This website covers topics on knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

Revisiting my PKM

Since one of the important strategies around Personal Knowledge Management is the Covey-inspired idea of Sharpening the Saw, I see that my PKM has changed a bit since I last described it.  Not surprising.

Tools remain fairly much the same: Outlook, Firefox, desktop search, PersonalBrain, ActiveWords, news aggregator, etc.  

I'm still a heavy user of Outlook for email, calendar, and tasks.  I have a goal of a clean inbox (no previously-read mail calling my attention).  I succeed about once a week or longer.  I file emails into relevant folders and use a desktop search to retrieve things.  I find the search to be much quicker, even if I am fairly sure where the message was filed.

I no longer use the Journal feature to record notes on the fly or to copy from my paper notes.  As I've shifted to more client work, my paper notes tend to be either personal reminders or they get recorded into minutes in other formats.  With those paper notes today, I tend to flip back through the pages to check for "check this" notes.

My task management isn't as sophisticated as I'd like.  I have some repeating tasks that I keep in Outlook, and I put some reminder-like tasks in there as well.  But there are "open" items that I think I'll get to quickly, or I can't put them into an Outlook task easily.  For example, I leave a number of websites open in my browser that contain interesting content on which I want to spend time.  Or I'll leave a couple posts-in-progress open while I ponder what to write or collect more information.  I also have a number of articles tagged in my aggregator for future actions (usually tagged when I read offline for action when I get back online).  Essentially, I have too many mechanisms for tracking unfinished work.  I have also realized that I do to much of my own multi-tasking with several activities happening in parallel, rather than finishing one before starting another.  How embarrassing for my discussions about multitasking. 

My filing system is in the midst of change due to the uncertainty of the future of PersonalBrain, the tool I've been using for five years.  I love the ability to put stuff (files, website links, notes) all into the same tool and make any kinds of connections between them, including multiple relationships which are not possible in traditional hierarchies.  They are working on a new version, which has many new and useful features.  However, it also has some behaviors that may get in the way of its utility.  (That, and I will probably have to pay a significant upgrade fee.)  What I'm considering is moving back to a traditional, hierarchical filing system with desktop search to find content I can't find by browsing the hierarchy.

One reason I am not quite as worried about losing access to PersonalBrain is ActiveWords.  It sits in the background: I call ActiveWords with a keystroke, type in a word or phrase, and it fires off the "word."  The word might take me to a website or to a file or to a folder of files.  These are my most common uses.  A more sophisticated example: take me to a website and then take some action at that site, such as filling data into a form.  It can integrate with Outlook and some other contact management tools to create words for everyone in my contact list, so "mindy" brings up a list of anyone I know named Mindy or who works at Mindy Mints.  It also does text substitution (all my signatures are ActiveWords text substitution commands), and it has a scripting language that can mimic most keyboard commands.  One of my favorite features is a default behavior if the word doesn't exist: I have it set to run a web search on the phrase.  This means I have quick access to Google from anywhere.  The one thing that's lacking is mouse-related commands for the few applications that don't have keyboard shortcuts.  It's a result of ActiveWords that my Firefox bookmarks are empty.  I never use that particular feature; it's faster to fire off the ActiveWord, assuming I remember what it is.

One of the biggest changes for my processes is that I have been using mind maps more and more to capture notes or do personal brainstorming.  I am doing this so much that I find it difficult to think about a decent-sized topic without drawing out a map, either on paper or in a mind mapping tool.

When and why taxonomy fails

PKM assignment in 2007