There are many motivations for maintaining a Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) system. Many books, courses, videos, articles, etc., also teach different ways to build a PKM system. This can sometimes confuse people because they don’t understand the purpose of a specific framework or aren’t consciously aware of why they want to build and maintain a PKM system.
💭 Why do you want to build a PKM system?
Two of the most popular PKM ideas come from the cohort-based courses Building a Second Brain (BASB; taught by Tiago Forte) and Linking Your Thinking (LYT; taught by Nick Milo). In a previous tweet, I summarized the difference between these courses as the former focuses on producing outputs, whereas the latter focuses on developing thought.
While Forte certainly emphasizes folders and Milo indeed emphasizes links, I don’t think Forte is anti-links, nor do I think Milo is anti-folders. And in many ways, I don’t believe their recommendations are mutually exclusive. (I integrate both of their ideas into my PKM system.)
I wrote a blog post about one example of this. Traditionally, Projects-Areas-Resources-Archive (PARA) is done with a folder-based approach. However, it is possible to implement PARA with a Map of Content (MOC)-based system.
Some people don’t see the need for PARA because they use their PKM primarily for thinking. Their PKM isn’t output-focused, such as a PKM used to support someone who writes a newsletter, produces content for YouTube, or manages their business.
While I certainly agree PARA isn’t necessary, I think that even for PKM systems focused on thinking, PARA can sometimes be helpful.
PARA is designed to be helpful for creative and productive expression. But not all expression is external. Even when we’re developing our thoughts, we are expressing ourselves.
One of the ways it can be helpful is by directing our thinking.
If your PKM is primarily for thinking, you’re probably a pretty curious person. And when you’re curious, thoughts can be unbounded.
This is great, but it isn’t without consequences.
We may find that our thinking becomes unbalanced. Our diverse interests may lead us to have too much breadth in our PKM without much depth. Or maybe we do have depth, but that depth isn’t in things that are important to us. Perhaps that depth is related to thoughts driven by places that our attention has been drawn to by the news, a podcast we listened to, or social media.
And a lot of breadth can also potentially decrease the efficiency with which we can see connections between unrelated ideas.
I think PARA can help with this.
Just as it can be helpful to focus on a few goals at a time, it can also be beneficial to focus your thinking on a few topics at a time.
This may look like having a project in your PARA to develop a MOC on a topic of interest.
And this doesn’t mean you need to ignore moments of inspiration. It’s just an opportunity to focus your attention and effort and be more intentional about your thinking.
I shared some examples of Obsidian-based structures on Github, but I’ll provide a few more examples here to illustrate.
A project represents materials and tasks linked to a goal with a deadline.
– [[Develop MOC on board games]]
– [[Collide Oh, the Places You’ll Go! MOC with Everything Everywhere All At Once MOC]]
– [[Schedule newsletter]]
💭 What goals/finish lines are you currently working towards?
An area represents a sphere of activity, such as a role or responsibility, with an ongoing standard to maintain.
– [[Weekly newsletter]]
– [[Learning circle]]
💭 What roles and responsibilities are you currently maintaining?
A resource represents materials related to things that you’re currently interested in.
– [[Board games]]
💭 What topics are you currently interested in?
And here are example notes for a project, area, and resource:
# Schedule newsletter
> [!IMPORTANT] Definition of Done: Newsletter is scheduled in ConvertKit to be released on July 10, 2022.
# Weekly newsletter
> [!IMPORTANT] Standard to be Maintained: Newsletter is published on Sunday each week.
– [[Writing tips]]
– [[Queue of newsletter ideas]]
# Board games
There are many [[Types of board games]]. One of my favourite types is [[Social deduction games]]. [[Social deduction games are good because they build trust]], and [[Social deduction games are bad because they erode trust]]. I’m looking forward to the arrival of my copy of [Blood on the Clocktower](https://bloodontheclocktower.com)–where the heck is my shipping notice?!