What is PKM?
That's a question I wouldn't have even known to have asked until a few short weeks ago. I hadn't even heard of PKM, or Personal Knowledge Management until then, let alone know what is was, or how it could help me improve my productivity.
We're exposed to so much more information today and with the rapid rise of technological advancement and the complexity of work environments, today's employees are expected to constantly learn and adapt to new information that they're presented with and still constantly build new skills. Our work environments are increasingly collaborative, meaning knowledge sharing is essential for effective teamwork and problem solving. But we're also more often away from our colleagues, so virtual collaboration continues to increase, and so we must now be able to work more independently and manage our own workflows whilst remaining organized and focused, from a remote standpoint.
With growth in mind we're also expected to engage in self-learning and development. The whole thing can be quite overwhelming, but I recently spoke to Scott Novis, Founder of Game Truck on my employee engagement podcast, Sticky From The Inside, and he explained to me how PKM has helped him not only cope with this backdrop but become more productive, happy and far less overwhelmed. Below is a full transcript of that conversation, but you can also listen to it here.
Andy Goram (00:10):
Hello and welcome to Sticky From the Inside, the employee engagement podcast that looks at how to build stickier, competition-smashing, consistently successful organizations from the inside out. I'm your host, Andy Goram, and I'm on a mission to help more businesses turn the lights on behind the eyes of their employees, light the fires within them, and create tons more success for everyone. This podcast is for all those who believe that's something worth going after and would like a little help and guidance in achieving that. Each episode we dive into the topics that can help create what I call stickier businesses, the sort of businesses where people thrive and love to work, and where more customers stay with you and recommend you to others because they love what you do and why you do it. So if you want to take the tricky out of being sticky, listen on.
An introduction to PKM
Okay, today we are going to look at another element associated with employee engagement, and that's productivity. When people are engaged, they tend to be more productive. Specifically, we're going to look at something called PKM, Personal Knowledge Management. It's the process of creating, organizing, sharing, and applying knowledge to enhance your personal and professional life. It involves the acquisition of information, organization and management of knowledge resources, and the development of personal knowledge networks to support far more effective learning and problem solving. Now it's something, to be honest, I'd never heard of or come across until recently. And I really think it's something worth taking a closer look at with the help of someone who sees this as a game changer and also feels that it can have a huge impact on the levels of individual and team engagement and productivity.
Now with the rapid rise of technological advancement and the complexity of work environments, today's employees are expected to constantly learn and adapt to new information that they're presented with and still constantly build new skills. We're also working in an ever more collaborative work environment where knowledge sharing is essential for effective teamwork and problem solving. But also, with the continued rise of remote work and virtual collaboration, we must now be able to work more independently and manage our own workflows whilst remaining organized and focused, even when we're working on our own or alongside virtual teams. And as career-minded individuals, in order for us to remain competitive and achieve our career goals, we are also encouraged to engage in ongoing learning and professional development. All something we try and fit on top of the day job usually.
The whole thing can feel quite overwhelming, and we hear that word alongside burnout and mental health problems all too often today. Well, PKM can help with all of this, so I'm told. And with me today to explain that in more detail about what it is and how you can get started with it, is Scott Novis. Scott spent decades as a video game executive, been a VP at Disney, and is now the founder of Game Truck, which is helping businesses with remote teams, increase engagement and improve culture and team health for the use of video games. Which is actually a topic we were going to talk about today until Scott completely blew my mind with his enthusiastic chat about PKM, which he says has revolutionized the way he works and has made him far more productive, happy, engaged, and far less overwhelmed by everything. So we switched it up and I'm now looking forward to getting a better understanding of PKM and how it can help us all. Welcome to the show, Scott.
Meet Scott Novis
Scott Novis (04:14):
Hey, Andy. Thanks. I got to tell you, I guess I have a selfish motive here is if people are too stressed out to play, it's hard to talk to them about having fun. So first I got to get you all de-stressed and then we can talk about how we can have better relationships and better connection through play. So I'm looking forward to having that conversation with you someday. But this has been the number one topic that my peers and other business owners have been, "What are you doing? How are you doing that?" There's been so much curiosity around this topic, and like we were saying before the show, I think the explosion in ChatGPT and AI is making this more relevant and possible. My hope is not necessarily to overwhelm people with excessive detail like the technical description you gave for PKM. Yep, that is all correct.
But I think of it the way Maya Angelou said, "When we know better, we can do better." So this is really about how can I know better faster, so I can do better sooner. That's a competitive edge.
Andy Goram (05:15):
Nice, I really like that, Scott. I'm nervously excited. It's not uncommon for me to be the idiot in the room, but today is one of those days where I definitely wear that badge with pride, I think.
