Newsletter #45: Pick Your Tools for Thought Wisely

Ramses Oudt
Ramses Oudt
Newsletter #45: Pick Your Tools for Thought Wisely

Happy Friday, my fellow lovers of knowledge!

This week's newsletter is a bit special as it's the first one that is not focused on Roam. After increasing noise in the Roam community this year, I've decided to rebrand RoamStack and focus more on the broader offering of tools that help us to think more clear and precise.

While the renaming of RoamStack to Think Stack will take a bit longer (though it's just a renaming, nothing else), I'll be increasingly writing about others tools plus the systems and frameworks that'll help you work with them. It's in line with the message I've been trying to hammer home: it's about your systems, not your tools.

In this newsletter I point to some useful resources that will help you take a broader look at the Personal Knowledge Management space and what problems others are trying to solve. So instead of looking at a feature or extension and figuring out what we can do with it, I want us all to look at what challenges we face and what systems and tools can help us to solve them.

Let's dig in!


How to align your goals with Tools for Thought

But first, the Twitter Space I did with Chris (TfTHacker, who facilitated) and Jessica Shieh about three weeks ago. The topic was how we can wisely align our goals with the Tools for Thought that we use. Several listeners chimed in as Jessica and I were musing about how we uncover our specific knowledge work problems and how we then pick the right tool for the job.

RoamStack members can find the full notes here. Not a member? You can still listen to the entire conversation below.


What is Personal Knowledge Management anyway?

This may seem silly, but it's always good to start with definitions. There's been a lot of talk about what Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) is on social media, but I see few articles that try to get to the bottom of why we would even go through the trouble of creating a stack of tools.

The article PKM Primer: An Introduction to Personal Knowledge Management for Creatives by Mike Schmitz (The Sweet Setup) provides a short and sweet overview of different levels of knowledge, what a PKM system solves, and the basic components of a PKM system.

Another article I recommend you checking out is Personal Knowledge Management for Beginners by Matthias Frank. What I like most about this explanation is that it helps you start thinking from a systems perspective, using the following questions: what do you collect? (input), how do you handle your inputs? (process), what‘s the result of your process? (output). Taking a systems thinking approach will help you avoid the trap of focusing on tools.

Matthias links to a video by August Bradley that explains the basic ideas of Systems Thinking. Check out my public graph with that video and the notes I took from it.


Prepare your knowledge workspace to work clean

Some of my best friends are cooks or chefs, and I increasingly see the similarities between their type of creative work and my type of creative knowledge work. Tools help us get things done, but it's ultimately how we work with them that makes us effective or not. In the article Mise-en-Place for Knowledge Workers: 6 Practices for Working Clean, my PKM mentor Tiago Forte draws similar parallels.

If you're unfamiliar with mise-en-place; it's all the prep work that cooks do so they can quickly churn out a predictable outcome. Or as Tiago puts it: "[Mise-en-place] gives [chefs] a way to externalize their thinking into their environment and automate the repetitive parts of cooking so they can focus completely on the creative parts." There are many practices from mise-en-place that we can apply to knowledge work, and Tiago teaches several of them in this article.


Grokking knowledge graphs

Once you have clear what problems you want to solve, you need to identify the tools that will help you solve the problem. Many of you took to Roam because it's a graph and much in line with how your brain works. But if you look more closely what a graph is, you'll see there are many tools in that family.

To truly grok the concepts of graphs—both personal and collective—I recommend you follow Ivo Velitchkov, who is one of the veteran voices in the Tools of Thought community. In his public Roam graph, Ivo shares his talks and notes on the deep concepts of knowledge graphs. Once you boost your knowledge about the features of graphs, choosing the "right tool" becomes much easier.



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