Get organized: Notion vs. traditional planners for the college student’s lifestyle


Katrina Sanville

A screenshot from Notion, a planner software. Graphic by Katrina Sanville / Mass Media Staff

Katrina Sanville, Arts Editor

Between classwork, extracurriculars and outside jobs, all the while trying to find time for personal lives, college students have a lot to keep track of. While paper planners have been the standard for decades, in a digital world, a new option should be considered as well.
Notion is a note-taking and productivity app and website originally released in 2018, but began to gain popularity among younger generations in 2020. The app offers complete customization to its users, allowing them to personalize their online planner to their daily needs. Whether Notion’s users use the website for academics, work or daily life, each perfectly curated page is personalized to every unique user.
In addition to Notion’s pre-existing pages, templates and databasessuch as tables, calendars, galleries and liststhere are dozens, if not hundreds, of widgets that can be added by third party designers to allow users to add third party data, such as weather forecasts or a Spotify playlist. In comparison to a standard planner, Notion allows its users to create a perfectly curated daily planner for their needs, and in turn, make their lives much better in the long run. As Jason Aten for Inc. writes:
“Notion is flexible enough to build the system that works best for my brain and doesn’t try to force me into its own preconceived, well, notion. As a result, it has completely changed the way I work by making me more organized and efficient.” (1)
However, Notion does have a bit of a learning curve that comes with it. For those unfamiliar with platforms like Airtable and Evernoteor those who areusing Notion can be overwhelming at times. Much like starting a fresh bullet journal, trying to design an individual’s page can be frustrating and exhausting, especially in comparison to inspiration pages on the Internet. Many of these inspiration pages offer templates as well, allowing beginners to Notion to use more advanced users’ designs.
If online planners seem stressful, good old fashioned paper planners do the trick just fine. Paper planners have been used consistently since the mid-19th century (2), and there is good reason they haven’t gone out of style yet. Paper planners have the benefit of being pre-designed to fit multiple different lifestyles and organizational skills. Traditional paper planners also allow for their users to disconnect and get organized for a few minutes each day, something greatly appreciated in a technological world. As Carolyn Desalu for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said:
“Paper planners allow you to take a pause from phones, computers and virtual meetings. Writing things down can feel more intentional and the quiet time can help you focus on what tasks are necessary without multitasking or checking social media for unintended prolonged periods of time.” (3)
However, due to the fact that a paper planner is already designed prior to purchasing, there is little flexibility in how much the average user can customize the planner to their needs. While some planners can be ordered online to suit certain needsstudent planners, teacher planners or planners for workthese too can not only be expensive, but some may also struggle to make it work in their daily routine. Finally, paper planners can be incredibly damaging to the environment, especially to repurchase a new planner every year, so that can be something that can turn users away from paper planners.
At the end of the day, whether your daily organization comes from traditional paper planners or new and technologically advanced online versions, staying organized and up to date on tasks is crucial in having a great semester. If your current format isn’t particularly working, try out another, and if that doesn’t work either, the old model is always there for you with your new insight and knowledge. You won’t know unless you try, and best of luck getting organized!