Scott Novis (05:28):
Well here's the thing. There's the old unknown unknowns. I don't know what I don't know. Well, there's some things of like you actually know them, but I'm going to give you a different way of thinking about them. And what I really call this is an insight engine, because insights technically are when you connect two singly unrelated things and you discover something new. John Lasseter said, he goes, "Don't take a wild fabric and make something wild out of it or something conventional and make something conventional out of it. Got a conventional fabric, make a wild thing, got a wild thing, make something conventional, give people something to relate to."
And I believe everyone in your audience, including you, is going to be able to relate to a lot of what I'm telling you. What I want to do is show you how to connect the dots in a new way. And it's been my experience both as a youth sports coach and as a business coach, that those little insights, technique can make all the difference in the world. All of a sudden, you're applying the same effort, but getting exponentially better outcomes.
Andy Goram (06:25):
That's a great way of describing it. Listen, my friend, before we get into better understanding of what PKM is, benefits, pitfalls, all the great stuff we're going to get into. Do me a favor, my friend. Just give us a little bit of background about you, what you've been up to in your life, and how come we're talking today.
Scott Novis (06:44):
Yeah, okay. I am that crazy visionary inventor. My career has been... I have two engineering degrees. I've always been fascinated with making, I believe the future can be made better through progress. And I grew up in the era just watching how computers transformed everyday life and the impact it has. And my particular passion has to do with connecting people. One of my missions is to create feelings of belonging through play. I heard this incredible interpretation of the word Ubuntu when I was in South Africa recently, and if you're familiar with the Linux operating system, you might have heard the word and people say, "I am because you are." The interpretation I heard was like, yes, and was,
"I get to experience the best of who I am through my relationship with you."
And it's through these relationships, so they're so important.
So when I was making video games and directing studios, it was all good work. But when I moved into Game Truck, that became my life's passion, was bringing people together and getting them to play together, is having fun with friends and family and rebuilding those relationships shoulder to shoulder, I think that's where friendships are really made. Not in competition, but in working together to achieve positive outcomes. And where we ended up here is I deal with crazy amounts of innovation and technology and insight. That's how I create value. Game Truck's a fantastic example. Generators were not new, video game consoles were not new, televisions were not new, trailers were not new. And let me paint a picture for your audience, because they're listening, so I'll give you a word picture. Imagine a recreational vehicle, like a big trailer RV pulled by a pickup truck. I live in America, so it's insane.
Andy Goram (08:40):
We got that bit, mate.
Scott Novis (08:41):
We got that here, we got big roads. Pulls up in front of your house and it's really a living room on wheels. And kids can go inside and play PlayStation and Xbox and Nintendo with all their friends for hours while the adults stay in the house and have a nice party with their friends. We do 22,000 of those a year. They're super popular. And how did that come about? Because I had the insight that if I took this box and I put the TVs and the consoles inside and powered it with portable generators, we could have a living room on wheels. I wanted to create the ideal environment to play with your friends where there'd be no barriers to play. All that stuff existed, but nobody put it together the way I did because I had the insight. And that is what I wanted a system to do that more intentionally, more proactively, and do it faster.
Zettlekasten & Connecting More Information
And I started getting into, about five years ago, there was a book came out about a game Ahrens Sorkin (Sonke Ahrens), butchered his name, I apologize, called Taking Smarter Notes. And it introduced this concept of Zettlekasten. It was that first like, wait, what? There's a better way to connect information and lead to more insights? And that thing exploded in two domains. Medical students because everything in the body's connected and internet content producers. Because what happens is that once you start building information this way, you don't end up with a list, you end up with a graph that looks like a brain. It looks like a neural network, and every path becomes a new way of thinking about a topic. So it exponentially increased the productivity of people that had a great blog post and social media posts and everything else, because we all know the internet has a voracious appetite for content. So it made them more productive with the same effort. So that got my attention. Like, wow, how can I get better understanding faster?
And how can I make better use of the knowledge I have? I'm a voracious reader, but if you don't learn from it and you don't apply it, why should we do it? You should do it to make your life better. So I wanted to start coming up with better ways of improving. And then just last year, a guy named Tiago Forte published his book, Building a Second Brain, who layered in some great concepts that compliment the whole Zettlekasten mindset and blah, blah, blah, lots of words. It really gets back down to, with the advent of AI that could generate compelling content easily, I see the future of knowledge work as I need to be able to direct these resources to achieve effective outcomes. I don't want to compete with them. I want to leverage them and use them to amplify my vision. And that's where I think a lot of your listeners want to go. And then it reduces a lot of the stress when you start realizing, oh, I can begin to do better sooner because I know more and have access to more information.
