The Pain of Picking The Right Project Management Tool
Updated: Sep 28
Diving into Notion
There are so many project management tools out there today.
It really is hard to find one that's perfect for you. Your friend's neighbor says they like ClickUp and the other one says they like Asana. Your grandma uses AirTable (though, it's not really a project management tool) and your best friend uses Monday.
I can totally understand why some people feel so passionate about their PM of choice.
The thing is not everybody's mind works in the same way.
It is really important for me to review as many project management tools as I can, so that you find one that matches your workflow. And also one that aligns with the way your mind works.
One of the many project management tools out there today, that's climbing its way to the top of the list — Notion.
To be honest, I almost went with Notion when I started, since it has so many capabilities for a small business owner, for a coach, or for a consultant. Absolutely limitless even on its free plan.
So why would anybody use anything else?
Well, the thing is, it's not structured in a way that's right for everybody's mind or way of thinking. You see, the way Notion is set up is that you get an empty “database”, but it is not really a database. What they are really called are pages.
Now pages can be structured in so many ways. On the one hand, it's great because it's like creating an empty text document in Word, or in Google, or whatever word processing tool you are using. You give it a title and then you can either select a template or just start building your page with a table, with a Kanban board, as a list, as a timeline, as a calendar, or as a gallery.
Really. It’s limitless
It’s limitless in how you structure the pages. Your pages can talk to each other and relate to each other. You can also have multiple presentations of the same data.
And that's, I think, where Notion’s difficulty is for a lot of creative workers, for coaches, for consultants, and for people who are not data based, but are creative based. Because Notion is based on data. Let's say you start a board. (A board view is very similar to what you'll find in Trello, or Asana, or ClickUp, and even Monday.) The idea here is you have to select a data source in order to continue.
It's basically asking you, once you create a board view, “what is the data that you want in here?”.
Then it will take data from whatever sources you have and you link it to the data.
You could add new data as well. How do you create new data? Well, you hit +New database in the bottom right corner, once you create the board view then you give headings to the different columns.
This is very similar to statuses in ClickUp or sections in Asana. And then you create cards and cards. These are your tasks. Moving cards or tasks from one section to another is very simple. You can drag them or you can just change the status.
Creating the data sets and the different views of the data is very easy in Notion, but you have to sort of think of it as data and not as like a big project.
Even though it can work with complex projects, Notion actually has some great integrations. It integrates with third party tools like Zapier or Integromat (a.k.a. Make).
Working with Notion is just a matter of switching your mindset from project-based to data-based.
As an example, for projects, it is officially called a page, and the data set can come from different pages. You're importing data from different places and can cross reference it.
Once you have that set up, it's very easy to basically manipulate the data and present it in any way you want to. If you're used to working within a spreadsheet, Notion can be great because you simply import all of the data from your spreadsheet then start playing with the different views.
You can also create regular text pages, but it’s not as easy or smooth as doing so in a word processing tool.
And yet, at the end of the day, I chose not to use it.
Why I chose not to use Notion
The main issue here is that I don't look at my project management tool as a database. For databases, I actually prefer to use Airtable because of the relational way I can set up the different tables and databases, the cross referencing, and the native integrations.
And it's just easier on the eye.
Whereas Notion is a bit clunky. Yes, it looks like a document, but for project management, I don't want a database. I don't want it to look like a document. I want it to look more like a list or a spreadsheet and even on Airtable, it actually looks more like a list than it does a database.
Notion doesn't work for me, but that's just because my mind works differently.
I don't like that it's too clean. I like the colorfulness of the different apps and it's not just the colors. It's actually the UX in general. Notion seems too simplified for me, too bare, which is not to say it is. It's just a personal preference.
Anybody who works with Notion, I applaud them because it really is a wonderful tool.
Some parting thoughts
Notion has some amazing templates of how to structure the data. And that's something that I would highly recommend for you to go through because it can give you a lot of ideas of how you can use the app.
For example, under marketing, they have a content calendar, or even a mood board for your branding. Under their sales templates, they are super organized.. They share a CRM, competitive analysis, and sales assets.
Plenty of the project management tools out there have these templates, but the way that you can view the templates in Notion is so simple without actually applying them. And there's so much to learn just by flipping through those templates. I would highly recommend you to do that.
At the end of the day, I encourage you to pick project management tools based on your brain and the way it prefers to work.
Don’t get caught up in the hype or what other people do.
You know how you work, it’s best that you find a PM tool that fits you.
And the best way to find one?
Sign up for free trials and start experimenting with them.
If you need some more guidance, follow the link below to help you get started:
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