Besides a notebook, everything else happens in a single Obsidian vault. Note that I’m writing things for myself by default, disregarding the audience — this won’t make much sense. If you want it to make more sense, start with the resources first, they’re ordered. I want to transition to sketchnoting, hopefully accumulating a vocabulary of atomic, small drawings that I can use in a modular fashion. If you want an even more structured way to make sense of all of this, I recommend you start with The First Principles of Visual Note-Taking - YouTube and then Mind mapping with Excalidraw-Obsidian - YouTube and Part 1 Building a Second Brain Book on a Page - YouTube.


The notes, including any drawings or even icons, should be atomic and modular. Work with the garage door up. Anti-marketing. Write things for yourself by default, disregarding the audience. Adopt the mindset of a curator - objective, opinionated and reflective; in a deliberate way. Keep only what resonates; focus on actionability and relevance to projects. Be opportunistic, don’t create entries in advance, further compress them and refine them only when needed.

Keep few notes (2-6) per day: Does it inspire me? Is it personal? Is it surprising? Is it useful? Keep things off the working memory. Take into account the magic number of 4, e.g. don’t have more than 4 nested subdirectories. Try to use as few sources as possible.

Let chaos reign, then rein in chaos

  — Andy Grove

In other words, there’s no need to organize unless you need to organize. No need to figure out the system first, it will gradually come into existence through an iterative process. Keep all organization, thinking, etc. to a minimum, don’t unnecessarily complicate. Prioritize less friction; separate the various subprocesses, e.g. separate Collecting from Organizing. Don’t use a lot of (app) features, it’s a rabbit hole.

Eventually as your system matures, everything should ideally be almost a remix; minimize new research. Mix and match already conquered knowledge, apply already-made observations instead. Build different things from the same blocks. You can think about treating every entry across the pipeline as packaging it for your future self. Last but definitely, definitely not least, share frequently. Get as much feedback as possible, at every step along the way. Don’t think about that 10000 hours rule. Don’t think in hours, days or weeks; think in feedback cycles.


You can have the following serve as a draft guideline template on what and when to do during the day. Each day, decide what your tasks will be. What will you work on? At which order? You should pay more attention to the first tasks of the day. A good recurring process is allocating some time (e.g. daily or weekly) to do a quick review for what’s coming ahead. This will help you better determine the upcoming tasks and their order. You can also do more lengthy, in-depth reviews, e.g. once per month, to reflect back on your progress, how your system is working, and to cross-check progress toward the more long-term goals.

You can split your tasks into “process”, or background tasks, and immersive tasks. Always keep at the back of your head that background tasks are more important than immersive tasks. Identify the small things you can do that will start, little by little, unlocking great value, e.g. asking a question about an upcoming meeting early in the morning to have a larger buffer time for everyone to respond and any potential followup discussion. Another thing you can do, like a chef, is to use placeholders for your open loops, i.e. tasks that you’ve started and are currently pending more work by you before they can be considered completed. You can treat everything that you must devote your time to as a request. You should externalize, offload these requests from your mind and cognition to your (mostly digital) surroundings. For example, jot down a thought somewhere, add an event or reminder to your calendar, capture an open loop with your task manager/kanban board…

What’s more important is arguably adopting a so-called finishing mindset. If something is at 99% but not finished, it’s of zero value. Plus, finishing a tangible chunk of work means you get to have feedback. Yay! “How and when will I finish this?”. Do not formulate a plan for starting tasks, rather, make a plan for finishing them.

Main Techniques

You can categorize entries following a high-level technique named PARA. Each letter stands for a category, and if you deem that the respective entry does not belong to that category, you move on to check if it belongs to the next:

  • Projects: a series of tasks linked to a goal, with a deadline.\ “In which project will this be most useful?”. Tasks you’re working at right now
  • Areas: A sphere of activity with a standard to be maintained over time.\ “In which area will this be most useful?”. Long-term commitments that don’t have a due date
  • Resources: A topic or theme of ongoing interest.\ “Which resource does this belong to?”. Resources you might want to reference in the future
  • Archives: Inactive items from the other three categories.\ Things you’ve completed or are no longer working on (review is important for this)

On that matter, some additional generic tips: Don’t organize by source, organize by actionability, as mentioned above. “Where will I use this information?”. In other words, organize for project, not by topic. Every now and then, as part of a review, make a list with your various projects. Then make another list with your goals. Draw lines to connect entries from the two. One goal can be connected to multiple projects, and vice-versa. If there’s a lot of entries in your lists that remain unconnected, you need to re-evaluate.

Oh, and something else that helped me get this straight: The important distinction between Projects and Areas is the deadline. Projects always fall into Areas. A task can belong to no Project, but it has to belong to an Area.

Moving on, there’s another technique, CODE. CODE refers to the various steps that constitute your pipeline for a new entry, as well as their order:

  • Collect
  • Organize
  • Distill
  • Express

Collect is the first step, and refers on capturing information. Organize comes directly after, and is where you tidy the information according to the overall structure you’re going for. Distill is third, and it is where, selectively, you opt to really dig deep and extract the key aspects of a high-value note. Express is last, where you can “package” the information to share it with others (and your future self!).

Collect should be separate from Organize. Don’t have the mental burden on where to put the things you capture, just capture them. Organize should happen opportunisticly, only when you want to use the information. A nifty trick that might come in handy can be defining favorite problems, just like Feynman’s 12 favorite problems. Then, each time you come across some information, either during the Capture or, even better the Organize step, you first check if it’s relevant to any of your problems.


Some rough guidelines on a potential process to sketchnote a book or a paper:

  1. Read and take notes (Collect)
  2. Do a single-page chapter/section summary (rough, just for you; work with the garage door up) (Organize)
  3. Highlight actionable ideas, what can you do with these ideas from the summary? What’s next? Follow-up ideas (Distill)
  4. Then, move on to a single-page summary/book-on-a-page (What’s the overall structure? Essential details?) (Express)

For the notes that you want to include you can also directly use an image, instead of having to go with the handdrawn drawing all the time. You can find an image, e.g. from flaticon, for each note you want to include, and paste directly in the Excalidraw drawing. You can also draw things directly in Excalidraw, keep the drawings minimal (and atomic). Download each image and save in an assets folder in the Obsidian vault, you can directly use them upon command (can suffix with XYZ-icon for better searching). Add and categorize the smaller, atomic drawings in Excalidraw libraries. This means you can also browse the web for premade Excalidraw libraries you can use (and extend). An option is to also use emojis, liberally. Don’t try to compose a big drawing all at once; do separate smaller ones, then combine. You can have a subdirectory for the notes, work there, add the images there, and then a separate subdirectory for the book-on-a-page. Lastly, you can open a pane as a popup, to work and copy the images side-by-side.


  • Keep it simple
  • Minimize friction
  • Brown-field reality: better is the enemy of good
  • Avoid moving things around: things are immutable by default, feel free to change structure if you have a good reason for it

Consider carrying a physical notebook to be able to take a note 24/7. Have a place for the roughest notes somewhere (e.g. in your vault). Have a place for the summaries. Ideally everything ends up in a drawing. When something has ended up in a drawing, should it be discarded? Make Excalidraw/note templates which can also contain guides/tips on how to do this whole process, as a refresher. Don’t forget the reviews! Tags not really needed, you can just (fuzzy) search stuff (at least in Obsidian).