How to get the most out of Notion with Francesco D’Alessio

Francesco D'Alessio - Notion

If you need help understanding how to get started with Notion, there’s no better place to go than the Keep Productive YouTube channel, hosted by Francesco D’Alessio. His high-quality tutorials cover everything from how to set up your workspace and employ its flexible toolset to advanced topics like databases and integrations.

He’s also about to launch a comprehensive Notion course, Notion Made Simple, in April. In 8 modules, it will teach you everything you need to know to get up to speed with this powerful, flexible and sometimes daunting productivity tool.

I recently caught up with Francesco to learn more about Keep Productive and his Notion journey:

Chuck Frey: When did you start the Keep Productive YouTube channel?

Francesco D’Alessio: We started Keep Productive in late 2017, after 3 previous years on YouTube – and a lot of tinkering with how we should host a show like this.

Chuck: What was your goal in creating it?

Francesco: Our goal with Keep Productive is to help people match up to the most suitable productivity software. Whether that’s Notion or Evernote, or Asana or Drafts. We connect people with the tools, help them go deep and then recommend positive methodologies to learn from productivity experts. Think of Keep Productive as your software broker, helping you find the perfect tool.

Chuck: When did you first learn about Notion and what excited you about it?

Francesco: I learned about Notion over lunch with Alex Ikonn. We were chatting about software and he asked, “Have you heard of these guys, Notion?” I had heard a sneak peek of their work, but really not much at all. During the next week, I decided to do a feature on them, and then it blew me away. I was so impressed I used it for 3 months by myself – slowly of course – and then decided to move in on the tool.

Chuck: You publish many videos about productivity tools. How does Notion compare? What makes it unique?

Francesco: Notion has a special place in my heart of course, and sometimes you can see my bias come across. But I try and cover all the tools in the space as equally as I can. Notion has demanded a lot of help for many people – hence the influx of videos. Notion is so very different compared to other productivity tools. Let’s take Trello, for example. It does kanban boards really well, but Notion does kanban great and does so much more. It’s pretty all-inclusive and continues to be.

Chuck: In your opinion, what makes Notion uniquely designed to meet the needs of today’s busy knowledge workers?

Francesco: It’s a combination of two things. The wiki and the interactive databases. The wiki is amazing. It’s like nothing we’ve had before. Evernote was great, but the open-canvas nature of Notion makes the wiki very customizable – and perfect for anyone who wants to design whatever knowledge base they want. The second area is the interactive databases. They are crazy powerful in Notion – and the best thing about it is you can mold any of them to any need you want. It’s like being able to build your own apps from databases.

Chuck: How does Notion support creative work?

Francesco: Notion has a lovely, clean design. It can support creative work by bringing images to the forefront. Two features stand out to me for creative work. Gallery databases for managing recipes, ideas, inboxes, etc. and the editor. The editor is totally under-rated. You can use it as a minimal editor to keep you focused and use the customized style fonts to write beautifully, including images and media.

Chuck: As you have learned more about Notion’s capabilities, what keeps you turned on about what’s possible with it?

Francesco: The API. The next big move is the Notion API – connecting apps like Google Calendar, Email and Expensify-like tools – this will be a big leap forward and will make Notion an all-inclusive tool!

Chuck: What do you have to say to Evernote users who are thinking of making the switch to Notion? What are the pros and cons of that decision?

Francesco: If Evernote works for you, stick with it. I’m still using Evernote. I use it to capture, log information, and to file PDFs and documents. Notion for me is the basis for a wiki. The pros are that Notion provides databases and a toolkit that you can adapt to whatever you need, but it lacks the special note-taking abilities like scanning PDFs, annotation and a structure that Evernote delivers well. So, take a long, hard look before you move.

Chuck: Are there still some things that Evernote does better than Notion?

Francesco: Yes. Totally. it does note-taking in a structured fashion so well! It also has tools like exporting, scanning, inbox, email forwarding, web clipper and docs – much better than Notion.

Chuck: What do you think is missing from Notion? What features or functionality should the developers add to it to make it even more valuable to business users?

Francesco: Notion is missing a specialism in just one area, but it’s not aiming to be that. It fits 80% of all needs. I’d personally love to see calendar connectivity, with Google Calendar and even better task abilities too, more database views and an amazing API, too. For business users, they should just keep building on it – better offline and stronger PDF/scanning abilities would be nice. They basically should just keep it up, they’re doing amazing!

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