Nick Ang profile picture

Nick Ang

7 Signs that my Knowledge Management process is broken

1. I am not writing notes when reading books anymore. This is bad because knowing myself, I am not able to remember most of what I read! Most of what I read, therefore, fades into the ether in a short time.

2. I write a daily note but don’t refer back to follow-up on ideas. This means that I leave a trail of forgotten but potentially interesting ideas that I once believed I wanted to explore (since I noted it down in the first place).

3. I don’t care about linking notes at the moment because they do not enable serendipity for me. This is not ideal because I know intuitively that most ideas do not stand on their own, but instead, relates to other ideas that I have already thought about.

4. I constantly forget what my information processing workflow is. After a while, I completely lose a grip on what that workflow looks like. Once I’m this lost, I’m no longer encouraged to think about other notes when I’m writing a new note, thereby regressing to a plain note-taking process and not a knowledge management process. An interesting solution I’ve recently discovered from Bryan Jenks (using Obsidian): creating a visual flowchart depicting various types of inputs and how to process them differently according to my preferences.

5. I write weekly blog posts without consulting any of my notes except for the ones that contain ideas for blog posts. This means that I have a good process for capturing blog article ideas but I have no process at all for walking through my existing notes, a handful of which I am confident would turn out to be helpful. Those notes unfortunately just sit there with untapped potential energy.

6. I love reading but often feel like everything I read is only for pleasure or fleeting knowledge, not long-term knowledge retention and growth around the few central topics that I care deeply about at any time. This lack of confidence in my information processing mechanism quite easily translates into a kind of knowledge nihilism where I give up reading anything longer than an article for true understanding. This is a bad sign because it is demoralising and ultimately spells intellectual stagnation.

7. I do not feel like I’m growing in knowledge around any particular topic outside of work. What I learn, I learn from reading and immediately doing/applying/revising, not from writing it down and revisiting much later. But from what I understand, one of the chief reasons for having a personal knowledge management system is to build an artificial conversation partner that helps you revisit and draw connections and thereby deepen your knowledge around a topic. When I think deep about a particular topic, I do not (and have not in a long time) feel inclined to sit down at my computer with my existing notes to talk to myself.

So, what now?

I’m exploring Obsidian as a new tool to replace the current Bear app that I’m using as a personal knowledge management system. I’ve already looked into Obsidian once, but that was before they released a functional mobile app. It has a lot going for it and I’m optimistic that its design choices will help me improve my information processing mechanism.

I’ve proclaimed something contradictory earlier this year in a blog post:

Your tool is probably good enough already. Focus on making thoughtful notes.

But I’m back on the fence thinking that my current tool probably isn’t good enough to help me achieve all of the above, so it’s time to explore again.

NEW (29.08.2021): Curious about personal knowledge management? I wrote more about this, read it here: Types of Notes in a PKM explained with a Gardening Analogy.

Nick Ang profile picture
Husband, dad, and software engineer that writes. Big on learning something everyday and trying to have fun before the lights go out.
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