“Autodidacticism (also autodidactism) or self-education (also self-learning and self-teaching) is education without the guidance of masters (such as teachers and professors) or institutions (such as schools). Generally, autodidacts are individuals who choose the subject they will study, their studying material, and the studying rhythm and time. Autodidacts may or may not have formal education, and their study may be either a complement or an alternative to formal education.” - Wikipedia.

That reads as impressive, no? All that to say, I enjoy reading, studying and figuring things out on my own, for my own enrichment. Over the years I am slowly fine-tuning the process. I have built my own personal knowledge database which houses decades worth of knowledge, thoughts, writings, white papers etc all in .txt, .pdf and .md formats.

If you enjoy reading for knowledge, do you receive value for that time? How do you retain what you’ve read? How can you refer back to a specific instance that you came across but can’t remember where?

This is where my personal knowledge management database comes in. I call it “Grey Matter.” Others refer to their database as a “Second Brain.”

A visual graph of decades worth of inter-connected notes in my Grey Matter database
Look at that web of connected notes!

After converting then, importing all your documents into the database, you then need to sort and organize in a way that seems logical to you. I choose to sort by year/month such as: 2023/03. If you take good notes, you should be able to sort by categories after that. An extra step for me is to backlink each note to another relevant note. Example: By typing double brackets, [[photo workflow]], the database then suggests previous documents with your suggested topic. As soon as you do this, the database generates a link to that document in your current document.

Back-linking for the win

When you perform a search for something you want to recall, look it up and every document with that tag or backlink will display and you can choose your relevant article. Neat, yeah?

Make connections to your thoughts scattered over time

As a self-proclaimed autodidact, I enjoy hybrid models of both, old knowledge and new knowledge. The challenge is discovering solutions to merge the two of them together for your benefit.