Struggling with workflow

Things I have tried

Using Obsidian for all notes (work, personal, quick input)

What I’m trying to do

I am a practicing physician, and find the idea of Zotero integration to obsidian novel just to keep running notes on all the new literature. Also, I have found the idea of non-fiction literature notes useful as it applies to topics such as productivity, efficiency, family, faith, etc. Obsidian is very useful when sitting at my iMac putting this notes together, contemplating ideas (when my 10 month old and 3 year old are asleep!), and generally reviewing big topics.

I also find that it is nice to journal in obsidian, and I absolutely love the template function (even though options such as phrase express and text expander do similar things, it does seem much easier in obsidian).

My current issue is with getting “the rest of the stuff” into obsidian. I am about 90% iPhone/iPad use. At work I have most of my life into Microsoft todo/onenote, and I see the value of everything into obsidian but wow is it horrible to get it into it easy on mobile. It’s really a friction point.

In personal life, apple notes is just easier across the board.

I do have shortcuts I made with the help of toolbox pro to get a pop up, add info, and get it straight to a new obsidian note into a “inbox” folder, but this is still much more difficult that the ease of use getting info in and out of apple notes. Also apple notes allows sharing so easy, and with the coming iOS 15 (tomorrow) features of Smart Folders, I think for most of day to day life tagging can probably get me what I need.

I think I’m enticed by the “newness” of the obsidian app, but has anyone else come up with a good workflow. It feels like apple notes as my quick entry/mobile app and then obsidian for final changes on iMac (and only reference on mobile) might be useful…but really has be questioning why I am not just using apple notes for everything at this point.

It might be worth looking into the difference between fleeting/impermanent notes, VS permanent notes, and having a think about how they apply to the kind of notes you want to take.

What might be good is to use Apple Notes for fleeting/impermanent notes; notes that have a limited lifespan and won’t be re-visited once they’ve served their purpose; to-do list, quick ideas, flashes of inspiration, notes to capture something that is going on or has just happened.
I’m a heavy iPad user and agree that Apple Notes are great and low-friction, especially on iPadOS 15 (beta) where I can drag up from the bottom-right corner with the Pencil and open a note quickly.

Permanent notes are where Obsidian shines. These are notes you will revisit weeks, months, even years into the future. This is where you might create linked notes on

  • Your own database of skills/concepts/practices related to your career, that are linked and connected in a way that’s just not possible with Apple notes.
  • Same with non-fiction literature notes, you can connect them in a way that builds out a useful network of notes and ideas/

My own workflow revolves around using GoodNotes on my iPad to take down my initial impermanent notes from a non-fiction book, then bringing these into Obsidian on my iPad or MacBook Pro. I agree that this is difficult to do on a phone, and hence I rarely use the Obsidian phone app myself unless I’m out and about and want to quickly jot down an idea.

So as for why I don’t use Apple Notes for everything, it’s because it doesn’t allow me to browse, manage, review, and connect my notes with the ease that Obsidian provides.
I currently have 144,000+ words across 586 files in my Obsidian Vault, this would be difficult to make efficient use of with Apple Notes.

Good luck with your chose method :slight_smile:

With the updated Apple notes are you considering using tags since you can effectively do everything you described? There is also ability to add links (albeit a bit more involved than double bracket, but it is there). Also it’s much easier to link to other apps from notes and back in.

I guess for me the issue is I see value in linking notes and think it would be great if I was still in school/needed to write, but I am not……

The ‘problem’ with Apple Notes is that Apple won’t allow for any external developers to create such quick-access features, such as their new Quick Note function. So you are limited to copying/creating text inside an Apple Quick Note, and then going to Obsidian to create a new note.

But, as far as I know, you can write with your stylus directly into a text entry field in Obsidian, and the text will auto-convert. This is, unfortunately, available only for English and Chinese for now.

The second thing is that Obsidian has many features, but this makes it more suited for handling personal knowledge bases, not quick disorganised notes. So in a sense you are right: you can start a quick note elsewhere, but turn it into a well-formed ‘product’ in Obisidian.

In general, this is the problem with having digital notes. Digital devices can do so many things that it is most of the times difficult to reach exactly what you need right now. It’s why I carry a pocket paper notebook with me almost always. For what it’s supposed to be (task tracker + quick note jottler) it does a lot better job than pulling out my phone, unlocking it, going into the notes app/Obsidian, clicking on [Create new note], and then finally start typing. We can’t even write with a stylus in Obisidian yet—a way faster and more intuitive approach at note-taking.

