The major problem with PARA is it doesn't allow you to link notes between folders.
Let's say you are taking notes on a the book Thinking Fast And Slow. You could argue this could go into the resources, area, or projects folder depending on what you are using the notes for. But PARA doesn't allow a note to be in multiple places at once! As a result, you feel frustrated, confused, and in danger of giving up on notetaking altogether.
Creating what fellow PKMer Nick Milo in his Linking Your Thinking Workshop calls Maps Of Content, or MOCs.
Maps of content are simply notes linked to other related notes to create a map. Because we make them from links, notes can be organized across folders. By creating MOCs in Obsidian, you have the actionability PARA provides with the flexibility MOCs provide.
In this article, I'm going to explain:
- Why Should You Create MOCs?
- When Should You Create MOCs?
- 5 Levels Of MOC Creation
- What Can You Create MOCs For?
- Integrating MOCs With PARA And The Zettelkasten
- Integrating MOCs With School
And it doesn't matter whether you use Obsidian or not, the principles I teach in this video apply to any link-based notetaking system.
By the end of this article your going to be a notetaking wizard so powerful Gandalf would be jealous.
Why Should You Create MOCs?
- MOCs allow you to link notes in multiple places. This fixes the major problem with the PARA method.
- MOC organized systems reduce the need for folders and tags. Instead, you can use links as your primary organization feature.
- MOCs allow you to think bottom-up and top-down. You can grow notes bottom up by creating individual notes, and top down by assembling notes into a MOC.
When To Create MOCs
There are generally two times you should create a MOC:
1. You Hit A Mental Squeeze Point
The mental squeeze point is a term I got from Obsidian YouTuber Nick Milo.
It's the point at which the chaos of your organization becomes so great you have to do something. For example, you create so many notes on Psychology you feel your head will explode.
2. You're Outlining A Project
The second case you can create a MOC is when you are outlining a project.
Let's say you're starting a learning project to learn content creation. You could create a MOC to organize all the creators you should follow, relevant books, podcasts, articles to consume, and next actions.
5 Levels To Creating A MOC
Now that you know why and when you should create MOCs, let's dive into how you create one.
I learned these five levels through taking Nick Milo's Linking Your Thinking Workshop. You should check out the workshop in the description below if you are interested in learning more about MOC creation.
I'm going to take you through the 5 levels of MOC creation using my Gamification MOC as an example.
Level 1: Creating Isolated Notes
During level 1, you create individual notes on the information you consume throughout your days.
At this level my Gamification MOC wasn't even created. It was a semblance of a few notes that resonated with me from conversations, books, and other information mediums. The notes were titled this:
- Games have more epic goals than real life
- Games have clearer goals and rules than real life
- Games have a tighter feedback system than real life
Level 2: Growing And Connecting Your Notes
In level 2, you start growing and connecting your individual notes together.
Growing your notes involves: Adding more information. Making your note more concise. Providing examples. Connecting them to related notes.
Relationships form. Check out my video 6 Simple Methods For Creating And Growing Your Concept Notes In Obsidian to learn more about creating these relationships.
Those three previous notes, all created from the information I had consumed from Actionable Gamification by Yu-Kai Chou and Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal, started to connect together.
Level 3: Creating The MOC
At this point, you will want a bird's eye view of the relationships between the notes you connect.
Either you hit your Mental squeeze point, or you are outlining a project. This is when the MOC creation process begins. The creation of the MOC itself takes place over three steps.
Dumping involves--no not pooping--creating your MOC note, putting in the MOC template, and then dumping every relevant note or even other MOC you can think of inside.
I love it because it collects all of the MOCs that already link to the MOC I have created, but it also shows me any notes linked to the MOC before its creation.
Think about how cool that is. You just created your MOC, and you already have a foundation of notes you can use.
You don't have to start from scratch!
This is what my Gamification MOC looked like during the dump stage: Gamification MOC Dump Stage.
In the lump stage, you take all of your dumpings--you better thank me for not making a poop joke--and lump them together based on theme.
Some additional questions you will have to ask during this stage are:
- How should I structure my MOC?
- What notes should I include in my MOC?
- Should I write my MOC in paragraph or bullet list format?
After running through this process with my Gamification MOC, it looks like this: Gamification MOC.
During the jumping stage, you let your MOC simmer.
