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The best content about PKM and journalling that I’ve found

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In a recent post, I talked about the value of consuming content. It reminded me of the vast amounts I’ve consumed about PKM, journalling and wider digital systems.

I wanted to pull together an imperfect, unfinished list of the specific pieces and people who have inspired me, in case something here resonates with you.

So without further ado….

Table of Contents

Ali Abdaal

I think it was Ali’s twitter likes/interactions that first showed me the PKM community on Twitter. He introduced me to Notion and Roam in 2020, and I am forever grateful for that because his engaging content about those apps literally has changed my life.

I read both of these books in 2020/21 as part of my French life Writing module at university. I really didn’t want to take that module but I’m glad I did. Ernaux’s works have changed how I view the world and how I view my world.

I could write whole essays on this but here are three key points I took from her work for PKM:

Notes and journals should be multi-modal, not just text.

L’usage taught me about narrating photographs, and using the combination of text and images to enrich your reflection practices. I do this a lot in my journalling. Images, songs, videos- all of this can be narrated to mean more.

My world (journals, my digital life) needs to be contextualised with information about the world (news, history).

The Years is a fascinating look at Ernaux’s life and 70 years of post-war France in parallel. We don’t exist in a vacuum. Pretty much as soon as I “got” that from her book, I began collecting the essence of the everyday, and that is truly core to my human experience.

Life is messy, journals and notes can be too

Her books don’t feel shiny or polished. They feel real and immersive and that’s what I want my systems to be. No polish needed, just real life.

This is an interesting one because I didn’t really get it at the time. I loved the first chapter but didn’t appreciate the rest. Despite that, its effects are very noticeable in my collection of “essence”.

The first chapter is called the ‘orientation almanac’. It aims to provide ‘plain facts about American life at the beginning of the 21st century, the backdrop against which this book was written’. It enthralled me.

Rosenthal wrote about things I never even noticed- confirmed planets, what we call the other driver when angry, ways we exercise… there’s so much to life, so much to capture and review later. I simply never thought of capturing this before, but that soon changed.

Elizabeth Butler

Elizabeth has such a calming, approachable yet sensible approach to PKM and I loved reading through her content a couple of years ago when I was first on PKM twitter. I bought her book too and it helped me work a lot of things out.

She’s been on a social media hiatus for over a year, but her work has stayed with me, particularly this tweet.

PKM isn’t just notes, and this tweet’s sentiment references that perfectly. Before this tweet, this was something I was feeling but because it didn’t align with all the productivity content I was seeing, I thought I was wrong.

Elizabeth showed me that my thoughts were valid too!

Beau Haan x Rob Haisfield

I resisted watching this video for ages because it’s an hour long, but it was the key in establishing my first sensible, sustainable note-taking workflow.

My understanding of how the information flows from source to “end” product came from this video and its effect is directly visible in my masters note-taking system, which was largely replicating this.

Whilst I’ve moved on from this stricter workflow (since I quit the terrible masters) I can still see the inspiration in my current note-taking process too.

Really worth a watch! Don’t be put off by the mention of Roam if you don’t use it, it’s applicable to a lot of apps.

Bas Grolleman

Bas taught me loads about Logseq and is a must follow for any Logseq users.

I’d never have done a query without Bas, and him showing me queries was the beginning of an understanding of how these apps actually work, and therefore my appreciation of metadata/properties, and therefore one key reason I can explain why I like Capacities so much.

It’s much easier to develop your systems when you can explain what works for you and what doesn’t, and other people’s content is a great way to start on that path. Bas taught me a lot, but this video in particular was key to this.

Dario da Silva

Equally, Dario is another must-follow in general.

He has lots of thought-provoking points but he was the one who showed me I could have an “on this day” query in a note-taking app. This was quite something, and I immediately implemented it into Logseq.

It made me feel that knowing what I was doing on a given day in the past was no longer a memory exercise, but the digital tools I use can help me too.

Brandon Toner’s date formatting in Logseq- timelines

This was so much more than just a date formatting tweet. I loved (and still do love) daily notes, but collecting those notes into bigger measures of time is important to me, and Brandon’s tweet showed me that was very easy in Logseq.

But almost instantly after I changed my date format, I realised I could use this new format to make a timeline in my notes. Most of my notes are about history, and it’s important to have a form of understanding of how things moved from A to B, and a timeline is one good angle for that.

2 years on from this Tweet, I’m still thinking about timelines, eras, and how to take notes about history. It’s probably my most favourite “subject” in note-taking right now. I credit this tweet for laying the groundwork for realising this was even a possibility.

Julian Lehr

I’ve written plenty about Lehr’s work, but this literally changed my brain because it gave me a new term to help me work out my systems and ideas: layers. I’ve even got a section on my website called “multi-layered content” because it opened up so many possibilities for me.

It’s so simple but so useful. I now have multiple different journals in day one, multiple calendars in Google calendar, and of course multiple object types in Capacities. It’s a way of grouping entries by type, and that makes reviewing information (or even just working with it) much nicer. You can view everything together or look at things in layers. It’s been a really useful shift in my mind.

Day one

Google Calendar

This article is amazing, please read it!

This definitely isn’t everything or everyone, but this is what jumped out to me the most today when reviewing my Raindrop bookmarks. I will likely add more parts to this series 🙂 

Conclusion

I’ve learned everything I know from other people from their free content.

It’s changed my life and my thinking, and I’m convinced we’re in a very special community. I truly have no idea what career I’d have right now without it!

What content has inspired you over the years?

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