I'm a Christian, a designer, and a gadget fan who lives in Cheltenham, UK.

This is my blog, a creative outlet to mess around and play with as well as a place that logs my thoughts and inspirations.

A tool for thinking

Yes­ter­day as I was sat on my sofa watch­ing the Sunday morn­ing church ser­vice on You­Tube I had my Mac­Book Pro open on my lap to make notes in Obsidi­an. After the ser­vice had fin­ished I spent a few minutes to tidy up some format­ting and make sure the cor­rect bible verses were being ref­er­enced, I real­ised how much I am enjoy­ing using the app. It got me think­ing about why.

Over the course of the day it slowly dawned on me what it is that I like about it. It doesn’t tick all the fea­tures I was hop­ing to find in the my notes app, but it does tick one that I didn’t list before. It is a tool for think­ing, and really that’s what I’ve been look­ing for.

Eph­em­er­al notes still go into Obsidi­an through my daily notes, and where appro­pri­ate they are linked to pro­ject notes, but I’ve found that I’m cre­at­ing notes about sub­jects that I am think­ing about or try­ing to learn more about. Look­ing at my Obsidi­an graph I see some small clusters start­ing to form. There is one about note tak­ing itself as I read around the sub­ject of ever­green and atom­ic notes; there is one around habits and routines; and there is a lar­ger one form­ing related to my work and cur­rent think­ing about the concept of Min­im­al Viable Products (MVP).

As I’ve been look­ing into these dif­fer­ent applic­a­tions and their fea­ture sets, I’ve been exposed to some ideas about note tak­ing that I had nev­er really con­sidered before. The concept that a “notes” app can be more than a scratch­pad used through­out the day but a tool for think­ing has con­nec­ted with me. Really it is not a notes app but some­thing much more use­ful and import­ant. I guess this is why many people refer to these tools that I’ve been explor­ing as Per­son­al Know­ledge Man­age­ment (PKM) or their second brain. I’m not sure either of those terms sit right with me, I think they are more than that. I am not purely gain­ing know­ledge by using this tool and it’s not think­ing for me like a second brain should, but I can use this tool to see con­nec­tions between ideas. It forces me to dis­till con­cepts down to man­age­able chunks so that I can form my own ideas from them. This is why I’ve begun refer­ring to it as a tool for think­ing and why it’s start­ing to become a key part of my cre­at­ive pro­cess. Time will tell if it lasts.

The notes app quest continues

I’ve been con­tinu­ing to seek out a notes app that works for me as well as I would like it too. A couple of weeks ago I pos­ted about what I’m look­ing for and since then I’ve been giv­ing a couple of the con­tenders a try.

When I wrote that post I had been using Craft for around a week or so. It’s a very good app, I like that it is nat­ive on all my devices, has good short­cuts sup­port and is a pleas­ure to write in. It lacked a couple of the fea­tures on my list out of the box, but a quick short­cut was able to fix the lack of a daily note and I was hap­pily on my way giv­ing it a run through it’s paces.

Hav­ing been forced into a week off work thanks to some strong side effects from my Cov­id vac­cine, last week­end I star­ted to play with Obsidi­an to see how it worked. Ini­tially put off by it I found a theme that makes it look and feel a lot more like a nat­ive macOS applic­a­tion. So last week I star­ted giv­ing it a run through it’s paces. It’s lack­ing a first party iOS and iPa­dOS app at the moment, but one is in beta and seems to be devel­op­ing quickly and since there’s nowhere to go at the moment it’s not the end of the world.

I intend to give Obsidi­an a sim­il­ar amount of time to Craft and then I’ll try to make a decision. There are a few things about Craft which star­ted to really annoy me before I decided to give Obsidi­an a try, and I’m sure there will be some things about Obsidi­an that annoy me as well. 

So far Craft feels bet­ter placed for meet­ing notes and cap­tur­ing tasks along the way. It’s abil­ity to eas­ily send some­thing to Things is great. In con­trast Obsidi­an seems to handle ref­er­en­cing and embed­ding blocks more effi­ciently. Craft can do this but I ended up hav­ing some real dif­fi­culties find­ing blocks I wanted to ref­er­ence and once I had figured out the syn­tax that Obsidi­an uses it made a lot more sense. Both apps have their strengths, I have a feel­ing it will be about refin­ing how I take notes and which one will handle that.

The Week in Links

This weeks edi­tion of The Week in Links is packed with some great reads and a stun­ning video. It cov­ers note­books, Ant­arc­tica, work­spaces, focus, learn­ing and a stun­ning piece of brand­ing. Grab a cof­fee, beer or glass of wine and sit back and enjoy.

Sakura Quick Math ›

Because the iPad is only for con­sum­ing right? You can­’t use it for pro­duct­ive tasks, like maybe improv­ing your maths, or teach­ing your kids in a way they are used to. This app looks great, I’m sure I’d have enjoyed maths more had I been able to learn it in a more relaxed fun way.

Maturity And Relaxed Productivity by Randy Murray ›

When you hes­it­ate, feel pres­sure, that’s an indic­at­or that you don’t yet have the matur­ity that you need. After you fin­ish the task at hand, step back and see if you can learn more about your task or activ­ity. That’s the first sign of matur­ity. The next step towards matur­ity and mas­tery is the dawn­ing recog­ni­tion that you don’t really know what you’re doing, you don’t under­stand the fun­da­ment­al issues, and the recog­ni­tion that you can grow, learn, and change.

I love design and am thank­ful that my job is always push­ing me. The pres­sure that I do feel at work is on the bits that are out­side my com­fort zone, the bit’s per­haps I don’t like doing but have little choice but to do. This quote from Randy just hit home, when you do some­thing most days but still feel like you’re bat­tling with it, take a step back and try to under­stand why, then prob­lem solve.