WHAT THIS POST IS ABOUT. It’s about an innovative app that helps me manage a heart condition.


I’m obsessed with Notion, the self-professed all-in-one workspace, where you can write, plan, collaborate, and get organized. That’s easier said than done as I found out.

But hang in there: Notion is well, well worth the effort. It can work for nearly everybody — from a tech neophyte to team members just wanting to get a job done to coders and techies.

My False Start

I downloaded Notion after its launch in 2018(?), was initially impressed, but couldn’t quite figure out how to make it work for me — a common complaint I’ve seen made by others new to the app.

I can do so many things with Notion. There are dozens of choices and possibilities to collect, organize, and present information. How do they differ? What works best? It’s paralyzing to start.

My problem has always been, and still is: How do I collect, organize, present, and use a suffocating amount of data?

Me

I set Notion aside, disappointed, and decided to give it time — all the while my subconscious was ruminating on how I could use it. It has so much potential I didn’t want to let it go. Then, one day, my heart blew up.

What is Notion?

I’m not going to get into the intricacies of what Notion is or how to use it. There are hundreds of blog posts and YouTube videos explaining the app, how to set it up, how to use it, what templates are, and so on.

I do (heart) Notion.

Francesco D’Alessio (Medium), the very happy fellow who runs the KeepProductive website and YouTube channel (subscribe), does a fantastic job of this, as do others on YouTube. Spend time with Francesco. He’ll show you the way.

Suffice to say Notion is a place for individuals (and teams) to take notes, do some writing, make lists, plan projects, set up spreadsheet-like databases, and collect and organize information to your heart’s content.

If you use Notion to its fullest, you really can replace multiple applications (or services) and clean up your digital life enough to please Mari Kondo.

I’ve been testing and using desktop software since the days of 300-baud modems, bulletin boards, Lotus 1-2-3 and XyWrite. I’ve been futzing with iOS apps since the introduction of the first iPhone and the App Store. But now I’m worn out with too many amazing choices.

Notion, however, is the first app I can truly say I’d give up multiple apps and services for, and I’m actually excited to use.

All thanks to my heart.

What to Do?

At the end of 2018 my heart nearly, literally, blew up, landing me in the emergency room with a heart rate of 300 and supraventricular tachycardia. Six weeks later I was back in the ER after a stroke (not a TIA).

Prior to these episodes, I had been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, a condition I’ve lived with successfully for more than 20 years. Through the years I’ve collected heart-related data and experiences in all sorts of solutions — first with paper notebooks, then Excel spreadsheets, digital notebooks on a laptop and local hard drives, and finally on mobile “apps” with info stored in the “cloud.”

This data collection only got worse when I started using the original Apple Watch to track my heart rate using apps such as Heart Watch. Suddenly I had constant access to information previously only available to me at the doctor’s office — and even then I rarely could take it with me.

HeartWatch, paired with the Apple Watch, provides an amazing amount of information.

After the supraventricular tachycardia and stroke events, my lovely wife upgraded me to the Apple Watch Series 4 so I could use the ECG function and app which, of course, has generated even more data to consider.

(Aside: I plan to post about using the Apple Watch, wearables, health and technology, apps, and how I use these with Afib, but that’s not the focus now.)

My problem has always been, and still is: How do I collect, organize, present, and use a suffocating amount of data?

And that’s when I thought of Notion.

My Return to Notion

As I’ve already stated, I am not going into great detail about what Notion is or how I even use it, except to say . . .

Notion is organic. It morphs as I discover my needs and what works for me, both in my life and in the application. I want to add this information . . . I want to see it this way . . . I want to add notes here . . . My needs change . . .

After several false starts, I created a Health & Well Being “dashboard”, where I’ve linked to separate database pages for Heart Rate, ECG and Afib, Blood Pressure, and Health Notes and Observations. On the same page, I have links Doctor Visits, Medications, Health History, and Irregular — the book I’m thinking of writing about living with Afib.

It’s easy to add, delete, move around databases, pages, whatever, according to my needs and mood.

Amazingly, I can see a big picture view of all of this and be only a click or two away from drilling down into a table of Heart Rate values or a query away from filtering and sorting the data into particular views to show a doctor at my next visit.

My information is more than hash-tagged text documents and spreadsheets stored in folders on a local hard drive or in the cloud. It’s snippets of random text, info rolled up into toggles, bullet and to-do lists, full and inline databases, Kanban views, images, media files, embedded web links and bookmarks, wiki links sprinkled throughout Notion, and attached documents. I can change this structure at any time if something isn’t working for me.

To give you an idea of Notion in action, I just now called my cardiologist to pass along an observation I made regarding a new medication the doctor has me taking. Not long after I started taking an Afib-specific drug, I noticed my daily average heart rate was increasing, while instances of Afib were reducing.

Over a two-week period, I input data from the Watch into Notion and added how-I-was-feeling-at-any-moment observations. As a result, a picture or trend emerged. Is it a good one? Is it not so good? I had no idea.

With Notion on the screen in front of me, I called the doctor’s assistant and asked. Why not? The nurse called back an hour later and said, “He (the cardiologist) wants you to wear a heart monitor for 24 hours to see what’s going on. Maybe there is something we don’t know about.”

Until then . . .

Thanks, Notion.

I (heart) you.


See Also: Your Watch is Correct

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