You're already doing it, sort of (Chapter 5)

Written by 
Nick Milo
Personal Knowledge Management


Nick Milo

Nick Milo has spent the last 15 years harnessing the power of digital notes to achieve remarkable feats. He's used digital notes as a tool to calm his thoughts and gain a clearer understanding of the world around him.

This marks the fifth chapter in the State of PKM. By the end of this email series, you will leave with a clearer and empowered sense of how you can improve your knowledge management efforts.

I run an online workshop called "Linking Your Thinking".

You may have heard of it 🥚

But it's kinda silly because you're already doing it. You're already "making connections in your head". That's what thinking is! So you are literally "linking your thinking" every moment of every day.

The problem is that we entered the Information Age.

Now we need help...

Imagine you are a football team. (The American kind.)

The coach chooses to only to play with 4 players. But the the opposing team still trots out 11. What's going to happen?

The 4 players are going to try their hardest, but they are going to get demolished. They won't even have a chance because they are being asked to do too much.

Well guess what? Those 4 players represent our brain in the Information Age: it's being asked to do too much.

The bad news is that the situation is urgent, and we need help.

The good news is that help is all around us.

And there's no reason you shouldn't be playing with a full team.

So, as the coach, you look over at the bench and shout: "Body, get in there!" And 3 players march onto the field. Then you look all around the sidelines and shout: "Environment, get in there!" And 4 more players run out there.

When your brain, body, and environment are playing together, then you're fielding a full team. Then good things are going to happen.

The riveting concept I'm hinting at here is called "The Extended Mind". It was formally introduced in 1998 by Andy Clark and David Chalmers. It was beautifully researched by Annie Murphy Paul in her 2021 book of the same name.

The "Extended Mind" is one of the most monumental ideas impacting how we view ourselves: how we think and who we are. It is an idea whose time has come.

Under the umbrella of the Extended Mind, is what I want to help you grow:

Your ideaverse.

Your ideaverse is the entire universe of ideas that exists between you and every place you think.

Our thoughts and our environment play together as one.

Your ideaverse consists of the connections between your brain, your body, and every part of your environment—especially your personal notes, but also the tree you walked by, the conversation you just had, and the jolt of butterflies you just felt in your stomach.

It also includes a space that may become your most valuable thinking environment: your digital ideaverse of linked notes.

That's why you are here. At some point, you stumbled upon words like "PKM" and "Obsidian" and maybe even "Tools for Thought" and eventually even "Linking Your Thinking".

That means you are someone who wants to accomplish things. You don't want to lose your ideas. And you want to feel somewhat in control of your thoughts.

That's why the Linking Your Thinking Workshop exists: so you can get your thoughts in order and confidently create—all the while growing a digital ideaverse that supports and powers your efforts.

How MOCs fit in

Earlier, I mentioned "the squeeze". It's the Mental Squeeze Point. It's the feeling we face all too often.

The Mental Squeeze Point is when your unsorted knowledge becomes so messy it overwhelms and discourages you.

Either you are equipped with frameworks to overcome "the squeeze", or you are discouraged and possibly abandon your project. This is usually followed by yet another search for the next shiny thing to distract from the pain.

But I believe there is a new—and best—solution to the mental squeeze points we are constantly facing on the digital field. You just gather links to all of the stuff you're worried about losing, and you throw them into a special note called a Map of Content (also known as an MOC, pronounced EM-OH-CEE).

I did this for years. It worked well.

Then next-gen linking tools were born.

And something unexpected happened.

Something I have fallen in love with.

Those Maps of Content, weren't just places to store information, they were places to develop ideas!

Read that again.

This unexpected consequence of linked notes is the true gamechanger.

Even my words here fall short of expressing the cognitive support, power, and joy that using Maps of Content gives me.

It's the same thing we've always done. When we feel a little overwhelmed, or when we are dealing with a lot of moving parts, we make a map. Now we are just doing it in a fast and reliable digital environment that allows us to think better.

Maps of Content have led to a surprise twist to one of The 6 Battlefields of PKM: Top-down vs Bottom-up; because when you are generating ideas from a Map of Content, it becomes Middle-out.

Maps are awesome. Maps work. And you're already using them. I'm sure you have drawn countless simple maps to get your thoughts in order.

It's helpful for detectives and DEA agents too.

See that board. Now imagine you could move and edit each note as fast as you could think?

Once you get comfortable linking notes and using Maps of Content, You will have substantially extended the capabilities of your mind using your digital ideaverse 🤯

In the Information Age, we have to make sure we're playing with a full team. Growing a trustworthy digital ideaverse is how you get there. This is a powerful and reliable way of improve your thinking and accelerate your ideation.

And you can do it right now.

But there is one missing part to your thinking environment that is crucial to playing with a full team—and I'll cover that in the next chapter!

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