Obsidian enabled me to overcome cognitive limitations in a way I hadnt realised was possible

Writing is the main way I do my thinking (I Love and Struggle to Write). I do my best thinking when I sit down, write an idea on paper and probe it from multiple directions. I can do this in other ways, such as conversation, but it’s generally less effective.

But I find the traditional process of writing difficult: of starting with a blank page, writing out a linear sequence of ideas and ending up with a finished article.

My mind is divergent, so when I’m thinking about one idea, many other related ideas pop into my head. I like to hop between different ideas and improve them incrementally. Then, I’ll put a laser focus on certain ideas to really drill down into them.

Obsidian is the first tool I’ve come across which can handle this approach. When I have a divergent idea, I can easily create a new (linked) note as a new tab. I can hop between different ideas and progress them as “slow burns” rather than “heavy lifts”. An example is my article “My academic knowledge management (AKM) system for processing research paper insights”. This took more than 12 months to go from first idea to published article (and winning an Obsidian October award), while I just kept adding to it and improving it over time.

I also find it hard to remember the details behind why I made certain decisions in the past. I’ll remember the decision, but not the clear sequence of whys that led to it. With Obsidian, I can easily write out that rationale and use it as a reference point whenever I need to refresh my memory around why I made a particular decision.

There are potential challenges of using a system like Obsidian, though. It’s possible to continually spend time optimising your wofklow, which becomes a big time sync. To prevent this, You need an end state for your digital infrastructure.