How do we cope with our growing digital lives?  How do we manage the ever increasing amounts of digital stuff we create and use?  This is the challenge of Personal Information Management.   

 

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Tuesday
Oct192010

Personal Knowledge Management: Getting to know what you know (and don't)

A recent article in the journal First Monday has got me thinking about personal knowledge management (PKM).   The author, William Jones, describes PKM as a subset of personal information management (PIM) and states that while knowledge cannot be managed directly, information about knowledge can be and that this is worth doing.   I think I agree.

Roughly speaking this information can be broken into two categories: what we know and what we need to know but don’t.   Information about what we know is useful personally and professionally, especially if we can share it with others and put it to good use.  Capturing this information can be useful because sometimes we forget what we know or what we’ve done in the past.  Reviewing it can help us prevent “knowledge decay.”  

Thus I want tools to help me do this:  tools to capture, archive, and share what I know and what I have done, but also tools that help me remember these things. This can include everything from a basic text editor to sophisticated knowledge-base software for capturing and indexing all the information that I touch or create (stay tuned – I don’t have one yet!).

One tool I use to do this is mindmapping software, which I use to capture course and book notes and to diagram my understanding of different topics. So naturally I have created a mindmap to diagram my first take on what personal knowledge management is or could be, and the activities and tools I associate with it.  Click on the image below to load an interactive flash version of this map.  (If you have a problem viewing that, try an interactive PDF version.)  I will write more about mindmaps in an upcoming post.

The other side of the coin, information about what we need to know but don’t, is also worth capturing.  But before doing this, I think we need to know where we are headed.  This means being clear about our personal mission, and the possibility we are trying to live towards: what our goals are, our values, and our guiding principles.  Thus, I choose to write these things down and refer to them, changing them as needed but keeping them foremost in my mind, so that I can use them to guide my decisions and my quest for knowledge.  This is perhaps the most important “knowledge” that needs to be managed. 

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