Productivity

My Information Operating System Part 2: Collecting

In Part 2 of this 3-Part Information Ingestion Operating System series, I show how to use Readwise to collect all your notes and highlights, periodically resurface them, and export them to Roam.

3 min read

Note: This is Part 2 of a 3-part series. You can find Part 1 here and Part 3 here.

In Part 1 I covered the first, most crucial part of ingesting information: effective reading. In that article, you learned about:

  • The four stages of reading
  • Methods for highlighting important passages
  • How to take powerful notes

In this second part, you will learn how to collect your highlights and notes in a single place for future processing.

However, this collecting stage isn't just about getting all your highlights and notes in one place, but also about using them effectively. In this stage, you will:

  • Collect your notes and highlights from all sources
  • Make use of them by periodically reviewing them
  • Prepare them for creating new knowledge and ideas

Readwise is the linchpin of this workflow and does all three steps for you automatically.

For bringing in your highlights, it links to Instapaper, Kindle, GoodReads, and other services to automatically import your notes, keeping them together in Readwise for you. Now your notes aren't scattered across all your sources but are neatly organized and ready for you to review.

Not only can you review them manually, but Readwise also sends you a daily email with a selection of your notes and highlights for you to review. Every morning, I do this, and having your notes resurfaced periodically over time becomes an engine that drives new ideas.

Here you won't worry much about resurfacing for memorization because of what you'll do as part of the last step of the Collecting stage: export to Roam.

Roam is where everything ends up: it's your second brain, your idea lab, your to-do list, your habit tracker, and much much more. If Readwise is the linchpin, then Roam is the wheel.

Readwise has an automatic export to Roam, and it is highly configurable. This is what a fresh import to Roam from Readwise looks like (minus the headers and indentations, which is not supported in the Readwise template yet):

An example of a synced note from Readwise

At the top, there are several attributes. The statuses consist of "Waiting," "Processing," and "Processed." I'll explain the headers in Part 3, but at the bottom, you'll see one of the highlights brought in by Readwise. All of your highlights and notes will be nested under that header.

In the Readwise Roam export configuration screen, you can define a template for your imports using Jinja templates. To use my template, copy the code below into your export configuration:

Once you pick which existing saved articles you want to export and save your configuration, Readwise will begin exporting your selected articles to Roam, which will show up in your daily notes.

And now you've got an automatic collection and review system!

Diagram of the Collecting workflow. Sources like Instapaper, Kindle, Goodreads, and Airr all are fed into Readwise, which periodically resurfaces your notes via email and exports to Roam
The Collecting workflow

In this article, you learned how to use Readwise to:

  • Collect all of your notes and highlights from different sources
  • Periodically review your notes and highlights
  • Prepare your notes and highlights to create new knowledge

Next, in Part 3, you will learn how to go from collecting your notes to connecting your notes. This process will allow you to find new inspirations, generate new ideas, and create new knowledge. See you then!