• Beth's Musings
  • Posts
  • The Two Biggest Influences on My Current PKM Practices

The Two Biggest Influences on My Current PKM Practices

They changed everything for me

My content will forever be available for free.

If you gain value from my content, please consider supporting my work with a tip 🤩

I have been consuming PKM content for years now and there is a selection of content that I could point to and say “this has massively impacted my systems/thinking/understanding of what’s possible”.

Today I wish to highlight the two biggest influences, as they are most pertinent to what I’m currently doing and how, and therefore they feed into all of my content. This article doesn’t aim to show you exactly how they are influencing my current system right now — as that would be a book-length article — we’re just discussing the influence here, and I’ll publish specific examples later!

So what are the influences?

The first is “The Years” by Nobel prize winner Annie Ernaux (English version, French version), and the second is “Multi-Layered Calendars” by Julian Lehr.

The Years, Annie Ernaux

This tweet sums up my reaction to this book well:

The Years is Annie Ernaux’s memoir (though written in the third person) interspersed with the history of post-war France. I was introduced to it at university as part of my reading list for a French Life Writing module. I didn’t have a fantastic university experience but that module alone was worth it all.

Two things struck me from this book:

  1. The detail with which Ernaux could recall details about her life

  2. The detail with which she described what was going on at a given moment in French history, in a way that made me feel like I was there whilst reading in 2020/21…

For example, this quote about shopping and early consumerism is still so relatable to me now.

It was a different self that did the grocery shopping at Prisunic or the Nouvelles Galeries. From Darty Appliance to Pier Import, the desire to buy leapt up inside us, as if to acquire a waffle iron and a Japanese lamp would make us a different person. The way that, at fifteen, we’d hoped to be transformed by knowledge of the ‘in’ words and rock’n’roll. (122–3)

We still care about ‘in’ words, we still think that buying things could make us a different person (I’m still a bit shocked that my Apple Watch hasn’t turned me into a marathon runner) it’s all so true, but at the same time it’s interesting to see what Ernaux was thinking about as a French woman in the 70s.

This is what I refer to as the “essence of the everyday”. The everyday changes with the times of course, so I just refer to it as “essence”. I think the term “essence” came from a flippant comment my lecturer made whilst explaining something to us, but it’s so accurate.

I decided that I needed to do what I could to collect information that would allow me to make the same sort of observations. Not for publishing, just for myself. In fact, I’m not even sure it was a conscious decision. It felt like there was a life before this book and after, and the only thing I could possibly do after was to try to collect the same type of information so I could give my future self a resource that is in some way along the same lines as what Ernaux has done.

This is a side of my brain that is always on. It’s on when I scroll Twitter, when I walk down the street, when I listen to the words by friends use when we’re talking, when I choose what clothes to wear or the voice I speak to myself with. It’s all part of this big picture of what life is/was like at a given time… the essence of the everyday.

It’s not just a picture of what life is like at a given time though, but what my life is like.

What matters to her… is to seize this time that comprises her life on Earth at a given period, the time that has coursed through her, the world she has recorded merely by living (223, my omission)

I can record what I see about the world, but that also requires me to write about what I’m doing in this world.

In a nutshell, The Years changed my view of the world, and created the need to write things down and collect evidence of my world, and PKM is the idea that allowed me to tangibly start doing that.

After years of doing this, the PKM side can be described as very intentional journalling that purposefully brings other sources in, and adding commentary where I want to.

Currently that’s in Day One but I’m adding more…

Multi-Layered Calendars

The next influence is Julian Lehr’s piece about multi-layered calendars. I last wrote about that here.

To use a term that gets used a lot in my circles (essence), Julian’s article lives in my head rent free. I am always thinking about it. Please go and read it. The graphics are excellent at explaining his points too.

His article created a layer of possibility in my head. It’s something to work towards because it’s a way of thinking about information being related to time that is surely the only way it makes sense to hold information?

It makes sense that a calendar would be the central tool in your system for looking forward and looking back, facilitated through calendar layers.

This has has had three main effects on my PKM thinking.

  1. I want everything connected to a date

  2. I want a way to see how everything is connected to a date across my system

  3. I find myself thinking in layers.

All of this defines how I interact with my system and where I want it to go. Essentially it’s given me a different way to see possibilities and to articulate what I want.

For example, I mentioned layers in my digital system video. I talked about how I like Day One because it integrates with my photos, locations and calendar, which I now view as layers of information on top of the date, and then of course my journal entries are themselves another layer of information, and the words (and my experience of a day) can be moulded or even just evidenced by the content in the other layers. A day full of meetings might explain why I have so many ideas to work on, or a day where I wore a nice outfit might explain why I feel more confident which might have affected other things in my day, my location being somewhere other than home explains why my journal entry is something different to normal... it’s all making up a bigger picture.

image created by me on Canva, clearly inspired by the illustrations in Julian’s article, clearly nowhere near as well done as his!

I wanted to built on this idea so did a system audit and started playing with IFTTT to see how I can connect everything together to a date, and ideally visible in Day One or my calendar. It’s been a really eye-opening experience which I’ll be making content on in the coming weeks.

Sneak peak at some layers I’ve added to Day One

His article has been truly transformative and I can’t see myself moving away from this thinking.

Ernaux x Lehr

What I find more powerful is considering these influences together.

I can use the language I learned in Julian’s article to think about Ernaux’s work in a new way: she is layering her personal story with that of post-war France, in a way so engaging that I was instantly sold on this way of viewing the world and dealing with information. Lehr’s work made me realise this information could and should be connected to a date, and I need to choose tools to fit this.

This explains why I spend time thinking about all this, and why “making space for tinkering” with my system (an excellent turn of phrase in Réka’s recent article) is important to me. I need to make sure I’m on track with my goals because Ernaux and Lehr’s work has been so influential to me that it’s changed my brain.

This is not to say everyone should be this way, we all have our own influences, but the influence of Ernaux and Lehr is in everything I do and therefore everything I publish, so I think it’s important to communicate the influences that define what the PKM in PKM Beth is.

I find it almost moving that if I hadn’t have taken the Life Writing module in which I was introduced to Ernaux, and I hadn’t been scrolling Twitter when Maggie Appleton shared a link to Julian’s article, I might never have heard of these genius writers. Where would I be then?

Super excited to talk more about this and to show some cool stuff I’ve been up to lately (well, cool to me).

What are some influences on your PKM practices? I’d love to know to get more inspired and to learn from you :)

Join the conversation

or to participate.