Obsidian PKM Personal Knowledge Management

My Current PKM Stack

My PKM Stack as of September 2023

I’m enrolled in cohort 2 of Mike Schmitz’s Obsidian University. Mike is an excellent educator and he’s developed considerable expertise in Obsidian. His first two sessions are deep dives into setting up a personal knowledge management (PKM) system. The first session was about philosophy, the second about specific tools he uses/recommends.

I’ve been using Obsidian pretty heavily since I first started playing with it in May 2022. I’ve got lots of notes collected and have a workflow that’s been working for me in terms of capturing information I want to think about later. Here’s my basic workflow:

  1. I’m doing all of my browsing in Safari on Mac, iPhone or iPad. I have used Instapaper as my read-later service for years and articles I find while browsing that I might want to save I’ll capture in Instapaper. I like Instapaper’s “clean up” approach – taking all of the extra stuff out of web pages and distilling them down to the essence of the text on the page.
  2. A second source of capture is Feedly which I’m using as my RSS reader and in which I also capture articles to Instapaper.
  3. Sometime later I’ll open Instapaper and read through what I’ve captured. If I find an article I want to add to my Obsidian vault, I will email it to Drafts using its recently added mail drop feature. Once it’s in Drafts, I used an action to save the article to my Obsidian Inbox folder which is stored in iCloud.
  4. Later, I’ll open Obsidian and review my Inbox folder and open each item in turn, add metadata properties to the top (using an Obsidian template that I’ve created), and – once I’m finished editing it – I’ll move the note to my Zettlekasten folder in Obsidian which is where I store all of my notes.

That’s it.

I also use Drafts from time to time to just capture text that I either write or dictate – and process that later in the same fashion.

What I’m still trying to figure out how to do better is taking advantage of the notes I’ve captured – revisiting them, summarizing them, using them as the basis for a new note or a blog post, etc. In other words, creating some useful output from all of the input I’ve been adding. This is very much a work in progress!

By the way, sometime that’s important to learn before or while you’re learning Obsidian is the Markdown text format. It’s a simple, easy to learn way to “markup” text and it’s important to become fluent in using it with Obsidian.

Note: in addition to Mike Schmitz’s Obsidian University, I’ve also purchased David Sparks’ Obsidian Field Guide which is also a useful educational resource for learning the ropes of Obsidian.

AI AI: Large Language Models Claude

Projects vs Efforts

a person typing on a laptop
Photo by Daniel Thomas on

As part of his introduction of the new Ideaverse sample vault for Obsidian, Nick Milo has focused on the difference between projects versus efforts – and has settled on using the Efforts name for one of the folders in his new ACE folder structure. Efforts are different from projects and Nick believes that name is better suited to be part of a PKM system. In his fourth video introducing Ideaverse Nick Milo noted: “Why do some projects get done, and other projects get stuck? It might be because projects don’t work well with ideas.”

Of late I’ve enjoyed bouncing ideas around with Claude, the chatbot from Anthropic. I asked Claude to help me understand the differences between projects and efforts by writing a musing on that. I found Claude’s response quite useful:

Projects and efforts both require time, energy, and focus to accomplish something, but they have some key differences. 

Projects are more defined, with a specific scope, timeline, and set of objectives. They have a clear beginning and a desired end result. Efforts are more open-ended, without rigid parameters. An effort may continue indefinitely as part of an ongoing process.

Projects follow a linear progression, with planning, execution, and completion phases. Efforts evolve organically, with starts and stops, detours, and gradual refinements. Projects aim to produce a deliverable, while efforts may have less tangible outcomes.

Projects can be handled individually or by teams. Efforts often involve loose collections of people contributing in diverse ways over time. Projects have project managers overseeing them. Efforts lack that formal hierarchical structure.

When projects finish, they are done. Efforts may pause or change direction, but they often persist in some form. We celebrate project launches and project completions. Efforts reflect continuous investment without fanfare.

Both projects and efforts require diligence and group coordination. But projects allow for more top-down control to keep work narrowly defined. Efforts rely more on bottom-up participation, following passion and drawing in a wide base of support.

In essence, projects impose structure on objectives, while efforts supply energy to ambitions. Both are vital and mutually reinforcing. A singular project can advance an expansive effort, just as an ongoing effort can spawn many delimited projects over time. By balancing closed-ended projects and open-ended efforts, we can direct our limited resources toward achievements with lasting impact.

