The three-step process to make the most of your mind.
What if you could collect relevant knowledge around you, connect it, and access it whenever you want to?
Choosing the right knowledge management tools is crucial to continually improve and learn.
In personal knowledge management, switching costs are high. But with thousands of apps available, it’s hard to figure out which ones are worth your time.
In the past year, I experimented with different tools for capturing, collecting, distilling, creating, and sharing knowledge. I spent hours exploring and comparing tools like Notion, Obsidian, Miro, MindMeister, Simplenote, Milanote, Feedly, Transno, Hypothesis, Quoteback, Coggle, Typora, Ulysses, PowerNotes, Refind, and the like.
Here’s what ultimately helped me the most to store, manage, and share anything I learn or want to remember. All of these tools are free, except for Readwise (8$/month) and RoamResearch (15$/month).
1. How to Collect and Capture Ideas
Instapaper saves everything you want to consume later.
Instapaper is a simple tool for saving articles and online videos to read and watch later. Whenever you stumble upon a useful resource but you don’t have the time to read it at that moment, just save it with a single click to your Instapaper account.
Use your Kindle as the ultimate learning tool.
Most people are e-reading enemies until they truly read their first e-book. I remained an enemy fifteen books in. You can’t dog-ear your favorite pages, scribble your questions in the margins, or sketch out the concept you just learned.
But since I transformed my Kindle into an e-learning device, I wouldn’t trade for a paper book anymore.
When reading, highlight everything you want to remember. Then use the Kindle Notes web app to trim your highlights and to add notes.
Highlight your favorite Podcast episodes with Airr.
With Airr, you can highlight audio. Whenever you listen to a Podcast episode via the App, you can simply press the ‘quotes’ button. Then, the Airr App will save a transcribed version of what you’re listening to.
It’s a game-changer for Podcast lovers who want to save their favorite sound bites. So far, the app is only available for iOS, but there’s an Android waitlist.
2. Organize What You Want to Remember
Readwise unlocks your knowledge management’s true power.
You can do a ton of things with Readwise, but I mainly use it or two things. First, for importing everything from Airr, Kindle highlights, Instapaper, and physical books. Second, for exporting everything to make your favorite note-taking app. I export my Readwise highlights to Notion and RoamResearch.
Apart from this, you can also use it to combine spaced repetition with whatever you consume. It creates flashcards of your podcast, e-book, and article highlights.
3. Creating and Sharing Knowledge
How RoamResearch lets you build a second brain.
Now there is an ongoing debate whether to use Notion or Roam for building your second brain. But the two applications solve different problems.
While Notion is for project management and team collaboration, Roam is more of a single-player option. Notion is a black hole where you have to go looking for things. Roam is the wise grandma who tells you about them.
That’s why Roam is excellent for creating your personal knowledge base and connecting ideas and thoughts.
Plus, Roam is a powerful tool for a creative workflow. You can use it for research and note-taking until you’ve finished writing your article. This tool is great for converting your final markup text into plain text. That’s how I copy articles I created in Roam into Medium.
Roam is quite pricy at $15/month. You can also pick between free alternatives and programs solely built for Zettelkasten, like Zettlr and The Archive, or more functional alternatives like TiddlyWiki (free and open-source), Obsidian, RemNote, Amplenote, and Org-roam.
I still prefer Roam because of its clean design and its Readwise connection.
Use the Zettelkasten method to create your Roamkasten.
Luhmann, the Zettelkasten inventor, found the answers and lived by them. During his life, he wrote 70 books & 500 scholarly articles. He attributes his success to a note-taking system called the Zettelkasten.
The Zettelkasten is an incredible learning tool as it forces us to use all the strategies known for effective learning — elaboration, spacing, and retrieval.
And applying the Zettelkasten to Roam takes this method to an entirely new level. Roamkasten is the ultimate personal knowledge management system.
Different from so many other knowledge management tools, the ‘Roamkasten’ is designed around cognition and learning science. The key benefits include:
- Full retention of everything you read, watch or listen to.
- Deep understanding of ideas and thoughts and creation of your own output.
- Developing connections between separate domains and challenging your cognitive biases.
And the best about it: it’s an incremental process that requires minimal effort but leads to maximum output.
Building your personal knowledge management takes time, but it’s worth the effort. Once you found the stack you trust, creating content and ideas becomes even more enjoyable.