Andy Goram (11:57):
And the key is here that we're talking about, and I'm going to get you to kind of rephrase or reaffirm what PKM is to you, is I guess an intentional way to synthesize information more effectively for your own personal development, right?
Scott Novis (12:14):
100%,. There's a couple of bad teaches that we picked up inadvertently. One of the ones is we have this idea that I'm smart if I don't forget things, that doesn't make people smart. We love that idea of the photographic memory, but there's a really good reason the human brain, it's not a filing box full of stuff. It does something infinitely more valuable. The human brain allows us to adapt to a future that's always unpredictable. It will always be unpredictable. So our brain is a neural network and an association engine, we stand in the present moment and look at the future through the lens of our past. That's a pretty deep concept. What that means is the information we have access to shapes how we see our future, it literally directs what options are available to us. So the better information we have access to, the better future that is available to us.
So when we talk about this knowledge and I talk about synthesis, remembering is table stakes. That's not the game, that's just the buy-in. What we really want to be able to do is can we make a better future? That allows us to not just remember, but draw upon and use the information. It's not enough to know it is, it is can you apply it? And that's the problem I was trying to get to, is I want to be able to intuitively use this information like ingredients. And so an analogy I'm going to bring up a lot has to do with cooking, is when you meet somebody who's a phenomenal cook, yeah, you can get recipes all day long, but they begin to have a feel for how to combine things to create amazing, not just dishes, but experiences that stay with people for a long time. That mental model is the one that, that's what PKM should do for us. PKM for knowledge is what mise en place is to cooking. And if you don't know what mise en place is, we'll talk about that a little bit more.
Andy Goram (14:16):
I do, I do. I studied as a chef.
Scott Novis (14:18):
Yes, so you know what I'm talking about. Everything at your fingertips.
Andy Goram (14:21):
Scott Novis (14:22):
Andy Goram (14:22):
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
The Concept of Now, Soon and Later
Scott Novis (14:23):
So let's go with that for a second. One of the first bad teaches we get, I just said is that recall is the be all end all of knowledge. Not even close. Search, it has limits. Okay, that's like, okay, I know where everything is in the pantry. So what? The next level up has to do with how we organize things. And in a kitchen, we want to organize for actionability. So think about if you're getting a recipe ready, mise en place, you get all your ingredients out, you got your little bowls, so everything's ready for you to begin to cook. It's right out of actually video games. In video games, we have the same system. Something's equipped when it's in your hands, ready to use. That's how we want our information, organized, ready to use. Then you go to the refrigerator, I'm going to need it soon.
And then we have the pantry. It's for the future, long haul, I've got it, but I don't need it immediately. And so we have three time domains we're working in. Right now on the counter, kitchen, pantry. Video games are equipped in your hands, inventory in your backpack, or it's back at the base. We have this similar idea of organizing around time or urgency. But here's the dumb thing. Everybody that's ever bought a computer, given a new computer, we have this default teach that you should organize your files by their type. You know why? Because that's the way the software developers worked on them. The guys that worked on Word said, "Let's put all the Word files together." The guys that worked on Excel said, "Put all the Excel files together." So when you pop open your Mac or your PC, what do you see? Put your images here, put your videos here, put your documents here. You would never organize your life like that.
Andy Goram (16:05):
Scott Novis (16:07):
That'd be like taking all the beds in your house and putting them in one room because they're beds.
Andy Goram (16:11):
I love that.
Using A Hemmingway Bridge
Scott Novis (16:12):
That'd be stupid. In the real world, we organize the context, this is super important, we organize the context for how we're going to use those things together. And what technology today has enabled us to do is have an infinite number of kitchens. And the big thing we're trying to get to is imagine mise en place, I've got my recipe, I've got all my ingredients, I'm ready to go to work, but I can literally stop mid-sentence, mid-boiling, mid-cooking, freeze it, walk into another kitchen and pick up where I left off and just keep going. Because what we're asked to do over and over again is context switch. That's the big thing, people can't multitask, can't multitask. It's really about we switch from context to context.
And what we're trying to do is preserve the environment that allows us to come up to speed as fast as possible. So here's the number one takeaway. If you take nothing else away from this talk, here's the number one pro-tip hack, okay? If you're working on something and you can't finish it, which is like all of us, 90% of the time, like most of my projects, so few projects are finished in one sitting, it's called a Hemingway Bridge. Take two seconds and write two sentences about what you meant to do next. So you're writing a blog post, or maybe you're working on a report, you got a spreadsheet, you know you have to stop because you got to go to your next meeting. Pause and go, what were you going to do next? And you're leaving yourself a note. And that note encapsulates a shocking amount of sophisticated information.
