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Tending the garden: digital gardening goals

Chris Amandier
3 min read
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I recently set up a digital garden to share some of my in-progress research notes. Yesterday, I wrote about what a digital garden is. Today, I want to delve into my goals for the garden.

My notetaking methods

As a paranormal researcher, I use the zettlekasten method of taking notes. Essentially, zettlekasten is an atomized, non-linear notetaking style that encourages you to develop original thoughts and make novel connections. For more information, I recommend the book How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens. (I've written about zettlekasten before on the blog.)

I keep my personal knowledge database in Obsidian, a free notetaking software that works from locally-stored markdown files. That means your notes aren’t locked into proprietary software and you can take 'em with you if you ever decide to leave.

If you’re looking to "build a second brain," Obsidian is a great place to do that. I do have my gripes with it; I'm really not a fan of its search engine, for example. But overall, it's been a huge boon to my research.

My problems

I was thrilled to come across the idea of digital gardens. When I first started blogging weekdaily a couple months ago, one of my main goals was to help keep myself honest.

I do a ton of research and writing that I don't share, and I do a lot of thinking that I don't write down. The two main culprits there are laziness and perfectionism. Daily blogging helps with both of those.

I've committed to getting something out every weekday. So I've gotta write something down about what I'm working on or thinking about. And I've gotta publish it, even if it doesn't feel "done" or as polished as I'd like it to be.

It's been working well. But it hasn't quite solved a related problem, which has to do with the raw material that ends up becoming blog posts.

My creative workflow

Right now, my ideal creative workflow looks something like this:

Stray thoughts/interesting tidbits I find while reading/listening/watching things --> fleeting notes (URL with a cryptic note, quotes pasted from books, etc.) --> permanent/evergreen, fleshed out notes put into my own words with my insights added --> blog posts --> podcast episode scripts

I’ve been following zettlekasten practices since August 2022, though I often find myself slacking off in the step where I'm supposed to make permanent, evergreen notes.

That's arguably the most important part, so it's not great that it's also where I drop the ball.

My goals

For zettlekasten, you’re supposed to put concepts into your own words and synthesize your thoughts based on what you’ve read. That’s the real secret sauce of the method. (Which I've written about before.)

By the time you’re done taking notes, you’ve already done the research and a lot of the writing for whatever you create, be they blog posts, articles, podcast episodes, or books.

But, especially when you’re taking notes on the fly, it’s easy to paste a quote of what you’re reading into your notes and move on. It’s better than not making a note of what you’ve read, but it prevents your notes from being as useful as they could be.

That’s where this digital garden comes in.

My goal is to have a regular (weekly or weekly-ish) workflow of revising and refining notes, and then uploading them into this digital garden. I want this to be an impetus for me to clean up my notes and stop being lazy. I've been doing it for a couple weeks now, and so far I'm definitely seeing an improvement.

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