Over the month of March, my interest veered to the area of personal knowledge management. This was triggered reading a blog post by Mark Bernstein. He is the author of a software tool called Tinderbox. The post linked to a series of videos where users of the tool explain how it helps them in their endeavours. The one by Stacey Mason on goal setting was inspiring - so cool to see how someone is able to set goals for both her professional and her personal life and use those to improve her relationships, her career and general wellbeing. Maybe the most convincing about the whole concept is seeing it in action on this forum. Not only is the video of the event available, but key quotes are also extracted and resources like books, videos or websites to review are there to immediately go deeper or further into a subject.

As suggested in another one of these videos, I read Building a Second Brain by Tiago Forte. It's an easy read without a lot of references all over - just a convincing argument made by someone who's been helped by extending his mind through notekeeping. My curiousity at that point was sufficiently high to decide to give regular note writing a try.

This decision resulted in a slight detour trying to understand which methodology I should adopt, and what tool to use. Keeping in mind the advice that these questions are of secondary importance, I tried to not go too deep in the rabbit hole this obviously proved to be.

The research however resulted in another pleasant discovery: Protesilaos Stavrou's website. Prot as he's known to his friends and everyone else is the author of the denote.el Emacs package. This is the tool I have selected for now, as it is very easy to get started with, doesn't impose a particular folder structure on where to keep notes, and by default uses org-mode as file format for its notes. Prot's a bit of a wizard when it comes to Emacs, and also possesses the great quality of being an excellent tutor. His videos are fantastic to get better use out of Emacs - I recommend giving one a watch.

With a notekeeping system that transcends a journal, the aim of writing is not only to offload ideas onto paper. It is key to also have an ability to refer back to what is written, and be able to build out a train of thought. The idea has been around for ages - John Locke (the 'Father of Liberalism') already wrote about Commonplace books as they were called back in 1685! In more recent times, the slipbox, or Zettelkasten as it's known in the knowledge management world, was found to be a superior system to combine and expand a knowledge base. In current times, software tools like Tinderbox, Roam and various others have made it even easier to be able to trust that what you write down can be retrieved again in the future with minimal effort, and can be combined with other parts of your knowledge base through dynamic search and filter functionalities.

In the limited time I've been focusing on writing notes on matters that picqued my interest, I have noticed an immediate improvement in the completeness of the evaluation of the subject I touch. The simple action of writing down my thoughts is helping me to look at them from various angles much more easily than before. I am curious to find out how this will evolve once I amass a wide enough number of notes to be able to start linking them together, as that's what is supposed to be the reason to take notes in a structured fashion - build insights through combining thoughts and ideas that otherwise are fleeting or remain isolated.