Although my main purpose for starting with Obsidian notes was to take better notes on several subjects that I’m exploring, I started creating notes on some people in my life. I created this as a separate vault, but now I’m having doubts.
I have notes for each person along with notes for the “source” of that person (a job, a social group, a house, etc) and other notes to define the relationship (friend, coworker, neighbor, etc) along with whatever else I felt like adding. (It’s very much a notes as tags setup)
Initially this was just so I had a common place to jot down the name of a neighbor, where they work, or the names of their kids, pets, etc. so I didn’t have to keep asking, but it expanded into coworkers and casual acquaintances as well. I thought keeping these separate would be good, but then last week I started adding notes from a meeting (in my Knowledge Vault) and wanted to reference some coworkers, but they’re in my People Vault.
In my Knowledge vault the only people are course instructors or authors of books I’m studying (all prefixed with @). I’m concerned that if I start adding notes for all my neighbors, coworkers, friends and random acquaintances that may not stay in my life, that it will just get messy. Have you had experience with this one way or another and found a system that works?
I keep everything in the same vault (almost 5k notes so far), including around 50 of my closest contacts, and some acquaintances. I store similar details in each “person” note: birthday, family members, events that they tell me about (so I can remember to ask about them). I also like having them in my main vault because I can reference them in my daily notes, which allows me to easily find the occasion when I last interacted with someone.
I’ve found a ton of value from this. I don’t remember people’s stories very well on my own, so keeping them in my vault helps me to grow those relationships better than I otherwise could.
I don’t find it messy, but your situation may be different than mine. I keep personal contacts and “interesting people” in separate folders and with separate tags, so it’s easy for me to see (or filter for) one or the other. Obsidian is remarkably good for keeping things “together but separate”, especially if you use Dataview: with a tiny bit of metadata, you can choose to see or exclude whatever you want in any view. Super useful.
I kept everything in one vault, so I only had to go one place to capture info. It works fine. I keep all people (contacts and sources) in one folder, so I can do a quick search limited to that folder to find people.
I’ve enjoyed the combined vault, finding it easy to use and capture things. I use the Auto Note Mover plugin to automatically move People notes to the right folder.
This image shows the folders in my vault to give you an idea how I keep everything in one vault.
I can understand! Even with people that I really do care about the details of their life story get lost in the day to day, and I find myself wanting to ask something for the 5th time. I like the idea of keeping them in my main vault, but separated into a folder. That feels like a way to get the best of each.
Question though… How are you handling couples? Initially I had separate notes for each person and I would link couples together with a note on the relationship type, but then I didn’t know where to keep information that was common to both of them. I made some “Tim & Julie” type of notes, which was great for common info, but tougher when I wanted to reference just one of them. I would imagine this would be even more pronounced with a daily notes habit (haven’t started that yet)
Thanks again. After seeing some of these I’m leaning towards a combination of folders and tags. I was trying to avoid folders as much as possible and lean into letting the metadata do the work, but I’m now seeing that a handful of specific use folders could be very helpful. Starting with one for people.
I keep everything in 1 vault, with a folder for contacts. I actually have a folder for people and a folder for contacts (people I have or had contact with). I’m moving toward using my OS’s contacts app, but keeping notes in Obsidian for linking and longer info. (I’m planning to setup a second vault for old, no-longer-very-relevant notes, but I haven’t yet thought thru how to do that without breaking existing links.)
I use both types of notes My solution isn’t bulletproof, but it works most of the time. I have individual notes and family notes. For couples, I have an individual note for each of them and a “Tim & Julie” family note. Each individual links to the family note (so Tim Smith would have a link to Tim & Julie)
This way I can say “Saw [[Tim & Julie]] today” or “Saw [[Tim Smith]] today”. The downside here is that I’ll have to check two notes to see every date that I’ve interacted with Tim, but that hasn’t caused me any issues. Usually I remember if I want to look for the individual or the couple.
In the family note I have anniversary (if I care about that), “members” of the family, and any relationship notes. In the individual note I have a link to the family, birthday, other dates I want to remember, and notes about that person.
That system makes perfect sense to me and I just finished converting existing files over to it. I’m not sure why I got stuck thinking that a person could only exist in a single note, but somehow I did.
While entering people there’s a couple who I wanted both individual and couple notes for, another that I only wanted the combined note and didn’t need individual ones, and one where I only needed an individual note for one of them. By using both single person and family or relationship notes I can start with whatever makes sense for that situation and convert or expand them as needed.
I can even make family notes based on location, like “Blue house two doors up”, or considering that I know the dogs of the neighborhood better than the people I could even start some as “Zimba & Maya’s House”, and that will be very helpful.
Glad I could help! And good ideas
I’m working on a “status updates” system too, although I haven’t quite figured it out enough to talk about it yet. Ultimately I would like to be able to add a “status update” note that has a date and is automatically linked to an individual (or family) note, so I can see how our relationship has changed over time. I haven’t quite figured out how to do that yet, but I think it would be useful. Without this I find my individual notes can get a little “stale” and outdated as time goes by.
Yea, that’s one of the times when the structure of a database is easier than the freeform method. I haven’t got to the point of looking into time based ideas, but would be interested in hearing what you come up with
So actually I was looking to solve a similar problem: I am working in an arts-related field of research. I meet a lot of people who are doing arts. So, naturally, some of my personal contacts become relevant for my professional research. In the past I always seperated “contacts” from “artists”/“authors”/etc. But now I am thinking that this is really kind of clunky.
A database would handle it like this: You have several notes for one person. You have one note for the contact. You have one note for the artist. And one note for the client of yours. But all are the same person.
This can be achieved on two hands. On the one hand you work with Metadata (Entity:: Person, Type:: Contact / Entity:: Person, Type:: Artist, etc). And on the other hand you define pre- or postfixes for each type of contact.
BUT this seems to be also quite clunky. E.g. I write something about Michelangelo and create him as artist. I don’t want a dead painter from the 16th century between my very alive contacts. So what to do?
Two ideas for this:
Create another layer of subfolders to sort each type in the right place, combined with pre/postfixing.
Or there is only one note per person and you work strongly with metadata, and separate them in two big chunks: People you have contact with and people you do not.
I tend to try the latter.
Some really interesting ideas here! Here’s some more that you guys might like:
- In general I try to organize the least amount possible. It’s a computer, you can always change things later. And often a simple Dataview query makes the “unstructured” nature of these notes feel like it’s an actual database.
- I have people notes too. Actually some are tagged #a/person, some #a/author, some both. Haven’t found a reason until now why having it completely tidied up is useful. Maybe to extract a list of “non-author people”, but again that’s a simple Dataview query.
- Some of my favorite things to write down about friends: their ambitions, topics they like to talk about, their love language, what I appreciate about them, what food they like. And of course (through backlinks to notes about conversations) what I learned from them.
There are many tools out there for “personal CRM” or “Personal Relationship Management”, can be its own rabbit whole. None of them that i have found create stand alone Markdown files that would be a natural integration with Obsidian.
Many can pull in contacts from email, some can pull in from LinkedIn and Facebook (birthdays). While you may or may not want to use a tool, you can learn from them. A “hot” one on the market is called Clay. There are many of them now.
I have a “people” folder and in that I have different categories of people I interact with. You can have a people template that give various data points to gather for this, and it make it much easier to link notes, etc with different people.
Yes, depends on your needs of course. If you want integration with email and to have birthday reminders, and have thousands of people, Obsidian is not a great fit. But if it is notes for 150 people (the Dunbar number), then Obsidian can work for a lot of people.