Obsidian for Minimalists
A Practical Introduction to obsidian notes for busy people
This step-by-step guide shows you how to take minimalist, simple, streamlined notes in Obsidian. Stop worrying about the perfect knowledge graph– and focus on what’s in your notes, instead. This is Obsidian MD for the rest of us.
Obsidian for Minimalists is a practical introduction to Obsidian Notes for busy people.
Obsidian for Minimalists is a step-by-step guide, showing you exactly how to set up your Obsidian Vault to take minimalist, simple, streamlined, text-based notes. Stop worrying about the perfect knowledge graph— and focus on seamlessly, effortlessly capturing your great ideas and inspiration instead.
This is Obsidian MD for the rest of us.
Build a minimalist note taking system in Obsidian.
Ditch the overthinking and perfectionism.
note taking with obsidian notes
When you discovered Obsidian MD, you finally thought this would be the one. The note taking software that made everything feel simple. Lighter. More free.
You love the idea of building your personal knowledge management system in Obsidian Notes. You appreciate its support for Markdown. You like how you can customize it with your favourite Obsidian themes.
From promise to overwhelm
But now you’re feeling overwhelmed. Stuck in analysis paralysis. So you watch YouTube tutorial after YouTube tutorial of Obsidian setups, not sure where to start.
There are so many powerful settings in Obsidian… where should you begin? Should you start using the [[double bracket syntax]] and build bidirectional links? Focus on visualizing your linked notes with a knowledge graph? Start playing with settings in the API? Should you use the Obsidian Canvas to mindmap all your notes?
After binge-watching way too many YouTube tutorials, you close your browser window, frustrated, with a mounting headache, and no closer to actually organizing your notes for work (or grad school, or your blog, or your book).
Here’s the truth
The reality: spending hours setting up a fancy graph view or a complex mind garden of bidirectional links in Obsidian (probably) isn’t going to help you get more done.
Sure, there are some people for whom these features make perfect sense, for very specific scenarios. And if you’re one of those people, you’re most likely already happily tinkering under the hood of Obsidian, adjusting settings that make a difference for your own specific use case.
(And you’re probably not reading this page.)
Obsidian for the rest of us
Here’s the thing: Obsidian Notes can be a powerful, minimalist note taking app for busy people. But not if you let yourself get waylaid by all the highly complex bells and whistles that you don’t actually need to use.
At its core, Obsidian is a speedy, secure, lightweight Markdown file manager, perfect for taking simple, quick, low-friction notes and organizing them flexibly.
Sounds good. Sounds perfect, really. So why does it feel daunting to actually get started with Obsidian?
options can lead to overwhelm
Sometimes too much freedom can feel daunting.
Obsidian is a highly customizable, flexible note taking app that puts you in the driver’s seat. But it’s easy to feel pressure to maximize, to use every last feature and customization and plugin available.
But just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. It’s okay to leave things on the table. To choose a simpler path. To minimize choices and overwhelm. To opt out of too many features and customizations. To come across other people’s complex Obsidian setups and say, without any lingering fears of missing out, “good for them– not for me.”
There’s another way…
Obsidian for Minimalists
A simple, no-fuss, practical approach to building a note taking system in Obsidian. Get up and running in an afternoon.
obsidian for minimalists
This is Obsidian for the rest of us.
Obsidian for Minimalists shows you exactly how to:
- Install Obsidian and create your first vault
- Customize the interface to create a beautifully minimalist workspace
- Build a folder-based notes organization system (you don’t have to worry about tagging, bidirectional links, or a knowledge graph)
- Ditch unnecessary clutter with a carefully-curated, small selection of plugins that actually streamline your work
Here’s what you’ll learn
Take a minimalist approach to organizing your Obsidian vault:
Introduction & Welcome
A quick overview of what you’ll learn in the course, including a PDF Obsidian cheatsheet/quick start checklist guide for you to follow as you work through the course contents.
Setting up Obsidian
Install your Obsidian Vault, choose a minimalist theme, and get a step-by-step guide to a handful of the most helpful, highly-curated plugins (so you can uninstall the rest and ditch the clutter and bloat).
Sync your Obsidian notes seamlessly across all your devices with Obsidian Sync, iCloud, and other cloud storage options.
MOBILE & TABLET
Setting up mobile access
Make sure you can access your notes on the go with this step-by-step tutorial to add Obsidian Notes to your iPad, iPhone, or Android device.
Adding notes and folders
In Obsidian for Minimalists, we’ll set up a simple, minimalist structure of text-based notes and folders to keep things simple. (Just because Obsidian has tags, backlinks, and knowledge graphs available doesn’t mean you’re obliged to use them.)
Formatting notes in Obsidian
Get a quick guide to Markdown, the formatting syntax used in Obsidian, so you can effortlessly format your text with just a few keystrokes.
Capturing to Obsidian
Learn how to quickly add a new note in Obsidian, how to snip and capture content from your web browser to Obsidian, and (entirely optionally) how to integrate Obsidian with automated apps like Readwise.
