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How a project manager, blogger, and parent built his personal knowledge management system with the Calmer Notes method

James built his personal knowledge management system with Obsidian, Raindrop, and Readwise using the Calmer Notes method.

Elizabeth Butler
Elizabeth Butler
5 min read
How a project manager, blogger, and parent built his personal knowledge management system with the Calmer Notes method
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Table of Contents

Introduction to the "Calmer Notes in Action" series

Hello friends! I’m running a new series on my blog, called Calmer Notes in Action. This blog series will help you to understand exactly how the Calmer Notes method works, and the many ways in which it can be implemented.

The Calmer Notes method offers a flexible, personalized approach to crafting a customized, tailored digital note taking system. By design, there is not one singular structure, note taking system, or app used in this method. Every student implementing the Calmer Notes method will end up with a different note taking structure setup.

Since Calmer Notes is designed to be a tailored, customized approach to personal knowledge management, it may be difficult to conceptualize the many different outcomes available after implementing this method– and to realize just how powerful and tailored the Calmer Notes method is.

In the series, I’ll share example setups from anonymized clients (with permission) who have benefited from the Calmer Notes approach to solve their own individual personal knowledge management challenges. Use the "Calmer Notes in Action" series as inspiration for your own system, and to get a deeper understanding of the many different ways that the Calmer Notes method helps people craft tailored, customized personal knowledge management systems to accomplish their goals.

About James

  • Job title: project manager
  • Hobby/side hustle/part-time work: writes a travel blog
  • Family life: married with two kids

Personal knowledge management background and challenges

  • Experience level: expert

Jamie has been interested in digital note taking and personal knowledge management for years. He has he was an early adopter of Evernote, and has tried multiple note taking apps, ranging from OneNote to Roam Research to Logseq. He feels frustrated, knowing that he has years' worth of notes in old systems that he’s lost track of. He’d like to ideally amalgamate all of his notes into one single system, but feels skeptical that he could ever find one system that works for him, given how many times he’s swapped his systems. He is very comfortable with computers, and has even thought about hosting his own wiki to organize his notes, but ultimately realized that he was spending more time on trying to set things up than actually writing notes in his system.

Current work environment

  • Work: PC
  • Home: Macbook laptop, iPad, iPhone

Jamie doesn't feel the need to access his personal notes at work. Moreover, he doesn't have admin privileges on his government computer, so he can't install any local note taking apps.

His main priority is to be able to access his personal notes seamlessly from his Macbook, iPad, and iPhone. He and his family also travel regularly, so he wants to make sure his notes are accessible on during any trips (particularly to support his travel blog work).

What information does James want to organize?

Work

Jamie feels he is already quite organized at work, and has a reliable folder structure set up locally for his work files. His work does not involve him needing to access his work files remotely. He does wish he had a better way to save and search bookmarks related to his job.

Personal

His main concern is his organization of his personal notes. Right now, he has notes and ideas scattered across his personal laptop, phone, some personal notes emailed to himself from his work email account, and a bunch of cloud hosted apps.

Currently, his scattered notes include:

  • Draft posts for his travel blog
  • Links and articles related to his day job
  • Admin details for his family life (such as insurance information)
  • Professional development book notes from books he's read

Goals

After carefully working through the Calmer Notes method, James was able to identify these goals for his personal knowledge management system:

  1. Have one central, organized repository of ideas, links, and drafts to organize his blog writing
  2. Have a better system for collecting and importing highlights from Kindle books he's read, so he can continue to annotate these and find relevant quotes later on
  3. Have one single, separate database of links to articles and resources related to his day job as a project manager

Constraints

James decided that he wanted to be sure that his tailored personal knowledge management system had the following features:

  • Able to add to and access his database of links and articles from his work computer, personal phone, and home computer
  • Access his note taking system on all of his personal devices (Macbook, iPad, and iPhone): he specifically did not want his personal material accessible from his work computer
  • Be able to easily pull up admin notes (such as dental insurance numbers) from his phone within his note taking system, without those notes being annoyingly front-and-center when he wasn't looking for them

Outcome: James' current personal knowledge management setup

Note taking apps + integrations

After reviewing the options in the Calmer Notes PKM database, James opted to go with Obsidian. He installed it locally on his personal laptop, and paid for sync service so he could have seamless access via the iPhone app. He did not feel that he needed or indeed wanted to have access to his personal files on his work computer.

He signed up for a Readwise account to automatically pull in highlights from his Kindle reading into his Obsidian notes.

He uses the Obsidian app on his iPhone to pull in information and capture things quickly on the go, capturing it to an inbox before processing later. He is also able to quickly reference his notes on the go, including admin details as needed.

Folder structure setup

He chose to set up a folder system in Obsidian, rather than tags or bi directional links, as he felt that folders best suited the way his mind works.

He created the following folder set up:

Obsidian Folder Structure

Bookmarks

For organizing his work-related bookmarks and links, he opted to use the Raindrop bookmarks app. To make it easier to capture links, he installed the Raindrop Firefox extension at home, and Chrome extension at work.

He opted to pay for the full premium access, so he could have access to full-text search and permanent library of his links. He has chosen to group his links thematically by folder.

Raindrop.io Folder Structure

Summary

Summary of James' personal knowledge management goals and solutions, as identified using the Calmer Notes method for personal knowledge management

Using the Calmer Notes method, James was able to clearly identify his goals as:

  • Organizing blog post ideas and drafts
  • Tracking reading notes
  • Organizing and accessing life admin notes
  • Collecting and searching links and bookmarks for work

His current setup, customized to meet these goals, consists of:

  • Note taking app: Obsidian with mobile access
  • Extension: Readwise integration between Kindle and Obsidian
  • Bookmark app: Raindrop with browser extensions and premium upgrade for full-text search
  • Organizational structure: Folders structured by project (in Obsidian) and theme (in Raindrop)

Here's how you can implement the Calmer Notes method for your own personal knowledge management system

If you've read through James' journey, perhaps you're keen to craft your own tailored personal knowledge management system using the Calmer Notes method. When you buy the Calmer Notes course, you get instant access to all the course materials to go through at your own pace, on your own schedule.

Wishing you all the best on your personal knowledge management journey!

Calmer Notes in ActionCalmer Notes

Elizabeth Butler Twitter

Your guide to the world of note taking and mindful productivity. Creator of the Calmer Notes method for personal knowledge management. Physician, PhD, parent, tea drinker.


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