Help Me Through Those Walls I Hit

I realize the issues I’m having with Obsidian are due to my current way of thinking, so I’ve come here looking for enlightenment. It’s like I’ve spent the past 5 years at Cobra Kai dojo and now Mr.Miagi has asked me to wax his car, and I’m failing to make the connection.

I’ve been using Evernote for years. It works the way I think, and even with the new version 10 I have no major complaints. That said, I definitley feel like Obsidian is faster and more nimble. Writing meeting notes in markdown and using templates is very quick.

But here’s what’s been going on for me, maybe some of you will be able to provide a little input to kick me in the right direction.

Let’s say I have a meeting today at work. I’ll decide “today is the day I’m committing to Obsidian for a few weeks, let’s see what it can do”. I’ll jot down notes, action items – it works great. But then, I’ll want to take a screen shot of the presentation. In Evernote, I could click on the little elephant head, select “take screen shot”, draw a square with the crosshairs and boom – screen shot in my note. I don’t do this often, but if I want to insert a screenshot or an image/PDF into a note, I wonder what my “attachments” folder will look like in 5 years, and how much space my Obsidian folder will be taking up.

I guess my point here is that not all of my notes are simple text. Most are, but some have a few image files embedded, maybe a PDF here and there, and I feel there’s a point where “okay, this shouldn’t be in Obsidian”. I don’t want to get to a point where if it’s this type of note it goes on Obsidian, but if it’s this type, then Evernote or Notion.

The other thing I’m wondering about is the use of folders. I’ve seen the Nick Milo videos and they make some sense to me with his Map of Content, but using today as an example…

If I have a meeting today about “Hamburgers” with “Ronald McDonald” my mind goes into overdrive. I work with Ronald McDonald a lot, so should I give him his own note ([[Ronald McDonald]]) and link him up, or will this matter in the future. What if I don’t do this and decide I wished I had created a link when I had the chance?

So after a few weeks of use, I may find I have a note in Obsidian about my meeting with Ronald McDonald, but I’ll also have the note I took about the project I’m working on with a colleague. So is that the time where I should be creating folders for the notes I’m amassing so everything isn’t melded together into a giant list. Maybe a folder for Meetings, a folder for Projects?

I really see the potential here in Obsidian. The local markdown files, the fact I OWN the data, it’s definitely an app I’m going to continue to explore. I guess what it all boils down to is, I feel like there are certain things I want from my notes (web clips, screen shots, files) that cause me to stress out in Obsidian because I can’t help but think about how powerful Obsidian is, but maybe use case X or Y is better off in another app. For example, I like to keep a “Reading List” as a database in Notion. I can slice and dice the data, and it’s easy to read. How would I store something like that in Obsidian? Or if a colleage sends me an important email – using Evernote I can forward it right into my notes. In Obsidian I could cut and paste I suppose.

I want to use Obsidian and I totally see the power it brings me, but I also don’t want to be stuck in 6 months wondering if I saved the notes about that meeting in Obsidian, but the PDF is in Evernote, and my reading list is still in Notion.

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Hey! I understand your confusion, I think at first every new software is daunting. You think there is a lot of potential, but you are not sure how yet.

Migrating from something you have used for years and years is hard and complicated. It may even never work and this is fine. My general advice is, take it slow, use it from time to time and let it grow on you. Or not, whatever :slight_smile:

Note to the specifics. If you are on Windows, the Win key +S activates the software Snip and Stitch (or a similar name). Your cursor becomes a crossghair and you can draw a box to screenshot whatever you like. With Ctrl+V you paste the screen shot cutout in Obsidian. BTW this is a general widows shortcut, think of it as the Elephant icon on a global level. A full screen screenshot is done with the “print screen” key.

Regarding your other point and the Roland Mcdonald example… I am not sure that I understand what you want to achieve. And I am not sure that you are either :). Should you create a note Ronald Mcdonald and link to it? I don’t know. It sounds like you want to use the linking functionality for the sake of it. Like having a hammer and looking for a nail.

