Personal Knowledge Management Workflow for a Deeper Life - As a Computer Scientist
With burnout and mental stress at every level of our lives, I find my Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) system even more valuable. As a human, I forget lots of things. As a dad, I have more responsibilities with remembering all things related to my kid. As a developer and knowledge worker, I re-use code snippets or create new things. That’s why a PKM system such as a Second Brain to store all of it in a sustainable way is crucial to me.
It’s stress-reducing and good for my mental health because I do not need to remember, I’ll get more creative ideas when connecting them, and I plan and integrate my to-dos and futures plans organically—a deep life results additionally from reading and learning a lot over time.
# How it started: Minimalism
To your surprise may be (at least to mine), it all started when I learnt vim. After the steep learning curve, I used the vim-language and used it everywhere I could. I downloaded the chrome extension Vimium, installed vsvim on vscode and started blogging and writing in vim with plain text notes. After a while, I procrastinated and was distracted way more whenever I wasn’t in vim. Being in a terminal with no buttons and no fancy UI, my brain focused on the essentials. It was mental clarity at its best, almost like meditation. What vim did as an editor, did Markdown as a format. It is plain text with added formatting. That way, own my notes fully and free of any proprietary format, which is liberating.
Vim, together with lots I’ve read from Derek Sivers and many others from the
Tim Ferriss Podcast, were a big inspiration for me. Derek with his fantastic ⚛️ Areas/✍🏻 Writing/Writing and
podcasts taught me how to write, make it fun to find better wording and strip all sentences to a bare minimum. He practised minimalism to its best in all kinds of ways of living. He
removes all unused HTML tags or
<div>-blocks from his websites in the same way he does in his digital life in his journaling or writing. This is important as minimalism with less stuff gives you clarity and more freedom. All of this and many more set the foundation for my PKM workflow.
What came later was a flow of methodologies I learned from books and podcasts, which I integrated into my workflow so that my brain could focus on the creative part of the equation, the thinking.
# Other Factors
After all I’ve said already, I want to state that it’s clear that nothing will work without the fundamentals such as sleep, healthy food, hydration and general habits with sports and family.
Reading lots of the above probably overwhelms you more than anything else. Please understand that these systems and learnings have been assembled over the last 10+ years. They helped me in my daily work or gave me more mental clarity. The same I’m trying to provide for you here.
Below we go through other factors that I find necessary to round up the whole PKM system with the deeper life.
# Family, Music and Environment
Same as the physical elements, family and emotions are a big thing is seen in the What Makes a Happy Life chapter.
Same as changing the tooling such as vim to a distraction-free editor. It’s also for the environment. If you switch to a coffee place or co-working space you have never been to, your brain will be inspired by the surroundings and get creative. If you work in a dull place or feel reminded of something terrible, you will also perform as such.
Same as the environment is also the music. Listening to distract free music or your favourite song on repeat will boost your productivity by a lot compared to emotional music that sole purpose is to touch you emotionally, which is a terrible thing when you try to get things done.
Most of us live in a first world country where money is everywhere. We want all to have more. We admire rich people and want to be like them, but do not work as hard. We can’t pay taxes or health insurance because we worry about not having enough. Even if we don’t admit it, worries about money are always there, especially as parents who want to provide for our families.
We need to know about The Psychology of Money - Morgan Housel to have an excellent mental workflow, which says that everyone should save for a future unknown. It’s okay to save for a house or a car. But it should be even more okay to save just for saving. Having spare money on the side is the best thing you can do for a deeper life. It gives you possible freedom and a calm state. If you know at any time that you can leave a job can go to a deserted island for a while to reload your batteries, this will give you more mental clarity than any other. And how do you achieve that? Exactly, by saving for tomorrow. To have that extra cash when you need it, on that unfortunate occasion, something terrible happens.
Another one is compounding. Waren Buffet is only overly decadent than anyone else because he started to save at age 5. Derek Sivers got rich when he was 22, reducing his spending to 1000$ while earning 1800$ a month for two years. That gave him 12k to leave his job and be a full-time musician.
Besides the financial value of money, it’s a lot about emotions. For example, nobody can judge another person’s decision to buy an expensive car or invest in the lottery. Everyone has a different perception. For the poor who spends on average 400$ for the lottery and at the same time average poor person misses exactly that money to buy food, it seems like a dumb decision. But if you try to understand that that person may be all year fights for getting enough food, buying a lottery ticket is the only moment he can dream of getting out of that hard work and providing a good life for his family. Although we can’t feel the person’s emotion, we can much better understand why poor people might buy lottery tickets they can’t afford.
Think of it this way: we give up 40 hours a week to have cash. Time is the currency of life, and wasting time is wasting money. Invest your time wisely.
While writing all this, I listened to the book Four Thousand Weeks, Time Management for Mortals - Oliver Burkeman, and I have to say it’s the best conclusion and much more in terms of time management and productivity hype, in a very grounding way.
He also gets lots of time philosophical, which I believe is a good thing. Today we need to be more mindful of it: Living more in the present, aware of minorities, other cultures, and other opinions.
This article began with a simple PKM system in mind but ended with all facets of life. The more I wanted to keep it solely about PKM, the more it became clear that the very existence and involving my second brain is about life. What I like, how I do things, and what is meaningful to me.
So no matter what you think about the second brain and sophisticated PKM workflow (or what they will become in the future). In the end, it’s also about our life, what we want to learn, and how we want to be in this world.
If you read it that far, I have to congratulate you. People rarely read such long articles in today’s attention-driven and high dopamine searching economy. I thank you and wish you the same joy and excitement in building and optimizing your PKM system and, therefore, your second brain for a deeper life.
Personal Knowledge Management Workflow for a Deeper Life — as a Computer Scientist |
References: Record Blog Post as Audio