My Digital Gardening Process

How I do my sense-making via reading and writing. As context/inspiration of FluxGarden. (work in progress)


All my reading and writing is digital.

Anything that matters ends up in FluxGarden in one of my 2 spaces (see Tending Your Inner And Outer Digital Gardens).

I'm just Good Enough at following any particular process.


All my reading and writing is digital.

Sources: Twitter, Newsletters. Occasionally RSS.


I save everything into Instapaper. I read them all on my phone or tablet. I highlight obsessively. When I finish an article, I either click the Like button to flag as ready-to-scrape, or I delete it.

  • with newsletters, I either click through to the web-version, or (some web-versions are embed which are instapaper-hostile) I'll forward the email to Instapaper.

Periodically I process them: I wrote a script to download all my highlights, then I manually tweak them, then I wrote another script to auto-post them to my outer space. (Occasionally I'll want something to go only in my inner space, so I'll just copy/paste that by hand.) There are more details (and a video) about this process in the Instapaper page.

But one key part worth noting is that the manual process is where I add links. I'll tend to link many/most person and company names. And I'll link to keywords I know I use elsewhere. In some cases that word/phrase doesn't actually exist in the article, so I'll typically add it within or at the end of a particularly appropriate highlight-line.

Among other things, my script makes every line italic. So when I also add notes, I make them non-italic.

By default I bring my first highlighted line up into the first paragraph with the title. But sometimes I instead pick the "best" line from the body, and copy/paste it up there. When I do that, I often bold-italic the line down in the body. (I don't have too many rules I follow super-consistently.)


I read in MoonReader because it's the best app I've found for exporting all my Highlighting And Annotating. So I have to run most ebooks through CaLibre to strip out the DRM. Then I copy them to a GoogleDrive folder, which has been the easiest way to download to my phone and tablet.

As with Articles, I highlight obsessively (see Bad-Ass) (even fiction - see Sterling Distraction). Sometimes I'll also make notes as annotations attached a highlight, but that's relatively rare.

When I finish a book, I email myself all the highlights/notes. They have some punctuation cruft, so I use my BBEdit editor to clean them up, and then copy/paste into a page. Sometimes I insert/style the right chapter/section headers. As with articles, I turn words/phrases into Links/Backlinks (and sometimes that book triggers me into spinning off a new page - as at Ministry for the Future). As with articles, there's the occasional case where I put it in my inner garden instead of the outer.


I read/highlight them in MoonReader-on-tablet, too, so the process is roughly the same.

Progressive Summarization vs atomic notes vs neither

Some people are super-disciplined about writing notes in their own words, and some are super-disciplined about breaking down a book and even an article into multiple "atomic" (single-idea) notes.

I do neither. Sometimes I feel bad about it.

If I were a full-time researcher, maybe I'd be more disciplined. But I'm not.

Or, if I found a book just that darn useful (see Bad-Ass). Alas that is rare.

What I do do heavily is that linking, which emphasizes association and creates hooks/affordances to find, not just the page, but the place where I linked.

Also, notes/structures that are relevant this year but be less-relevant next year.

If I'm chewing over a particular idea, I'm likely to make a new page for it. If an article directly relates to that, I'll edit its page to link to my new page. And/or I'll reference the article-page in my new-page. That way I'm focused on the structure of my thought.

Other thinking processes

Mobile note-taking

While FluxGarden is mobile-web-friendly, a lot of my mobile capture is in tiny moments, so I find a pure-mobile-app more friendly for that. I use GoogleKeep - mainly for my ToDoLists, so I also use it for capturing ideas/notes. Sometimes I'll put that right at the top of my-to-list, meaning "go put this idea in the garden", sometimes I'll use a generic/empty "Temp Note" note.

When I have longer times away from a laptop, e.g. if I'm doing a train commute, I'm more likely to do writing directly in FluxGarden via phone-browser.

Effective Entrepreneur

Years after taking Taylor Pearson's class, I'm a big fan of this process of connecting the Big Picture to the Quarterly to the weekly to the daily.

Every Monday morning I make a new WeeklyReview page (in my inner garden) (I think on a cadence of Mon-Sun, not Sun-Sat). I like having weekly bundles rather than daily pages because they're a better bucket to scan. The top of the page will get filled with daily notes, but I start with a Review of the past week and Plan for the coming week framed around My 25-Year Vision Roles.

Interstitial Journaling

I'm not great about DailyWriting. When something's eating at me I'll write a couple sentences. Sometimes that's connected to an ongoing thought that has its own page, so I'll link to that and maybe add more, etc.

I'm trying interstitial gardening, more for my day-job notes than anything else, because

  • it gives me a sense of accomplishment
  • it nudges me toward thinking about outcomes of sessions, to be careful about yak-shaving and wanking.

Hack Your Life With A Private Wiki Notebook, Getting Things Done, And Other Systems

The ideas over there capture pretty well how I think about private journaling.


Twitter feeds 95% of my article-inbox.

And tweets themselves are high-value idea-blocks. (2018-11-15) Books Vs Tweets

And I tweet out my own ideas.

I'm using Twitter-search-links instead of WebMentions - (2021-07-09) TwitterLinks instead of WebMentions

Inner vs Outer spaces

My bias is to put everything in the outer garden, for collective intelligence.

Things I don't want to share go in my inner garden.

Most reading-highlight pages go in the outer garden, unless I don't want to share even the fact that I read them.

More Creation tools

Related: see My CollaborationWare History: FreeMind, Miro

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