Gain Clarity in your PKM Practice for the New Year
A 3-step build-along in Tana that will enable you to quickly reflect on your PKM practice, build a view of the top connections in your graph, and get clarity about your interests.
As the New Year approaches, it offers us an opportunity to reflect, review, and set resolutions for various aspects of our lives.
However, applying this to our personal knowledge management (PKM) practices remains a largely unexplored terrain.
(Or I just haven’t found the right corner of the internet yet.)
In this 3-step build-along you will:
Create a view of your top interests,
Reflect on the importance of those interests, and
Surface the most valuable connections in your graph.
Following these three steps will leave you with an overview of the tallest peaks in your personal Interest Landscape — an extremely important intersection of your knowledge graph. So let’s get into it!
Side note: I'm using my own SN(A)CK system — a free PKM system accredited by the Tana team in this build-along. If that sounds interesting, feel free to also check out my YouTube video about SN(A)CK.
Step 1: Create a table of the top 5 knowledge nodes in your graph
We begin by retrieving a list of all the knowledge nodes in our graph by creating a search node.
CMD/CTRL+K → Find nodes with tag #Knowledge as list
We can then rename the search node to whatever we want (and choose a fitting Icon if we’d like). I choose 🏔️ My Interest Landscape.
We now have a view of all our knowledge nodes, but let’s simplify it a bit. Put your caret on the search node and do:
CMD/CTRL+K → Configure node
This will open some additional settings for the node. In the Page size field we can choose the number of items to show on a page. I want to create a view of my Top 5 knowledge nodes, so I set the Page size to 5.
Let us display this as a table.
Click View → Table
CMD/CTRL+K → View as table
Now, let’s display the number of references for each of our knowledge nodes.
Click Display → Number of references
Finally, let’s sort by the Number of references, descending.
Click Sort → Number of references → Change to descending
You have successfully surfaced the top 5 knowledge nodes in your graph! I think this is absolutely awesome in itself. We can already start reflecting on our main interests this year.
If you are using SN(A)CK, you could also try filtering on different tags that extend the #Knowledge tag, eg #area, #topic, #concept, #framework, and #mental model
If you want to only show the knowledge nodes created this year you can do so by adding a new line in the search query: CREATED LAST 365 DAYS
If you'd like to see the total number of knowledge nodes in your graph, right-click the title column and press Calculate -> Count all (like I’ve done in the illustration above). While you’re at it, you could also see if you have some duplicated topics by adding Calculate -> Count unique and seeing if the numbers match.
Step 2: Reflecting on your curiosity
Now, let's try quantifying some of our reflections.
One way to do this is to try and say something about how curious we are about a knowledge node.
Let’s make a contextual column for that.
Click Add → Add contextual column
Give your new column a name. I named mine “Curiosity Ranking”, and click the column/field symbol to configure it.
Let’s make it an Options type field, and set some options that reflect different degrees of curiosity in the Pre-determined options. For ex. “1. Fascinating”, “2. Intriguing”, “3. Interesting”, “4. Meh”, and “5. Uninteresting”.
Now ask yourself: How curious am I about this knowledge node right now? Even if this has been your top 5 the last year it doesn't necessarily mean you feel curious about them all right now. Try to keep a perspective of the upcoming year.
In addition to the Curiosity Ranking column, add other contextual columns to help you reflect. Here are some suggestions:
How useful is this knowledge to me?
In which ways can I apply it to my life?
What degree of emotional connection do I have to this topic?
How would I go about exploring this topic further?
To which degree does learning about this align with my life vision and goals?
Step 3: Create your Interest Landscape and surface your most valued connections
In this step we are just creating a few more contextual columns. In my case, each column corresponds to each part of the SN(A)CK system. Sources, Notes, Creation and Knowledge.
Notice that each contextual column is configured as an instance type. Selected Sources is connected to #Sources, Notable Notes is connected to #Notes, Core Creations is connected to #Creation, and Key Knowledge is connected to #Knowledge. As guess you get the gist.
Now what we'd like to do is fill each of this cells. We could go by column by column or row by row, or in whatever random directions we feel like. Optimally we follow our curiosity.
While filling in these cells we are bound to find a new connection, get an idea for a creation, or realize we have a knowledge gap that we can fill in the new year.
Be sure to document these things. Either in a cell, below the table, or anywhere else.
When filling the cells I like to open each knowledge node in a new panel (like illustrated below). This allows me to dive into its Cluster Explorer where relations to other Sources, Notes, Creations, and Knowledge are surfaced.
Here I use the filtering options either to look for certain words or related knowledge, or to filter on particular extended tags (for example filter to only show me nodes tagged #book and #article in the Related Sources search).
How many nodes you place in each cell is up to you. Being selective can be beneficial because it forces you to choose.
Why is one article more insightful than the other? Which are the most valuable notes, and what do they look like? Which knowledge node is the most impactful, and why? Is it the one with the strongest link, the opposing idea, or could it be a new and profound connection?
That being said, I don’t think you should hold back if several nodes are screaming your name.
When looking through your PKM graph, you might also find some nodes you have forgotten about. This might lead you on small, unexpected paths through your graph. Sometimes following the traces of your past self and sometimes creating new pathways.
I strongly encourage you to let that happen. In my experience, these tangents offer many opportunities for curiosity to spark and ideas to arise.
Finally, as you fill in the cells, try to notice the relations between your sources, notes, creations and knowledge. Also, notice where there are gaps, and try to fill them with new creations, notes or inquiries.
This should leave you with a fantastic overview of one slice of your knowledge graph - a representation of your Interest Landscape. What’s incredible is that it is all in front of you.
That’s it for this Tana build-along! Hope you enjoyed and got some value out of it :)
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