By gamifying my Obsidian, I have made notemaking more fun than playing Minecraft.
Growing up, I used to play Minecraft for hours every day. Building castles, finding diamonds, and blowing up my friend's base after they killed my pet cat, Smickles. Poor Smickles. Playing Minecraft, I felt a sense of adventure, curiosity, and fun, which I didn't in real life.
In contrast, my journey into the PKM community was filled with confusion, boredom, and perfectionism.
Notemaking--in contrast to notetaking--emphasizes active engagement with information and the connection of ideas. Learning to notemake would make me a more critical thinker, upgrade my thinking, allow me to compound my knowledge, and boost my learning. But it felt hard, and complicated compared to building in Minecraft. Then I came to an insight: what if I could gamify my Obsidian to feel more like Minecraft? I read books like SuperBetter, Actionable Gamification, Reality Is Broken, and more.
Using these resources, I created a gamification resource list to turn your real life into the most fun game imaginable. Create your superhero alter-ego, define your quests and epic wins, cultivate your skills and abilities, and fight your bad guys.
I found 7 ways to gamify my Obsidian to make notemaking more adventurous, wonderous, and fun.
Let me show you how!
1. Adopt A Challenge Mindset
A challenge mindset involves seeing obstacles not as annoyances in the way but as challenges to test and grow.
I remember playing Oxygen Not Included in high school, a game where you're tasked with building a Mars colony that can survive the brutal living conditions of extraterrestrial life. I encountered many obstacles: figuring out how to produce energy, how to make enough sludge bars to feed my colonists, and how to take care of my colonists shit. Yup. I killed many colonists with my incompetence.
But I kept trying and eventually created a thriving Mars colony because I had a challenge mindset.
You can adopt a challenge mindset in your PKM system by seeing obstacles as challenges to grow your skills.
These are challenges like choosing a notetaking app, figuring out how to collect, connect, and create out of your knowledge, and organizing your tagging, linking, and folder system.
Seeing these obstacles as challenges rather than annoyances can help you feel more adventure, curiosity, and fun when going into your PKM system.
2. Create A Super Hero Alter Ego In Your PKM System
Lots of games have secret identities: Metal Gear, Hitman, Spiderman.
Often when playing these games you feel like your avatar. It turns out this has an effect on your real life. Just seeing an avatar pursue and complete a goal, like running a 5k, cooking a healthy meal, etc., can increase self-efficacy--our belief in our capability of creating and pursuing goals--and motivation in the person playing them. However, this effect only occurs if you identify with your avatar.[^1]
Think about that: just SEEING an avatar you identify with pursuing goals builds your own confidence and motivation.
So, one of the best ways to pursue your PKM goals is to adopt a secret identity.
Mine is Aidan The World Singer:
He's a spin-off of Kalladin, Ellend Venture, Hoid, Mark Watney, and Leonardo Da Vinci.
World singers in The Stormlight Archives are traveling storytellers who pass their wisdom through stories to the places they visit. They are incredibly curious, open-minded, humble, and wise. These are the values I want to follow in my PKM system. Anytime I feel myself slipping on my PKM goals, I remind myself of who I aspire to become: Aidan The World Singer. Would this man consume vast amounts of food review YouTube videos that don't add value to his PKM system or outside life? NO! So neither shall I.
3. Fight The PKM Baddies
According to Jane McGonigal in her book SuperBetter, "a real-life bad guy is anything that tries to stop you from doing what you want or need to do to get SuperBetter. Spotting a bad guy means identifying it as a potential source of trouble or distress. Battling a bad guy means experimenting with different strategies for dealing with it effectively. Succeeding in battle means not letting it stop you from having a good day or making progress toward your goals."
Bad guys are classic in games: Bowser, the pigs in Angry birds, The Ender Dragon.
Naming the classic PKM baddies can help you fight them becaus naming characteristic emotions, thoughts, and obstacles can take away their power of uncertainty.
By giving a funny name to these things, you turn something that was previously uncertain and scary into something familiar.
Here are some of the classic PKM baddies and how to defeat them:
- The Con-Fusion (Confusion): The Con-Fusion is masterful at stopping people in their PKM goals by shooting them with extra ConFUSION rays that confuse them. This causes them to become confused about how to use their PKM system. To defeat this baddie, simply ask yourself the question, how can I make this easy?
- Big Berta (Boredom): Big Berta is BIG; she eats 10 jars of peanut butter for a late-night snack kind of big. She comes out when people are getting bored of the "minutia" behind personal knowledge management and if it's even worth taking or making notes in the first place. The best way to defeat this baddie is to ask the question, how can I make this fun?
- Prism Man (Perfectionism): Prism Man needs everything to look like a perfect prism, or he goes ballistic. He comes out whenever people are trying to create the PERFECT PKM system. The best folder, linking, tagging, and query structure in the best notetaking app. You beat Prism Man by realizing you will never have a perfect system and trying to is pointless.
