This week I have been kicking around some ideas around reducing the friction of capturing notes and whether or not it makes sense to try and put everything into one tool, or is it better to use several purpose-built tools.
I’ve noticed that friction related to note capture makes a big impact on my note taking habits, or lack thereof. Many times when I’ve been reading a blog post or watching a video I have wanted to take a note, but didn’t because I didn’t want to take the time to figure out where it needed to go in my existing note collection. Many times I don’t have the time to refine and curate my notes when I want to add new ones. I think I need to separate the action of taking notes from the action of refining my notes. Capture needs to be quick, easy, and puts me in a good position for further refining my notes at a later time. Then I need to work on reviewing and refining my notes at regular intervals so that my notes don’t become a digital junk drawer.
To support easier capture I’m working on a couple of different strategies. For notes that are related to a larger project, I want to create those notes within the context of my project. That keeps all my project artifacts grouped together for the duration of the project, and afterwards I can incorporate some of those notes into my general knowledge base. For notes that aren’t related to a project, I want to capture them in a daily journal note, or a global inbox. That one needs to more experimentation so I can figure out which of those two options will work best for me.
I’ve been reading and rereading this article by Fernando Borretti, “Unbundling Tools for Thought”. In the article, he talks about futility of trying to find a single, all-encompassing knowledge management tool. If you’ve read my blog posts or the last several months, this is obviously a topic that resonates with me. I think many people, including myself, really like the idea of having all of their stuff in one giant knowledge graph where everything is linked together. In reality, I think, you end up with a tool that does one or two things well, but does a poor job with managing everything else. For example, I think Obsidian does an excellent job of managing notes, but is pretty lousy for managing task lists and personal collections. I’ve noticed a huge difference between trying to manage a task list in Dendron vs. using a purpose-built tool like Todoist. Another area where this makes a lot of sense is in publishing parts of my knowledge base publicly. While I want to publish my notes and blog posts on the internet, I don’t want to share my contacts and other sensitive information with the world.
However, there are a few areas where I think integration will be needed. If I am managing a project in several tools, Dendron for notes, Todoist for tasks, etc., I would like to see a holistic view of the project. That will mean pulling information form each tool and combining it into some sort of report or dashboard. Returning to publishing, I may want to include information from multiple systems in a published version of a digital garden. These two scenarios are definitely doable, but they need to be addressed at some point in order to make this multi-tool strategy work.