Because what you're really doing is capturing your mindset at that time. And just reading that note literally hacks your brain to reboot what you were thinking about when you wrote it. If you don't leave that note, half the time you might come back a day later, three days later, a week later, pick that thing up going, "God, what is this? What was I doing?" You're going to lose 15 minutes figuring it out. It takes that long to get back into flow. But if you can capture that flow, you'll get back in three to five minutes to go, then go, "Got it, I remember what this was." So that little seed has so much rich information in it that if you can't finish it, leave yourself a Hemingway Bridge. A bridge from your present self to your future self to get back to where you were. And you can pick up and you'll be shocked at how quickly you get back into the speed of things.
Andy Goram (18:46):
Even that little thing itself feels like a bit of a no-brainer. Why wouldn't you do that? And maybe you're trying to make that mental note...
Scott Novis (18:55):
Because we mistakenly think I'll remember it. It was so visceral at the time, it seemed so obvious at the time. And remember, we have this fake teach that being smart is all about remembering, and it's really about preserving context. Remembering a thing, that's nothing to search for. There's no way to search for what your intention was, it's not stored anywhere. So make it explicit, put it in there and leave it for yourself. That begins to give you a sense of the idea, what I'm talking about is that there are little hacks and cues to organize more effectively and put information in a way that makes it easier for us to get to our genius. Your genius, which is synthesizing, what were you going to finish saying? What were you going to say next in the article? What was your next idea for that spreadsheet? You were working on a presentation, what did you think the next two or three slides needed to be? Just those simple clues to yourself will get you back into flow faster.
PARA - The PKM Workflow
Andy Goram (19:52):
And so when you are thinking about this topic of PKM, I've jokingly drafted the title of this podcast is, but if it was just me, if I was just the audience, it would be PKM for Dummies. But there's maybe a copyright thing there somewhere, right?
Scott Novis (20:08):
Andy Goram (20:09):
Probably. But let's just call it PKM for Beginners. So we're thinking about some of the strategies that we're going to employ here to develop our own system, our own workflow for PKM. What are the sort of things that we're looking to do then, Scott? Explain that to me.
Scott Novis (20:24):
Okay, so let's make it really specific. And one of the things that I talk about is, and this is an idea from Tiago Forte, so I want to make sure he gets credit because brilliant idea. But you can do this almost any way you want. We're going to organize by time, by a sense of urgency in a way. And so instead of folders being by document type, which I've said before is just ridiculous. What are the types of work that we do? And so one of the things are, there's the idea of projects. He calls it PARA and the P is for PARA, A is for areas, R is for resources, A is for archives, P-A-R-A. Projects are things you're trying to finish now. This is your very near term, you were trying to get these done. And there's actually a genius thing in here that Forte observed.
We are so goal obsessed, we blew by the fact there's huge chunks of our lives that aren't goals. And so what we have are goals and standards. And the difference between the two is if you think about a goal, it is, yeah, we use smart, specific, measurable. It's very objective. It has two hormones attached to it. Dopamine, cortisol, stress, and the reward hormone. But what are standards? There are things in your life you don't want to end. Do you want your health to end? How about your relationships? Where I live, I will have to take the trash out of my house every Thursday as long as I live here. Why? Because my standard is to live in a clean home. It's never done. It can't be finished, but it's work that I invest time and energy to live in a clean, comfortable home. It's a standard I have.
So when you get into standards, you're now talking about qualitative as opposed to quantitative, subjective instead of objective, you're getting into preferential driven instead of requirement driven. And the hormones change from cortisol, stress and dopamine to oxytocin, connection and serotonin, joy. Huge chunk of our value of our lives are wrapped up in standards. And so we think about standards, they are areas of your life that are going to be ongoing. They're not urgent like a project is, but you're going to be working on them continuously. So we put our projects, things are going to wrap up and get done into a folder, and every project gets its own folder. And because of the beauty of cloud storage and connectivity today, storage is virtually infinite. I have terabytes of storage. Unless you're doing 8K video, I'm never going to touch that. So I can easily have copies of every presentation, every picture, whatever, any ingredient I need to work on.
Say I'm going to do a presentation for a public talk, I'm going to give, every resource gets dumped into that folder, easy-peasy. And that PARA structure, projects, areas, resources, archives, I repeat across all of my drives. Everywhere I'm going to look will be PARA, so it's a convention. Google Drive, P-A-R-A, OneDrive, P-A-R-A, my local hard drive, P-A-R-A, my note app, P-A-R-A. It's repeated everywhere. My area is that has like I'm a business coach, I'm a father, I'm a husband. I'm the CEO of my company. I'm a volunteer in an organization called EO. I have an area for each one of those things that's going to be an ongoing aspect of my life. And it's the same thing, is that it's easy for me to remember things about my home, go into my area home, because we have a spatial memory. It's actually easier for us to remember things.
