First Impressions of Personal Knowledge Management

I have a problem storing all the important things I learn from the books, videos, articles, and other content I consume. A founder friend shared with me how he does it: he uses a variety of tools cobbled together. Doing some digging on the tools he uses and their competitors, I stumbled upon a world focused on this problem: personal knowledge management (PKM).

This world is new to me, and I was curious. I spent time this weekend watching PKM experts explain the frameworks, systems, and processes they use in their daily lives. A few early thoughts after today’s learnings:

  • PKM is niche but seems to have gained momentum around 2020-ish.
  • PKM is different from productivity management, but both were incorporated into many PKM experts’ systems.
  • A ton of tools help with PKM, but they all do things differently. No one tool can do everything, so cobbling tools together is the norm.
  • People consume information from so many different sources that it’s hard for one tool to be great at capturing all of it.
  • The need to cobble together tools increases complexity. There are just too many systems and moving pieces for the average person to manage. This decreases the likelihood that someone will adopt PKM.
  • Embracing the PKM approach that “experts” demonstrated requires a high degree of consistency in process execution. There isn’t a lot of room for error.
  • I expected AI to be mentioned and utilized significantly. It wasn’t.

I’m still learning about this, but I get the sense that PKM can get rigid and complex very quickly. In my experience, rigidity and complexity often lead to spending more time managing the system than getting value from the system. I don’t want to use anything rigid and complex.

PKM isn’t the same as productivity management, yet many people combined the two in the approaches I watched today. My gut feeling is that this isn’t the right approach for me. My task management will likely be more effective if it’s managed separately in a simple and loose system than as part of a PKM system.

I haven’t reached a verdict on PKM yet, but I think a better use of my time going forward is to learn about the frameworks and methods used in PKM. If I find a framework I like and want to use, it may be better for me to create a simple, flexible system that suits me instead of copying a complex, rigid system developed by someone else.

PKM is still new to me. What I learned today was useful and gave me a good idea of what PDK is and how people are using it. There’s a lot I don’t know about PDK, and I’m not sure if it’s something I’ll adopt. But I’m curious to learn more so I can determine whether it’s for me.