How I build my PKM compass from my goals

PKM Compass for Bruno Winck as of 2016-07-18

I keep coming to this compass Idea. I wish to go back to it with some new ideas before we get into sorting incoming fragments.

Having a compass is the way to make sure we stay on the right track as we keep discovering new ideas, reading new posts, receiving messages.

It’s easy to be distracted by the latest brilliant model. It’s easy to be influenced and loose originality and creativity. It’s easy to just loose time to make sense of everything that comes in our direction. It’s easy to lower our guard and think that reading something could be useful one day, that we will better armed to do our work.

The consequences are dramatic. Loosing 5 minutes is not the problem but loosing 5 minutes twenty times makes 2h hours. Exactly the margins we need to feel relax before and after work. Pondering 20 times if something is worth consideration is decision fatigue. Switching context 20 times to read stuff ranging from workplace learning (not my business), to Brexit (not either), best ways to get wifi in Thailand (never been there, no planning either).

So exactly like for my morning gym we need to take the decision out of the way. The compass must be well designed, rather complete with a cascade of options so that it acts like a sieve. You wouldn’t sort each grain of sand to prepare concrete, would you? Just do the same with tweets, posts, and mails. Someone will be hurt, it doesn’t matter. Paying with our time and attention is the worst use we can do with it.

I wrote on this topic a few months ago My goal was more to give a poetic image of the risks of being influenced. Now I’m getting pragmatic.

Michelle Ockers pointed me to this idea of purposeful discovery. a definition of John Stepper.

I’m not myself a follower of John’s movement and WOL Circles. I tend to be adverse to movements and large groups, and influencers. I’m too independent, too inquisitive. That’s also my PKM style, always trying to get beyond the appearances. I’m still the kid who broke his toys with a hammer to understand how they work instead of playing with them. Knowing is never enough, knowing how things work is the goal.

However, there are tons of good ideas in John take of Working Out Loud.

In 5 elements of Working Out Loud ( he wrote:

Purposeful discovery: Given the infinite amount of contributing and connecting you can do, you need to make it purposeful in order to be effective. It need not be your One Special Purpose but rather something as simple as ā€œIā€™d like to learn more about ā€ … You can still have room for serendipity, …

So yes and no. There is something in the same idea.

If you are led only by curiosity and growth mindset there is a risk you stay at the awareness level. You just drift in the ocean of content available. MOOCs are free, let’s take one, let’s add this blog to my feedly let’s follow this guy.

You will gain a varnish, accumulate concepts names, people names but you will never get to know how things work really. For this level sensemaking is also not enough. You need to try, dismount, deconstruct, rebuild, try again. That’s the maker level of knowledge. That’s what PKM is about.

So this idea of purpose is that your motivation goes beyond just absorbing posts one after the other. It forces you to take a moment to reflect on the why. Why do you want to accumulate this knowledge? Why do you engage in this time-consuming task?

John leaves the door open to serendipity. So imagine you stay focused on your purpose 80% of your discovery time and allow yourself, like a treat, 20% of random browsing.

Just purpose in not enough for me. A purpose is fine if I wander on google because I’m the one deciding where to go.

We face such a flood, a firehose of incoming messages trying to go across our barriers. A purpose is not strong enough. The purpose must be explored, revised, and mapped upfront. This is how I do.

I have one goal, a goal set far beyond my horizon. In fact, when I look at it, instinctively I point my gaze above the horizon. It’s more an asymptote will never reach but tangent beyond my horizon to every goal I set.

More prosaically I have a set of goals wich I expect to be SMART. It’s wise to have less than 5 personal goals and 5 professional goals.

Those goals are not really independent. In the middle, there is you, where you stand now and your horizon goal.

So take those goals, place them on a paper around a circle. Left personal, right professionals. Draw links inside the circle between the related goals.

Outside of the circle the big domains that are needed to support those goals, again further what is required to master those domains.

Beside domains you can also add groups of people, you want to network with because you feel they can be beneficial. No precise names, just group names. It would be an error to consider Knowledge as being described by formal names and sources. People makes it funnier to learn and assure you get the freshest knowledge.

You have now like 20 names outside the circle. at this stage it’s only assumptions. You may want to keep this map and update it regularly. Whenever you change something, write it down on your journal. Why did you remove X or push it further, why did you add Y. Tracking assumption changes if the key of lean approaches. We want to be lean in our Information, knowledge practice. Easier to start small and add than start with a massive ambitious plan.

Now for each of those ideas, there are actionable items. Shall we learn, grew awareness, build a network, study silently, do projects to gain a deeper understanding, or share and build a reputation on this domain.

Small pale arrows will connect domains to indicate a general progression from one topic to another: this first, then this and then that. They are pale because we are self-directed, it’s just to give a movement to the drawing. It’s not like a learning path. First, it’s a map, not a path and it’s an invitation to explore a territory. If I visit a place I prefer to wander and leave some randomness to my explorations. The map let me go back on track when I feel I could deviate too much.

A good trick is to use a color code. Surround each concept name with a color depending on the action and the level you think you should reach.

Now we need the north, the general direction we want to go. Draw a line.

You have your compass.

When something gets in you can spot on the map where it is, like on a radar. bip, bip, bip …

You decided what is on the money and what is not. You made it in a way that preserves flexibility. As opposed to a single formula you have options to relate to various aspects, it’s richer. Because you explored and map before you know also when it is seriously off limits. It’s not going to be judge depending on your mood.

If it matches a few of the topic, it’s a good sign.

If it matches only one it’s a distraction. If really you hesitate just keep the link for one day you are bored. but don’t even open the page.

If it matches several topics but is far from your north line, it’s not a priority. Put it aside in your findings. Maybe having been exposed to it 5 seconds is enough to remember and go back finding it if you find a use later. Don’t read and store ‘in case’, it’s overwhelming.

If it matches several topics, is aligned with your direction verify if the level fits your actions. if it’s too general for you, keep it as a reference you could use when you share. Don’t read it, don’t index it. it will be sorted along a single keyword, it’s often enough. Only incoming fragment that brings us something deserves being indexed properly. Same if it’s too complex.

If this happens during a search on a topic I would save the page or the pdf itself, or mark it to save. The reason is that often I have a second thought and I want to check if I was true. Because I travel a lot, connections are not always easy to get. For this reason, I keep a lot of stuff on my disk. Low tech, no app, no service, just plain HTML or pdf. The other benefit is that I can browse on those finding without a risk of being distracted again.

Now on Kneaver I’m helped for all that. I can incorporate the above map in the system and the names we have will appear as tags in Outlook and Filer. So to tag something is very fast. If I change the map, that tags displayed will change accordingly.

I have also a predictive system in Kneaver that let me know if a text is likely to match my compass. It’s based on Natural language analysis and graph search. I don’t use it a lot yet, it would be nice as a Chrome extension. If I open a link that fails the compass test I would receive a warning before the pages shows.

If you don’t have Kneaver I suggest you copy your compass on a small index card, with the colors and keep several copies of it: at your desk, at home. try the exercise of positioning the new incoming fragment by hovering your pen over the map. After a while, you can do it mentally.

Equipped with our map we are going to move to filtering our incoming streams with the goal to assign next actions.

I should share mine šŸ™‚ It needs some cleanup first