Initial thoughts on obsidian (Note taking tool)

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I’ve recently started using Obsidian, and wanted to share my initial thoughts on this interesting note taking tool.

Why start using Obsidian?

One of my ‘projects’ I wanted to carry out during my sabbatical was a digital de-clutter and tidy up. I started with photos: I had over 20,000 photographs stored in my cloud photo account, most of them quick snapshots of food or things I didn’t want to forget. I spent around two weeks going through every photo and got it down to 9,000. I intend to take another pass, and pull out my ‘top twelve’ photos for each year and put them into a special album.

The second thing was accounts: I have hundreds of accounts where I hav signed up for apps, websites, newsletters and so on and then abandoned them. I even still have a myspace account. I have been through most of these now and deleted accounts where I could and organised my information in my password manager where I couldn’t.

Third: I turned my attention to files and notes. I’ve been reading Jamie Ruben’s blog for a while, and following along with his ‘Practically Paperless with Obsidian‘ series for a while. So I decided to give it a whirl and downloaded Obsidian.

Why Obsidian?

Obsidian’s benefits are:

  • Simple: it’s easy to create a note and easy to link notes together. Everything is built on markdown text files, which means there’s no need to worry about propriety file types.
  • Adaptable: You can set up Obsidian to work almost any way you want, with as complex or simple workflows as needed. Easy to use templates make it easy to create consistent layouts for information. The Obsidian forum has lots of examples of how people have used it!
  • Free for personal use (and no cloud service). Obsidian is a program you download to your own computer. It’s not on the cloud, there’s no subscription costs, and because it’s text files stored on your computer there’s little danger of losing your data.

I especially liked the Daily Notes approach, which is similar to how I used to work anyway, with a text file that I used as a kind of ‘scratch pad’ for the day. I have a daily template that reminds me to journal quickly each day, noting down key facts and encouraging me to focus on what’s important to me: time with people I care about, working on my health/energy/mood, and reading/watching interesting things. It also pulls in upcoming appointments, birthdays and so on.

My Obsidian Daily Notes

What’s in Obsidian so far?

Along side the Daily Notes, I’ve set up Obsidian as an address book or personal CRM, and spent quite a lot of time importing people’s address, birthdays etc. I also keep a brief ‘contact log’ of times spent together.

I’m also using Obsidian to keep track of my job search efforts; logging companies I’ve applied to, interview notes, feedback, questions etc.

Finally, I’ve been keeping track of my Call of Cthulhu RPG game notes and characters in Obsidian. The quick structure and easy interlinks makes it easy to keep track of timelines and incidents!

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Thoughts on Obsidian

There’s a little bit of a learning curve, especially if you’re unfamiliar with Markdown. It’s definitely slated towards the more geeky end of the user spectrum, with some familiarity with coding principles assumed. You’ll also need to use plug-ins if you want more robust functions such as task tracking.

With that said, the basic notes/links structure is extremely easy to pick up. It’s definitely encouraging me to take more notes and think more deeply about things.

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