Google Calendar vs Notion: Which is Better for your Workflow?

It’s no secret that Notion has become a popular digital tool over the past few years – a quick search for it on Youtube yields thousands of videos. Most of them praise the app and offer detailed tutorials and aesthetic templates.

But is it better than Google Calendar? Would you use it? Should you?

In this post, we’ll compare Google Calendar and Notion. We’ll go over the strengths and weaknesses of each, so that you can make the best choice for you. After that, you’ll (hopefully) have a better handle on all the things going on in your (personal and professional) life.

Why you should use Google Calendar

Google Calendar is a time-management and scheduling calendar service developed by Google. It became widely available in July 2009.

The app can be used on the web as well as mobile apps for the Android and iOS platforms.

My week in Google Calendar

1. Customization

There’s probably more that you can do with customizing your Google Calendar than I’m aware of, but for me, there are two things that stand out the most.

First, the Google Calendar app is made up of numerous individual calendars that you can create and customize yourself, or that can be shared with you. Some calendars that have been shared with me include a calendar for a community garden that I was a part of in summer 2020, and a calendar detailing upcoming events in my department.

For my own purposes, I set up separate calendars for different areas of my life. For example, I have calendars for dissertation-related tasks as well as one for tasks relating to my blog. I’ve also set up a separate calendar for deadlines, so that they stand out more prominently on my overall Google Calendar.

You can separate your life into as many separate calendars as you want. Right now, I probably have too many, but it’s easy to toggle them on and off, depending on what you want to prioritize.

Second, to make differentiating between those disparate areas of your life easier, you can color-code each of your calendars. There are standard colors available, but you can customize these as well by inputting your own HEX codes.

2. Functionality

Using Google Calendar is relatively simple. When I think of the app, I often think of it as a digital version of a physical calendar that you might hang on your wall or have on your desk at work. Essentially, that’s all it is.

If you’re familiar with putting important meetings, events, and deadlines on a physical calendar, the using Google Calendar should be a breeze.

3. Workflow management

Generally, Google calendar is a really good tool for managing your time.

It’s great for scheduling individual tasks, blocking out chunks of time for those tasks, scheduling meetings, and setting up reminders and deadlines.

As a part of Google Suite, Google Calendar naturally integrates well with other Google apps, including Google Keep and Gmail. Although the video conferencing option defaults to Google Meet, it is also relatively easy to schedule meetings on Zoom and Microsoft Teams through Google Calendar.

Why you should use Notion

Notion is a project management and note-taking software platform that was released in June 2018. It was developed especially for its ability to help members of companies or organizations coordinate deadlines, objectives, and assignments for greater efficiency and productivity.

In recent years, it has gained popularity among students for its ability to serve a centralized hub for organizing notes, assignments, and other academic activities.

My dissertation dashboard on Notion. On the left side is a list of pages and on the right at the top is a black and white image of a woman at a desk, beneath is a graduation cap, a quote, a countdown timer, and links to 'Full Dissertation Outline' and 'Chicago Manual of Style'

1. Customization

If you’re super into customization, then Notion is the app for you.

Notion is compatible with many other apps, including Google Calendar. In this way, Notion can at times operate as a centralized hub for all things work-related, life-related, or both.

While it is possible to insert emojis into Google Calendar, I have found that this is more difficult on a computer than on a mobile device. You can insert emojis easily in the Notion app. I mostly used these to categorize different types of pages.

For my blog content, a light bulb indicated an idea and a paper with a flag indicated a completed post. Similarly, for dissertation writing, a pencil emoji indicated an in-progress chapter and a paper with a flag indicated a completed chapter.

In addition to emojis, you can add images – stock ones or ones pulled from your computer. On the homepage of my dissertation hub, I included a quote and a countdown to my desired submission date.

2. Functionality

Compared with Google Calendar, Notion is considerably more complex in terms of functionality.

In some ways, it requires some planning and strategizing on your part. Because it isn’t simply a digital tool for scheduling, you must know exactly what you want to use Notion for. Will it be a hub for your life, your academic activities, or just managing your dissertation?

There’s no right or wrong answer here – you can use it for as little or as much as you want, if you have strong organizational skills and have a system for keeping things organized.

The easiest way to keep things organized is by setting up pages as smaller hubs within your larger hub.

When I used my Notion for content planning, I had separate pages for blog and Instagram ideas. Within those pages I had more pages for each content idea that I came up with.

