Why I Switched from Notion to Roam Research (and now to Obsidian

by | Aug 15, 2022 | Creativity, Personal Development, Productivity

I definitely didn’t think I would move out of Notion, it’s so powerful, simple to look at, fun to use, integrated with everything, and had so many possibilities. But more me was the definition of beating around the bush.

But it’s not so easy to give up the holy grail of information and project management? At least according to many YouTube productivity nerds.

The Switch from Notion to Roam Research

I realized what I needed most in my life was not a new system, it was action. The problem really came when I found myself spending more time designing the system to manage my thoughts and creative activities than actually doing the activities. I very much enjoy order and control, and when I’m faced with a new system to use I get sucked right in, dreaming about the possibilities, planning it out, and creating it.

So ultimately I would sit down to do some writing, and be faced with a ‘system’ that was never, and would never be perfect. And it was that desire for the perfect system that kept me tweaking.

This is completely contrary to the creative process. Yes, structure, communication, limits are good when it comes to creativity. However, rigidity is the antithesis of creativity. So there has to be a balance.

When I found out about Roam Research I was immediately excited – not because of the power, but because of the simplicity. The idea with Roam Research is that you capture your thoughts, ideas, writing, and information but don’t over organize it. Instead you can link ideas with hashtags and bi-directional links, back and forth. You observe the connections and thoughts as they grow and intermingle. It’s also NOT for project management – which was fine because I had started using ToDoist even back when Notion was my go to program.

So this philosophy, when turned into action went like this: Open up the daily note, start writing what’s on your mind, journal, start a new note from that one, start a new note from inside that new note. Be productive (in terms of action, thoughts, and consumption), and observe the relationships later. I realized this is MUCH better for my brain. Tiago Forte has an amazing video talking about the personality types and the type of program they should be using – I am very much a ‘gardener’ of ideas and thoughts.

What was the result? I’ve done a TON of journalling, captured book notes, written articles, and almost no process management. And I’m thrilled with that.

However, it wasn’t good enough. Here’s why.

Why I Then Switched from Roam Research to Obsidian

Mobile anyone? Yeah. My life lives across 3 devices, my MacBook, iPad, and iPhone. Unfortunately Roam Research has an atrocious mobile experience (at time of writing this article) and I could not deal.

The up and coming app Obsidian was growing very fast, making updates and changing rapidly to improve the mobile experience beyond anything Roam could imagine. So I ended up switching. Which was extremely easy given that all the files are transferable (with a little bit of clean up).

The other reason? Roam Research lacks a LITTLE bit of organization. While I liked the freedom that came with writing first and not worrying about categorization and where to put something there wasn’t a folder system in place at all. Obsidian does have this and I really appreciate it. Trying not to get sucked into over engineering the place to capture things and write, but it’s a nice added touch.

What I Will Never Go Back From

Ultimately – I’m thrilled that there are programs that allow me to just write. To open up a daily note automatically and I just START. The program I use might change, but to use a digital journal as a notepad for life, logging things, writing ideas, thoughts, to dos is something I don’t ever see stopping.

As a notorious procrastinator and perfectionist, this has been the antidote. Just start. Write. Make it messy, just like my brain. But AFTER it’s out on the screen I can start organizing it. Enough of this trying to organize everything before it’s even created.

In Creativity, Inc., the author Ed Catmull talks about how no one truly knows what directions a film will take or what it will become when they start. This is the same issue, if we keep trying to plan the entire thing and stick to it, then we’re doomed to mediocrity. But if we leave things more fluid, with room to breath and evolve, the creativity will flow.

If you find yourself a highly creative person who gets distracted with building the system, I would highly recommend the switch to either Roam or Obsidian.

Happy creating!

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