Organising a personal Knowledge Management system
As we recently talked about, Knowledge Management can apply to your personnal life, it just needs a little bit of willingness to learn how to do it and some organisation (or discipline, pick your term !).
For a while now I’ve been using Notion for my PKM, for many reason but mostly because of its highly customisable pages and the amount of database I can create, use and interconnect. In my opinion it’s the best dematerialised PKM system I’ve used since I started using such system while in Uni. During my Masters in Web Communication it became visible that I needed to organise both my personal, profesional and university life in a comprehensive, accessible and easily disposed manner. To this day, I still use some Bullet Journal technics, but having Notion on my phone has eased all my note-taking, bookmarking and filing processes by a thousand.
The following organisation tips may include examples from my experience with Notion but it can work for any type of PKM system(digital and physical !).
So take a A3 sheet of paper, and let’s start working on organising your PKM. Draw 5 columns and use these 5 steps as header.
Assess your current situation
Before you even start looking into tools and collecting information/knowledge/data… you need to know from where you’re starting !
Often times we use PKM without thinking about it. Do you have a thorougly organised filing system on your driver ? Do you bookmark links in a certain order, maybe with a specific tagging system ? Do you use notes on your phone to keep track of tasks and events related to work or your personal life ? Are your notes, bookmarks, documents gathered in a lot of different spaces ? Every single one of these actions are part of a PKM system you might have developed inconsciously.
Now it’s time to make a thorough assessment of all the small (and big) ways you collect, access, analyse and use information and knowledge on a daily basis. Some habits will be interesting to keep, other can be improved.
This assessment might take time but it will be time saved in the future. On your piece of paper, start answering some of these questions (one word answers are valid !)
Define your goals (short AND long-term) with PKM
Determine why you want to establish a knowledge management system. Are you doing it to enhance your productivity, facilitate learning, or improve decision-making? Are you looking for a better way to control your knowledge & your own learning path ? Do you want to access information because of specific goals you’ve set for yourself otherwise ?
Goal setting is very personal and will depend on both this assessment we just made but also what you want for yourself personally and professionally in the future. Goals can be short term (a student organising before terms, a project manager seeking a better overlook on different projects, a writer keeping up with his book’s details…) or long term (be more productive and efficient in life, have control over ones career path..). You should write them down. Word them in a way that feels personal, intentional and more than anything : actionable.
In relation to your assessment answers, write your goals in bold letters, numbering them if you want to or organising them by short/medium/long-term signets.
Pick your tool(s)
Some people will only need one tool (journal, app, software..) and some will need several tools to reach their goals. Before you even go down the rabbit hole of apps and softwares, journaling technics and filing systems, you’ll need to answer a few questions :
- How often/easily do you need to access your PKM ? Does it need to accessible on multi-platforms or multi-devices ?
- Do you want to file everything directly in your PKM system or are you willing to have a separate tool for collecting and processing ?
- Are aesthetics and customisation important for you ? What features do you feel are necessary to have ? (backup, sync…)
- How important are your privacy concerns? Will you be filing information your company deems confidential ?Will you require encryption, access control ?
- Do you have a preference toward specific knowledge structuration ? Folders, tags, filters ?
Once you have answered these questions (note the answers on your sheet of paper to keep track of your reasons to justify your next choice).
In our previous post on how KM can apply to your personnal life we went through several apps that could answer your needs. But there’s a lot more out there :
Take the time to research apps and softwares that resonate with the answers you gave to the above questions. In my case Notion.so answered my main priority : multidevice access. I wanted to access the app from my phone and my computer anytime, anywhere. Because the app allows me to insert information whenever with or without connection. The app will sync when I get back online. I use to use Keep and Asana, even had a OneNote system at one point. But Notion helped me to gather everything in one space.
Develop your system & your routine
A knowledge management system can be as simple as assigning folders to file to building a large system of metadatas and interconnexion between elements. Depending on your goals and tools, you might already have ideas on how you want to access your knowledge and use it.
Remember : there is no perfect system.
What works for you, might not work for your neighbour. So take your time, search for options but mostly build something that you will enjoy using and that will serve your purpose !
The next exemples are just options that could appeal to the large majority of people but in no way are they mandatory or the best options available.
- PARA Method :
The PARA method is a system for organising digital information and tasks to increase productivity and clarity. It was popularised by Tiago Forte.
The PARA method encourages you to categorise and prioritise your digital information and tasks into these four buckets, making it easier to find, manage and work on what matters most. It aims to reduce clutter, increase focus and improve the overall productivity and organisation of your digital life.
- Projects : list your tasks, goals (short term and medium term), deadlines, deliverables etc.
- Areas of responsibility : these are important part of your work and personal life that you’re currently working with long term impacts (Health, finance, family, home, R&D, HR…)
- Resources : anything you have an interest in or you are learning, any actual resource to further your knowledge and evolution (language, art, programming, literature, productivity methods…)
- Archives : includes any item from the above category that is either not relevant anymore or no longer active (projects you’ve completed, areas you are not focusing on anymore, resources you no longer need)
2. The Second Brain method
I use this system on a regular basis. But not by itself. My Second Brain is a polished version of what call “the brain dump”. Every note, every bookmark, every text I started working on, every bit of information I gathered and need to work through goes in my Brain dump. This system is perfect for note takers and raw material gathering. The Brain dump will be :
- personal (made for you, not aimed for public presentation),
- unprocessed (raw material, messy, informal and most of the time unusable without some work) and
- multi-medias (image, text, audio, video, article, books…)
- unlimited (you can add new items anytime you need)
The Second Brain is a formalised, usable and goal oriented knowledge base. Based on the content of the brain dump I can now organise informations, knowledge, data by topics/goals/projects/themes and turn them into useable material. This process will help you sort between the notes that are actually useful and the ones that were a one-time thing. Delete anything you won’t need. Bond together the other ones !
I would recommend checking the Second brain Method in Visuals on https://maggieappleton.com/basb. the disclaimer is very interesting too !
Your Second Brain will be a space for processed and useable material, meant to help you in your projects, your thoughts and learning processes. It will be an organised version of your disorganised informations & knowledge to help you support the goals you’ve set earlier.
Now another important part of this process : make an habit of using your PKM system !
To get the most out of your system, it’s important to integrate it into your daily routine. Getting into the habit of using PKM starts with setting aside some time each day. Even if you spend just a few minutes a day reviewing your knowledge repository, you can develop the habit of using your system consistently. With continued use, you’ll gain insight into which strategies work and which don’t.
This habit setting will be strongly bonded to the goals you set ahead of creating your system. These goals may include activities such as bookmarking resources for future interests or monitoring your progress on current projects. Be consistent and you’ll see results !
Collect & Learn
Now the last & funniest part is to follow the Flow of Information & start filling your system and using it. Information follows a never ending flow and every bit you collect can be turned into something more to support projects, tasks, training and other processes.
Mind you, your system is supposed to be a tool and can evolve the way your use of knowledge and information will evolve. Growing up and changing is part of the human experience and the tools that accompany you on this journey such as your PKM should follow that same logic.
Collect information and data, process it and recycle it to support everything you might need to achieve your goals !
See you soon with more information on PKM and how it can enhance your life.