This week we’re going to try something different for PKM Weekly. Over the last few months I’ve seen a big change in the content available for many tools. I’ve been able to find content for Obsidian easily, and logseq sometimes. Most other note tools I’m not finding much about.

So, this week, and probably going forward, I’m going to be sharing more bigger picture content around what it takes to be a good note-taker, thinker, and writer/producer. There will be some software specific stuff, but only if the concepts/ideas in it apply to what it takes to be a note-taker/learner.

So, less links, a bit of commentary and more depth is the goal.

Feedback is welcome, and if you have good articles share them with me on Mastodon.

Continuous Partial Attention

Different than multi-tasking, this is when you’re motivated by the desire to miss nothing and are engaged in two activities that demand cognition. This often means you’re also scanning for another opportunity to engage with something to replace one of the current things you’re engaging with. The act of scanning creates a constant feeling of crisis because you’re on high alert for another important thing to pay attention to.

I find this harms my thinking, because I can never dig into the single task at hand. Even having Slack visible on a second monitor makes it hard for me to stay focused on the task I’m currently doing. Nothing has to be happening (in fact often nothing is) but the fact that it’s visible means I’m pushing some attention to watching for a notification I may have to deal with.

My current solution is to keep Slack in it’s own workspace out of site when I’m working. This still leaves it visible when I use ⌘ - tab on macOS (or it’s equivalent on Linux) which can pull me out of my focus into scan mode via a Slack badge.

Good thinking, good processing, good work, is only accomplished when you don’t have to scan all the time and can devote your attention to the task at hand.

Commonplace Books

I do keep a notebook for my daily tasks, and as a running journal of my thoughts on the day. I think that taking the time to write by hand is still important in the digital age. In fact, most of my book notes start in a notebook because if the thought feels like it’s too hard to write down, it’s probably not worth writing. If the only reason you’re willing to record an idea is that “it’s easy to capture it” then it’s likely a low value idea.

Here are some tips on commonplace books.

On Writing

Don’t write in a panic, make sure you have the time for calm focus. (youtube) I think the hardest part of this is the amount of stuff coming at us, see the video above about a pocket notebook replacing a phone. For many people finding any space to think is hard. I have a dedicated office, but I also have 3 children home and my wife works. Finding time to think without interruption is very hard.

What stops us from writing the most is us. (youtube) This made me think of the book How to Write a Lot. Schedule the time to write, and make note connections. William suggests focus modes (available on Apple’s platforms) to cut distraction so you can sit down and write.

4 responses to “PKM Weekly August 20 2023 – Issue 084”

  1. Guthrie Avatar

    This is a welcome change in format. It was already my favorite part. There’s a glut of information on YouTube and elsewhere about tweaks to Obsidian and the rest.

    1. Curtis McHale Avatar
      Curtis McHale

      Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate the encouragement.

  2. Matt Avatar

    You’re my voice of reason, helping me to avoid the hype and temptation of everything new and shiny, so I’m thrilled with you taking this direction. Rather than getting value from “new things to try/do” they actually steal my time and energy. So every time you say “don’t worry about this” or “avoid this distraction” it is really helpful.

    1. Curtis McHale Avatar
      Curtis McHale

      Thanks Matt. I did wonder if I’d get pushback about the change but every comment thus far has been positive. Have an excellent day.