Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.
Last year, I rediscovered this quote when reviewing David Allen's Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. It suggests that the mind is better suited for generating new ideas and thinking creatively rather than trying to remember and hold onto vast amounts of information. Although the mind is good at recognizing information and drawing connections, it can be terrible at recalling that information.
There have been many times when I read interesting articles or research topics and make a mental note to myself to remember what I learned for future use, only to forget about them when I need them. By capturing and storing my ideas, thoughts, and information outside my head, I can free up my brain to think more freely and generate new ideas without the burden of trying to remember everything.
This information capture process is part of personal knowledge management.
Personal knowledge management (PKM) is the capturing, organizing, and leveraging of one's knowledge for personal and professional growth. It involves creating and maintaining a personal knowledge base, which can include notes, documents, articles, books, and other resources that are relevant to one's work or interests. The goal of PKM is to help individuals become more efficient and effective in their work and personal lives by making it easier to access and use the information they need.
A personal knowledge management system has several advantages:
- Improved efficiency: Individuals can quickly access the information they need, reducing the time and effort required to find and retrieve it.
- Increased productivity: By organizing and using personal knowledge effectively, individuals can make better decisions, solve problems more quickly, and accomplish tasks more efficiently.
- Greater creativity: PKM can foster creativity by facilitating the combination of different pieces of information, leading to new ideas and insights.
- Better memory: By capturing, organizing, and reviewing knowledge, individuals can improve their recall ability and remember important information when needed.
- Professional development: PKM can help individuals stay current with developments in their field, and make it easier for them to share their knowledge with others.
- Self-awareness: By keeping track of what one knows, individuals can better identify their knowledge gaps and take steps to fill them.
Evernote, OneNote, Notion, Roam Research, Joplin, Obsidian.... There are many PKM tools available, and I have used the first three for note-taking but ultimately decided on Obsidian since it suits my current needs and preferences best.
Obsidian is a markdown-based note-taking app that allows users to create, organize and link notes together, and provides a simple way to navigate and search notes. It uses a graph-based approach to visualize links between notes, which allows users to see the connections between different pieces of information and easily navigate through them. It also has a wide range of plugins that can add new features or enhance functionality, such as creating a calendar, adding a task manager, and more.
Obsidian has many features, but the ones that stand out to me are:
- Markdown: Notes are based on markdown and not dependent on specific software. If Obsidian is no longer supported, I can still access my notes with a simple text editor. In addition, they can be accessed without an internet connection since the text files are stored locally on devices.
- Multi-platform: Obsidian is available on Windows, Mac, Linux, and mobile devices via mobile apps, making it accessible everywhere.
- Note linking: Notes can be linked with each other, making it easy to see how different pieces of information are related and navigate through them.
- Tags: Notes can be tagged, making them more easily searchable and organized.
- Search: The search function is powerful and quick.
- Community: There is an active community of users that shares tips, plugins, and other resources, which can help users get the most out of the tool.
The goal of setting up a personal knowledge management system is to organize the information I come across and generate new ideas from them. I like that all this knowledge is available at my fingertips. When I want to access particular knowledge, I can easily search my PKM and find all the information on a topic instead of repeating research. It will save me time, and I can sleep better at night knowing that I'm not losing knowledge gained a few weeks earlier.