4. Create And Pursue Learning Adventures
Games make hard work fun by framing it as an adventure.
Grinding one particularly hard boss in Dark Souls is framed as progress towards defeating the Soul Of Cinder. Fighting battles in Total War Warhammer 2 is framed as progress to taking over the world. Collecting fricking acorns in Animal Crossing is seen as progress toward making your island look sick.
We can make our notemaking endeavors more fun by framing them as adventures.
There are three quintessential aspects to turning something into an adventure which the games above incorporate:
- You create a challenge or end goal
- You ingrain a fun frame
- You are open-minded and curious
Let's use the creation of my gamification MOC in my PKM system as an example.
A map of content is simply a note linked to a bunch of other notes that encapsulates your thinking on a topic. How did I turn my gamification MOC creation into an adventure?
First, I created a challenge or end goal.
When starting my gamification MOC, my goal was to write an article one day that connected my interests in PKM and gamification. Hmmmm, is this the article you are reading now?
Second, I created a fun frame.
Fun framing happens when you do something purely for the joy of doing it. I did this in creating my gamification MOC by trying to come at it with intrinsic motivation rather than just extrinsic motivation. I wanted to create the MOC purely for the joy of encapsulating what I had learned about gamification
Third, I came at it with open-mindedness and curiosity.
I had an end goal, but I wasn't stuck rigidly to the process I would use to get there. I saw the creation process as an adventure in itself. I wasn't scared about embarking on side quests toward my goal by reading a psychology book, or trying a new notetaking method.
You can turn any of your PKM goals into adventures by adding these three things into it.
5. Find Allies To Notemake With
Any superhero requires allies to fight bad guys with.
Many games incorporate allies. Paleo is a cooperative board game where you work together to survive the hunter-gatherer era of civilization. Competitive games like Monopoly require everyone to work together by playing the game fairly for it to go smoothly--and not rage quiet like I have sometimes done. Dead by Daylight requires four survivors to work together to power generators and escape from a psychopathic killer trying to hang everyone on a meat hook for their God. I played weird games I know.
We can make our PKM journey more fun by finding allies to do it alongside.
But sometimes, it's hard to be vulnerable and ask someone for help with a problem.
However, it's much easier to ask someone if they want to play a game. So, instead of asking someone to get into PKM, ask one of your close friends or family to become an ally to your PKM journey. Tell them about your superhero alter ego, the PKM baddies, and your learning adventures.
Doing this, I recruited my friend John Mavrick to join my notemaking journey as an ally.
John Maverick is another Obsidian YouTuber who loves PKM, self-actualization, video games, and more. Learning how to navigate the PKM space together made overcoming challenges and fighting baddies so much more fun. We added another layer of challenge to our journey by both taking notes on the fantastic 50-episode lecture series Awakening From The Meaning Crisis by John Vervaeke. This gave us a shared challenge to apply our PKM skills to.
Find your own allies to make your PKM journey more fun.
6. Treating My PKM System As A Knowledge Garden
Every good game needs a setting.
In the Monster Hunter World it's "The New World." In World Of Warcraft it's "Azeroth." In Super Mario Bros, it could be "Bowser Castle." All of these settings create an engaging environment to play your game in.
We can gamify our PKM journey by treating our notetaking system as a Knowledge Garden.
Why a garden?
Jorge Arango describes it beautifully in his book Duly Noted: "Building and tending a garden takes time and effort. Some gardens are small, personal projects that provide more satisfaction than nourishment. But with serious commitment, it's possible to build a garden that nourishes and delights. Unlike 'products' like books or YouTube videos, gardens aren't meant to be finished: the point is to keep them going. Which is to say, gardening provides value beyond mere utility. It's a contemplative practice that calls for patience, stewardship, and discipline—essential skills that are at risk of atrophying in our growth-hacked world. Maintaining a botanical garden or a knowledge garden is caring for something besides yourself, something that is alive and will keep you alive—literally and metaphorically."
Seeing my notes like a knowledge garden is helping me treat notetaking with the care and respect it deserves.
Like regularly tending a garden I have habits and routines that help me grow my knowledge over time. I have modeled an information diet that fuels my insights like getting rid of weeds in an actual garden. And I have methods for creating content out of my notes like making meals out of the fresh food from your garden.
7. Reduce Procrastination And Spark Action In PKM By Creating Crystal Clear Clarity
Games are so engaging because they make it crystal clear how you are doing and what to do next.
They have progress bars, sub quests, level ups and more. Collect this many acorns (Animal Crossing), hit the golf ball, or take over the other side's king (chess). These things give us immense clarity over what to do next, reducing procrastination and sparking action.
We can create crystal clear clarity in our PKM system by integrating goals, rules, systems, and feedback.
