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.
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.
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.
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.
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.