A similar application for dissertation writing might look like having a page for each chapter of your thesis, which serves as a repository for reading notes, figures, and other ideas.

3. Workflow management

Notion is a great app for visualizing workflows.

I think the best part about Notion is that you aren’t limited to a single view like you are with Google Calendar. Google Calendar allows you to toggle between schedule, daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly views – but it’s still just a calendar.

Notion has several options when it comes to how you view your tasks. In addition to calendar view, there is also table view, board view, timeline view, list view, and gallery view.

You aren’t restricted to a single view, either – you can view a single task list in a variety of ways. Need to see how many tasks are due on a particular day? Switch from list view to calendar view easily.

Which is better for your workflow?

1. Cost

Both Google Calendar and Notion are free for personal use. Compared with Google, Notion has several user tiers which are available for variable prices.

2. Customization

As I mentioned above, Google Calendar is the digital equivalent of a physical calendar that you might hang on the wall or have on your desk. By contrast, Notion is more akin to a bullet journal – it’s a digital hub for any and everything you want.

At one point, I used Notion as a place to keep all the resources and links relevant to completing my dissertation. Some of the things I had on my Notion included:

  • Overview of the basic rules of the Chicago style
  • Relevant meeting and seminar notes
  • Links to each chapter (on Google Docs)
  • A running list of people who have helped me along the way

At other times, my Notion served as a hub for my everyday life. It included checklists for weekly and seasonal cleaning, links and important information for upcoming funding applications, and links to recipes I liked.

Whereas Google Calendar is really only a time management and scheduling app, Notion can be whatever you want it to be. It can be a time management system as well as a repository for notes, important links, and project management. If that’s what you need, then Notion is the digital tool for you.

For me – as with most digital tools that I try and fail at using – it all became a bit too much. What I covet is simplicity. For me, Google Calendar is about as much as I can handle.

3. Functionality

As with my previous review of word processing software, this one really depends on what you want to do and who you are as a person.

If you really love to create actionable to-do lists, both Notion and Google Calendar can do this.

In Google Calendar, this functionality is relatively basic. All it involves is scheduling a task, rather than an event, in your calendar at the appropriate time and then checking it off when you complete it. Uncompleted tasks roll over for days (and even weeks) until you check them off (or delete them).

Notion takes the to do list a few steps further.

One of the ways it does this is by allowing you to really customize the to do list itself. Each task is linked to its own page with its own sub-tasks. In addition to assigning deadlines for your tasks, you can also assign them to specific categories (like ‘Chapter One’ or ‘History Seminar’ or ‘Teaching’) and sorted in this way.

Moreover, if simply checking off a task from your to do list is not enough, Notion allows you to create Kanban boards to track the progress of any given task or project.

Board view on Notion

Kanban boards visually depict work at various stages of a process using cards to represent work items and columns to represent each stage of the process. There are other digital tools which allow you to organize your tasks in this way – including Monday and Asana – but Notion has this capability as well.

If you like the idea but not the digital tool, you can create Kanban boards by using basic physical materials.

Final Thoughts

In all honesty, I’m more of a pen-and-paper kind of gal when it comes to organizational systems. But I can understand and appreciate that not everyone is like this.

If I had to choose between Notion and Google Calendar, I would say Google Calendar is the better option of the two for me. I have tried (and failed) to make it more aesthetically pleasing. There have also been times when I’ve tried (and again failed) to implement rigid time-blocking. What I’ve come to realize is that I just need to keep it simple. Google Calendar works best for me when I use it solely for remembering deadlines and meetings. It all falls apart when I try to do too much.

But if you really want to up your organization game and get a thrill out of personalization, Notion is the better option for you. I thought it would work for me in theory – I liked the idea of it, but, as with most digital tools, it just didn’t stick.

I think there’s a lot of pressure to adopt and learn how to use popular digital tools – to be more connected, to be more efficient, etc. Trust me, I’ve given into that pressure. But you don’t have to. If digital tools just aren’t for you, keep doing you and ignore that pressure.

It’s probably ironic that I’m saying this after writing this entire post about the pros and cons of two relatively popular digital tools. But what I want to convey is that, even though both systems are popular in academia, there’s nothing that says you must use them.

If you think that both Notion and Google Calendar suck, then that’s okay.

But if you want to give one or both a shot, that’s okay too.

As with my previous post on word processing tools, start with (or only use) the features that you want to use. Just because other people are going all out with fancy templates and organizing their entire lives on Notion, or are developing custom color templates for Google Calendar, doesn’t mean that you have to.

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