Finding and searching
Building a minimalist note taking system in Obsidian doesn’t help you if you can’t find what you’re looking for. Learn how to take advantage of Obsidian’s powerful search tools, and find the right note in a few keystrokes.
Sharing and exporting
Sometimes you’ll want to share the ideas and research you’re drafting in your Obsidian vault. Discover simple, straightforward ways to export your notes to PDF, copy into an email, or paste into a Google Doc or Word file. Plus, learn how you can move your Obsidian Markdown (.MD) files to any Markdown editor you’d like.
Meet Your Guide
About Elizabeth Butler, MD, PhD
Hi! I’m Elizabeth Butler, MD, PhD.
I help creative, idealistic professionals build streamlined note-taking and productivity systems to fit their busy lives.
I’m a physician, a former humanities professor, working parent, and fellow over-scheduled human being. I’ve spent years figuring out the best ways to manage the overwhelm of digital notes, documents, and information flow. My blog post, How to use Obsidian Notes: a step-by-step guide, remains one of the most popular pages on my blog.
I’m also the creator of the Calmer Notes course, designed to help busy, creative people craft tailored personal knowledge management (PKM) systems that truly fit their life. Since launching the Calmer Notes course, I’ve had people reach out to ask if I had any advice in how to set up their Obsidian Notes vault in a simple, streamlined way.
I built the Obsidian for Minimalists course to provide a framework to craft a basic, simple, streamlined note taking system in Obsidian without the overwhelm.
Build a minimalist note taking system in Obsidian.
Ditch the overthinking and perfectionism.
what’s included with your purchase
What’s waiting for you inside the course…
The Signature Course
Obsidian for Minimalists
This step-by-step, high-yield course shows you how to set up a minimalist, simple Obsidian vault for your written notes. Work through the text-based modules (with annotated screenshots) at your own pace.
PDF setup checklist
Download the accompanying PDF checklist to keep track of every step of your setup.
Obsidian Cheatsheets (in Markdown & PDF)
Always have easy access to reference Markdown formatting and Obsidian keyboard shortcuts with these cheatsheets (available in PDF and Markdown format).
Is the course right for you?
find out if Obsidian for Minimalists is the right fit
✅ Obsidian for Minimalists will be a great fit for you if…
✅ You want to build a minimalist note taking system in Obsidian to organize text notes
You want one organized place to capture all your written notes, ideas, outlines, lecture notes, meeting minutes, travel plans, lists of gift ideas, novel drafts, thesis ideas, exam prep notes, and everything else that’s floating around a half-dozen different apps on your computer right now.
✅ You’re ready to listen to your intuition and ditch the overwhelm
You’ve spent more evenings and weekends than you’d like to admit going down the rabbit hole, searching for inspiration to find the best Obsidian note taking system setup. Still you end up with more questions than answers. You see people describing complex systems with endless plugins, automations, backlinks, knowledge graphs, and tags, and you’re starting to doubt yourself. You’re pretty sure that you don’t need those features… but what if you’re wrong? What if they will instead save you hours of time and make you “effortlessly productive”? Listen to your intuition. Say with confidence, “good for them– not for me.” Obsidian doesn’t need to be complicated. Obsidian for Minimalists will give you a quick, streamlined system so you can spend your time thinking and writing– instead of tinkering with plugin settings.
✅ You’re a linear thinker
You like organizing your thoughts in lists and outlines. You’re most comfortable using nested folders to organize your files on your computer.
✅ You’re comfortable storing your notes locally (with a sync/backup option)
You’re happy to store your notes on your computer– and in fact appreciate the security benefit.
✅ You’re a reader
You’re a text-based learner. You enjoy reading, and find that you process information best by highlighting, making notes, and revisiting written text.
✅ You’re an independent learner
You’re an independent, self-motivated learner. You have a full, busy, unpredictable schedule with many existing commitments— you don’t have the ability to just clear your schedule for a group Zoom call in another time zone. You value the flexibility of asynchronous, self-paced learning.
✅ You’re a busy person who values simplicity & efficiency above complexity
You’re a busy person looking for a streamlined, efficient approach to digital note taking. You don’t want to add unnecessary complexity to your system, though you’re happy to add in details that actually make your life easier. You’re looking for a minimalist, “less, but better” approach to personal knowledge management. You want to design a customized, tailored personal knowledge management system in Obsidian that fits your life.
❌ It wouldn’t be the right fit if…
🚫 You want to organize non-text content in Obsidian
Obsidian does have the capacity to embed and organize non-text content (including files such as PDFs, audio files, or images). However, Obsidian for Minimalists is designed specifically to organize text-based notes, and doesn’t include support for adding and managing PDFs or other documents. The Obsidian for Minimalists course is designed to give you a simple, basic Obsidian setup to get you started.
