What problems are you trying to solve with personal knowledge management solutions?

What problems do you have with personal knowledge management that you need tools or workflows to solve?

I’m really interested in cataloging here the different use cases people have for PKM solutions. I imagine each domain or discipline of knowledge will have different needs.

For me as an academic researcher, my biggest need is having a way to collect the knowledge contained in different resources (articles, books, seminar, conversations) in a way that allows me to (1) easily retrieve knowledge in the future and (2) make novel insights by synthesizing the knowledge I collect.

@metaraine @thomasteepe @msteffens @lizardmenfromspace

I think the biggest issue isn’t particularly knowing what tool to use, but instead what is the right workflow or strategy for taking notes. Questions like “what is actually worth taking notes on in a book?”, “To what level of interconnection should ones notes be?” The make novel insights by synthesizing the knowledge collected is also a good one. Another one would be, what is the best use of time when it comes to note taking and reading?

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My main goal is to construct a problem solving method for “suitable” problems (those you can tackle with pen and paper). The most promising approach I’ve found so far is a combination of the following three elements (I know I’m repeating myself - my apologies):

  • a method of concatenating smallish units of thought - basically, I produce a sequence of 3x3 or 4x4 small mind maps or diagrams or text boxes on an A4 sheet in landscape format, and I collect the relevant insights from several such sheets on summary sheets for different topics,
  • a collection of problem solving tools, and
  • a zettelkasten system for managing the insights.

In my view, a framework of this granularity offers a large number of options - for zettelkasten organisation, sheet layouts, unit representations, unit layouts, basic thinking processes, thinking tools, ideation stimuli etc., making it flexible enough to adapt to very different styles of thinking.

Here are some of the issues I’m struggling with:

  • What main processes can help drive my thinking forward?
    (Example: An alternation between “constructive thinking” and “reflective thinking” seems to work well for me, but does not cover everything.)
  • Which thinking tools can help generate goals or relevant questions or relevant ideas?
  • Which tools can help me stay on track when working on a larger problem or question?
  • What are clever processes that connect “engagement notes” (work-in-progress scaffolding notes) and “memory notes” (summaries)?

@Alex: With regard to “(2) make novel insights by synthesizing the knowledge I collect” - could you give some hints about the processes you are using?

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The problem I’m trying to solve is that there are too many interesting things and I don’t have enough time to learn about them all. I’m trying to figure out if it is possible to get a computer (or bunch of computers) to help me track topics of interest to me, and help me make sense of all of them and prioritize, research and study to get the most benefit out of my limited time.

I’m intrigued by GTD. It seems like a pretty good approach and I agree with the fundamental concepts upon which it is built, I think. “The mind was not created to store ideas, but to create them.” I think that’s a pretty good reconstruction of what David Allen says.

One of the first steps of GTD, as I recall it, is to get the clutter out of your mind and into some kind of trusted filing system. I’ve been working on doing this for many years now, and I have a bunch of items in my systems of record. I need to organize and prioritize them.

I’ve been collecting browser bookmarks for things that interest me for many years. I have several thousand browser bookmarks. Every day, Google suggests a bunch of things for me to read, on my phone. I try to scan through some of them, but I bookmark the ones that I’d like to know more about, but don’t have time to study at the time that I discover them, so the pile of bookmarks is growing on a daily basis.

I have subscribed to company and organization newsletters and blogs, as well as special interest forums. All of those are sources of interesting information and links to related sources of information and data. This is another source of more browser bookmarks, if it is processed.

All of these, and many more are sources of information, which I would like to learn more about. I’m seeking a system where I can dump all this information, or better yet, point it at the information and have it sift and sort and organize the information, into a format that I can easily know everything that I know, about a subject, and ask it to go find out anything that I would like to know about, based on what I already know.

Once I’ve got the information organized, I’d like help in locating the information that will allow me to be the most productive and make the best use of my time. I don’t know how to do this, but I’m hoping I can find or create a system which will point me in the right direction, based on some, yet to be determined input parameters.