[SOLVED] How can I process my inbox more efficiently?

How are people processing their inbox notes in Obsidian?

I’m currently adding all of my ideas into a central inbox, where I go through them adding headers, tags, possibly some links, etc. and eventually moving them into a general notes folder.

For example:


I imagine it would be a good idea to keep the database separate to the website.

This would allow me to access the data from multiple locations, without having to rely on the website being active either.

This would turn into this:

202209041056 Keeping my database separate to the website.md

#notiontoobsidian #outcome #webdev

# Keeping my database separate to the website

I imagine it would be a good idea to keep the database separate to the website.


This would allow me to access the data from multiple locations, without having to rely on the website being active.

This is probably a poor example as no new links are created and I’m not branching off of the note at all, though this can often take some time, especially when I have a day where I feel particularly inspired.

Is there a faster way of doing this? I’m thinking I possibly need to cut out parts of this process (could I somehow forego adding the title/tags?) and possibly spend time prioritising before processing, though I would like some insight into other people’s workflows.

Haphazardly. :confused:

Instead of an “inbox” I have a “scratch” folder; not everything I create in it is necessarily meant to move out of it. I like to keep some of my temporary/brainstorm/working notes as records of thought process. I have it subdivided by year so the clutter can’t build up too much. If there are notes I should have processed but didn’t, they’re still there where I can potentially find and use them.

I prefix these notes with a date or timestamp and keep a list of them.

For a note like your example I would leave out the title — you already have a filename. I’d also leave out the zettel ID, personally (my process is the reverse of yours — I add a zettel-like prefix on creation of a scratch note but remove it when it becomes a “real” note). I’m not sure what the break (---) is doing for you there, but I trust there’s a purpose.

Definitely prioritize before processing.

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Thank you for the detailed reply.

It sounds like you throw everything into your scratch folder picking and choosing which notes you want to process, leaving the notes that aren’t useful.

This is instead of the GTD-like approach where you go through your notes one-by-one from the top down.

This seems like a fun way of doing things, though I would be worried about burying information that could be useful.

The title and the break are just me formatting the note in a nice way before throwing it in my notes folder.

I’m not actually writing out the name of the note twice as I have a keyboard shortcut in Templater to copy over the first header text over to the file name. The Zettel ID is also added automatically, so it wouldn’t really make things faster to remove this though would instead add an extra step to this process.

How are people prioritising? I’m currently trialling the idea of having a Weekly, Daily, and “Later” folders to sort notes into before processing them, though I feel like this adds too much strain to the process.

I managed to improve this process.

I’m using a new workflow where I have a keyboard shortcut (Ctrl+Shift+->) to move the file over to a “Tomorrow” folder and then immediately switch over to the next note.

This allows me to continuously put off processing notes until I truly need to.

I then dump all of the “Tomorrow” notes back into my inbox folder after completing processing my inbox.

This means notes are definitely still going to get revisited.

In practice I also leave some of the useful ones, but ideally it’d be as you say. Also I bypass the scratch folder when I already know where I want to put something, which is often.(Much of my usage isn’t of the zettel type — mainly logs/journals, projects, reference, and reading/viewing notes).

You could do it GTD-style, deciding what to do with each in order, with “process later” as one of the options.

That can happen. I think regular reviews would help prevent it, but I don’t do that yet.

I think it’s just visual noise, especially in such a small note. But they’re your notes, not mine! I use titles for some notes — all of my reading/viewing notes have them.

By feel. “Ooh, I definitely want to save this” vs. “Hmmmm”.

I like this perspective, never thought about it in this way.

The biggest issue for me with keeping titles purely in the file name is that there are some symbols you are unable to use in file names (quotation marks, asterisks, etc.) and I would like to not give up that functionality.

Also, as I’m using IDs in my file names, reading the title from the file name is harder with the visual noise of the ID there.

I could ditch IDs entirely, though I do really like having persistent IDs in case of file name changes, as well as to aid in linking outside of Obsidian.

I haven’t bought into the atomic notes thing yet. When I’m adding to my vault it’s usually in addition to a note I already have, unless it’s something totally new. I like to start with or build notes that are longer and cover more ground. If I start into something that is different enough from the core idea/reason for the note I then split that out into it’s own note, with a link. With that said I do have an inbox to use when I don’t know what to do with something right away, or I just want to quick capture.

As for inbox processing

If I don’t feel like finding a place for something, I have an inbox note that I append any and all random info, tasks, or anything to the bottom of the list. I use ulauncher as a quick log window. It’s like Alfred or Raycast. Sometimes I type semi-long paragraphs into it, or quick log multiple items in a row. I start them with a - so Obsidian makes each one a list item.

This inbox note is pinned to my left sidebar through the starred notes panel, and I process it as part of my work day most days. Usually I know there is something I want to get to in that file so I have no problem getting to it. I like to use time blocks, so I will set a timer for an inbox processing work block. Sometimes I empty the file, sometimes not.

I would not underestimate the usefulness of the gtd way. Having unprocessed notes used to become a burden for me, but I learned that all notes can be processed with the gtd flowchart, even if it means pushing it forward into a tickler note. Tickler notes can become a problem. If I haven’t done anything with it by the reminder date I set, I will usually push it again, it’s like a someday/maybe type idea. If nothing comes of it after that, I will usually add it to my someday project file, or add the whole note to my reference folder, and try to link to any notes that seem relevant, or I just delete it.

