A while back, I devoted an edition of my weekly letter (now defunct) to personal knowledge management (PKM, for short) and how I thought PKM had become too complex and riddled with tool fetishism. As you can expect, I did get some comments tossed my way.
Because inquiring minds want to know, some of those comments (a few mocking) asked what my PKM setup is, what group of tools I use to manage my information.
To be honest, I’m wary of calling what I do personal knowledge management. How I collect and use information is definitely not on a grand enough a scale to have that lofty tag applied to it. And my tools reflect that.
It’ll come as no surprise to those who know me that my setup is fairly basic. It lacks the complexity, the whiz-bang, the shock and awe appeal of the newer, flashier, sexier PKM apps and methodologies out there. But it suits my needs, which is all that matters.
So what do I use? I take notes using using Nextcloud Notes, and create outlines using WorkFlowy. To be honest, if Nextcloud had an outliner app, it would be bye-bye WorkFlowy in an instant.
Yes, that’s it. Nothing more. OK, aside from a paper notebook into which I jot ideas, write (very) rough drafts, and the like. But as soon as can, I put all of that into Nextcloud Notes.
Why to I use those tools instead of, say, Obsidian or Roam or Notion or org-mode? They’re simple. They do what I need them to do. Both are light and easy to use on web, on desktop, or on my phone. That said, I don’t use the WorkFlowy desktop or mobile apps.
As I said, my setup is basic but it works for me. The heavyweight PKM tools I’ve tried offer me few or no advantages over using plain text files and a text editor. For what I do, those larger, more complex PKM tools are just a bit too much. Embracing the so-called constraints of Nextcloud Notes and WorkFlowy helps me stay productive without resorting to a lot of complexity.
I also have regular intervals in which I review and, where necessary, prune the information in my tools. That takes me one hour every six weeks or so. Those sixty minutes do wonders for clearing out the cruft. And taking that time is as important to a good PKM setup as being able to efficiently and effectively collect the information that I might eventually delete.