There's a hack called a memory palace that memory experts use used to remember things. We're using our brain's natural ability to visualize spaces and roles to help us remember where things belong. And so those are the two powerful ones, is short-term projects, soon. Areas, the future. That's the resources. This is the gold, this is what are you curious about? Richard Feynman used to call it 12 interesting questions. Who knows why we're interested in what we're interested in? But the first two are about what you're responsible for. People intuitively understand that. P and A are all about responsibility, but R is all about curiosity. It's all about interest. So when AI exploded, I made a AI resources folder. I'm like,
"What is this thing and how does it work? I don't know what I'm going to do with it."
3D printing, I got a whole 3D printing folder. I just like, wow, what is this? It got so cheap and you can fabricate all sorts of crazy things. And it's okay to have hobbies and interests and curiosity. Psychology is one of my favorites. That becomes the knowledge that you start aggregating and connecting and that becomes your repository of what's interesting? What's relevant? And you have a place to put it. And what begins to happen when you do these things, you start having those areas, is you have a much wider repertoire of ingredients to work with when you begin to do your work. Now I didn't mention the fourth area, archives, because if it's not now, it's not soon and it's not in the future. It's in the past. So we're not deleting anything, just move it in the archive.
And what this system begins to do when you start working like this... So the first time I had to do a technical rider, that's a special document you create for a organizer of a conference to say, "This is what I have to have to deliver my presentation to your audience." You go, "I need these things from you." It took me like a week to pull one of those together. But now that I have one, just like the human brain, it becomes a chunk I can build on in the future. I now can build a technical rider in five minutes, then I do them frequently. Well, that's what this system allows you to do, is not just end up with a bunch of random documents. It begins to give you chunks of work that become your Lego blocks of building bigger, more complex type work that you're going to use in the future. And that's where the exponential increase in productivity comes from. You're not starting over from scratch every time you need to do one of these things.
The Concept of Linking Resources
Andy Goram (26:41):
Right, so this is the thing, the linking between different projects or areas in that resources folder. Do you find yourself, I guess, duplicating similar resources into projects that you need to get those projects going? Have I missed the trick there? Or...
Scott Novis (27:00):
No, no, no, no. Phenomenal question. Great, great question. So there's two ways to do it. So number one, if I'm making a project, when in doubt, I just make a copy. Whatever's easiest and most relevant at the time. So usually that tends to be images and other PDF, like grab the resources, throw them in a folder, just give me all the ingredients, let me go. But there are times when I'm working in specifically my notes application and I'll get a new piece of information like, good example. I gave you this thing about ubuntu, so I'm like, that's super cool. So I made a note. Then I immediately started thinking, what else is like this? And pops into my head. The Happiness Lab by Dr. Laurie Santos. Did an interview with Martin Seligman who happens to be the creator of positive psychology. And as I'm pulling up my notes from that, this thing jumps out at me that Martin Seligman changed one of his core needs of happiness.
He's got like, his acronym is PERMA, positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and achievement. And he's changing meaning for matters. Why? Because related to ubuntu, I need to know it mattered that I was here, that my happiness is integral to the positive effect I'm having on you and your life. That to me, was a scientific validation of this concept that was coming from travel knowledge out of Africa. Boom, link directly into the other document. I've now created a bidirectional link from each note saying these things are connected. There's something relevant here. And that turns into me imagining in my business, how can I enhance the sharing that people experience when they're playing together? And that how can I now call to their attention and make it more explicit that when somebody's on your team, it matters that they're on your team? And you can enhance their experience by making sure they know it mattered that they were on your team.
We call that recognition. But I believe there's other ways of us enhancing recognition once we become aware that it's not just nice to have, it deeply affects our human purpose and sense of meaning and our overall quality in life when other people care that we were present and participated. So that was a lot I just dumped on you, but that's a very real example of me taking an idea, connecting it to another idea I had heard weeks earlier and going, oh, insight. How can I use that? Now it's connected to my business and the way we make our presentations. And I literally updated my Culture Kitchen Workshop to make that one of the modules, is we're going to talk about mattering. How do we enhance people's sense of if honestly, there's takeaway number two for your whole audience, you don't need video games for that. You don't need anything else other than to be aware of the fact that if you want to increase the wellbeing of your staff and your team members, get really clear about what they do that matters. And communicate it to them and let them know it.
Andy Goram (30:14):
Well, one of my favorite guys in the world I think was episode nine, I got to speak to Zach Mercurio on this very topic. He's very, very hot on mattering. So yeah, that's another button you've pressed of mine there, Scott. I love that stuff. And he talks incredibly passionately about that stuff. I get it 100%. It's great.
