Why Your Personal Knowledge Is Going To Waste (And How To Change That)

Ev Chapman
January 1, 2024

I am astounded at how much of our personal knowledge gets lost or abandoned. Don’t get me wrong. A lot of us are very good at saving information & lots of it (hello, to the graveyard of Save It Later Articles I have saved & never read).

Storage is cheap we tell ourselves. So we stockpile away all the information we can like it’s going out of fashion. Hoping that one day some of it will be useful.

Except for most of us, most of the time it’s not (useful that is). It just sits in cold storage never seeing the light of day. Like my 10 years worth of clipped items in Evernote that I never look back on.

It’s unhelpful, un-useful and gives most of us anxiety because we feel bad we haven’t revisited those old ‘notes.’

The truth is: You don’t need more information to manage. You need a personal knowledge platform.

A place to think. To make sense of things. A place where you can turn all that information that you have coming at you everyday and build real, actionable knowledge that you can use in the future.

And not just for traditional ‘notes’ or ideas. Any information can be turned into insight & knowledge. From your workouts to recipes you want to try to information on your health or your kids.

So how do you build this magical Personal Knowledge Platform? Here are my four tips that I’ve found have helped me craft a powerful place for my knowledge to live & thrive…

1. It should be PERSONAL to you

Rather than trying to copy other people’s systems, your personal knowledge system should contain knowledge that is meaningful to you.

My own system contains ideas for writing, but also my favourite flavours that I like to use in my cooking and lessons I’m learning dealing with panic attacks.

Not only is this knowledge useful in my everyday life. We are in a season where anyone can turn their personal knowledge, learnings & passions into a viable content business.

So don’t just think of it as a way to organise stuff. But as a way to build knowledge assets that you can use in the future.

2. It should BUILD knowledge

I’ve never loved the phrase Personal Knowledge Management. Managing knowledge sounds so boring. Like you’re some kind of glorified librarian (nothing against librarians. Fun fact: It was top of my list of what I wanted to be when I grew up).

But building knowledge — now that is something I can get behind. That sounds exciting.

Your personal knowledge system isn’t just a place where you store & organise information. It’s a place where you turn that information into real and actionable knowledge. The difference lies in applying your personal insight to the information you collect.

For instance, let’s say you collect recipes as part of your personal knowledge system. You try out a recipe but substitute a few ingredients or extend the cooking time a little longer. Those are all insights that you can add to the recipe to build your own personal knowledge around that.

Each of those insights builds together into your unique personal knowledge. Earned through experience & captured in your personal knowledge system.

3. It should be USEFUL

Your knowledge system should be a place where knowledge gets used, not just filed away. I find people who start a PKM habit but only ever treat it as a glorified filing cabinet rarely keep up the practice.

But when you build knowledge that is useful — making things easy for your future self. That is in-built motivation to keep it up.

Here’s how this can work in practice in your knowledge system:

  • Reflect. Take time each day or week to reflect on the things you have captured into your system.
  • What’s the lesson or insight? Write down what lesson or insight you have gained from the information.
  • Review. Have a way to bring up these lessons in future situations.

For instance maybe you finished a project & reflected on some lessons that you want to apply for future projects like that one. You jot them down & next time you run the project you bring up your lessons learned.

It really can be as easy as that to build knowledge for your future self.

4. It should be UNIFIED

Having your knowledge scattered in a million different apps, notes and places is inefficient & unnecessary. Don’t subject yourself to this kind of madness. It will only mean more time organising and making decisions on where things should go (not to mention finding things again!).

Plus you miss out on the wonderful serendipity of different parts of your knowledge colliding into wonderful happy accidental insights.

There are so many great note-taking apps out there that can achieve a unified knowledge system. Choose one — whatever one suits your fancy and build a system where you can organise & find things again.

  • If you use Notion use seperate databases to keep different kinds of knowledge.
  • If you use Evernote seperate knowledge into notebooks.
  • If you use a linked note-taking tool like Obsidian, Roam or Tana use tags to organise your knowledge.

Honestly the tool doesn’t matter as much as building a habit of capturing, adding insight & building knowledge. If you can build the habit, the system will quickly follow.

Why not make 2024 the year you abandon those old information hoarding habits & start building real, actionable, useful knowledge for your future self (and others).

Liked this article and want to go deeper into building a personal knowledge platform that takes information & turns it into powerful personal knowledge? Here’s three ways you can go deeper:

  1. Each week I write a newsletter to help you build a knowledge platform to help you earn independent income by turning your knowledge into content you can share with the world. Subscribe here.
  2. Want to start building your own knowledge platform? Checkout my Notes OS Template which will help you organise & build your thoughts & ideas.
  3. Want to build a full knowledge building platform in Tana? Check out the Tana Fast Track course which will help you speed up building your unique personal knowledge platform so you can make sense & organise all the information that comes at you everyday.

If you like this article and you want to get even more out of Tana, then check out my Tana Fast Track Course. Learn the fundamentals of working with Tana and the 6 Core Workflows to help you unload your thoughts & ideas, make room in your head to think & create and move through your day fully engaged & energised doing work you love.

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