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📝 How's your note taking game?
My path into the a world of connected notes.
Hey there 👋🏼
I’m sure that, at one time or another, you misplaced a note and couldn’t find it when it mattered the most.
This happened to me a couple of weeks ago. I knew I read an incredible article in March and wanted to revisit it. The problem was that I couldn’t find it at all.
I knew I saved it in Notion, took some notes, and even added screenshots. However, I didn’t remember the title, tags, keywords, or anything at all.
This forced me to reflect on my own Personal Knowledge System (PKS). I thought about how I take notes, how I save and organize them, and what value I’m gathering from all the notes I have stored.
My conclusion was difficult to admit, but the key to taking a step forward and improving my game. I concluded that for every note that I took, the overall value added to my day was limited:
There’s not a clear connection between notes
I’m not referring back to the information
Searching was complex or quite often impossible
I’ll go through the process and my journey through note-taking.
I hope sharing my journey will help you discover new ways of gathering notes or at least reassuring you that what you use is right for you!
See you in a little bit!
📅 I think we need to talk
I’ve been thinking a lot about this.
I’m going to convert this monthly newsletter into a shorter weekly format.
I’m a big believer in the concept of building in public shared by Austin Kleon.
Since consistency is what I desire the most to work on in the second semester of 2022, I believe that this newsletter is a great example of how I build in public.
I understand that this increase in recurrence will drive some of you away, but at the same time will improve the quality of my writing and increase the value per issue.
For those staying, thank you so much for your continuous support. Let’s move this forward and get more actionable content more often. 💪
For those leaving, thank you so much for being a part of my journey! ❤️
📝 My journey through notes
Let me start with a word of warning.
The idea here is to share my journey in how my note-taking systems have evolved. I’m ignoring, for now, the exact methods or templates I’m using to take notes.
Phase 1 - Isolated notes
I started like everyone, creating a single isolated note tightly coupled to one topic, to one specific and atomic meeting.
Advantages are quite simple to understand: the atomicity of each note won’t let you derail from the purpose.
The disadvantages were only visible to me with long-term usage (over 6 months). It started to be complex to manage my day as I would jump from note to note trying to gather multiple information.
This process didn’t scale as I was creating around 10 daily notes. Before I knew it, I was lost in a ton of single notes, spread across multiple floating windows with no apparent connection.
My desire to improve made me tackle the multiple notes issue while maintaining the atomicity of each entry.
Enter daily notes.
Phase 2 - Daily notes
The idea was simple.
Have one massive daily note, following a specific template that includes sections for journaling, meeting notes, isolated notes, etc.
I’m now able to maintain focus by working on a single note.
Looking at the grand scheme of things, at my PARA system, this poses a challenge as now I have several daily notes containing multiple topics on each.
How could I ensure that I could find anything? My solution for it was a tagging system that merges all the relevant note files together.
For every entry, I would have a project or area-specific tag that allows me to search and merge multiple notes around the same topic.
This is where I was when I lost that article. Except for a specific tag, there was no linear way for me to find anything. And even if I tagged them I could only make conscious connections. Not unconscious.
I thought that it was time for me to elevate my game and move into a world of a connected web of notes, thoughts and ideas.
A way to mimic how our brain works.
Phase 3 - Connected notes
The concept is simple.
Our brain is great at making connections and amazing at holding recent thoughts and ideas. But please don’t count it to hold all your thoughts, ideas, notes, etc for a long time.
For that, we need to find a long-storage mechanism, something that is fast to make connections but that won’t deteriorate with time. A second brain. 🧠
I heard about Roam back in 2020, but I was still head deep into Notion at the time. Looking back, waiting for this long has only made me savour it even more.
Opening Roam you stare at a blank page, a scary blank slate, but before you know it, you start creating a complex and intertwined graph of connected notes.
One of the biggest differences between a system like Roam and one like Notion is that Notion uses a top-down note-taking approach whilst Roam uses a bottom-up approach.
Let me explain. A top-down note-taking approach requires you to actively create connections between notes, whereas a bottom-up method constantly reviews your directory of notes looking for specific keywords, and suggesting relevant connections.
This allows you to create today a note around a specific concept and leverage on annotations you took years ago.
You end up with a beautiful web of ideas, of singular connections that only your brain and your experience would create.
In practical terms, I moved my daily notes to Roam.
I gather notes daily, create new thoughts and ideas, prune unnecessary nodes and make sure my graph stays organised and relevant.
Phase 4 - World Domination
Right now I’m a n00b with this system.
I feel like I’ve discovered fire for the first time. I’m still watching a ton of videos on how to use Roam, reading articles about the best way to optimise the graph and getting informed about the Zettelkasten system.
The next step is to improve my documentation, the organisation of the notes themselves, taking atomicity to a whole new level and eventually officially implementing the dreaded Zettelkasten method.
Obviously, all of this aligned with Tiago Forte’s “Building a Second Brain” line of thought.
I would love to get your thoughts on how you’re taking notes or on how you believe I could improve my own methods.
📣 Top Quote of the Month
Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle, or your middle to someone else’s end.
Let me start with the elephant in the room.
Stop comparing yourself to others.
Now that it’s out of the way… Obviously, you’re going to compare yourself to others!
The key is to stop comparing yourself to the wrong people.
The takeaway here is if you’re going to compare yourself to others, and especially to people who have been doing this far longer and with greater success than you, compare yourself to who they were back when they were at the stage you’re at.
One of the biggest mistakes we do, that powers our sense of impostor syndrome is comparing ourselves to people who’ve been doing this for a long long time, or people who had massive success where we’re only starting.
Don’t compare your 10 months with someone else’s 10 years.
If you're not finding value in this newsletter please consider unsubscribing. There are absolutely no hard feelings and I already appreciate a lot your part in my journey. Perhaps in the future, we'll meet again!
If you are enjoying the newsletter, the best compliment you can make is to share it with one person.
Thank you for being part of my journey!
Have an incredible month! 💪🏼
A Leader's Mindset