If someone asked me today “Hey, what’s your biggest regret?”, I would reply “I wish I had taken more notes during my career”. I could be exaggerating but it’s not far from the truth.
I can vaguely recall a few experiences that would’ve made great additions to my current mental model. I learnt so much volunteering, I met interesting people during my travels and I’ve stumbled across my share of weird content on the internet. Many of those would’ve helped me today. I could’ve made interesting recommendations, shared engaging stories or created solid content. Thinking back, I don’t know what I don’t know.
I discovered note-taking in 2020 while I was at home, during the pandemic. And I went down that rabbit hole real hard.
I’ve always valued note-taking but only during meetings and courses. I’ve always used note-taking sparingly. My biggest revelation was that I overestimated my memory. I forget most of what I consume. I immediately felt guilty but soon followed it up with the motivation to capture everything I read.
Thus began my journey to find the best note-taking app.
Why did I pick Roam Research?
Soon I discovered that there is no such thing as ‘best note-taking app’ but only ‘best-for-me-note-taking-app’. After exploring Remnote, Obsidian, The Archive, Roam Research among many others I landed on Roam Research.
It’s not that the other apps are bad, they’re good. Some of them are even ‘better’ than Roam, objectively. I loved Rem Note’s spaced repetition feature and The Archive’s Zettelkasten-friendly feature but Roam just stuck. It was ‘type-at-first-sight’
I loved the block level referencing and the friction-free daily notes section. I don’t have to think about where my notes go. I just open it and start writing. And that’s what I’ve been doing. With block level referencing, I don’t have to remember where I store my notes. Each line is searchable, referenceable and reusable
5 ways I use Roam Research
1 - I store my book highlights
Not exciting? Hear me out.
The Readwise to Roam integration has been magical. All my Kindle highlights are exported to Roam automatically, through Readwise. I moved all my reading to Kindle just to make way for this. Just knowing that all my book highlights are being captured is just so relieving.
I typically look for 3 things when I highlight in a book Ideas: Concepts that make me curious, ideas that I want to carry with me Examples: ** The real world implementation of an idea **Stories: Anecdotes that make you look cool if you can quote them
Once I’m done with a book I go back to Roam and format the notes, tagging them appropriately.
2 - I talk to myself
This one’s an underrated Roam use-case.
We’ve all heard it, more than once. Writing is thinking. I think in Roam Research.
Whenever, I’m grappling with a problem I just open Roam Research and type my heart out. These notes are pretty personal. I swear at myself, quote examples that only I can relate to and sometimes even talk to my future self.
This helped me get things out of my head and sometimes after one of these brainstorming sessions, I can feel the ‘weight’ lifted off my head.
3 - I log my work
I’m not disciplined enough to stay organised.
I listen to my heart and start working on things randomly, whichever motivates me at that moment. Towards the end of the week, I have no idea what I worked on.
Now, Roam Research is open all the time on my second monitor and whenever I’m about to start something new, I put that down on the daily notes section. Since most of my work involves writing or ideation, the work lives within Roam Research so it makes it easy to retrieve it right from there.
Thanks to this, a casual scroll through the Daily Notes section tells me how my week was and it’s extremely helpful in reflection.
4 - I save everything I consume
I’m a distracted monkey that lives on the internet.
I find interesting things all the time and I forget them seconds later. Whenever I read an article, watch a video or discover a new tool - Roam Research is open on the split screen window.
For every piece of content I consume, I capture the URL, author and few highlights from it. Even if it’s just a sentence, it’s okay. This way, I’m not left scratching my head when I have to retrieve a piece of content. As long as I’ve tagged it, I can retrieve it.
5 - I document original thoughts
I say this separately because this is by far the biggest benefit to come out of Roam.
We know this, no thought is original. Most of the time, they are a function of what you consume.
Documenting your thoughts in Roam along with your other notes is truly a game changer. You’re able to track your wisdom back to the source and that in turn triggers more thought process and it’s an amazing experience.
The tool only follows the mindset
I only use about 5-10% of Roam and I’m honestly okay with it. The value of a tool doesn’t come from how much you’re able to extract from it. It comes from how it’s impacted your life.
I also know that I’m not going to use Roam Research forever. Eventually, there might come a better tool or my note-taking process might warrant a different tool but that’s okay.
It’s the mindset that matters. The mindset of acknowledging the truth. The truth being - my memory will fail me. I will not remember things exactly as it is.
I’m grateful for discovering note-taking at least now, 7 years into my career. As long as I stick to the writing habit, I know that my wisdom is just a search away.
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