How I use org-roam as a second brain

Org-roam

Org-roam is an emacs package to implement the Zetteltasken workflow for note taking. I used it as a way to maintain a personal wiki, hundreds of notes that are interlinked. It helps me see connections I wouldn't normally see, reflect on what is happening and on the past, and address the limitation of my memory. I store recipes, food reviews, daily log, my routine, and much more in org-roam. Its documentation and discussion groups are active.

This article goes over my org-roam workflow.

Stats

I have about 1200 notes, every day I take a new note about what happened that day. The number of notes expand and contract over time as I regularly extract information from daily notes into more permanent notes and delete the daily notes. As an example, I currently 61 daily notes and about 1100 regular notes. I compact notes every week and every quarter, the exercise takes a few minutes to a few hours.

My daily notes

I built a template with yasnippet, that looks like this:

* TODO Home
<Write summary of what happened at home here>
* TODO Work
<Write summary of how work was here>
* TODO Routine
** TODO 15 minutes in the sun before noon
** TODO 1h with no phone in the evening
** TODO Go on a walk alone
...
  • Home and work are free form section of topics that are important that happened that day, like a new recipe, a new learning experience. Those sections include pictures that I attach with the workflow explained here.
  • Routine is for tracking habits

The compaction process

Let's assume that I am trying to compact three daily notes:

┌───────────────────────┐    ┌───────────────────────┐   ┌───────────────────────┐
│┌────────────────────┐ │    │┌────────────────────┐ │   │ ┌────────────────────┐│
││    Update about    │ │    ││   Update about dogs│ │   │ │                    ││
││      my daughter   │ │    │└────────────────────┘ │   │ │    Update about    ││
││                    │ │    │┌─────────────────────┐│   │ │     my daughter    ││
│└────────────────────┘ │    ││                     ││   │ │                    ││
│                       │    ││    Key Event        ││   │ │                    ││
│                       │    ││                     ││   │ └────────────────────┘│
│                       │    │└─────────────────────┘│   │                       │
│ ┌────────────────────┐│    │┌────────────────────┐ │   │ ┌────────────────────┐│
│ │    Routine         ││    ││    Routine         │ │   │ │    Routine         ││
│ └────────────────────┘│    │└────────────────────┘ │   │ └────────────────────┘│
│                       │    │                       │   │                       │
└───────────────────────┘    └───────────────────────┘   └───────────────────────┘

     ┌─────────────┐             ┌─────────────┐              ┌─────────────┐
     │ Jan 20 2022 │             │ Jan 21 2022 │              │ Jan 22 2022 │
     └─────────────┘             └─────────────┘              └─────────────┘

I extract each section into their respective permanent notes:


┌───────────────────────┐    ┌───────────────────────┐   ┌───────────────────────┐  ┌───────────────────────┐
│┌────────────────────┐ │    │┌─────────────────────┐│   │                       │  │                       │
││    Update about    │ │    ││                     ││   │┌────────────────────┐ │  │ ┌──────────────────┐  │
││      my daughter   │ │    ││    Key Event        ││   ││    Routine by day  │ │  │ │Update about dogs │  │
││   Jan 20, 2022     │ │    ││                     ││   │└────────────────────┘ │  │ │ Jan 21 2022      │  │
│└────────────────────┘ │    │└─────────────────────┘│   │                       │  │ │                  │  │
│┌────────────────────┐ │    │                       │   │                       │  │ └──────────────────┘  │
││                    │ │    │                       │   │                       │  │                       │
││    Update about    │ │    │                       │   │                       │  │                       │
││     my daughter    │ │    │                       │   │                       │  │                       │
││  Jan 22, 2022      │ │    │                       │   │                       │  │                       │
││                    │ │    │                       │   │                       │  │                       │
│└────────────────────┘ │    │                       │   │                       │  │                       │
└───────────────────────┘    └───────────────────────┘   └───────────────────────┘  └───────────────────────┘

     ┌─────────────┐             ┌─────────────┐              ┌─────────────┐            ┌─────────────┐
     │ My daughter │             │  Key event  │              │   Routine   │            │    Dogs     │
     └─────────────┘             └─────────────┘              └─────────────┘            └─────────────┘
  • Example of permanent notes include my journey at a company, free form chat about a topic, routine, recipes, the story of my dog
  • I generally compact as much as possible as the end of each week and leave only the habits that I compact at the end of every quarter

Other workflow: looking at a random note, tagging, linting

I often look at a random note (org-roam provides a shortcut for that) and improve it, delete it or link it to other notes.

I used tags sparingly, currently I just tag People and recipes. The people tagging is useful i conjunction with org-roam-ui for visualizing clusters of acquaintances and how people are connected (it is fascinating, try it out). I use the recipe tagging to quickly find or export recipes.

I link notes with the following linters to improve my writing:

  • proselint
  • artsbollock
  • langtool