Scott Novis (30:38):
Yeah, really all I'm doing, my whole goal of the video games is I'm getting everybody involved in a super accessible, because anybody can play, the games are super simple. It's working together that's hard and challenging. But they're having a shared experience that's synchronized, they're all having the same experience at the same time. And then we're giving them the tools and bringing to almost like group mindfulness. Let me make you aware of what's happening to you and let me give you some tools so you can improve that experience for yourself and others because where else do you practice it?
PKM and The Daily Note
And so it's team practice. But back to PKM, there's a real example of heard a thing, captured it, connected it to something else I had read, and it's not a party trick. Once you start doing this, you too will be able to cite the source. You said it, where you heard it from because it begins to extend your own knowledge. You're my witness. I did not pause and look any of this up. This just came off the top of my head because this extends my capacity, when we talk about memory, it's easy to remember things you associate with. That's why the associations are so powerful. I'm just following one thread to the next.
Andy Goram (31:52):
I think this is the thing though, isn't it? Because the more you talk, the more I understand and the more confused I get. But that is me, but I...
Scott Novis (32:00):
You're not alone.
Andy Goram (32:02):
... but I definitely think this is a far more intentional, proactive set of tools or methodology to increase the links and understanding of the things that you see and know. And rather than having a kind of bin or a bookshelf full of stuff, this is stuff that's intentional.
Scott Novis (32:21):
Yeah. So there's two parts to this and so let me make it clear where they did get blurred. The whole thing about folders and Google Drive and everything else, that's sort of like the working with documents part of this, there's the working with knowledge part, and I talked about notes. So you can do this with Notion, you can do this with Roam. You can do this with my tool of choice is Obsidian. Tiago Forte uses Evernote. It matters that you have a note app that you like to use and trust. I would say the two biggest names right now are Notion and Obsidian. Microsoft came out with... Doesn't matter, you can pick a tool. You're going to use the same PARA idea, but the difference is you want a daily note. The idea of the daily note is every day there's a place for you to just dump information.
You're capturing constantly that day. The backbone of this thing is you hear a thing, you see a thing, you read a thing and you're like, that's really cool. Clip, paste, clip, paste, copy, web, boom, boom, boom, dump it in your daily note. It then comes to how do you distribute that information? And so the process is capture what sounds relevant and later, and this is why I love having all my stuff connected. It's on my phone, it's on my desktop, it's on my laptop, my iPad. When I got downtime, I pull up my phone, I go to my notes and I start distributing the information like, well, what am I going to do with that? Is that this quote from Ubuntu, I'm like, "Well, what does that mean? I'll make a new note for it." And I'm moving that, it's not part of a project, it's not part of an area. It must be a resource. Okay, it has to do with human connection. That's a topic I'm always interested in. How do we make friends? Better relationship, so I make a note in that folder on connection, boom!
Capturing Information Widely & Indiscriminately
And then I'm like, "What else is like that?" And that's when the magic happens is I can start searching and connecting other notes to that idea. So there's capture broadly and indiscriminately, this is what Taylor Swift does for her lyrics. She'll get a line and she'll drop it in her phone right away. Then later begin to associate it with other ideas and concepts until she synthesized a new song. Well, we're doing that with ideas. I get this thing going, cool. Capture it, capture it, capture it. And then in the dead time, you're standing in line. Maybe you're in a meeting you don't want to be in, and it's okay to be on your laptop and nobody cares. But there's time where you're like, "Man, what can I do?" Once you start going back through your notes, that could become one of the most entertaining, engaging sources of information you have access to. And now you're reflecting on it, going, "What is this? What does it mean? Or what should I do with it?"
It could be, oh, that was an insight for a project. Move that note into the project folder. Or it's like, oh man, I just got the name and number of a great landscaper that's going to make my home better. That gets moved into my area home because I want a better front yard that I need to get it relandscaped. It could be, like I said, there's this understanding, a topic of psychology I didn't know before, great, I'll add it there. And if it's none of those, when you're done with the day, archive the day and then move on. There'll be a new note tomorrow and every day. So there's this container, you're capturing information and then distributing it out through your projects, your areas, your resources. I'm going to act on it soon, I'm going to act on it now. I'm saving it for the future because it's interesting.
Andy Goram (35:57):
See, you're talking Scott and it's definitely dropping. I get it because I'm feeling old. I'm listening to what you're talking about, all these notes, and I am a prolific note maker. But they are made in little A5, A6 books. And I have a part of these books that annoy the hell out of my wife because I keep them because, well it's got all my little doodles and my notes and my stuff in that I rarely go back to. Or if I try to go back to them, I can't find what I wrote. I can't find that stuff. This is all about that capture link, right?
