Personal Knowledge Management

The best place to start may be a brief description of what Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) means and how it can help you to grow and develop.

Personal knowledge management (PKM) is a process of collecting information that a person uses to gather, classify, store, search, retrieve and share knowledge in their daily activities (Grundspenkis 2007) and the way in which these processes support work activities (Wright 2005). It is a response to the idea that knowledge workers need to be responsible for their own growth and learning (Smedley 2009). It is a bottom-up approach to knowledge management (KM) (Pollard 2008).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_knowledge_management

It is important to note that we will not develop or learn by simply gathering (or hoarding) resources / information. To grow our personal knowledge, we must digest the information gathered and turn this into ideas that can help us grow to meet our goals and objectives and advance our projects. It is also vital to combine our prior knowledge and experiences with newly learned information to continue to grow and expand our knowledge.

Process:

In visual terms, this is how I see it:

In essence, I see it as the process of turning information collected from various sources (articles, videos, books etc.) into ideas and to support our goals / objectives, projects and tasks. This can be achieved by something I like to call the 3 C’s of PKM’ing: Capturing, Curating and Creating.

1. Capturing:

This is the start of the process. Here we capture / gather information from the multitude of sources available to feed our knowledge management system to develop new ideas. I like to do this step by either bookmarking webpages, saving videos, copying and pasting text into my note taking tool so that I can then curate it (discussed below).

Whilst this may sound like a simple process, it is critical to get right as it is easy to go astray. Where we collect the information from is important, especially with the abundance of misinformation and fake news. Knowing when to stop is also vital – with the amount of information out there we can quickly have information overload and feel overwhelmed.

Whilst capturing is important, it is also important to move to step 2 to keep the process moving along. If not, we might find ourselves always stuck in step 1 and have a mountain of information and never do anything with it.

2. Curating:

Having collected the information, we now need to decide where and how each note / the information we collected fits into our knowledge management system. Think of this as a review process where you open and read / watch what you have gathered to decide what to do with it.

In this step, I will go through the information I collected and ask myself the following main questions:

  • Where / how does this note fit into my overall objective / my areas of interest?
  • Does this note add value? Is it telling me anything new? Is it providing me with a contrasting point of view?
  • Can this note be of use in the future? (Keeping strict criteria as if not it can be argued anything might be of use in the future)
  • Is this a reference note I want to keep as a source of the information (even if I have summarised the note in my own words)?

If a note / information captured during step 1 is no longer relevant or of interest, do not be afraid to delete it.

While asking myself the above questions, I will also go through the information gathered and add it to my PKM in my own words – there is little use simply copying and pasting something as no information is mentally retained. When you revisit it, it might mean nothing as it is missing context.

I like to carry this process out every few days (of course there are exceptions if a report is due earlier) and is a process that I find good to get into the habit of doing. I find that if I leave it to more than a few days, I lose the chain of thought and momentum and then find myself procrastinating – “I will check it out later”. Before I know it, I have amassed more information than I can go through, and the procrastination cycle repeats itself.

I will review the notes and information collected and add what I find of value to my collection. I will either add the information to existing notes or create new notes and link the notes’ relevant topics / findings. To me, content curation is about deriving value from each piece of information collecting.

3. Creating:

This is where I feel it gets interesting. We have now collected information, understood it, and processed it by adding it to our PKM. Great. Now what?

The beauty is that with our PKM organised and the contents inside it well thought out and meaningful, we have done the tricky steps. We now need to start to let ideas be generated from our PKM to create something. Whether this is a research paper, an article, a blog post or a report, we have the tools available and need the glue to put it all together in a finalised version.

In this step, I like to take a step back from the collecting and curating and sit with my PKM to formulate whatever it is that I am looking to achieve.

Although simply keeping the information in our PKM for future reference and further development is great, I believe we can take things further by creating something with what we have learned. Taking the proverbial phrase “Learn by Doing” at face value. To create this page, for example, I took content from a lot of sources and compiled it in my PKM. By creating notes and my comments on the information I gathered, I visualised an article idea that I hope can be of use to you.

It is easy to skip this step and return to step 1 and start collecting again, but this is a crucial step if you want to go from being a collector to becoming a creator.

How to Implement the 3 C’s Process:

To achieve the 3 C’s of PKM’ing and make sense of all the information and our own notes, several modern note-taking apps can be used that include things like:

  • Easy to use note-taking / writing tools,
  • Distraction free writing,
  • Note connections (easily create connections in your notes),
  • Backlinks (see how the note is referenced in other notes),
  • Knowledge graph (view your notes and connections in a graph view).

List of Note Taking Apps:

The below is just a snapshot of available tools / apps based on those I have tried out. I have also included what I consider to be the main advantages and disadvantages of each but keep in mind that a disadvantage to me could be an advantage to you.

DescriptionAdvantagesDisadvantages

Link
Logseq
A privacy-first, open-source platform for knowledge sharing and management.

My Thoughts on Logseq
– Free
– Fast Development
– Local file save
– Markdown format
– Copy/paste

Link
Obsidian
Knowledge base that works on top of a local folder of plain text Markdown files.

My Thoughts on Obsidian
– Free
– Fast Development
– Local file save
– No WYSIWYG editor
– Closed Dev.

Link
Roam Research
A note-taking tool for networked thought.
– Access anywhere
– Large userbase
– Good “after sales”
– $15/month
– No control over notes
– Cult atmosphere

Link
Athens Research
Open-Source Networked Thought
– Opensource
– Desktop app
– Local
– Closed beta testing
– Limited development

Link
Dendron
Hierarchical open-source, local, markdown-based, tool built on top of VSCode.
– Free
– Local file save
– Great publishing
– No WYSIWYG editor
– Built on top of VScode

Link
Remnote
Spaced-repetition powered note-taking tool
– Free
– SRS based tool
– Desktop/Mobile/Web
– Messy UI/UX
– Too much going on

Link
Notion
All-in-one workspace
– Free
– Lots of features
– Access anywhere
– Too much going on
– Slow to load
– Takes time to set up

A more complete list of personal knowledge apps can be found here (coming soon).

Even though there is an abundance of apps out there, what helped me was to get started on a path that I tweaked and improved as I went along. It came to a point when I found myself constantly regurgitating online content about how people did things that I never actually got started with what I wanted to do – get what was in my mind on paper (or the screen) and start making sense of what it all meant and actually start creating content.

The most important things I found were:

  • Choose a tool / app which meets the majority of your desires. Don’t try to search for the perfect app as it may not exist, and you will be forever stuck in a state of procrastination.
  • Don’t try to follow others – make your own path as what others do may not work for you and will eventually hold you back.
  • Just start taking notes. As you progress and have more notes, you will get to the stage of identifying the key links and connecting your notes in meaningful ways.

Hope you find this guide useful.