I’m obsessed with neat planning solutions. I’ve run through dozens of apps and a handful of paper calendars in the search for the holy grail of work organisers. In Notion, with all its customisability goodness, I struck gold. In this article, I’ll share my thoughts on what makes a good lesson planner and how I set up Notion to meet my criteria.
What is Notion?
Imagine a Frankenstein hybrid of Excel, a note-taking app, a calendar and a to-do list. Got it? Good. That’s just covering the basics of what Notion can do. Notion lets the users themselves come up with how they want to combine and ultimately use the app’s features. Want to create a recipe book combined with a meal planner and shopping list? Go ahead. How about a habit tracker, journal and goal list? Easy peasy. Intrigued? If you want to check out some of the different use cases people have come up with, check out the templates shared by the community. Let’s move on to the teaching planner!
What I look for in a lesson planner
There are three main things that I find essential to a good planner. Starting with the first one:
A calendar view.
If I’m planning a longer assignment that spans several lessons or even weeks, seeing the classes plotted out in a calendar (rather than on a list) makes it easier for me to get a sense of how much time is being devoted to the assignment.
The option to colour code entries.
I love colour coding. It gives me an effective visual representation of what needs to be done as well as what I’m done working with. I divide my entries into three colours:
- Red — to be planned
- Yellow — planning.
- Green — planning done.
With just a glance at the calendar, I can see where I need to turn my attention.
A list view that may be filtered to show entries by subject
Yes. I wrote earlier that the calendar view trumps a simple list, but if I want to plan ahead for greater parts of a semester, flicking back and forth between months and weeks in the calendar becomes quite tiresome.
Enter the list view. Having a list where I can filter out all of my classes except one lets me see the total number of lessons of the semester and make a rough outline of the term.
The Calendar View
This is what it looks like. For the purposes of this instruction, I’ve filled out four different classes — English, Chemistry, Biology, and Geography — over the span of one month. As you can see, the first week is marked green so well done me. Preparations are done, just got to head off to teach. In the following week, I’ve marked some classes as yellow, meaning I’ve begun planning for them, but they still need some work before being finished. The red ones are left untouched, i.e. I have to get going on those.
A Calendar Entry
This is what a calendar entry looks like. I’ve prepared a template for all new lesson entries. I’m not always too diligent when filling these out. Sometimes, I produce a short novel worth of planning, bullet points, and notes, but most of the time I just jot down a few pointers. Use it as you see fit.
Adding a lesson
To add an entry to the calendar, simply click on the plus sign on any given date. Doing so will present you with the following screen:
From here, if you feel like following my setup to a T, click on ”???? Template”. From there, your lesson is added to the calendar to its corresponding date and you’re pretty much set to go.
If you’ve got more than one lesson on any given day, I strongly recommend you enter a start and end time for the lesson. This way, Notion will sort the entries accordingly in the calendar. To add start and end times, click on the ”Date” field and then tick the boxes ”Include time” and ”End date”. Hey presto!
The List View
To access the list view, click on the ”Table” view located just below the ”Planner” title. Once there, you will be presented with a jumbled mess of all your entries. Yikes!
To clean things up a bit, you can filter entries by clicking on the ”Name” button. This will present you with a search bar. Type in the name of the lesson you want to see.
A note on more advanced list views
I previously assigned each entry with tags for the corresponding lessons, which allowed me to sort the list view by said tags instead. This allowed me to bring up several different lessons on the same list. I changed from this method however as I found it simplified my workflow by just typing the names of the lessons in the title box. If, like me, you enjoy geeking about in Notion, you might want to give this a go if you find it suits your needs.
Don’t feel like reading? In this video I briefly explain how to use the planner:
Where do I find the template?
This link will take you to the template. To move a copy of the template to your own Notion account, press the ”Duplicate” button in the upper right-hand corner.