A tool for thinking

Yesterday as I was sat on my sofa watching the Sunday morning church service on YouTube I had my MacBook Pro open on my lap to make notes in Obsidian. After the service had finished I spent a few minutes to tidy up some formatting and make sure the correct bible verses were being referenced, I realised how much I am enjoying using the app. It got me thinking about why.

Over the course of the day it slowly dawned on me what it is that I like about it. It doesn’t tick all the features I was hoping to find in the my notes app, but it does tick one that I didn’t list before. It is a tool for thinking, and really that’s what I’ve been looking for.

Ephemeral notes still go into Obsidian through my daily notes, and where appropriate they are linked to project notes, but I’ve found that I’m creating notes about subjects that I am thinking about or trying to learn more about. Looking at my Obsidian graph I see some small clusters starting to form. There is one about note taking itself as I read around the subject of evergreen and atomic notes; there is one around habits and routines; and there is a larger one forming related to my work and current thinking about the concept of Minimal Viable Products (MVP).

As I’ve been looking into these different applications and their feature sets, I’ve been exposed to some ideas about note taking that I had never really considered before. The concept that a “notes” app can be more than a scratchpad used throughout the day but a tool for thinking has connected with me. Really it is not a notes app but something much more useful and important. I guess this is why many people refer to these tools that I’ve been exploring as Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) or their second brain. I’m not sure either of those terms sit right with me, I think they are more than that. I am not purely gaining knowledge by using this tool and it’s not thinking for me like a second brain should, but I can use this tool to see connections between ideas. It forces me to distill concepts down to manageable chunks so that I can form my own ideas from them. This is why I’ve begun referring to it as a tool for thinking and why it’s starting to become a key part of my creative process. Time will tell if it lasts.

Phil Bowell

Phil Bowell

Cheltenham, UK