2 min read

How I organize my commonplace book in Notion

Fri, 12. Feb 2021 Update: I now use Craft and wrote about why I prefer it over Bear, Obsidian, Roam Research, and yes, Notion. While I still have a BASB-inspired folder structure, my main ‘organizational system’ for my ‘commonplace book’ is now more akin to densely linked notes ala Zettelkasten rather than docs in folders. My implementation of Zettelkasten in Craft.

I used to have:

  1. An Area called Commonplace Book, which contains Kindle highlights of books I’ve read
  2. An Area called “To Read and Watch”
  3. A Resource called Library / Antilibrary, which contains mostly books, either ones I have read or not, or lists of them
  4. Separate Resources that are the actual topics of interest

As a result, it’s hard to intuit where I should put certain things and where I can find them.

For example, I asked a friend for the best resources on Urban Planning. He gave me a list of stuff. In my previous system, I could place them in either my “Library” or “Urban Planning” Resource. If they are videos, I might place them in the “To Watch” Area. It gets more complicated once I start perusing the articles or books, will I then place the highlights in the Commonplace Book Area?

In my new system, I create individual topics under Resources and eliminate these Resources and Areas: Commonplace Book, Library / Antilibrary, and To Read and Watch.

Instead, each Resource topic will be a database, serving the function of (1) commonplace book (the whole thing is a commonplace book, of course, but the way I use it now is as a place to store highlights and progressively summarize), (2) library/antilibrary, and (3) to read/watch list.

Regardless of my interaction with the specific resource, I’ll always know where to save and find them. In the specific topic Resource!

To keep track of my interaction with each Resource, I will eventually add a column in the database on the status (e.g. to read, reading, summarized) or even add Projects I’ve done on the topic (say, a blog post) as a line item in the database. I’ll see how it goes.

Side note: I am using the terms “Area” and “Resource” as per Tiago Forte’s course on personal knowledge management: Building a Second Brain. It’s fantastic and I recommend it.