I think a good idea here is to ask yourself, how would you go about it in Evernote? Would you create that note there? Would you link to it? (I used a lot of Evernote waaaay back and they had it, don’t know about today)

If you would - do it. You don’t have to create backlinks to everything. You don’t have to use the map. You can use only what fits you :).

I know that this is really general and without knowing your current workflow it is hard to give specific examples. I CAN, however tell you about my use case.

My tasks

  • I jolt down occasional notes and sentences of things on my head or things I have to do.
  • I have several projects that I have to keep track of.
  • I have a lot of PDFs with scientific papers that I read and take notes on, as well as presentations.

My work flow principle
I am not a person who takes organisation to the extreme. Things should grow organically and fall into place naturally. If I have to spend more time organising a system, than I do using it, it flies out of the window. This excludes one-time setup costs. Those can be high, I am fine.

My use case
My work flow consists of two “pillars”, if I may use the fancy words :smiley: - the daily note and a folder Projects.

  1. The daily note:
    I didn’t use Obsidian much until I installed the Calendar widget. I can’t stress this enough. The calendar widget let’s you quickly access/create daily notes. You always see it and you see which days have notes on them. The daily note is always open.
    This is where chaos happens.

If I find something interesting - it goes there. If I talk to someone - this is where the meeting notes go. If I find a funny quote on the Internet or do a screenshot - there!

This solves the problem of having to think about organising. Which note goes in which folder? What happens if something belongs to two folders? I don’t know and I don’t want to think about it. It is in that daily note. This is why Evernote, Todoist, dynalist and countless others didn’t work for me - everything had to go somewhere and the clutter there became unbearable (the inbox). Here, the navigation is through the widget. I never open the folder with daily notes.

How do I get chaos in to order you ask? Tags and backlinks. This is where point 2. Comes

  1. Projects
    I have a project folder with one note for each project. This is where I document progress, paste results and write down what I have to do next (I might have a subfolder per project if I have files associated with it, such as Screenshots, presentations or results).

Now suppose that on day X I meet with Ronald Mcdonald to dicuss the our hamburger project. First, in my project file “Best new burgers” I will have a line

  • meeting with Ronald on the 25th.

I will go to the meeting with old fashioned pen and paper and suppose we discuss that we want to actually start using real beef for our hamburgers, and I have to find suppliers. When I am back on the computer I would spend a bit of time thinking about our meeting and write a short bullet point list what we discussed and what I have to do. I would almost always also paste it in an email and send it to Roland (so I have to do it anyways). That way both he and I will be in the same page. Now, that list with the notes will reside then in the daily note. Somewhere in the list/sentences I will use a #tag for the project and I will do a backlinks to the above sentence (or embed the information in the project file directly)

Thus, later when I am in the project folder/file I will see all important info, without the clutter of everything else. This is where PDFs with presentations of my competitors are, this is where a list of potential suppliers that I snapped at my phone is, etc. Also, if I forget something, all I need is to look when was my meeting with Ronald and I can find what we discussed.

However, everything else is in my daily notes. Probably 99% of the stuff there is unneeded and I will never look again. But I can have some info tagged to two projects and when I am in either of those projects, I will see it. So all I need to use my system is to put stuff in the daily note, almost dumping it and do the occasional tag if something is relevant to the projects. When I work on projects, I work in the project folder, where I paste results and think about my experiments (in real life I am not looking for suppliers but write academic papers :smiley: )

I somehow got a feeling that you might have similar needs, this is why I decided to share so much. Sorry if you find the post daunting.


I didn’t read all the details of your use cases, but it seems like you have a lot figured out already, knowing how your natural work flow is!

A good perspective is to think about how you might access it later, what would you search on.

With Obsidian, and note tools in general, there are usually 20 ways to do the same thing. Many small notes vs. longer notes for example. Tags or not. Links or not.

I put less in the daily note than you do. I might link to the project note for the project i am having a meeting on. I have an Alfred (keyboard macro) shortcut for inserting today’s date. So my project notes are chronological with most recent on top.

I have people notes for all direct reports and important people.

I currently have a lot of tags, but not finding them that useful, so where ever I have 5 or less instances of a tag, i am considering removing the tag.

this set of folders for me is only text (MD) files, i keep the other materials elsewhere.

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