home speaker and saying Hey Google, add tomatoes to my shopping list. Plus, if I wake up in the night and think of something, I don't have to turn on the light and get my device or a pen.

 

Oh I'll have to look at the Google shopping list! I was doing this with Alexa+IFTTT+Evernote and it was a bit wonky.

Another use case for this (and my favorite): when you're cooking, and your hands are full of food, and you run out of something 😂

 

What are other ways you use IFTTT? Thanks.

I use it for a bunch of different automation tasks. My favorites/most used are:

  • Blocking distractions (with RescueTime's FocusTime) when I start a Harvest timer
  • Ending FocusTime when I stop a Harvest timer
  • Tweet Medium stories I clap for
  • Save Facebook photos I'm tagged in to my phone
 

Thanks for this writeup Jenna! I've been playing with Notion as well, switching from OneNote. I'm not nearly as integrated as you, I mainly just use it for organizing thoughts and notes...

Honestly, I don't really use OneNote that effectively, as things are scattered between txt documents on my desktop and Google Drive docs as well. Notion doesn't quite replace them effectively for me. It's better than OneNote at organized notes, but it's too slow for the quick stuff that I would put in my txt scratch files, and it's not quite accessible and searchable enough for what I put in Google docs.

Not sure what to change ATM.

 

I totally hear ya, Todd! Thanks for sharing your use cases. I will likely still have some scratch txt files too. I don't think this will replace Google docs for me either. My use case for Google docs is mostly client-specific docs or actual documents when I need full-blown spreadsheet features, etc.

 

I feel your pain! I've tried Evernote and OneNote. I somehow found out about Zoho Notebook and have really liked it. I'm not in with both feet yet, but it's looking really good. I'm thoroughly entrenched in the Google garden right now, but if Zoho's other apps are well-integrated with its Notebook, I might fly away! Plus, I think Zoho apps are Zapier enabled!

I will be checking out Notion, though. When I saw the folder structure, I was like, "Where have you been?!" Then I thought Google drive might also be a possibility.

Thank you for sharing your experience!

 

I'll have to take a look at Zoho. Thanks for the tip!

 

I found it was difficult to move pages from one list to another. I’d lose properties that were unique to one database.
Needs to auto merge or have a global property system, for sure.

 

Would you be willing to share you conference/CFP list?

 

Upcoming (still open):

  • JSConf Hawaii
  • NDC London

In the past/no longer open:

  • CT Web Dev
  • VueJS London
  • NDC Sydney
  • Frontend Con
  • Cream City Code
  • NDC Oslo
  • Midwest UX
  • Minnebar