Spool Five

Personal Notes Management System

Updated [2023-03-28 Tue]

I now use denote for managing my notes.

Much of what I wrote below still applied, except now I use a much ‘flatter’ hierarchy with all my notes (including journal entries and box3 reference notes) in a single directory. I find that denote’s file-naming system allows me to do this without too much trouble.

One additional approach to notes management that I’ve started experimenting with is the Folgezettel method of signing notes.

Previous version of this note

As of May 2022, I’ve started to reorganise my personal notes.

For a long time, the default behaviour of Org-mode and Org Roam worked great for keeping track of tasks and allowing me to quickly insert notes and thoughts. I’ve been using these tools for around a year now. The main benefits of these tools are:

My only problem so far has been on the org roam/zettlekasten side. The main appeal of a zettlekasten-like system for me is the freedom from having to pre-sort and categorise things. In the zettlekasten system, categories and structures emerge naturally through links and, most importantly, they are dynamic. Nevertheless, the problem that I’ve had is that notes can sometimes become ’neglected’. A large number of my notes are still in ‘sketch’ form. I might have written them quickly, with the intent to come back and flesh them out, but I end up forgetting about them. I’ve tried attaching ’todos’ to these kinds of tasks, but they haven’t help motivate me to fill them out so far. To use the metaphor of the digital garden, it’s as if I have a nice patio where I do most of my organising/activity, but the surrounding area, which is the actual, organic garden, has become fallow.

The thing is, maybe that it okay. Maybe it’s fine to have a ‘wild’ notes box. After all, the information is all there and easily recalled, it’s just that when I find it is in an unkempt state.

So, for now, I’m trying to implement a new system to re-organise some of the notes. I sketched out a version of what the new system might look like using Excalidraw on Obsidian.

The main point of the system is to have a more “inhabitable” area of the garden - the public folder /ref. Notes will probably still be rough/unfinished here, but at least it will provide a space where my main task is in trimming/pruning the notes. The other, draft area of notes I can leave relatively “wild” and free. It’s where I go when I don’t want to worry about how things look or are structured, when I just want to get something down. But, wild, sketch-like notes are only useful up to a point, especially as time goes on and you might forget about their original purpose/context.

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