Personal Knowledge Management

Happy new (school) year: Why September is the perfect time to refresh your personal knowledge management system

Autumn is the perfect time to organize your digital notes and update your personal knowledge management system.
Elizabeth Butler, MD, PhD 5 min read
Happy new (school) year: Why September is the perfect time to refresh your personal knowledge management system
Table of Contents

I know that January is technically the start of a new year (and is apparently the official Get Organized month). But for me, September always feels like the true start of a new year. Fresh school supplies, empty notebooks with blank pages, pristine binders, clean desks, new fall sweaters, a hint of crisp autumn air and cool evenings, bouquets of freshly-sharpened pencils… it all feels new. Promising. Full of hope and fresh starts and optimism.

While January is the top time for new year’s resolutions, September might actually be the better month for creating new habits. I think that September is the perfect month for refreshing (or creating) your personal knowledge management system.

Photo by MChe Lee / Unsplash

Take advantage of that back-to-school feeling— even if you’re not a student

It’s a completely natural time if you’re a student— as you head back to campus, you need to figure out the best way to take notes for university classes or grad seminars. But even for those of us not heading into a classroom this fall, we’ve got at least twelve (or many more) years of mental muscle memory associating September with fresh academic starts.

Our brains are creatures of habit. So let’s harness those positive associations of blank pages and possibility as we head into autumn.

Monthly schedule
Photo by Eric Rothermel / Unsplash

Our schedules are more flexible at the start of the year

Many of our obligations, personal and professional, ramp down over the summer months and speed up again in the fall. September is a month of transition, of setting new routines and expectations. Our calendars are starting to get filled up in comparison with July and August— but they’re not (usually) as filled to the brim as they tend to get further into the autumn months.

September is the perfect time to carve out dedicated space for researching new personal knowledge management apps and software, or transferring over existing notes into a new folder structure or setup.

Take advantage of a crisp fall afternoon to brew a cup of tea and browse some inspiring PKM setup examples.

Photo by Ashley West Edwards / Unsplash

New projects require a fresh approach

You may be taking on new duties or new roles in September. Perhaps you’re starting a new job or have taken on a new volunteer position for the school year. Maybe you’re starting a new academic program— heading off to university for the first time, or starting grad school, or med school, or law school. Or perhaps you’re in the midst of a graduate program, and finally at the stage where you’re tackling the challenge of research and writing a thesis or dissertation head-on this year. Maybe you’re a faculty member teaching a new course or overhauling an existing program. Maybe you’re launching a new product in your business this fall. Perhaps you’re writing a new book.

Whenever we take on major new projects, that’s the perfect time to step back and re-assess our existing digital note taking system.

While our existing apps and structures may have been a great fit for our old job/program/course/life, are they still right for us? Have we moved onto a new phase of life, but are still trying to use old systems and software that isn’t quite right (anymore)?

Entering a new season of life, and looking for a better way to get organized? The Calmer Notes method gives you a step-by-step framework to design a bespoke, completely tailored personal knowledge management system that fits your right-now life. 

You’re here to rule this world!
Photo by Agnieszka Boeske / Unsplash

We’re (relatively) motivated and energetic

Sure, on any given day in September you might feel a bit tired as you transition back to the daily routines. But in September most of us have had the advantage of at least a bit of summer vacation (even if it didn’t feel like nearly enough). Our daily routines have the advantage of novelty. We’re transitioning to new settings, new schedules, and a new season (but still with long-ish days). Things still feel fresh and new— and we’re a little more motivated by the novelty.

Compare your average level of energy in September with your average level of energy in the short-day slog of mid-November. So even if you feel tired in September— remember, the mid-fall energy dip is coming. So harness those feelings of novelty and promise in September to create a sustainable PKM system that works even when life gets overwhelming.

Photo by Monica Sauro / Unsplash

It’s fun to update and refresh your personal knowledge management system

Enough gloom and doom musing on November doldrums… let’s acknowledge that updating our digital note taking systems can in fact be quite a joyful endeavour:

Want to create a tailored digital note taking system? Explore the Calmer Notes method for digital note taking and personal knowledge management

If you're a creative person who would like to create an intentional, mindful, flexible personal knowledge management system that fits your busy life, the Calmer Notes method might be just what you've been searching for.

I've created Calmer Notes: Personal Knowledge Management for Busy People based on my own two-decade experience of applying personal knowledge management in a wide variety of work environments. The Calmer Notes method will take you through the process of creating and maintaining a tailored, mindfully-designed personal knowledge management system to organize your digital notes and files.

This self-paced course (which includes digital book + workbook + PKM app database) is now available for purchase at Gumroad.

You'll learn:

  • What personal knowledge management (PKM) means -- and why busy people need a PKM system to stop feeling overwhelmed 📚
  • How to identify the existing pieces of your PKM system 🔍
  • How to choose the right note-taking app that actually works for you (instead of switching apps every few months) 📝
  • How to design and create a personal knowledge management system that works for the reality of your right-now life 🕰️
  • Years of hard-won, first-hand knowledge about personal knowledge management I've accumulated after years of completing a PhD, an MD, and working as a physician while parenting 👩⚕️

If you'd like to explore more, check out an overview of the Calmer Notes approach or visit Calmer Notes.

Wishing you all the best on your personal knowledge management journey! And happy September. 😊 🍂 🍁

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