AI AI: Large Language Models ChatGPT Link-based note-making Linking Your Thinking Note-making Obsidian

Link-based Note-making

Update: see my more comprehensive review of the Linking Your Thinking workshop.

I’m currently immersed in Nick Milo’s 11th cohort of his Linking Your Thinking workshop, and I must say, it’s been an enjoyable experience so far. This workshop has proven to be an excellent opportunity for me to refine my skills using Obsidian as my primary tool for capturing notes and thoughts. Moreover, it has provided me with ample time to engage in deep thinking and establish connections between various concepts through note linking.

This week in the workshop is dedicated to “AI Week,” where we delve into the realm of artificial intelligence to enhance our thinking processes. One fascinating aspect has been our exploration of generative AI chatbots such as Google Bard and OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Yesterday, we had the privilege of an expert session with Jeremy Nguyen, who has honed his expertise in leveraging multi-step prompts with ChatGPT to engage in interactive conversations with selected “mentors.” The intricacies of his process were truly captivating!

I was up early this morning and playing a bit with ChatGPT. I had come across someone else who had put together a prompt like the following to generate some pithy one-liners that he could use on Twitter to stimulate interest:

Create 35 one-line statements that sound motivational and inspirational but are really just platitudes that have very little intellectual value. They must be original and not quotes.

I modified a version of that prompt as follows:

Create 15 one-line statements about the power of link-based note making that are very motivational and inspirational. They must be original and not quotes.

Here’s what ChatGPT generated in response – these one-liners are all pretty good!:

  1. Unlock the limitless potential of link-based note making and watch your ideas soar to new heights of creativity.
  2. Embrace the interconnected web of knowledge through link-based note making and witness the power of ideas intertwining.
  3. Harness the transformative power of link-based note making to create a symphony of ideas that harmonize and inspire.
  4. Let link-based note making be the key that unlocks the door to boundless inspiration and innovation.
  5. Dive into the world of link-based note making and witness how the threads of knowledge weave a tapestry of enlightenment.
  6. Embrace the empowering nature of link-based note making and discover the magic that happens when ideas collide.
  7. Unlock the door to accelerated learning and creative breakthroughs with the dynamic tool of link-based note making.
  8. Let link-based note making be the catalyst that ignites your imagination and fuels your pursuit of greatness.
  9. Embrace the transformative power of link-based note making and watch as your ideas bloom and flourish.
  10. Dive into the ocean of possibilities with link-based note making and witness the ripple effect of inspired thinking.
  11. Unlock the untapped reservoirs of inspiration with link-based note making, where connections illuminate the path to brilliance.
  12. Embrace the synergistic dance of ideas with link-based note making, where each link becomes a stepping stone to greatness.
  13. Harness the creative energy of link-based note making and unleash a tidal wave of inspiration that propels you forward.
  14. Let link-based note making be the compass that guides your intellectual journey, leading you to new frontiers of discovery.
  15. Dive into the realm of boundless inspiration with link-based note making and witness the alchemy that happens when ideas collide and synthesize.

I then remembered having fun weeks ago using ChatGPT to generate poetry – so I tried the following:

Write a poem about the joy of link-based note making.

I got the following lovely response:

In the realm where thoughts do flow,
A joyous dance, a rhythmic glow,
Link-based notes, they intertwine,
A tapestry of knowledge divine.

Each word a vessel, meaning true,
Threads connecting what’s old and new,
Ideas woven, seamlessly bound,
A symphony of thoughts profound.

Hyperlinks, the bridges strong,
Guide us where our hearts belong,
From concept’s core to distant shores,
Exploration, forevermore.

With every click, a path unfolds,
A gateway to stories yet untold,
A web of wonders, vast and wide,
Linking worlds, side by side.

No longer bound by linear thought,
Unleashed, the mind’s expansion sought,
A fluid canvas, limitless and free,
Mapping ideas, effortlessly.

Inspiration sparks, creativity soars,
As we navigate these digital shores,
Link by link, we venture through,
An endless maze of knowledge accrue.

So let us revel, embrace this bliss,
In link-based notes, we find our kiss,
For in the web we’re all entwined,
A testament to the human mind.

My explorations continue!