This article sets out to run a comparison between two of the most popular productivity and management ‘Toolkits’ on the market.
Management and organizational tools are a booming sector, and with more of us than ever working remotely they have become an essential part of many businesses organizational infrastructure.
What is Notion?
What isn’t Notion? Would be a better question, Notion is designed as a complete multi-tool organization and productivity tool that can handle just about any task in a company’s workflow.
By consolidating all the common tasks usually undertaken within a team or business it simplifies and centralizes the separate tools usually required into one platform.
What is Asana?
Launched in 2012 Asana is an online and mobile app designed to help teams organize their workflow and track targets and goals. It Includes reporting tools, calendars, communication channels, file attachments and more.
When we consider Notion, we must look at an overall picture, what it was designed to achieve and whether it succeeds in doing so. It has an ambitious brief, which by virtue of its ever-growing customer base it has largely succeeded in achieving.
Part of the problem that Notion had to address was that sometimes a jack-of-all-trades can end up master of none. Notion have largely avoided this by producing a series of integrated tools that have much going for them.
Here are some of the main pros about using Notion.
For businesses and even for personal use, if you can name a task you wish to perform then chances are Notion has the capability. From writing to Wiki and everything in between Notion has it covered, including: –
It also allows you to build your own custom pages to suit just about any imaginable purpose.
Notion is a bit like a kid’s Lego set. The whole concept of Notion is that everything you do within the platform is by blocks. These blocks are basically your data structure.
Everything you create within Notion is a block, whether it’s a page of text, a link to another page, a gallery or even just bullet points. These blocks are what make up your pages.
Once a block is created you can manipulate in a multitude of ways, they can be moved to or shared with other pages, converted into other content types, flagged as urgent and much more.
It is this ‘unstructured’ approach that ultimately results in this being one of the most flexible platforms available.
Great Note System
Unlike in many systems the notes have full formatting functions, are manageable and searchable and can be created using a host of custom templates that turn them from an easily overlooked text file to something attention grabbing and infinitely more useful.
- Free Version for personal use, with most of the pro-features this is a perfect way of keeping your personal projects and life managed.
- Great selection of templates for creating your pages
- Import Data, upload your own content and embed it in pages
- Multi-Platform works with Android, iOS and Windows and Mac computers
- Flexible Views, view pages contents from different views including calendar view, Kanban and table.
Asana has a great pedigree having been created by a Facebook co-founder and an ex-Google and Facebook engineer that had been tasked with improving Productivity at Facebook.
One of the things I like most about Asana, other than it’s slick UI, is the little animations when a task is done. Borderline addictive.
It is now wonder then that it has consistently been ranked as one of the best team management and productivity tools on the market.
Here we will have a look at some of the pros of the Asana platform.
Great Collaboration Features
A well thought out suite of collaboration features lies at the heart of that Asana system. As well as the ability to assign tasks to individual team members, Asana also lets users track tasks and use hyperlinks to refer to team members within tasks.
Well Designed Interface
For a complex and feature laden system the Interface is surprisingly clear of clutter. It is also highly customizable and can be viewed in calendar or list views. Within these views, filters and criteria can be set to further categorize the data that is viewed.
Great Workflow Management System
Within Asana the workflow system is intuitive to use and at ensuring that relevant and pressing information is always what you see. The workflow within a project is categorized as ‘Today’, ‘Upcoming and ‘Later’.
Tasks are easily assigned using the ‘Inbox’ feature which reduces the email requirements of a team and frees up more time to actually concentrate on the tasks themselves.
Great Support and Help System
A comprehensive knowledge base is supported by video and written tutorials that cover every aspect of the platform.
- Free version available for up to 15 users
- Slack integration
- Tagging System, fantastic for filtering tasks
- Great Keyboard shortcut system
There is no such thing as a perfect solution, every platform has some areas that because of necessary compromises or just badly designed features has areas in which it doesn’t excel. Notion is no different, in this section we will look at some of the cons and drawbacks of Notion.
Limited Functionality in Free Version
The free version is brilliant if you want a life organizer, but over and above that the limitations make it unsuitable for those wanting to organize business or team-based tasks.
As soon as you need to collaborate with other users and use it for team management purposes then it is essential to upgrade to the ‘Team’ package. This cost $8 per team member per month. There is an interim version dubbed ‘Personal Pro’ which as the name suggests is merely an upgrade of the personal package and as such it still isn’t suitable for teams; this package comes in at $4 per month.
The good news is that there are free trials available for paid systems so you can check it out before you commit.
No Lightweight Tables
Every table you create within Notion is a database and this can become over-complicated. With this system every row is a dataset within its own right and has its own attributes and page. Simple tables that don’t carry these attributes are missing.
Not Always Intuitive
Particularly with new users, until you find your way around the software can be difficult to navigate, particularly when trying to apply column filters. However, once you get your head round this then it does become simpler.
Poor tagging and Filter System
Unlike Asana which has a great tagging system in place Notion does not offer such a feature. This can make it tricky to retrieve relevant information. Although the quick find feature is great for finding keywords, there is no search system for filtering by predefined tags.
Mobile App Could be Better
Although the mobile app is fully featured (unlike the Asana one, which we will come to) it does not feel as intuitive as the desktop version and some features that you would expect to be at the forefront are tucked away in menus.
Unreliable Notification System
The notification system that allows users to tag and assign tasks to teammates can be unreliable. It requires Notion to be up and running on the attended recipient’s machine or it doesn’t go through. The email notification system can also be turned off, further hindering the system
When considering the cons in both these systems it is always worth bearing in mind just what the platforms set out to do and whether the pros of having such a complete system in one piece of software outweigh the inevitable cons of the ‘Jack-of-all-Trades’ approach.
