Does this sound familiar?
You find a new shiny tool for your PKM system. This is the one. The tool that will finally solve all of your problems.
But after a couple weeks of notetaking, you feel your system getting increasingly cluttered.
Once a few months have gone by, you are completely overwhelmed with the amount of information in your system; you give up... again.
This cycle is fueled by the collectors fallacy, the over-collecting of information with the belief that collecting large amounts of stuff also does things with the information. The problem is that collecting information is way more passive than creating things out of it. It's like the difference between sitting on the couch eating peanut butter and hitting a brutal leg session at the gym. As a result, collecting becomes a form of procrastination from doing the real work in our PKM system.
Procrastinating in PKM makes you feel stuck, aimless, and uninspired.
I experienced the collector's fallacy while using Roam Research for a year.
I was drawn to the app because of its bi-directional linking feature. I had just come from using Google Drive and Notion for school and was desperately looking for an app to solve all my troubles. For a few weeks, I deluded myself into thinking I was being productive by linking every note under the sun, but after a few months, it became clear something wasn't working.
I had tons of ideas in my system, but none of them were my ideas.
They were other people's ideas linked together.
I knew something needed to change. So I looked for a solution...
The Secret To Overcoming Collectors Fallacy In PKM: Public Learning
Public learning is taking your learning and doing it in public in some way.
This could be from creating YouTube videos, podcasts, blog posts, newsletters, etc.
Public learning is the ultimate cure against the collector's fallacy. It forces you to take notes and use them to create something. When we create things, we use other people's ideas to make something new.
We stop procrastinating and start creating.
But most people don't do it because they have the wrong mindset toward public learning.
They believe public learning requires a polished finished product before posting online. That's not at all the idea behind public learning! Public learning at its core is about showcasing your learning process. Posting things that are half done, a quarter, done, not even started. This drastically reduces the activation energy for creating.
5 Reasons Public Learning Is Great For Fighting The Collectors Fallacy:
- Fights perfectionism
- Creates accountability
- Creates a Serendipity vehicle
- Creates Intermediate packets
- Fights procrastination
Firstly, it fights perfectionism by allowing you to post things that are not started, a quarter done, or half done.
Secondly, it creates accountability by giving you a medium to create through and an audience that is excited to see what you are learning about next, even if that audience is just your mom.
Thirdly, it creates a serendipity vehicle. When you post your learnings online you open yourself up to the luck machine of the internet. I got my first real part time consulting job at iDoRecall because the owner saw my YT videos and reached out to me through email.
Fourthly, it creates what Tiago Forte calls Intermediate Packets. Intermediate Packets are the most actionable and useful parts of past work compressed into building blocks that can be reassembled for future projects. Creating Intermediate Packets through public learning allows your work to compound on itself meaning you are often 80% at the start of a new writing project.
Fifthly, it fights procrastination. Keeping the cycle of research, reading, and knowledge assimilation short is a powerful way to circumvent our innate addiction to gathering piles of stuff.
How Can You Public Learn?
I know what you are thinking.
But, Aidong, public learning sounds like so much work. I don't want to start a YT channel or blogging website.
Here's the good news: you don't have to start public learning on one of those higher energy mediums, although you can if you want.
We live in an age where there are so so many ways you can publicly learn if you want to.
Here are a few things you could do:
- Start posting regular threads or tweets on Twitter
- Start a newsletter where you curate your favorite pieces of information each week
- Start a Podcast. Share your expertise and insights through regular podcast episodes.
- Create Infographics: Visualize information and data in a visually appealing and easily digestible format. Share your infographics on social media platforms or through your website to educate and engage your audience.
- Participate in Online Forums or Discussion Groups: Join relevant online communities or discussion groups related to your areas of interest. Share your insights, answer questions, and engage in conversations with like-minded individuals.
- Collaborate with Others: Team up with fellow experts or content creators to co-create and share valuable content. This could include joint articles, videos, or even hosting collaborative events.
- Create a digital garden through something like publishing your Obsidian notes to the internet.
As you can see, there are many ways of publicly learning.
And this list just scratched the surface.
I recommend you choose one of the methods described above and start your public learning journey. Don't fall for the same trap I did in Roam Research all those years ago. Stop procrastinating in your PKM system!
If you want to continue your public learning journey check out my free email course: From Idea to Paper in Minutes: How to Write Anything In Record Time With Obsidian Notes! By the end of this email course, you will:
- Understand the 3 step process for writing anything in record time with your Obsidian notes
- Understand how to do more with less by compounding your knowledge
- Have an idea for some things you would like to create in the future
- Be amazed that you did it all in 3 days
If you sign up you will also receive free weekly emails about Obsidian PKM for students, relationship psychology, and memory.