A book with plants and lightbulbs growing out of it

Make Notes in a Digital Garden

Over the last month, I’ve rebuilt my note-taking system into a digital garden. I love notes because, with each new entry, the whole system gets more valuable. They’re connected to each other, making a web of thought that I can rely on for my work. But my system has always lacked a particular feature, the ability to promote my most valuable ideas to the top of the stack. Well, that’s no longer an issue.

I really like the idea of a digital garden. The concept is simple enough. When I create notes in my database, they start off as weeds. I label them with this emoji #🪴weedy. I do that because new notes are like weeds, they clutter up and choke my system unless I take time to develop them. A weedy note is a holding container for something I want to learn in the future. I usually don’t have the time to build out a proper note in the moment, so a weedy note gets added to the system as a sort of “todo” note. Essentially, it’s a “fleeting thought” or a reminder of what’s in my head that I don’t want to forget (Ahrens 23).

Once I do get some basic info in the note, I change the label to #🌱Seedling because the idea has some potential for growth. This might be a simple paragraph or a full page. I haven’t accomplished much yet, and the note can easily get lost in my database if I leave it at this stage. Right now, it only has potential.

From there, I start finding ways to hyperlink my new note to other ideas that can help me expand on the topic. If the note is good enough to get to this stage (and not all notes do) then it earns the moniker of #🌿Budding. I love my budding notes. My goal is to make them atomic (specific to a single idea), and connected to many other valuable ideas. If you look at the emoji, you’ll see a stem with multiple leave branching off it. The stem is the single idea in the note, and the leaves are the other notes connected to it.

Finally, if the note manages to grow into a core pillar of my thinking system, then it earns the coveted badge of #🌲Evergreen. Few notes get to this stage because they require a lot of work and must be centered around a key area of interest for me.

I can’t take credit for these amazing little emojis. I got them from Tim Miller’s post titled, Creating a Digital Garden in Obsidian. It’s a great article, something worth reading if you want to begin a note taking system that promotes your best ideas over time. I’m implementing this idea, along with several others to build a full, digital zettelkasten of thought to support my efforts in going back to school for a Philosophy degree.

👉🏻 For those of you that like to nerd out on notes like I do, shoot me a comment below with any questions. 📝

Until tomorrow, read slowly – take notes – apply the ideas.



Works Cited

Ahrens, Sönke. How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking: For Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers. CreateSpace, 2017.

Miller, Tim. “Creating a Digital Garden in Obsidian.” Obsidian Rocks, 5 Apr. 2023, https://obsidian.rocks/creating-a-digital-garden-in-obsidian/.

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