🚫 You want to use tags and backlinks to organize your Obsidian vault
Obsidian offers many different ways to organize knowledge– there’s something for everyone. The Obsidian for Minimalists course deliberately does not include use of tags or backlinks, instead using solely a note and folder system. This choice was thoughtfully made since the concept of folder and note feels familiar and intuitive to many people (similar to the way that file managers work, or even binders and paper) in a way that tags and backlinks don’t. Tags and backlinks are wonderful features for those who enjoy them, but aren’t a part of the Obsidian for Minimalists setup.
🚫 You want to use Obsidian Canvas or the knowledge graph/graph view
The Obsidian for Minimalists setup intentionally and mindfully opts out of all but the most essential Obsidian settings. In the setup, we turn off the knowledge graph and Canvas settings, to create more blank space and fewer distractions.
🚫 You don’t have administrator privileges to install Obsidian
If you want to use Obsidian on your work computer, you’ll need administrator privileges that allow you to install new software. Obsidian is a local-first note taking software, not a web app, so you’ll need to be able to install local software.
🚫 You’re looking for a video-based course
The Obsidian for Minimalists self-paced course is intentionally designed as a text-first course, with content delivered on a text-based course platform, supplemented with annotated screenshots and downloadable PDF checklists.
🚫 You struggle with self-paced learning
If you have trouble staying on track while working independently, this course might not be the best fit for you. It’s designed to be self-paced, so anyone can fit it into their schedule (no matter their time zone or other commitments).
🚫 You’re looking for personalized coaching or individual tech support
The current version of the course is designed to be an affordable self-study option for independent learners. Unfortunately, we’re therefore not able to offer individualized tech support, Obsidian trouble-shooting, or personalized coaching or recommendations to students enrolled in the course. We may opt to offer personalized coaching in the future at a higher price point: please do join the newsletter to be notified if/when this service becomes available.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does the course cost?
We’re currently offering a limited number of course registrations at a discounted rate. The current discounted launch price of the course is $97. (The regular price of the course is $597.) As more people purchase the course, the price increases.
Is the course available in Spanish, French, German, or other languages?
Yes, you can easily translate the Obsidian for Minimalists course to any preferred language. Since the course is primarily text-based (with supporting screenshots), you can easily translate the members-only course page right in your browser, or export the content to your translation software of choice.
We recommend the following translation process:
- Visit the members-only course website (you’ll receive this URL and your login after course purchase) in the Google Chrome browser.
- Right-click and select “Translate to [preferred language]”.
- Browse and enjoy the full course in your chosen language.
Do you offer student discounts for the course?
The current launch pricing of the course is currently the best value for the course right now. We’re not offering any additional discounts for the Obsidian for Minimalists course at this time.
Does the course include any individual Obsidian coaching or tech support?
The current version of the course is designed to be an affordable self-study option for independent learners. Unfortunately, we’re therefore not able to offer individualized tech support, Obsidian trouble-shooting, or personalized coaching or recommendations to students enrolled in the course.
We may opt to offer personalized coaching in the future at a higher price point: please do join the newsletter to be notified if/when this service becomes available.
If you’re seeking out a specific answer to a technical question, we recommend searching the following resources:
Are there any videos included in the course?
Obsidian for Minimalists is intentionally designed to be a text-first learning experience.
If you’re someone who learns best from the written word, screenshots, and images, you’re going to love the text-first learning environment of the course. You can read it anywhere, any time, without fumbling around for headphones to watch a video, impatiently skipping ahead to the right section, rewinding again, or trying to make out the fine print in a screenshare before it changes.
However if you’re someone who learns best from video, you’ll likely be happier exploring the plethora of Obsidian tutorials on YouTube. There is not a video component to the Obsidian for Minimalists course at this time. There’s a possibility we may add videos to the course down the road, but video is currently near the bottom of the course development map list.
What tech setup do I need to use the Obsidian for Minimalists course?
To access the course content itself, you only need a web browser– it’s accessible from any platform, mobile, or tablet.
What tech setup do I need to install Obsidian?
To install Obsidian itself, you’ll need to make sure you have the requirements outlined at obsidianmd.com/download. The software is currently available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, as well as mobile apps for iOS and Android.
Important note: you will need administrator privileges on your computer to install Obsidian– if you’re thinking of using Obsidian on a work computer, for example, please make sure that you have privileges to install software locally. Obsidian is a local software, not a web app, so you’ll need to make sure you can install software on your computer.
What is your refund policy?
Since students receive complete access to the full course contents and curriculum upon purchasing the digital course, we do not offer refunds after purchase. Therefore, we want to ensure that all students who enroll in the Obsidian for Minimalists course are confident this training is a good fit for their current needs. If you have any questions about the course content or format, please reach out to our support team and they would be happy to answer any questions you may have prior to purchase.
Join the early adopters with a tiered discount
The regular price of the course is $597. We’re currently offering a limited number of course registrations at a discounted rate.
The discounted launch price of the course is $97.
As more people purchase the course, the price increases. This tiered pricing is a way to say thank you to my lovely early adopters.
$597 $97 lifetime access
It’s time for a simpler approach.
Simplify your note taking.
Build your beautifully minimalist note taking system in Obsidian this afternoon.