No, you don't literally cook it on a stovetop, but you give some time for the ideas to marinate. Then you can come back to the MOC.
Every time I have done this, I find I bring an entirely new perspective to the MOC.
I find new connections and insights.
The jump period lasts an infinite amount of time because you will never truly finish your MOC. You'll continue to navigate using it, grow it, and reflect on the incredible unique knowledge you have just built.
Level 4: Linking MOCs Together-MOCSEPTION
At this level, MOCs are linked to MOCs!
This allows you to rapidly fly around your note library, organically getting unforced behavior-based Spaced repetition.
You can see my Gamification MOC linked to other MOCs:
Level 5: Creating A Home Note
The highest level of emergence comes when you create a Home Note, essentially a MOC with all of your highest-order MOCs.
The home note is your beginning, end, launchpad, and homebase.
Your home note allows for simultaneous top-down thinking by looking at your system from the home note or bottom-up thinking by creating concept notes and adding them to MOCs linked to your home note.
Creating your Home note is similar to creating a MOC. Because your HOME note is a MOC, a MOC of your other MOCs. As you grow your Obsidian database, you won't just have concept notes and MOCs but rather concept notes, lower-level MOCs, middle MOCs, higher-level MOCs, and then your HOME note.
This is 🏠 My Home note:
Importantly, your home note will change over time as you change. That's okay! You should be flexible with your notetaking system. As you change, of course, your notetaking system will change alongside you.
What Can You Create MOCs For?
Now that you know the five levels of MOC creation, what can you create MOCs for?
I create MOCs for:
- Outlining a YouTube video, blog post, or newsletter
- Outlining an essay
- Finding wholes in my knowledge of a topic
- Better understanding my knowledge in an area
- Sending as a gift to a friend or family member
- Outlining a project
- Mapping out my learnings for school
Integrating MOCs With PARA And The Zettelkasten
I'm not saying you shouldn't use the PARA method in Obsidian.
But integrating them with MOCs is the better way. To learn how to integrate them, check out my friend John's video From PARA Method Beginner to Second Brain Pro with Obsidian MD (Free Setup Templates and Course). He does a much better job explaining then I ever could in this video.
In addition, if you want to learn how to integrate MOCs with a Zettelkasten, check out my video The Ultimate Beginners Guide To Starting A Zettelkasten In Obsidian As A Student.
Integrating MOCs With School
MOCs are especially useful for maximizing your understanding of your college classes.
Using MOCs you can create a map of what you will learn for a course to create top-down structure. Then, as the semester progresses, you can take notes bottom up from individual lectures and readings. Check out my video, The Four Step MOC Creation Process I Use to Maximize Understanding of My College Classes in Obsidian to learn more.
The Mindset Shift of Building MOCs and a Home Note
When I started creating MOCs, three profound things started to happen:
- I fell more in love with learning waking up every day with wonder and curiosity for what new notes and connections I would make. Notetaking became a game.
- I began building a personal unique knowledge base that scales over time.
- I stopped procrastinating on notetaking trying to find the best way to use folder, tagging, and linking. Links became the dominant way through which I organized stuff.
So now you know how to create MOCs. But you might still be confused on how to grow and connect notes together to create MOCs out of them. Check out my video 6 Simple Methods For Creating And Growing Your Concept Notes In Obsidian to learn how.
P.S. Sign up for the waitlist for the new course I'm building: The Art Of Linked Reading.
The video course will help people who struggle to find, actively consume, remember, communicate, and apply insights from books, learn to do so with linked notetaking apps like Obsidian, Tana, OneNote, and more.
Join the waitlist by signing up through this form:
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🎙️Latest On De Podcast - E29 Umar Rafique: Real Story And Result From A Student Taking Obsidian University: Umar is a student of my course Obsidian University, teaching you how to level up your notetaking and studying in Obsidian. He has known about Obsidian for two years but never got motivated enough to get started. Over the past few months, he has delved into Obsidian learning to compound his knowledge base inside and outside school and deepened his love for learning. He has more time ACTUALLY to enjoy college and make memories. And he has made a good friend out of me along the way.
In this episode you will learn:
- A students experience taking Obsidian University to level up their notetaking and studying
- Biggest mistakes Umar wishes he had avoided beginning to use Obsidian
- How to fall in love with learning
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P.S. Some of the links below are Amazon affiliate links.
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