In PKM, the goal is to upgrade our thinking, compound our knowledge, supercharge our learning, and unlock our genius.
If we boil PKM down to it's essence, it really only comprises 3 fundamental rules:
- Make short notes.
- Connect your notes.
- Nurture your notes.
When I first ventured into notetaking, I got bogged down in all the advice. Which notetaking app should I use? How should I collect information? How should I organize my notes? I switched notetaking apps five times before coming to Obsidian. And I spent over three years navigating the community, trying to figure out what in goodness gracious I was doing.
It was overwhelming.
I felt lost, anxious, and confused.
I wish I had known the three rules above when I first started my notetaking journey. Because effective notetaking really does boil down to making short notes, connecting them, and nurturing them.
Everything else is icing on the cake.
The system underlying all PKM is quite simple: Collect --> Connect --> Create.
Have a system for collecting information into your notetaking app. Have a system for connecting it. And have a system for creating things out of it. Sometimes these steps happen out of order, but it's really that simple. If you systemize your PKM system correctly, you turn your knowledge management habit into a 15 minute per day routine.
Finally, have a method of getting feedback.
We can do this by measuring what we care about in our PKM systems. For example, measuring the number of notes you have collected about podcasts, books, or articles and showing the most recent ones. You can also track the status of notes in your system by growth over time; I personally use a plant analogy with saplings indicating a new note, ferns indicating a note I have revisited at least once, and evergreens indicating a note I have grown over a long period which forms the foundation of my thinking.
But my favorite method for getting feedback on my notetaking: creating content.
Getting feedback on videos, podcasts, blog posts, and more made from my notes is one of the greatest feedback mechanisms.
The Power Of Gamifying Your PKM System: Making Notemaking More Fun Then Minecraft
By gamifying your PKM system--It can be any notetaking app--you can make the process of notemaking, compounding your knowledge, creating novel insights, upgrading your thinking, and boosting your learning more fun than Minecraft.
However, unlike Minecraft, PKM has a more obvious real-life benefit in boosting almost all parts of your health, work, and relationships.
Get my gamification resource list to turn your real life into the most fun game imaginable. Create your superhero alter-ego, define your quests and epic wins, cultivate your skills and abilities, and fight your bad guys.
Here's what I would like to share this week.
📸News From The Channel!
🎙️Latest On De Podcast - E35 Jorge Arango: How To Extend Your Mind With Connected Notes: Jorge Arango is an information architect, author, and educator. For the past 25 years, he has used architectural thinking to bring clarity and alignment to digital products and services. He's the author of Living in Information: Responsible Design for Digital Places, co-author of Information Architecture: for the Web and Beyond, and host of The Informed Life podcast. Besides consulting, writing, and podcasting, Jorge also teaches in the graduate interaction design program at the California College of the Arts.
In this podcast you will learn:
- How to extend your mind using connected notes
- The three simple principles for creating a knowledge garden
- How to boost your creativity and upgrade your thinking with connected notetaking
✍️Latest On De Blog - 5 Ways Gamers Can Use Gamification To Sleep Better, Eat Healthier, And Exercise More
✍️Latest On De Blog - How I'm Practicing My Writing As An Educational Content Creator
✍️Latest On De Blog - 5 Insights I Have Taken From Games To Boost My Relationships
💡My Best Insights:
P.S. Some of the links below are Amazon affiliate links.
📖Book - Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson: Leonardo was the pure encapsulation of curiosity, open-mindedness, and intrinsic love for learning. In his lifetime, he progressed in an astounding number of fields--even more than we realize because he tended to stop projects unfinished when he got bored. In many ways, he's an ideal I strive toward, and I think others should strive towards as well.
📰Blog Post - Expanding Short-Form Into Long-Form Content: 3 Easy Steps: As I progress in my intention to supercharge my writing for 2024, I'm reading articles like this one from my favorite writer Nicolas Cole. He continues to dazzle me with how far and above he is from most online writers.
🎙️Podcast - Ep. 281 — Learning Hard Things: Expertise isn't just about talent. It's about practicing in the right way. This podcast talks about how to practice in the right way so that you can become excellent at something. 📺YouTube Video - Renaissance Periodization: Not a video but a YouTuber you have to check out if you're interested in resistance training. This is the best YouTuber I have ever found who gives science-backed fitness advice. As I'm supercharging my resistance training and diet in 2024, he's been an invaluable resource.
[^1]: Jeremy N. Bailenson, “Doppelgangers—A New Form of Self?,” Psychologist 25, no. 1 (2012): 36–38.
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Thank you for being part of the journey!🎊 Whenever you're ready there are three ways I can help you:
The Art Of Linked Reading: This course helps people who struggle to understand, connect, remember, apply, and smartly share insights from non-fiction books learn to do so with linked notetaking apps like Obsidian, Tana, Logseq, and more.
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