A few months back, the IT department at my work gave me the okay to use Obsidian. I told them I was storing the text files on the company OneDrive account and not syncing outside to any other devices and they were happy with my setup. They said I had done all the due diligence they would have, so they had no issue.
That set me off on a journey to write (type) everything down. I’ve always kept fairly thorough notes (meeting, reference etc), but with Obsidian, the ease and efficiency of creating new notes, linked notes, templates – I found myself being even more thorough. It was great for housing my “knowledge” as they say, but it wasn’t always clicking for me. It was almost as though someone else had written half the notes. Even though I was able to capture more information than ever before, it was hard to connect to it. I’d look back at two pages of meeting notes from just a week ago and have very little recollection about what was discussed and agreed upon, except for the “todos” I had captured in Todoist.
As a tech guy, and as a lefty with questionable hand writing, I’ve always been quick to dismiss the “you retain more information when you write it down” crowd. That said, I couldn’t deny a simple fact; with my old Moleskine notes I could recall a meeting just by looking at a page. The colors I’d used, the arrows, the headings. In electronic format, the walls of text all bled together. Nothing stood out. Nothing jogged my memory.
After the past few weeks of seeing my meeting notes as walls of text, I decided to investigate the issue a little more. It was hard for me to put my tech biases aside, but I knew something had to give. Sure enough, study after study proved that more notes doesn’t mean better notes. In fact, just the opposite. On a computer you tend to get lost writing things down verbatim, and you don’t give the material a chance to sink in. It’s like wearing a raincoat in the rain. Nothing gets absorbed. In this case, I want the rain to soak my clothes.
Finally, I came across a post in Curtis McHale’s PKM weekly which linked to this being slow blog post (shoutout @curtismchale!). I realized that my handwriting isn’t all that bad if I’m not rushing, and I need to spend more time listening and less time typing my hands off.
Here’s where I really go off course…
I’ve never been one to over complicate things with lots of apps and multiple-step workflows, but in the interest of slowing down I’ve hit upon a perfect solution for me. At least it has been so far (only a few days in)…
I use Goodnotes to write my meeting notes with my – until now – barely used Apple Pencil 2nd gen. This gives me the ability to quickly use templates (eg Cornell) if I want, a beautiful and functional GoodNotes 6 for a mere $12 a year, and gives me every chance to write by hand – something I haven’t done in a couple years.
When the meeting is over, I export the page (or pages) to PDF and pull it into Obsidian where I have a daily note that outlines my day, and links to an electronic meeting note with the embedded PDF. I then write a quick summary and a few keywords in Obsidian so I can find the meeting via electronic search in the future if need be. And like I said, it’s tied to my daily notes so I can toggle through the calendar to arrive at the day the meeting was held. I can still use the keyboard for capturing reference material and other things that require less thought.
I tried using OneNote in place of Goodnotes here, but I don’t love the writing experience in OneNote, templates are not the best/easy to implement, and I’m constantly being asked to sign into Office365 when using it.
So yeah. Old me would have scoffed at the handwriting and the extra step of moving a note from Goodnotes → Obsidian, but new me is happy to slow down a bit and be more thoughtful in the process.