Your example is interesting because it is not obvious if it’s actionable or not. At the top of my inbox file I have this diagram to help me process. I use the reminder plugin for the reminders.

In the way I keep my notes, it would not be worth the overhead to have a note as simple as your example. That might be part of a deeper/broader note about personal information architecture. So, assuming my note taking framework, if I have that sentence quick captured into my inbox note, I would move it, copy/paste to that note if it existed. If it didn’t exist I would create it. I would probably jot down some other ideas to research about personal information architecture best practices. A note like this would be in my reference folder, so not immediately actionable. If was meant to be actionable I would create a project file, assuming you might need to reconfigure server settings, and other multiple steps.

I also like to use the random note plugin to explore my reference notes sometimes when I am feeling distracted. I figure it is better to get into a rabbit hole of my own vault sometimes, than waste time on the internet. When I use the random note plugin, I give myself the task of adding to whatever note comes up in some way. It might be writing, tagging, linking, separating it into sections or splitting it up if it seems to big and broad. Sometimes I find things I want to do more with. This leads me to creating a project file with actionable project plans, and I will link to the reference note. I have everything in one vault, but I am considering a multiple vault system. I would already do that if I was an academic focused on publishing. I use Obsidian for general reference, life management, and fiction writing.

You seem to be starting with atomic notes, so I can see how a short thought could get lost unless you title, tag, alias, folder, link, whatever up front for best findability. With my longer note system a thought can get lost in another larger idea, but I find it easier to use mentally. Eventually I will end up splitting notes into more specific ideas as they become more relevant to me and I add to them. I also create structure notes to help as this started to happen with some subjects. Those are like the maps of content idea, but I don’t really use them that much.


I love this idea, pushing inbox notes into my tickler to process in the future.

This way I know I’ll come back to it, though I don’t need to process it immediately.

I do the same thing, I learn a lot more from this process than when using something like reddit for information discovery—the source of the information ends up a lot more reliable than random reddit users as well.

If it’s not atomicised, I’ll generally split it up. A lot of the time I don’t always follow the rule and leave bits in as I don’t see the value in separating that, or I believe I can separate it the next time I encounter the note if necessary.

Thanks for the insights, appreciate the sort of ramble answer as you have a few interesting ideas in there.

I would consider delving more into atomicity if you haven’t already as it really is useful, as much as there is a small upfront cost to consider when processing them.

You’re right that perhaps not everything needs to be atomicised, though if an inbox note is already recorded in an atomic way then I would usually just make that into an atomic note to begin with.

How’s the processing going?

I also capture all my little ideas, much like in your example. in a given week, I might have 12 ideas about project A, and 10 about project B, etc.

But Im only going to be thinking on about 10 projects that week, max. Which is why I do the organizing in the inbox itself, gathering the scraps before committing them to a more permanent home. And that could be all In one note*, using headers.

*I actually use omnifocus for this, as the tagging and project-ing and dates etc are all built-in, and because typically my fleeting thoughts ARE about short projects and groceries and calls to make (action items) and I don’t clutter obsidian with those. I’ve tried 100 ways to make it work there, but… it’s just not a task manager

Though I do have an obsidian inbox note as well. I use it occasionally for more long-form note taking like when Im trying to piece together a contract from various advice on the internet.

Either way, the friction of “move this line up, down, indent” is SO much lower than “filing” every thought individually. And in my opinion, obsidian is not the ideal tool for filing such fleeting thoughts anyway.

If you want to do it in obsidian, add all to the Inbox note, move and indent under headers until a fuller “note” emerges, and then Refactor , Extract, or Merge to another note (for me this would be on the “every 4-7 days” timeline)

You can automatize some of the work by using templates. I especially recommend the Templater plugin. You can configure it so some specific template triggers every time you create new note in the Inbox. In can rename notes, add stuff to them or even move them to another folder.

Yeah, this is resolved now.

The solution I mentioned about “putting off” organisation until later obviously wasn’t sustainable, introducing unnecessarily having to re-think stuff. The ‘Later’ notes also inevitably never got processed, as it never became a priority to deal with them.

I switched to an A-Z reference folder as suggested by David Allen in his book Getting Things Done, sorting notes into a relevant folder as they come up in my inbox. I’m often able to organise a note into a relevant folder immediately after writing it as this process is so fast.

I don’t add titles, tags, etc. anymore at the processing stage. I will only do this sort of deeper organisation when I’m trying to learn about a new topic, for example if I’m trying to learn about frogs I can browse through and organise and connect together notes in my F/Frogs folder into my larger hierarchy. I can also obviously browse this folder if I’m trying to find something related to this topic.

I also don’t split notes if they belong in the same folder category. This is because I’m ultimately going to be reviewing these notes in this folder anyway, I don’t need to start with atomicity here.

I will also move PSM material into folders in my PSM folder. I create a named folder for a project when it comes up.

I also track Projects, Next Actions, and Waiting Fors in Microsoft To-Do, so I’m using a two-application workflow here. I like this approach as I’m able to sync with my phone, and I like the interface and simplicity here.

My workflow essentially improved dramatically after taking time out to really take notes on the Getting Things Done book. I remember it being a painful process during that time, I had gotten so buzzed and so overwhelmed I had actually resolved to stop the business I was working on completely because my system at the time just wasn’t working for me.

There’s a bit more to it to my workflow that has sped this process up further, though for me it’s working really smoothly now.