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My Obsidian setup

A few days ago, I mentioned that I was shifting from using Microsoft Todo to Obsidian, a GUI app that sits on top of your markdown files.

The article led to a lot of conversations about it with people about various ways to set things up and use the software.

Today, I wanted to share my setup. Let’s dig in!

Keep it simple!

Obsidian can do a lot.

If you look online, you’ll see some really fancy setups. I had a bunch of people message me about various plugins I might like and robust, nuanced workflows I could use.

I don’t do any of that.

I mostly treat Obsidian like a digital notebook. My setup is completely stock, with the exception of the “Home Page” plugin which opens up a specific file I use for capturing random thoughts through on the day (more on that in just a bit).

ADHDers have a tendency to get so into tricking out their productivity tools (because it’s fun and new) that they never actually do the work. I deliberately avoid all that.

Simple bulleted lists are the only thing that’s worked reliably for me over the years. I’m sticking with it!

The Core Four

I have four main notes that sit at the top level of my file system…

  1. Inbox ✏️. This is the digital version of that piece of scrap paper you use to jot down random ideas that come into your head. If I don’t write things down, they often disappear forever (thanks ADHD!). This is how I capture things I don’t want to forget.
  2. Goals 🎯. 3-5 big things I want to achieve this year. My list for 2023 included launching an updated/new Academy (done), taking a big road trip (done), and organizing the house (definitely not done). I revisit this throughout the year.
  3. All Todos ⭐️. A page that automatically compiles all of my todos from various notes into one spot.
  4. Today 🦄. The things I want to get done today. I pick 1-3 big items, and a handful of smaller ones.

I use emoji in the file names for these because it makes me happy.

Folders and all the notes

I also have a handful of context-specific folders: Work, Clients, Home, Travel, and so on.

These have collections of notes around specific topics in them. Every one of my clients has a note. I have notes for my daily emails, the Lean Web Club, and so on.

What I love about notes in Obsidian is that I can intermix todo items (literal checkboxes) with bulleted lists of thoughts, code snippets, URLs, and more.

If I take notes during a client meeting, I can toss a few todo items up at the top of the note, and they’ll automatically show up in my All Todos ⭐️ note where I know I won’t forget them.

It all fits really nicely with how my brain works.

Note automations

Where Obsidian really wins for me is with the ability to embed search queries in notes.

I use these to pull all of my incomplete todos in one spot, display todos flagged for today, show me high-priority items so I don’t forget them, and more.

I use tags to power most of this.

I use emoji for my tags, because they stand out and look fun. I tag important items with a star (⭐️), things I want to do today with a unicorn (🦄), and items that are pending someone or something else with an hourglass (⏳).

For all of these, I use the line:() function to find matching lines rather than whole files.

Here’s how I display important, incomplete todos from all of my notes (excluding Today 🦄).

line:("- [ ]" #⭐️ ) -path:"Today 🦄.md"

To display all todos, I omit the #⭐️ tag selector.

line:("- [ ]") -path:"Goals 🎯.md" -path:"Today 🦄.md"

On my Today 🦄 note, I display incomplete todos, pending today, and completed todo in three separate lists.

## Todos

line:("- [ ]" #🦄 -#⏳)

## Pending

line:("- [ ]" #🦄 #⏳)

## Complete

line:("- [x]" #🦄)

Could I make this more sophisticated? Definitely.

But by keeping things relatively simple, I have a fast, easy-to-maintain system that lets me offload my brain and makes sure I don’t forget import stuff.

If that all seems interesting, checkout Obsidian for yourself.