Backlinks are important

Backlinks are links on a web page/note that list other web pages/notes which refer to it. Within my digital garden, backlinks are critical in making connections between ideas. They are important because content does not always flow in one direction and knowing what links to a particular page can create a more informative context or open up new avenues of learning.

Backlinks are not hierarchical

If TopicA links to TopicB, it may not be obvious that there is a connection when looking at TopicB particularly as content in a digital garden is almost always non-hierarchical. Instead of:

we have:

It’s a lot of work to create and maintain all these backlinks and secondly, by simply writing and linking pages, the list of backlinks can highlight connections between pages in unexpected ways which generate new ideas and relationships.

To be useful backlinks must be automatically generated

Creating backlinks by hand gets old, very quickly. There two primary reasons for this are:

  1. Interrupting the flow of work has a tax and the mechanical act of linking pulls you out of your thinking. That disjoint and shift of focus means it takes a moment to get back into the groove.
  2. If you change the name of a note you have to find all the backlinks from other pages and rename them. This makes it hard to be productively lazy.

I use Obsidian to manage my content and it automatically creates the backlinks for each page. It also shows my potential backlinks ie., pages which refer to the name of a page but which have not been explicitly linked yet.

Adding a due date to your tasks is a mistake


The Getting Things Done methodology would have us not date tasks at all and instead work through contexts that help us make decisions on what do to based on the resources available to us. If something must happen on a day, use a calendar instead.

My dated tasks had become a calendar in another form.

Typically I will add dates when when:

  • The task is tracking something I’m waiting for. There will be a date for when the request is made and a date for when I require a response. Having said that, fewer waiting for tasks are getting a response date. I’ll catch that in my weekly review.
  • In my role I have quite a number of task that recur weekly, fortnighly or monthly. As my calendar is for blocked time I don’t want to store these tasks there. Instead I have them as tasks with dates and I roll the dates over each time. These include reports I have to run, bank transfers I need to make, backups that have to occur etc. In total these tasks wouldn’t take more than 30 minutes in a day and it doesn’t matter when on that day they get done. This approach gets them out of my mind and into my trusted system.

I still find myself falling into the habit of adding due dates. It’s easier than remembering to look at the task list eah morning and trust myself.

How to enter dates quickly

I find myself entering dates all the time. In filenames, for tasks and in documents. As I’m Productively Lazy I use a text expander to save me time.

Read through to the bottom of the post for a link to download the text expansions I use daily.

Date formats

I use 2 date formats. YYYY-MM-DD and d MMMM YYYY. For today these are 2022-06-09 and 9 June 2022. To create these I use PhraseExpress with the following keystrokes. All are set to run immediately upon keying in.

All calculations are smart enough to wrap over month and year boundaries.

Standard day text, used anywhere

Autotext abbreviationPurposeExample
d==Today as YYYY-MM-DD2022-06-09
d++Tomorrow as YYYY-MM-DD2022-06-10
d–Yesterday as YYYY-MM-DD2022-06-08
dd=Today as d MMMM YYYY9 June 2022
dd+Tomorrow as d MMMM YYYY10 June 2022
dd-Yesterday as d MMMM YYYY8 June 2022
d2w2 weeks from today23 June 2022

Getting Things Done

Within Obsidian I use the Dataview plugin‘s features to help me manage tasks. The way I work, I only need created and due dates. All are in YYYY-MM-DD format and is prefixed with a “| ” to help split dates on a row eg “| 📆2022-06-09”.

The “Next” abbreviations are smart enough to know that if today is Thursday, you mean Thursday next week, but Saturday this week.

Autotext abbreviationPurposeExample
#==Due today| 📆2022-06-09
#++Due tomorrow| 📆2022-06-10
#1wDue 1 week from today| 📆2022-06-16
#2wDue 2 weeks from today| 📆2022-06-23
#3wDue 3 weeks from today| 📆2022-06-30
#4wDue 4 weeks from today| 📆2022-07-07
#–Due yesterday| 📆2022-06-08
#monNext Monday| 📆2022-06-13
#tueNext Tuesday| 📆2022-06-14
#wedNext Wednesday| 📆2022-06-15
#thuNext Thursday| 📆2022-06-16
#friNext Friday| 📆2022-06-17
#satNext Saturday| 📆2022-06-19
#sunNext Sunday| 📆2022-06-19

I use !!! and a the Dataview plugin to filter out the must do today items.

Autotext abbreviationPurposeExample
!!!Important| 🏆
!==Imporant today| 🏆 | 📆2022-06-09
!++Important tomorrow| 🏆 | 📆2022-06-10

Whenver I have a “@waiting for” task, I put in the date I started waiting using:

Autotext abbreviationPurposeExample
+==Started waiting today➕2022-06-09
+–Started waiting yesterday➕2022-06-08

Download my abbreviations

You can download a file containing my abbreviations for import into PhraseExpress. Expand the .zip file and the import. They will all work on Windows. The day based Getting Things Done abbreviations (Mon-Sun) may not work so well on a Mac.

Interrupting the flow of work has a tax

Nobody likes interruptions (unless they are good news) but regardless, each interruption that occurs takes not only the time of the interruption itself but a little longer as you strive to get back to where you were beforehand.

If you are in a flow state, this can take a long time and there is a risk you may not regain your previous level of thinking.

Reducing the cost of interruption tax

There are a few steps you can take to reduce the cost of an interruption tax.

  1. Limit the change of being interrupted. This can be anything from finding somewhere quite to work, to closing the door, to putting your phone on Do Not Disturb or making effective requests of those around you to keep away for a time.
  2. The previous step is even better if you can find a time where interruptions are less likely. [^1]
  3. Develop the habit of pausing for a moment when the interruption first occurs to take a quick note on whatever it was you were thinking of so that you can pick it up later. Then when you return to your task, refresh your memory.
  4. Ask briefly for a moment to complete what you are doing. Most will accomodate and it has the added benefit of improving your listening to the concerns of others because they have your full attention.

[^1]: This could be why many of us are more productive working from home than in an office.

To publish or not to publish

On and off I have the grand dream of being able to share my knowledge and thoughts online in some kind of linked notes database.

I’m currently doing what I can at and I thought I had it all worked out. Today, I’m not so sure.

There are competing pressures which ebb and flow. I am using Obsidian extensively as my personal knowledge management system. It contains notes, journal entries, receipts, finance information, and more. At the 1:1 level (ie. me to me) it is perfect. However, if I want to manage shared content within it, then everything needs to be considered in more detail and it gets awkward.

  • By default Obsidian Publish will publish all pages unless told not to. To protect against accidentally publishing private content I need to add publish: false at the top of each page. Even so, there is still a risk of linking to a receipt, or insurance document, and publishing that online without realising it as linked files can’t be protected against upload.
  • Published pages can have multiple unlinked notes. Within Obsidian, these links show up and provide me with information. They are not always links that should be published.
  • The Obsidian Dataview plugin doesn’t work on the published site. I rely on it extensively to automatically generate content that I would otherwise have to manage manually. Who needs to waste that time?
  • I didn’t have any other platform other than Obisidan Publish. Now I have had to introduce a WordPress site ( for RSS feeds that Publish can’t provide. I may as well shift my content over there instead, publishing only final articles, without the risk of sharing private content.

I think my decision is made. Now to actually make it and do the work of moving the content over 😁.