A smart way to take notes

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What I do

I take a lot of notes.

I have never stopped taking notes from when I was in school and then University and now in my professional life.

As an Architect and Senior Business Leader, I spend a lot of time in meetings and my meeting notes cover a lot of information and contexts with the project team meetings that I lead noting,

  • current project status
  • define next steps
  • assign responsibility

I have many office based systems that I use for documenting this information but I have maintained the discipline of keeping personal notes as well as a record of my observations, decision making and resulting tasks.

Business development

Part of my role is to engage clients and external companies to both secure new projects and to build project teams.

My approach to business development involves researching new markets and intelligence gathering, collecting information about potential projects and meeting and engaging with clients to build relationships. As I have continued to build my professional network over the last thirty years, I am also making introductions and creating new connections between my clients, colleagues and opportunities as a catalyst to create projects.

Once again I am taking notes all of the time, recording these client discussions and the further connections or #links that I have introduced.

Tools

I have been #paperless for over a decade now and all of my notes are digital and saved on my system. In the last couple of years I have been using Apple's notes.app as my preferred tool because of its ease of use, more recent versatility and it's iCloud sync across all of my devices.

I am also invested in DevonThink3 as a powerful database management tool and "everything bucket" and I have tried to maintain the discipline of exporting my Apple notes to my DevonThink3 work database. I am approaching 2000 notes with this workflow in just my professional life so there's a lot of information and history being recorded and saved.

I have also been using Apple's shortcuts routines to automatically transfer the checkmarked items from each note to my omnifocus inbox for GTD processing and future action.

My challenge

Don't get me wrong, my system works great for me and the workflow from my meeting notes to DevonThink3 is efficient. The challenge though is that I can't do much with all of this information afterwards.

Of course I can search all of my notes to find some information or to confirm when I last met with a client but that is more or less it and as a result I don't often go back to the older notes. More often I am relying on my memory to be the starting point for searching my records.

What if...

So I have been trying to figure out a way for a while now to make better use of all of this information and particularly how to leverage the information that I have accrued for smart business development.

DevonThink3 has been significantly updated recently and I haven't fully used the powerful AI in the application to identify links or make connections between my notes to highlight new ideas for projects or how to engage new clients.

Add to this impasse the fact that as an #architect I appreciate more visual formats to work with. As a result I have been distracted by other apps such as Trello, which has visual cards and buckets to organize information, to try and achieve my objectives.

So what if there was a way to intelligently link and connect my notes in a visual way so that I can explore my database of knowledge and use it as a springboard for new ideas to develop business?

Introducing Obsidian

Obsidian is a new platform to me and from what I can tell, was released back in March 2020. It is an application that is built on your collection of individual text files in markdown format.

The developers describe it as a "second brain,"

*The human brain is non-linear: we jump from idea to idea, all the time. Your second brain should work the same.

In Obsidian, making and following [[connections]] is frictionless. Tend to your notes like a gardener; at the end of the day, sit back and marvel at your own knowledge graph.

I am right at the start of using Obsidian for my note taking and learning how to bring this type of functionality in to my workflow. It's inherent ability to make text connections between notes appears to be what I have been looking for - the ability to interrogate a knowledge database of connected notes.

But I am really motivated by the graph view of Obsidian and how that could provide me the visual means to follow ideas and information to be able to make new connections and to create new opportunities.

To get there I reckon that I need to establish links between my existing information and then create new notes with built in links. To start, I have exported my Apple notes as markdown text files and created a new Obsidian database. I have taken advantage of the smart linking in the app' and have already created connections and tags based on keywords that work for me.

Now let's see what happens!

Sunday February 21st, 2021
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