What I Tried: Feb 24, 2024

There are so many drafts I have for blog posts, but enough time usually elapses before I publish them (due to interest, tweaking, or forgetfulness) that sometimes the “point” is lost to time.

For example, I started writing a blog post about how Notion Calendar has made my task management workflow better, noting that, because I can now see events and multiple databases in one view, I could break away from the traditional Notion “best practice” of having only one database for all my tasks. I also surmised that this marked a shift in Notion’s implementation, where it might start doing a better job at aggregating content for you.

This past week, Notion released their new “Home” feature, which shows all your tasks in one view. Similar to Notion Calendar, except this database aggregates content from multiple other databases. It’s a great feature, and speaks to Notion’s understanding that, hey! You probably shouldn’t, or even cannot, have all your tasks (across databases, teams, projects) in one database. It makes more sense to separate them out.

I might still publish that blog post, but there’s many examples of stuff like that where, if I wait long enough, things change so rapidly that what I wrote is lost to time.

Because of that, I want to lean into my constant tinkering (and ADHD) and start writing blog posts about the weird stuff I explored or tinkered with during the week. It’s more timely and doesn’t require polish, especially since a lot of ideas are half explored.

With that in mind, this past week I set out to make an Apple Shortcut to the new Home view in Notion (since you can’t get to it through a home screen widget), when I noticed something: Notion had added two new actions to its Apple Shortcuts integration.

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Where previously, the extent of Notion’s Shortcut support maxed out at “open a page,” they now have two new options: Create a database page, and Open Notion AI.

Man, what could I do with that Open Notion AI shortcut? I don’t even know what to do with Notion AI in general; I would love to use Notion AI more, but I’m not sure I have a good use-case for it. I really like the idea of my workspace becoming an information system that can be conversed with using Notion Q&A.

In practice, I’ve had little luck with Notion Q&A. Asking it to find any common threads in my Lectio Divina database yielded it replying “sorry, I didn’t find anything.” Asking it for more general (ChatGPT-esque) queries also shows an “I’m sorry” message:

Which, I get it! Q&A is designed to return information from my workspace, not from the internet. But here’s why I’m disappointed by this limitation: in order to use Notion AI (and therefore Notion Q&A) in my workspace, I’d have to pay for me and my wife, which comes to about $20/month. ChatGPT also offers a “plus” version for $20/month, and so does Copilot, and so does Gemini… it’s basically the industry price right now.

I haven’t tested Copilot Pro or whatever “pro” version of Gemini it’s called now, but from what I’ve heard, each solution’s Enterprise versions can search your entire tenant (email, files, notes) and compile information based off of what’s in it (Microsoft’s version of this is $30/month, in addition to your M365 subscription, FWIW). Heck, Gemini Free does that with your Gmail. If I’m going to spend similar money on Notion AI, while I don’t need it to have all those “integrations,” I’d at least like it to have the basics offered by free Copilot and Gemini: the ability to create images, answer historical questions, have access to plugins, search the internet, etc.

That was a tangent. I’m very happy to see these actions in Shortcuts. It looks like the AI one might still be under development, as I couldn’t get it to work:

However, I’ve already used Notion’s “Create a database page” to make a “Quick Add” notes shortcut. I was hoping this would also be enough to get me off of the Nautomate app (which is lovely! But another thing to pay for), but it’s not: Nautomate does so much more.

For example, I have a few Notion Automations for things like automatically updating the date of old tasks to “today,” so overdue tasks are always shown on my calendar. The problem with these automations is that they only run based on a trigger, such as “when a property is changed.” There is no “run this at a time” trigger– so, if I forget to update a property on a task, the automation doesn’t run. There will be days where I’m missing tasks that haven’t been moved from earlier in the week, and I’ll only see them show up if I remember to modify something. That’s… a big problem.

My hacky solution? I use Shortcuts to run an automation every morning (at like 12am) that updates one dummy task’s property via Nautomate– which then updates the rest of the tasks. Sweet!

Okay, there’s a lot more I messed with (a new Photomator workflow used as the Featured Image on this post, Block Bindings in the WordPress 6.5 beta, leaning into the Notion All Tasks view), but I’ll share some of those findings next week. I’ll leave you with another Notion “finally,” the ability to rearrange tabs in its desktop app:

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