Scott Novis (36:32):
100%, I'm the same. I lived in England for three years. I have a closet full of A5 notebooks. It's a great size to journal and to capture and they're awesome. And they are unsearchable, the information is trapped in them and I can't extract it and apply it or use it. And I did sketchnoting, so I made them visual. People would be like, "Wow." I've been known as an incredible note taker for a very long time. But all they did for me was make it easier for me to remember because I wrote it. Just the simple act of writing increases your retention 30%.
Andy Goram (37:08):
Yeah, I have the best intentions. In my head I'm like, one day, do you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to bring all my notepads out and I'm going to capture all that stuff digitally. That is never going to happen, mate.
Scott Novis (37:19):
Never going to happen.
Andy Goram (37:20):
It's not going to happen.
PKM Constantly Improves With Use
Scott Novis (37:21):
And that's the other reason I love mise en place, I love this system because here's a core idea. It gets more valuable every time I use it. Every time I touch it, it gets better. No commercial kitchen shuts down in the middle of dinner hour to clean and organize everything, they can't. They have to produce high quality, high quantity under intense pressure. They screw up one side dish, that whole plate's coming back. So they don't have time to break down in the middle and get reorganized. Everything they do has to prepare them to do the next thing. And what I have found is that you can start very, very simply, just start with a daily note and four folders and as soon as you go, "Oh, that's a project I want to work on." Make a project folder in the project's directory and start putting stuff in there and experiment with it. It becomes really simple. I've got some videos online to walk you through it and there's some other links and resources I'll give you that should...
Andy Goram (38:20):
I think this is the thing that... That's why I'd like to know because we are time-pressured today, which is daft because I knew this was going to happen when I speak to you.
Scott Novis (38:29):
Andy Goram (38:31):
No, no, no, don't be daft. It's wonderful. Where do we start and where can people find out more stuff? Where do people start? You just start to say, do these first few things. And actually, go and check out these resources. Tell us about that.
Getting Started With PKM
Scott Novis (38:45):
Okay, so the simplest place you could start, my recommendation because it cost of nothing, would be to download an application called Obsidian. I don't own any stock, I don't have a horse in this race. And the approach of that is there is one paid service there I use and I highly recommend, which is to buy their sync service to link your phone to your computer. It's phenomenal. It works on Android, iOS, and it runs on everything and I want my knowledge everywhere I work. But if you start there and you turn on the daily note plugin, it's included with it, you could begin to capture information right away. So I'm like make your four folders, PARA, projects, areas, resources, archives, and set up daily notes and then you could begin. And if you just start capturing information and then distributing it by how you're working, you're going to be miles, miles, miles ahead. There's a video I have that is an hour long presentation with more included graphics. I'm happy to give your audience that to watch. It's on YouTube.
Andy Goram (39:57):
We'll whack that straight in the show notes, mate, that'd be great.
Scott Novis (40:00):
And then a bunch of little one-off, very specific, like how do I actually get my daily notes set up. And it's like, here's how you turn on the plugin. I'll walk you through all of it. You don't have to use Obsidian. My son uses Notion, but my middlest uses Notion, my other kids use Obsidian. They love it. And really, that's my approach. I'm like, let me give you this tool to make your life better. And one of the other pieces that I'm about to release is a guy named Michael Lindenberger created a system called One Minute to-Do List. He stumbled on and intuited the exact same thing Tiago did. That the best way to organize your tasks is by urgency, time, not importance. We have 75-year-old concepts that still dominate task management. You can't lie to yourself. We know when we're lying to ourselves and it's pointless.
And the problem with importance is there's too many ways something could be important. It's too ambiguous. So everything's important, so nothing's important. But we can't fake time. And what that does is if you prioritize around time, your brain does this incredible integration of priorities to go yeah, like if you're not leaving work today before you get this done, that's a tier one task and you can't have more than four or five of them. If we get that intuitively, like yeah, this really must get done or I'm not going home. Then there's a week of things you're trying to do. Like I'm going to try to get these next group of things done. Now, soon, everything else is in the future, man.
Andy Goram (41:31):
Scott Novis (41:31):
And once you start putting tasks that way, just like the projects, once you start thinking about organizing for action, it's game-changing. And that's what this system is about. It's giving you better ways of thinking about how to work with knowledge and information because for me, every piece I start now starts in my notes. I pull everything I know together, start my project, go this is what I'm going to do. Here's my outlines, here's the plan. And then I can, within a few clicks, export a Word document, generate the spreadsheets, slides, whatever I need. And that becomes the pinnacle of, eventually as an advanced thing, you can integrate a co-pilot like functionality of ChatGPT right into your note system to go, help me understand and generate this and boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom! It's like having a VA right there, working alongside you and your productivity just shoots through the roof.
