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Obsidian Interview With Bryan Jenks

November 7, 2020

How Did You Find Obsidian?

I found obsidian from a YouTube channel called ‘NotesWithRen’. I was already looking at Roam Research as an option for what I wanted to use as a way of getting more precipitate value from my accumulated notes on research papers.

Roam wasn’t ideal for me as it’s a paid SaaS app and I was just looking around at that point. After seeing Ren talk about Obsidian I joined the discord server and began using it and quickly began falling down a variety of rabbit holes.

**The people and topics that ensnared my attention were mainly Zettelkasten, Evergreen notes, Andy Matuschak, Niklas Luhmann, Sönke Ahrens,** and Obsidian Customization & Optimization.

What Was The Previous App (Or Apps) You Were Using?

Previously I was really only using either Markdown, RMarkdown, LaTeX, or Groff notes for my research papers and I was still trying to configure a workflow around everything that I could be happy with before I found my workflow in Obsidian.

I've grown to love Obsidian so much that I became a VIP supporter not long after and now I try to help others in the server with thier own customizations, fixing issues, or giving tips.

How Many Notes Do You Have In Obsidian?

My file explorer says I have over 220 but I have a variety of things in my vault. The most important are the evergreen notes.

My Zettelkasten is still new and being behind on my reading they are few in number but my goal was to not rush this process and to not just dump all of my old work into this project but to instead start fresh with a strategy in mind for how I want to approach this knowledge work.

What Do You Use Your Notes For?

I support the position that the notes should be created with the end goal of there being creative output.

I like to take notes on a variety of content from a myriad of mediums, and enjoy the process of actually recording and synthesizing my thoughts onto “digital paper”.

The process of refining these thoughts and linking them together is extremely rewarding as you begin to see the graph forming a network of connected thoughts uniquely your own in a structure akin to a human brain.

I have several published notes about the effective usage of notes in a Zettelkasten as an external framework of thought fn:1.

and I find this incredibly useful because it does indeed reduce the cognitive load of writing and formulating knowledge and creative output.

How Do Your Notes Benefit You You In Your Daily Life?

The external framework is also something I personally rely on a lot now as having ADHD my ability to hold a lot of these ideas in my head while I formulate the outline of a document and begin writing it all in a traditional style is akin to attempting balancing on one foot while also balancing bowls of water on your head and arms without spilling a single drop.

The usage of notes like this for writing, video script generation, and general organization of thoughts for an output was a paradigm shift for me and my note taking habits.

I am also a big advocate for spaced repetition and active recall through tools like Anki and a little less structured approach of the simple curation of your Zettelkasten fn:2.

as spaced repetition helps me also reduce the impact ADHD has on my poor working memory, and is also a more effective method of learning that the traditional educational modelfn:3.

Who Are Your Inspirations When It Comes To PKM (Personal Knowledge Management)?

For people generating knowledge and not just collecting notes for their own sake, as well as those that read and reach broadly not just those that take notes on taking notes or stick to just productivity topics, I really like Andy Matuschak, Piotr Wozniak, and Derek Sivers as of late.

What Advice Would You Give To Your Younger Self About Building A Note Taking System?

Well it only came out in 2017 but I’d say read “How To Take Smart Notes” by Sönke Ahrens, don’t bother transcribing because ADHD already makes paying consistent attention difficult, keep everything in plain text or only use apps that use or can export plain text without headache as portability and future-proofing is key.

Check Out Bryan's Content

Thanks to Bryan for his time and thoughtful answers. Check out his Bryan's YouTube Channel

Obsidian Online Course

If you are interested in learning more about Obsidian. I'm creating an online course on it Check it out here.


  1. Bryan Jenks' Obsidian Publish Note: utilizing external scaffolding lessens the cognitive burden
  2. Bryan's note: The curating of a zettelkasten slip box is an active practice in knowledge building and spaced repetition
  3. Bryan's note: Spaced Repetition
Santi Younger

Santi Younger

Professional Note-taker, Entrepreneur, Video-Editor, Linux Fanboy, Jack Of All Trades.
 
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