I also use Apple notes occasionally (to quickly jot down something). I do have a lot of (academic-related) notes though, which I keep/develop in Obsidian. My main concern about Apple notes is that (1) I can’t edit the notes with another editor; (2) I can’t even open them with another editor; (3) if I ever stop using Apple products, not sure what I’ll do with them.
Due to some bad experiences in the past, I’m trying to be as software-agnostic as I can be, and managing notes in markdown seems to be a reasonably good way to go about that.

Didn’t realize with the writing to text, that is useful. I still prefer handwritten to stay that way and like how apple notes and onenote just make it “OCR” style.

I think I want the obsidian app to have shortcuts and quick actions built in more like a native app so everything can go there.

I would disagree about your second issue… (I agree its definitely suited to “formal” notes), but its power is that it is so customizable that it can do any workflow you want. I’m finding the benefits go down since the entry point to get notes in it is so hard from mobile its almost not worth doing.

Also, most of my job/life doesn’t require that much time with “formal” notes that I re-synthesize over and over. I may be trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist for me. A lot of the full on zettlekasten styles really have people spending their time organizing to be productive rather than being productive. I wonder how many people outside of academics use these systems effectively (or at all).

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well…with iOS15 update I just spent 30 seconds and made a shortcut where I can now quick capture and append a markdown text file, so essentially my friction point to get data quickly into/out of obsidian is gone. I will admit, the new ios15 notes with tags and Smart Folders still may ultimately be the better choice however.


Wow, how did you set that up?

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Ask for text
Text input and add time stamp and then text below
Append file (pick obsidian vault)

I included link below, was very simple. It adds file as a date yyyy-mm-did to inbox for me, and creates if not existed and appends it if exists. So now you can have a quick add essentially per day to iOS home screen.


I feel you. I have a “quick entry” shortcut on my home screen that allows me to get whatever I need into Obsidian’s daily note: thoughts, to-dos, URLs — even voice memos.

When I revisit the daily note on my laptop, I have no trouble cleaning, expanding, refactoring, linking, etc.

Mobile retrieval is still a pain, but I’m confident that, as the app matures, it will become much easier.

If, in the meantime, you decide to use a mobile middleman, I’d suggest you take a look at Drafts. It was first created to remove friction from text input and processing, but after using it for many years, i think it has become a full-fledged note-taking app in its own right.

For me it isn’t as much about “writing down” or “saving” a note, as it is about “finding” and “re-using” notes later. Like many I come from a background of various apps, and at times I was an information hoarder. I saved everything. Rarely did I (re-)use it though. Often struggled to find it too.

I find Obsidian great for connecting and finding notes of all types, and relations between them. In multiple ways even.

One thing that is of relevance to me is that my notes need to be cross-platform, as I work on multiple platforms. In my case it is macOS, Linux, Win and iOS. Having a “find-engine” that is the same on all those platforms is of importance to me, which kind of excludes Apple Notes, regardless of how clever the new version is.

When I’m out-and-about there is a difference between “sitting at café with my laptop/iPad” or “out walking with my iPhone”. In the first case I type straight in to Obsidian. I usually close Obsidian with my daily note active on my iOS devices, so it is right there when I open it again. I have an “inbox” note in my “inbox” folder as a last resort, but I have to say with plugins such as Templater etc it is as easy to create a “real” note on my iPad as it is on my computer(s) at home, so I can think already then about where to file it and what format (or template) it should have.

For jotting things down whilst walking I usually use Drafts on my iPhone. Obsidian on my iPhone is mostly for reading contents more so than creating it. Drafts is an automation powerhouse, now with even more “actions” to file things in to Obsidian, but when I’m literally walking I don’t want to spend time thinking about filing and templates too much, I just want to “not forget”. So for me it is part of my daily/weekly routine when I do a clean-up/refile/inbox-zero session to also look in Drafts.

As for workflow within Obsidian I have been trying a few routes. I had a bit of imported/existing data already, but thanks to this forum and some very cleverly set-up templates (others did the clever stuff, I am merely riding along) I find that it is as quick/easy to save a “reference”, “bookmark”, “meeting note”, “fleeting” or “permanent” notes, all with specialised templates, with just a few quick short commands.

I have tried drafts many times, and I know it’s powerful but it’s just not worth the cost. Everytime I use it I find a direct shortcut faster and easier (even if it’s to apple notes and then at a desktop organize to another app). Just not worth the middle man step and another subscription. Subscriptions are the death by a thousand papercuts….

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