I have struggled for a long time to come up with a personal knowledge management (PKM) system that works for me.
There has been a sudden explosion of PKM apps in the past couple of years. From Obsidian to Roam Research to Notion, everyone has their favorites.
There’s almost a cult-like mentality around these systems and processes.
After trying out most of these systems, I realized that the more complex and “feature-rich” the system, the more maintenance it requires, and the less it actually allows you to produce.
That’s why I managed to condense my system down to 2 essential apps:
Through these two apps, and some clever categorizing systems, I have created a PKM system that is easy to manage and can unleash my creativity.
Raindrop is the top-of-the-funnel app for the system.
Any article, video, podcast, movie, or book — goes into Raindrop as a bookmark.
Raindrop does a brilliant job extracting key information and then helping visualize them in beautiful mood board formats.
No matter what content you put into Raindrop, you can easily find it with its very efficient Search feature.
Raindrop also gives you a bunch of tagging and organizing tools that you can use, but more on that in a bit.
Then, you have Bear which is an amazing writing app.
I have used other apps like Roam Research and Obsidian before. The whole pitch of these apps is that you need network features such as — backlinks, graph views, etc — to think the best.
Unfortunately, for me, that wasn’t the case.
I think my best when summarizing content I find interesting and distilling them down by writing.
That’s where Bear comes in. Bear focuses on one thing only — a distraction-free and immersive writing experience. I can write hours and hours at a time on Bear, digging deeper and deeper into a topic that interests me.
Bear is where all my distilled and well-formed thoughts end up.
Now that you have a high-level idea, let me dig deeper into my PKM system.
The 3-Part Process
The whole system essentially boils down to 3 parts.
The first part is taken care of by Raindrop.
The second part is taken care of by Bear.
The third part is taken care of by a combination of the two.
Whenever I come across an interesting piece of content on the internet, I need to somehow get it into the system.
Usually, there’s a big delay between finding something interesting and actually reading/watching/listening to it.
So, of course, we need a temporary location to keep this content.
Raindrop.io is a glorified bookmark manager. You can store any piece of content on the internet that has a URL associated with it.
It also doubles as a read-it-later or watch-it-later app. You can just store content here, and come back later on to consume.
The ingest process is straightforward.
When on a browser, I use Raindrop’s browser extension to get the information into the system. Outside a browser, I can use iOS Share Sheet to ingest, no matter which app I am on.
That means, whether I am on YouTube, my RSS Feed of choice, Spark Mail, or Snipd, I can get the content into Raindrop with a few clicks or taps.
Throughout the course of a day, I come across hundreds of megabytes of information. It’s impossible to retain it all.
When consuming content from Raindrop — whether a blog post, a video, or a podcast episode — the only way to retain the information is to distill it.
That means, summarizing the key insights and writing them down.
Not everything requires distilling and summarizing though. Only content that I find valuable and have some thoughts on.
After consuming the content, a few things can happen:
- I didn’t enjoy it, so I just delete it and move on
- I find it interesting and I have some thoughts. If I have the time right now, I open up Bear and write about it.
- I find it interesting and I have some thoughts, but I don’t have the time right now. I give it a tag of “0” on Raindrop and keep it there. Later on, I can go through all content on Raindrop with the tag “0” and distill it down on Bear.
It’s through this process of writing that I actually form my thoughts and can connect them with other thoughts across the Bear app.
How do I connect, I hear you ask?
Bear gives you a powerful tagging system. You can have infinitely nested tags. I utilize that system to strategically tag my thoughts and ideas. Through constant tagging, themes start emerging within the app and before you know it, I start connecting similar ideas just by searching through my tagging system.
Tags are very easy to create and move around. That means, I spent less time maintaining the system, and more time actually writing or reading through my notes.
Now, we are at the last stop.
I have initially stored the content on Randrop.
Then, I consumed it.
Finally, I wrote down my thoughts on Bear and organized the information using tags.
Now, what do I do with the original content?
On Raindrop’s end, I indefinitely keep content that I find interesting. I organize it by fitting it into one of the following collections — Technology, Philosophy, Management, Health, Finance, Recipes, Lifestyle, Programming, Travel, and Shopping.
If I have relevant thoughts or ideas on Bear, I add the raindrop link as a backlink so that I can refer back to it later on when reading through my notes.
How Much Does The System Cost?
Raindrop.io is FREE. The premium features are not worth it for the average user, so I would stay clear of it.
Bear is either FREE or $1.49/month depending on how you want to use it. If you have one device only, you can keep using the FREE version. If you want it to sync over multiple devices (this is what I would recommend), it will cost you less than $2/month.
I hope you found this a valuable read and have some takeaways that you can go ahead and implement in your wonderful lives.
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