1c3 - Building relationships with folders
The death of folders has been greatly exaggerated.
- Folders separate information in a rigid way. This is their strength and their weakness. When you only use folders, it’s a giant weakness.
- But if you use folders in a balanced way with links (and tags), then their weaknesses are reduced. Let’s explore this further…
# The drawbacks of being “folder dominant”
- Folders are stiff. They silo information. It’s a rigid hierarchy that imposes order.
- By only using folders, we are forced into thinking from a top-down perspective. This is good for organizing and categorizing, but it is bad for lateral, generative thinking.
- If you always think with “folders first”…
- You will discourage your ability to think connectively.
- You will spend more time asking, “Where exactly should I put this note?”
- You will stunt the long-term growth of a complex and interesting digital library.
- A “folders first” approach encourages ==rigid thinking. ==
- But here’s the good news. With just a few tweaks, you can wield folders with as much precision as a kendo sword master. You can build a healthy and sustainable PKM system.
- If folders can stop hogging all the attention and make room for links and tags, they can form an unbeatable trio…the best trio since Harry, Ron, and Hermione…the most balanced trio since rock, paper, scissors.
When folders, links, and tags are balanced, they form the ultimate knowledge-building trio.
- They can work together synergistically, which we will explore in later units.
# Ways to use folders
Here is an incomplete list to help us think about how we might want to use folders in our link-based PKM systems.
# A folder for daily notes
You may find several good reasons to capture thoughts in a daily note that is “timestamped” with something like
2024-01-31. After doing this over 100 or 1000 times, you may decide that a dedicated folder for timestamped notes is worth having.
# Folders for projects
If your goal is to manage projects, folders are great — maybe even ideal. You might decide that you want your projects to be actively walled-off from the rest of your notes. But once projects are completed, you will need to take the extra steps of reformulating any good stuff into your main digital library.
# Folder for an inbox (or seedbox)
Another possible use for a folder is as a temporary inbox, or “incubation” folder. Just make sure you treat this folder as a temporary staging ground—to be deleted or assimilated with the Borg- er, I mean, your main-brain-frame. Otherwise, that inbox folder can get awfully crufty.
# Folders for special files
You might want to have folders to keep your Images, PDFs, and other files better organized.
# Folders for “very clearly defined” types of notes
You might want to use folders for “very clearly defined” notes. For example, things like: Images, People, and Quotes. You don’t have to use these folders; you could just add their contents into the main vault; but you might find it keeps things slightly more tidy.
# Folders for your sources
If you want to have a special folder for People, you may also see value in having a special folder for Sources (all the things written by other people).
# Folders for your MOCs and datascopes
Maybe you really want to have a single place to view your most important structural notes in a familiar and comforting folder structure.
# Folders to clearly define what you share with others
Depending on your needs and technical abilities, you can use folders to organize the notes you share publicly, versus the notes you want to keep private. A good example of sharing a folder publicly is the LYT Kit, which is just a subfolder in my main PKM folder.
# Folders for private notes
Keeping private notes private is crucial. You may choose to use folders to separate private information like finances, medical information, and private journaling.
- Abolishing folders completely is an over-correction, a knee-jerk reaction, a rebellion against the parents of our digital upbringing.
- There are still many valid uses for folder. Just don’t fall into the trap of creating 50 folders and 100 subfolders in a single “organizing” frenzy; it won’t work out.
- There are many ways to use folders, but the best way to add new ones is to allow their need to emerge slowly through using your system.
Structure has to be earned!
If you find yourself thinking more than once that, “a folder would be perfect here,” then that’s your cue to try one out, and see if it can earn a long-term role.