Posted on 2022-03-24

Read Time: 4 minutes | 686 words

Notion and Obsidian as Digital Collaborators - not Competitors

I see a lot of reviews and posts poistioning Notion against Obisidan. While that may make sense in some regard, it misses the deeper reality that these are two very different tools that actually work better together than either does individually.

I spend a lot of time (probably too much time) thinking about and developing workflows for notetaking and knowledge management. I’m not alone. A whole cottage industry of applications, methods, and approaches to task management, note-taking, and knowledge collection has evolved to help us better track and curate our rapidly growing knowledgebases. That is why the web exists. It provides a way of linking data (the quality of that data notwithstanding).

After a lot of internal debate and research, I moved to Notion for daily task management. Notion excels at project management and tracking. Why? Because it is really just a nocode front-end to a database. That is its strength. It is great for work that fits that format (and that is a ton of work).

I use Notion for:

  • Task Tracking
  • Resource Managment
  • Issue and Bug Trackers
  • Contact Management
  • Even link storage (Web Clipper)

What it doesn’t do nearly as well, is knowledge management.

  • Literature notes
  • Long form Write-ups
  • Classroom and lecture notes
  • Presentation and dicussion notes
  • and synthesis notes
    • generative writing that pulls from multiple resources to create new thoughts and ideas.

Notion can do this. It just doesn’t do it well. That was the trap, I found myself in. Notion was spectacular when I used it as a project management tool. When I tried using it as a knowledge management tool, however, it stumbled. Content was easily lost and buried in sub-pages of sub-pages. Tracking what was written content embedded in a record versus what was a field in a database required explicit intent and pre-planned content structuring. In Notion, I found I was spending more time planning the structure of and looking for my content than I was using it.

Enter Obsidian. Not only does it tick all my boxes in terms of locally stored data, but it also has a incredible team of developers and an active commuity of people who are using it every day. It is a knowledge management tool. Linking ideas and concepts is easy. It has full tagging and can adapt to fit whatever note taking style (or fad) you happen to want to try. I was a convert almost from day one.

…except - task tracking and management in Obsidian is awful. Sure, there are plugins to help, but tasks are local to specfic pages. Which means I have to collect and/or link them to keep any centralized view and even when I do, that view is just a markdown page. There is no backend database of tasks that allow me to centralize my task list and export views based on specific subsets like there is in Notion.

My initial plan was to convert to Obisidian for everything. It didn’t take long to realize that wasn’t going to be a possibility. Instead, rather than choosing, I am using both. I use Notion for its database features and Obsidian for its knowledge management features. So far, this strategy has worked wonders. There are still some difficulties– mostly when it comes to meeting notes and where they belong– but I think that may be where Notion’s API comes in handy. Overall, though, I don’t think you should choose between the tools. I think you should use each one for what it does best.

That is the flaw in Notion vs Obsidian debate: they aren’t really in competition. Sure, they overlap in some areas. You could try to get by with one or the other, but you don’t have to. Neither are that expensive compared to what else is on the market, and both do an incredible job in their niche. Why sacrifice that quality in a somewhat misguided attempt to find that mystical “one app.” I think you will find it is much nicer when you stop trying to shoehorn an applicatin into doing everything and, instead, allow it to focus on doing one thing extremely well.

Tags: #productivity_tools 

© Geoffrey Gimse (2024) - Built using Hugo.

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