Why did I stop taking meeting notes with Obsidian?

Romell Avendaño
5 min readOct 30, 2023

Those meeting notes looked excellent in my Obsidian chart view but were totally useless.

Image from DALLE3 & Copilot

The Knowledge workers

If you are a knowledge worker, content generator, programmer, designer, consultant, or spend a lot of time in front of your laptop day after day, reading, researching, and processing mountains of information on topics you are interested or passionate about. In that case, we belong to the same clan.

In my day-to-day life and by the nature of my job (consulting), I am exposed to handling a lot of information: reading, researching, keeping myself updated, generating content, and providing tools for others to do their job better, but what interests me most during this process, is to create helpful learning that enrich both my work activity and my own personal growth, and of course all that translates into a vast amount of information that I have to capture, filter, process, link and store; and for all that, I use Obsidian, and I use it for everything, with a few exceptions, and when I say everything, it’s everything: books, journaling, movies, series, okr, drafts, study notes, research, quotes, taking meeting notes…. Wait! What? No, not that last one! That last one I added to my list of exceptions, and let me tell you why.

The Home Office changed everything.

In the pre-covid world, I had a routine I’ll call ROUTINE 1.0, where I would physically attend work, and the day would go with the routine of that time:

  • Say hello.
  • Have coffee.
  • Work for a while.
  • Go to a couple of meetings.
  • Take notes (digital or physical).
  • Have lunch.
  • Hallway conversation.
  • Work some more, and at the end of the day.
  • Go home.

Sounds familiar. Nothing surprising here. It’s a standard ROUTINE 1.0. I’m sure it’s still the routine for many people.

But the Home Office, in general, changed everything:

Now my routine, which I will call ROUTINE 2.0, has had essential changes: adjusting schedules, spending more time in front of the computer, and changes in the way of working, among others, but the most significant aspect and that had an exponential increase, definitely was the saturation of meetings one after another, day after day. A cloud of acute meetingitis covered the world, and for some (like me), it’s here to stay. It’s the new normal.

The reproduction of useless notes.

The collision of worlds between my ROUTINE 2.0 and Obsidian began to generate lots and lots of notes. Little puzzle pieces that could fit perfectly in different areas of knowledge generated, in turn, another different puzzle; it was mind-blowing how reaching a certain level of atomicity in the information provided an other broader, more precise and enriching vision, until the notes of my meetings arrived and ruin the party…. 😒

For the meeting notes, I made a template tailored to my needs, and there, I dumped all the details of each meeting: time, objective, participants, conclusions, and actionable, if there were any. Also, my ego was sky-high because, given the volume of meetings I had per week when I generated the graph view, it looked cool.

However, after a while, one day, while reviewing my Vault (which I was proud of), I started to find some significant flaws due to my meeting notes. Here are my findings.

Notes without information.

My meeting notes based on my template contained, at best, many details, but that, in the end, said nothing. It was totally useless information, maybe a couple of filled fields or some quick notes, but overall, the template was 80% empty. The reason? Many meetings could have been an email or a direct message through some platform, meaningless meetings that were unnecessary. They only existed to satisfy that need of “progress” or, worse, of “control” over people and projects.

Loss of focus.

When I read the notes that had more detail, that is, where my template was fully engaged, it was like reading something written by someone else, by a third party, someone who was not me. I had no recollection of what was described in the note or in that meeting, even though it was relatively recent. There, I discovered that I was placing greater importance on perfectly filling out my cherished template with the associated cost of paying less attention to what was going on in the session by sacrificing “being present.” This made me wonder how many times I got lost in the meeting without knowing what was going on or, worse, without even noticing.

An Outlook clone

Much of the useless detail in my notes were things like the obvious: objective, participants, attendance, date, time, duration, description, etc. That is, the detail that tools like Outlook (that’s the one I use), or any other similar one can generate natively in one or two clicks and that is purely referential, has nothing to do with the purpose or sense of the meeting, and I was wasting time filling all those details manually; I was building an outlook clone, but Frankenstein mode.

The past has already happened.

When I found some note with relevant information that I managed to remember, that was actionable, that was (to some extent) well documented, and that provided some level of information, I regained hope, until again recognizing that it was useless, why? That had happened in the past. It was a pile of forensic information that, at the knowledge level, did not provide or generate any value. That is, it worked and served its purpose in the past, but it was gone. It had already happened. At present, I am not interested in remembering or storing who said what regarding something that I did not even remember six months ago from a completed project.

The vanity of the BigBang

This is something I explain in more detail in my article “The 3 worst mistakes I made when I started Obsidian”, which I recommend you read, but in general, all those meeting notes looked great in the graph view, and it boosted my ego. It convinced me that I was doing great.

Finally, after so much evidence, I took that pile of meeting notes, about 30% of my vault, and in two clicks, threw it in the trash without looking back. I don’t count this as a failure; on the contrary, I learned many things along the way regarding templates, automation, plugins, and the use of Obsidian itself, but the most valuable thing I learned was not to fool myself just because my “knowledge” looked cool in the graph view, and not to stay in my comfort zone regarding how to improve my productivity, my note-taking and my way of seeing the world.

So from that moment on I only use Obsidian to, as they say on their website Sharpen your thinking, but I’ll tell you about that another time….

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I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to dive into this reading. Your support means a lot, and I’m thrilled you’re a part of this journey. 😊 🤖 🪐
Your thoughts, opinions, and feedback are invaluable to me. I’d love to hear what resonated with you or any ideas you might have. So, don’t hesitate to comment or reach out — let’s keep the conversation going!
Until next time, wonderful readers. 🚀 😎

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Romell Avendaño

Life is a DIY project, that's why I write about technology, innovation, knowledge management, agility and more. Also I'm Obsidian Fan. I'm not a Robot! ;) 🤖