The art of making notes with Obsidian

Aug 29, 2021 5 min read
The art of making notes with Obsidian

Growing your personal knowledge using notes seems impossible? Then you should give a go at Obsidian.

Lets deep dive into the art of "note making". I'll introduce a tool called Obsidian that really helps you take notes daily.

The core feature of Obsidian that makes it stand-out from the rest of the plot is its intuitive note linking system. You can easily link note between themselves and start creating your second brain.

Obsidian is a second brain. It lets you organize your ideas and improve your thinking.

It has:

  • Graph views
  • Backlinks
  • Outgoing Links
  • And many community plugins to add wonderful features

Let's talk about productivity before diving deeper into Obsidian. I've been using it for a couple of weeks, and I've definitely seen my production increase. Whether it is work or content production.

As any note-taking app, you write notes. However, the features of Obsidian allow you to write & forget. Every time you think or do something, write it into your Obsidian Vault. It takes the load out of you, and you know that you'll be able to come back to it later. Either to work on it again, add some content, or just discard it.

Time to install Obsidian

Before reading the end of this article, I strongly encourage you to install Obsidian and start writing notes. Don't do anything special, don't create folders or other complicated structures. Just start making notes. Once you have a hundred notes, come back here, and I'll explain to you something that you'd probably have learned already. Meanwhile, don't hesitate to look at the end of the article for good plugins and tips.

If you've come back a couple of days later to this article, probably after falling in love and at the same time feeling discouraged by the sheer number of notes you took and the time you spent trying to organize everything. Let me tell you, you are not the first one.

There are a couple of good ways to structure your notes and links. If I can give you one advice: don't make a folder nor link your notes at first. Just start writing your ideas. Once you've got the hang of it, start making home notes and group notes that link all of your ideas. At this step, you should have more insight on how you want to use obsidian!

The most gratifying thing is the graph that is generated with all the links you made between your notes. However, it can also be a bad side because you tend at first to try to connect everything and nothing together. You end up with a bad navigation throughout your notes.

The links and the structure of your notes should evolve to accommodate your thinking.

Notes Organization

Let's ask ourselves some questions.

What do I want my notes to be? Is it here only to transcribe information, or is it here to help me get inspiration for subjects? I might say that the second one is the better choice; however, I'd like to use my Obsidian vault for storing information on projects I'm working on.

At first, I tried to make templates for my new notes. However, I found out that it is way more interesting to let yourself write what you want rather that have a predetermined structure. Don't fool yourself, you need some kind of structure in your Obsidian vault, however, probably not the one you are thinking about.

Why should you create folders in Obsidian when you can link every note to another, therefore rendering the need for folders obsolete? You probably started using Obsidian to store all of my thoughts and the information you encounter every day, and you immediately started created folders. You had a folder for everything.

Likewise, you've probably changed you structure a couple of times, such as I did, and you weren't happy. I decided, a couple of days ago, to remove all the folders from my vault. Let me tell you something, it didn't change anything. It just took this frustration out of my head. If I need a note, I just link it.

I found out that I really only have 3 types of notes :

  • Description Notes → How to install this, how to do that, what is this thing, etc…
  • Thought notes → Is this better than that?  Should you use this, etc …
  • Index Notes → Bunch of links to other notes for easier navigation.

Dedication

To really grasp the power of Obsidian and the possibilities that it offers, you need to have some kind of determination. To dedicate myself to this tool, I've booked myself a 30-minute meeting every morning. It helps me clean my vault, organize my day and write my thoughts. Throughout the day, every time I need to make a note, I just open Obsidian and write a couple of lines. It is really a great tool. I've probably spent an hour a day for the last couple of weeks on Obsidian. However, I've been more productive and my mental load has decreased, which meant that I'm less tired when I go back home.

Drawbacks

One of the drawback of Obsidian so far is that it takes time to have a good organization system. Many YouTubers/Bloggers will explain what system they use and what works for them. If there is one advice I can give is to watch their videos, and build on top of it.

I recommend some channels such as Linking Your Thinking. However, it can feel intimidating to watch people with considerable note's graph teaching you how to use it. After more than two weeks using Obsidian daily, I'm still not comfortable with my organization. It'll take time. However, it is a process I really enjoy.

Plugins

Now that you have started to make notes daily, just now that there are a couple of great plugins to help you in your Zettelkasten. I'll just pop them here, feel free to try them.

  • Activity History: Shows you how active you've been on Obsidian
  • Advanced Tables: Easy table in Markdown
  • Better Word Count: Allows counting selection
  • Calendar: Nice view of your daily notes
  • Checklist : Allows you to add to-do to the side panel
  • Hotkeys++: Shortcuts for list and links
  • Language Tools: Tells you if there are any mistakes in your text
  • Natural Language Processor: Parses and inserts date
  • Note Refactor: Split note, merge notes, etc…
  • Paste URL into selection: Add URLs to notes easily
  • Random: Opens a random note
  • Review: Add a note to a later daily note for review
  • Sliding Panes: cmd + shift + click opens the note in the right panel
  • Sync: Sync your notes between devices (iOS, Windows, Phone) for 5$ a month or via iCloud
  • Obsidian Git: Saves your Obsidian in a git repository
  • Outliner: List management shortcuts

Zettelkasten

You've probably seen in the article Zettelkasten pop a couple of times. I won't say much, but I let you read more about it here. It is one of the best systems to making notes out there and has been used for decades, even before computers. I'll let you understand how. ;)

I hope that you'll have a better understanding of Obsidian after reading this article and how to use it. Know that it is a hard tool to use that demands dedication and a different approach to your way of thinking.

Let me know how you've been using your Vault to take note, and don't hesitate to reach out if you have any recommendations.

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