ThoughtfulAtlas

Am I overcomplicating my note-taking?

Yesterday and today I’ve been fiddling around with various different apps and workflows - mymind, raindrop.io, and readwise, to name but a few.

It’s easy to get sucked into the app and website rabbit hole, especially if you’re somebody with a short attention span who suffers from shiny object syndrome. (If you’ve not heard this song - listen, and enjoy the earworm for days.)

I’m constantly playing around with my PKM set-up, simply because I enjoy it. That said, I try to keep in mind the following:

“Getting lost in your knowledge management system is a fantastic way to avoid creating things. Or calling that friend you’re estranged from. Or doing anything else even mildly threatening.” (Source: Sasha Chapin)

You need to ask yourself: why am I tinkering with this?

Are you avoiding something?

Are you seeking a dopamine hit? (If so, is there something more worthwhile you could be doing?)

Is there something genuinely broken in your current set-up?

Is it that you’re simply a perfectionist seeking fresh-startism?

So is there genuinely something broken?

What’s the gap in my current set-up? What are the points of not just friction but frustration?

At the moment, there is a gap where I don’t want to write an actual note, I just want to collect something. Whilst yes, there is the risk of the Collector’s Fallacy, often I come across an interesting tweet, factoid, or photo of a manuscript that I suspect might be useful later. I want to collect it for easy retrieval in future, but it doesn’t have a ‘place’ in my Obsidian vault.

My Obsidian vault is for notes where I summarise and connect ideas to each other. I use quotations from almost exclusively academic sources, and my notes are primarily historical research with some philosophical tangents.

I’m not incorporating images unless absolutely essential to illustrating a point, such as discussing how the image of Lady Hagiography in BL Ms Cotton Tiberius A.vii f. 91v shows how a library may have been set-up in the 15th century.

This doesn’t dovetail neatly with ‘oh that’s cool’ when browsing on the internet.

Introducing a bookmarking feature

This is where I’ve toyed with mymind and raindrop.io.

I love mymind but it’s simply far too expensive for me to be able to justify it, so I’ve reluctantly had to look elsewhere. Raindrop.io is a ‘good enough’ replacement, although it doesn’t format quotes in the way I want it to, and the search isn’t as good.

I don’t want to mess around with folders and tags - I want it to be a general sea of ‘interesting stuff’ that I can retrieve from with searching.

Crossing over into overcomplication?

The bookmarking is straightforward and I don’t think it overcomplicates anything.

The risk is that I’ve crossed over into creating a Readwise account and then setting it up to sync to Notion...

I don’t really use Notion that much as I’m not a huge fan of databases that are ‘in your face’ as databases. I hate clicking ‘into’ things to open pop-up pages, and I like tabs or multiple pages open at once. I don’t like blocks. It lags and I generally find it feels claustrophobic to me. Therefore I use it as a repository rather than a workspace - I keep track of major life events, when I’ve had medical appointments, general ‘life admin’ things primarily based around noting down, for the benefit of my future self, when certain things have happened. (I suffer from a severe case of time blindness.)

Am I just collecting highlights and stuffing them into a repository I’ll likely not look at?

Is this just a manifestation of anxiety that I must capture everything, and that losing information is to be feared?

(That reminds me - I have a half-written blog post on that subject.)

I don’t know, is the answer. I’m going to give this a (wary) trial, to see if it actually benefits me in any way or if it breaks my system further.

I’ll try to remember to do a blog post on this in the future...


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