4 min read

Refactoring My PKM System in GoodNotes

Hello there! I'm Brennan Davis, the creator of CreaDev Labs, a place of learning and experimentation on productivity, creativity, and personal knowledge management. Each week I share tips, experiments, and resources to help you build your very own productivity and knowledge management systems. 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!

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In my newsletter a couple weeks ago, I talked about how if something isn't broken you shouldn't try to fix it. I said this in regards to my task management system, which has been working well for me for several years. There is a part of my productivity system that isn't working as well, however, and that's my personal knowledge management system.

I've been using the app Obsidian for my personal knowledge management app, and I've got a fair amount of notes in there. Lately, I've been using it almost entirely for writing content for my website, and don't spend much time actually reviewing the notes I've taken. I find typing things out really isn't my preferred method of note taking. I like being able to include drawings and diagrams in my notes, which isn't easy to do in an entirely text based app.

I realized I started using Obsidian because I was just going with the trends and the ways others have said is the best way to approach PKM. What I really need to do is figure out what the best way is for me, not for somebody else.

I've always enjoyed taking notes by hand as it allows me a lot more freedom in how I lay out my notes. I often like to draw lines and arrows between ideas to connect them. The freeform style of note taking is why I've taken to Sketchnoting so well. What's great is I already have a fantastic digital handwriting app, GoodNotes, so I thought to myself, "Why not just use GoodNotes as your personal knowledge management app?"

I did a bit of research, and from what I can tell GoodNotes isn't being widely used as a PKM app, so it looks like I'll have the opportunity to pioneer the use of it. It'll be nice to not have so many opinions on how I should or shouldn't be using GoodNotes for PKM (unlike what I encountered when using Obsidian).

Obsidian isn't going to entirely disappear from my productivity toolbox. I still plan to use it for creating drafts for my website content, as that has become my primary use of it anyway. I still like typing things out in Markdown, and my website's content management system, Ghost, allows me to paste Markdown directly into it.

I'm excited to share my experience setting up and using GoodNotes as my PKM app in the coming weeks!

(This exploration of my ideal personal knowledge management system is a great example of using my Keys to Productivity to find what works best for me and how I like to work. Check out my Keys to Productivity Overview to learn more.)

What's New on CreaDev Labs:

Book Summaries

Summary of Atomic Habits: The Man Who Didn't Look Right
Summary of The Bullet Journal Method: Decluttering Your Mind


How to Link Notes Between Obsidian, GoodNotes, and a Bullet Journal
What I Like About Pocket


I've been working on simplifying my weekly content offerings down to just my newsletter and my Sketchnote book summaries. I found I was spending so much time on getting website content out that I didn't have time to work on some bigger projects I've got in the works. I'm hoping that slimming down the weekly content will allow me time to work on those bigger projects, as well as help me make the newsletter and the Sketchnote book summaries much higher quality.

What I'm Reading / Watching / Listening to:

Article: The Ultimate Guide to Prioritization, Part 2: How To Decide What To Do... And Do It!
The biggest thing that stood out to me in this article was using something called the Ivy Lee method, which is to pick the top 6 things you need to get done, and work on them until they're completed. I've started using this method, pulling the day's tasks from the weekly task list I put together during my weekly review. I feel it has helped me get more of my weekly tasks done. I haven't been perfect at getting all 6 tasks done in a day, but if anything carries over, I just picks more items from my weekly list until I'm back up to 6.

Article: Discover the best way to take notes by identifying your personal knowledge management goals
I was already thinking about moving my PKM system into GoodNotes, and this article helped push me over the edge. The author has a very similar philosophy to mine of building your own tailored systems. I did some brainstorming on my PKM system after reading this article, which helped me evaluate both Obsidian and GoodNotes as PKM apps:

PKM Brainstorm

The joy I experienced while doing this brainstorming in GoodNotes further solidified my decision to use it for my PKM app.

Question of the Week

What is the biggest thing preventing you from getting started building your own productivity and/or personal knowledge management system?

Questions or comments? Please send me an email at brennan@creadevlabs.com