4 min read

Dumbledore had a Personal Knowledge Management System!

Hello there! I'm Brennan Davis, the creator of CreaDev Labs, a place of learning and experimentation on productivity, creativity, and personal knowledge management. If you're new around here, be sure to check out my archive of previous newsletter editions. If you enjoy this newsletter, please consider sharing with a friend!

Share friendly link: https://creadevlabs.com/dumbledore-had-a-personal-knowledge-management-system

I've been reading "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" again recently, and I just read the part where Dumbledore is explaining to Harry about a magical object called the Pensieve. It's a tool Dumbledore uses to siphon thoughts out of his brain and store them for later use. In Dumbledore's words:

"'It is called a Pensieve,' said Dumbledore. 'I sometimes find, and I am sure you know the feeling, that I simply have too many thoughts and memories crammed into my mind.'

I totally relate to Dumbledore in this case, which is why I drew this little Sketchnote in my pocket notebook:

Dumbledore continues:

'At these times,' said Dumbledore, indicating the stone basin, 'I use the Pensieve. One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one's mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one's leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form.'"

What I realized when reading this passage again was the Pensieve is what Dumbledore uses for his personal knowledge management system, so to speak. It's the place where he captures his thoughts and ideas, then analyzes them for connections and new ideas.

I wish capturing thoughts was as easy as putting a magic wand to my head and extracting them into a stone basin, but luckily there are a lot of great ways to capture ideas without the use of magic. One of the quickest and simplest ways I've found to do this is by using a Bullet Journal inside of a physical notebook. The Rapid Logging technique developed by the Bullet Journal's creator, Ryder Carroll, has helped me keep track of so many thoughts I would've otherwise lost.

Starting a Bullet Journal is probably the simplest way of getting started with personal knowledge management. All you need is a notebook and a pen and you're on your way. (To learn more about the Bullet Journal, check out my Sketchnote summaries of Ryder Carroll's book The Bullet Journal Method)

For seeing connections between ideas, I put my notes into an app called Obsidian. It's one of many tools out there that allow you to create links between notes, and then see those connections in a visual graph view.

Zoomed out view of my knowledge graph in Obsidian

I use a combination of Obsidian, GoodNotes, and a Bullet Journal for my personal knowledge management system. While not quite as cool as a magical memory basin, these tools allow me to do basically the same thing as Dumbledore and see patterns and links that I wouldn't have seen if I'd kept everything inside my head.

I'm in the process of creating a quick start guide to personal knowledge management that I hope to have out sometime in the early part of the new year, so look out for that if you're interested in learning more about how to start your own PKM system!

Do you already have a personal knowledge management system? If so, what do you use for it? Please share with me by sending an email to brennan@creadevlabs.com, or if you're viewing this on the website please share in the comments section below.


Things I'm working on to improve my productivity and personal knowledge management practices

I've been sending out this newsletter for a little over 20 weeks now, and it's already evolved quite a bit in that short period of time. I've been making small adjustments to the format each week in hopes of finding something that's both interesting to my readers and sustainable. I personally feel the tiny tweaks and changes I've made over time have improved the overall quality of the newsletter, and I plan to continue introducing more improvements as time goes on.

What I'm Reading / Watching / Listening to:

Resources and ideas from others to explore

Article: Building a Second Brain: An Interview with Tiago Forte
This article is a great explanation of the benefits of a personal knowledge management system by the creator of the Bullet Journal, Ryder Carroll, and the creator of the Second Brain system, Tiago Forte. I highly recommend reading this if you're wanting to learn more about PKM.

Video: How to Build Your Bullet Journal (& Second Brain)
Another collaboration between Ryder Carroll and Tiago Forte. This video breaks down how Ryder Carroll uses his Bullet Journal and an app called Roam Research for his personal knowledge management system.

Latest Book Chapter Summary

Sketchnoted chapter summaries of books I'm currently reading

Summary of The Bullet Journal Method: Handwriting
Sketchnoted summary of the section titled “Handwriting” in Ryder Carroll’s book “The Bullet Journal Method”

Questions or comments?

  • If viewing this newsletter in your email, please send your question or comment to brennan@creadevlabs.com
  • If viewing this newsletter on the website, please post your question or comment in the discussion section below