Here are some of the cons we have found within the Asana platform.
No Time Tracking
For software that sets out to be an organizational tool, the omission of a feature which allows the time a person spends on a particular task is surprising and disappointing. For billing purposes this means that third party time-tracking software is required, which kind of negates a lot of the platform’s intentions.
No Calendar in Mobile Version
Another surprising omission is the lack of a calendar in the mobile version of the software.
Tasks can only be Assigned to One Person
Many similar systems allow you to assign a task to more than one person, that isn’t the case here. Asana have decided that a task should only be assigned to one person as it clarifies responsibilities.
Could Be More User Friendly
While experienced project managers tend to find Asana a useful and powerful tool, new users can be left feeling a bit overwhelmed at its complexities. To fully utilize the features available, it is in many instances necessary for new users to undergo training to fully understand the platform as it does have a steep learning curve.
No Multiple Workspace Management
Within Asana each team or ‘workspace’ is a separate entity. You cannot see your personal tasks, work tasks or collaborations together. Each requires its own profile with a separate login.
Although the number of email notifications users receive is customizable, the default is to email for absolutely everything. Each task, subtask, comment and status update trigger an email and until you can set your preferences this can be complete overkill.
Advantages that Notion has over Asana
In this section we are going to discuss some of the areas where Notion has advantages over the Asana platform.
Easier to Master
In our view the Notion platform is more intuitive and User-friendly than the Asana platform. Whereas in most instances a user can be up and running and comfortable with the platform in a relatively short period of time, with Asana the learning curve is steep with many new users reporting having been left feeling overwhelmed by the platform.
Notion has more capability when it comes to integration. It can import and export to such platforms as Evernote, markdown, Trello. In the same list Asana can only integrate with Trello. Notion can also export notes to email and export images, which Asana also lacks.
Real Time Collaboration
With Notion it is possible for multiple parties to edit notes and pages concurrently. Each user can also see where each simultaneous editor’s cursor is. Asana does not have this feature, once a note is being edited by a user it is locked to all other users.
Asana seems to have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to integration. Notion has the ability to import tasks from calendars such as Google Calendar and show them within the platform whereas although Asana can export to multiple calendars, its import function is extremely limited.
Advantages that Asana has Over Notion
Better Mobile App
With the exception of the strange omission of a calendar (which will surely be addressed) the Asana mobile app is more powerful than the Notion App. One major factor in this consideration is it is easier to share content from within the Asana app than the Notion app. If sharing is not likely to be a frequently used feature, then this may not be such a large factor.
With a ‘Free Forever’ version that can have up to 15 users and although it has limited functions in some areas, is still a powerful tool. In the free version you can have up to 1,000 tasks per team, unlimited file storage, unlimited activity log.
By being able to break down projects into tasks and assign these with due dates and responsibilities, Asana makes it easier to track accountability across all projects and tasks. Asana issues reminders to project managers and team members to keep everyone on track.
Great Customer Support
Not that the Notion customer support is lacking, but Asana have obviously put plenty of resources aside to ensure that their Support system is efficient and respond quickly to all queries.
Who Should Use Notion?
If you are a single user or one-man band operation then Notion would nudge out Asana, the free version is a simple and intuitive piece of software that will be more than adequate for most people’s needs.
It is also a better choice for those who require a lot of customization. Within Notion just about any operation imaginable is customizable, and although this does mean it needs a bit more effort to set up, if customization is what you’re after then Notion may be the perfect solution.
Who Should Use Asana?
Asana is a better option for teams who are task and project orientated. Overall, it is designed specifically with this in mind, whereas with Notion although it is a function, it isn’t the overriding scope of the platform.
Asana is also better for those with teams to manage and organize and with a free version that supports up to 15 team members it is hard to see past it when considering this aspect.
Which is Better for Project Management?
Pros and cons for both platforms here and so it probably shouldn’t be a deciding factor in this choice. If pushed to decide the Notion would edge it slightly by virtue of having more flexibility and Asana’s inability to cope with multiple workspaces.
Which is Better for Note Taking?
Both are capable note takers, but once again Notion edges the decision. With more formatting and layout options the notetaking functions within Notion are superior to that of Asana.
It is also easier to export notes to emails and make them accessible to other team members within Notion.
Which is Better for Collaboration?
They are both excellent for collaboration purposes, however despite the omission of being able to access multiple workspaces the collaboration features within Asana are slightly better than Notion in this instance.
Although Notion has useful features like Team Wikis, and file sharing, Asana just edges it with its task management system and integration with Slack and Outlook.
Pricing: Notion vs Asana
- FREE Plan (aka “Personal”)
- Personal Pro 4$
- Team 8$
- Enterprise 20$
- FREE plan (Basic)
- Premium 10.99$
- Business 24.99$
- Enterprise (custom)
Conclusion: Our Final Verdict is…
Ultimately, these are fine software that platforms that perform well in just about every field. For each individual function and feature that these tools perform, there are better options on the market. However, as a complete tool with all the individual functions under one roof, there are very few that can perform as well as either of these.
So, if not having to use different apps for different functions of team management and collaboration is what you’re after, then either of these will do the job for you.
I have to be honest here, I use both Asana AND Notion.
Overall, Notion is going to be the better choice for most people, it is infinitely customizable, has lots of clever templates and really is a complete tool. If you are looking for more than just a project and team management tool, then this would be perfect.
For those who are simply wanting to organize workflow and manage teams then Asana is a great choice and for smaller teams will always be free.