Avoiding Overwhelm With PKM
Andy Goram (42:32):
This is the whole thing about the productivity and there's so much information that we can get hands on now, but actually, that could be overwhelming. You could just end up being paralysis, right?
Scott Novis (42:42):
That's what happens. If you looked at my Evernote from five years ago, it was a hash, man. I called it the junk drawer of notes. Everything went in there because you think, ah, search will find it. Here's the thing that we forget, we change our mind and the way we think of things change. We actually, five years ago I called something a scorecard. Well then we implemented a system called the Entrepreneurial Operating System and scorecards are a big part of that. It's completely different. I stopped thinking of the old thing as a scorecard and I started thinking of it as an assessment. So I'm looking for assessments everywhere and can't find them. I'm searching for the wrong thing.
We lose sight of the fact that we're not static. You know how I found it? Because it was associated with an account and I remembered the association and remembered the timeframe. And so I backed my way into it. Search didn't help me at all. It was totally useless because the way I conceived of the knowledge changed and evolved. We change and evolve, and this is why search fails us so often. We forget what we're looking for, not because we're stupid, because we actually got smarter. We enriched our understanding of the world and it got more complicated and we changed how we thought about the things we worked on in the past. This is why our brains are organized the way they are. Associations are super powerful.
Andy Goram (44:02):
This is going to be a challenge for you, Scott. We're going to try and summarize your three major takeaways on my wonderful little sticky notes.
PKM - Sticky Notes
Scott Novis (44:10):
Okay, I'm going to give you, okay, so number one is be aware there is a much better way to work and organize your files. And the starting point I highly recommend is Tiago Forte's book, Building a Second Brain. So if being more organized and being more on top of what you're doing is important to you, great place to start.
Andy Goram (44:32):
Scott Novis (44:34):
Secondly, in just even your regular everyday workflow, understanding that making it easier, this mise en place idea of preserving context, whether you use PARA or not, is use that Hemingway Bridge. Leave yourself a clue what the heck you were doing when you had to leave the work and just quit worrying about file storage. It's okay to have lots of copies of files. It's way more important to preserve your context. Think about the chef's kitchen. Get all your ingredients together in one spot, in a folder, whatever that means for you, so it's easy to see, okay? So that's your second one.
And that third one gets down to, like I said, I highly recommend start super simple. Get a note-taking app that works for you everywhere. I recommend Obsidian with their sync functionality. You could get Evernote, you could get Notion, have at it. But start creating that daily note so you capture anything and everything that you're going to use and then begin to distribute it out based on its actionability. Do you need it now for a project? Are you going to need it soon for some other area of your life, your standards? Is it something you're curious about? If it's none of those, archive it, move on.
Andy Goram (45:46):
Wow. Scott, I knew my brain was going to explode during this conversation and there's been plenty of it. It's all over the walls. Mate, I really enjoy talking to you, it's been enlightening.
Scott Novis (45:59):
If you just start, if you just become aware that this is a better way of working, the world will unfold to you in a very organic way. Be kind and gentle, don't try to master all of it in one step. I've been working on this for years. Like I said, every time I touch it, it gets better. That's the promise versus to-do lists, old note apps, everything else, the more use them, the more overwhelming they become, they get worse over time. The promise of this is once you start getting the handle of it, it gets more useful and valuable for you every time you touch it.
Andy Goram (46:30):
And that's what we need, my friend. Listen, this is not going to be the last conversation we have, I know. It's always a pleasure to speak to you, my friend.
Scott Novis (46:38):
Andy Goram (46:39):
I'm very, very grateful for you coming on. And look, take care my friend. I'll see you again soon.
Scott Novis (46:44):
Awesome. Thanks for having me, and I loved talking to you Andy.
Andy Goram (46:47):
Okay, everyone, that was Scott Novis. And if you'd like to find out a little bit more about any of the topics that we've talked about today, then please go ahead and check out the show notes.
So that concludes today's episode. I hope you've enjoyed it, found it interesting and heard something maybe that will help you become a stickier, more successful business from the inside going forward. If you have, please like, comment, and subscribe. It really helps. I'm Andy Goram and you've been listening to The Sticky From The Inside Podcast. Until next time, thanks for listening.
Andy Goram is the owner of Bizjuicer, an employee engagement and workplace culture consultancy that's on a mission to help people have more fulfilling work lives. He's also the host of the Sticky From The Inside Podcast, which talks to experts on these topics from around the world.