Confusion about 11.05 The Index

" To create a new Johnny.Decimal item, simply create a new note. Other than the title, which is the index entry, the note may be blank.

You must do this before you create a folder in your file system, or your email, or anywhere else. Creating the note is creating the new ID."

I read the above, and I saw this thread:

I also use obsidian. I’m still not sure I get it. What is the purpose of a blank note with the category and ID, isn’t the category and ID also going on an actual folder on my PC? Does the note live inside that folder beside the un-IDed notes, emails, etc that are related to the ID and category, so when I search I arrive at that folder when I open the note?

Is Johnny Decimal itself not the file tree, is it sometimes just a guide about where to look for a file?

Not being an Obsidian user — I’ll correct that soon, it’s clear I need to understand it — I’m not sure this question is clear to me, sorry.

Here’s the intent of the index. How you implement this with various software may vary; such implementation details are not so important.

Your JD system is made up of a bunch of stuff: files, notes, emails, data in apps, websites, physical objects. All the things.

What we need to avoid is a situation where you (not you; the royal ‘you’) use your file system to allocate JD IDs. The good stuff here is in the workbook, lemme extract it.

workbook extract

51.03 Case study 1: Organising travel

You’re planning a holiday, and part of your research involves downloading brochures.

Of course you want to save them somewhere, so in your Travel category you create a new folder, assign the next available number, and start saving the PDFs that you download.

Later, you book the Singapore trip and want to save the email confirmation from the airline. You’ve already got an ID – 16.24 – so you create an email folder with that number and move the message there.

So far so good: you get a gold star.

Next, an impromptu trip interstate comes up. Family emergency, last minute. The only artefact that exists is the email confirmation and, by now giddy with the power that comes from being organised, you create a new folder in your email in which to save it.

The next number is obviously 16.25, so you use that and get on with life.

Here’s the situation.

The next trip

Singapore was great and you decide to spend more time in Southeast Asia.

You start researching a holiday to Vietnam. You’re downloading PDFs again, so you jump in to your file system to create a folder, and what do you do?

Now, reading this you’re slapping your head and telling me that of course you wouldn’t be so stupid to do this. Of course you somehow remember that you’ve already used 16.25 for that quick trip interstate, and of course you’ll use 16.26 for the Vietnam holiday.

/ends workbook extract

So you must implement an index somewhere. If you use Obsidian, it’s probably going to be in Obsidian.

Now, because of the nature of Obsidian, this index implementation may overlap with your file system. If Obsidian’s sidebar shows you a representation of the files on your file system, this might already do a bunch of the work for you. For example if it shows you your area and category folders, then there’s no need to recreate them somehow with an Obsidian note.

The key is that when you track an item that isn’t in Obsidian — an email, say — then you must first create that ID as an index entry in Obsidian. That’s how you generate the new JD ID for the email: you do it in Obsidian.

The note might be mostly blank: I’d just use it to tell myself, hey, this thing you’re looking for? It’s not here. It’s in your email.

Does that help clarify? There’s a ton more information in the workbook; we dedicate an entire area to the index.

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My JD index for each collection (in this case, “H01 - Home and Personal”) is note 00.01 in a folder with that name. See the screenshot for my collection involving personal plus consulting I do. In Obsidian, I have one note per ID – each as individual files in a flat folder. I started out putting the ID’s in folders, but decided that was too much overhead.

Then in each ID note, I have an indication (using Obsidian tags) of where the actual item is. If it is in Obsidian (which some, but not most, data is), I have it in another top level folder, in this case labeled “H01 - Home and Personal - Notes”. At the moment, in Obsidian, that is also a flat structure. Most of my files are either in OneDrive or DropBox, in which I’ve implemented a folder structure by Area and Category.

Thanks for the quick reply johnny, life has been busy and ADHD is tough, but I’m gonna read this soon!

That makes a lot of sense! Part of what I wasn’t sure about is it sounded like johnny was incorporating not only files in the vault but files necessarily stored elsewhere in the system or even online, so I wasn’t sure how people were going about doing that.

Just a note with a link, good to know.

I see now. The danger comes from when you’re fully integrating JD with things outside of notes.

I haven’t gotten there yet because my notes are still disorganized and I keep reworking how I think they should best be organized, not sure how to escape the loop.

But I see, once I’m there, it’s an issue of discipline ensuring that all computer related activities begin at the index basically, rather than recording a JD number somewhere outside the notes and risking forgetting to put it into the notes index.

Exactly this, yes!

I’ve been thinking about this in the Johnny.Decimal context. While I don’t have ADHD, I think we all suffer from some of the symptoms these days: why am I here? what was I meant to be doing? why didn’t I finish that last thing before starting the new thing?

I’m going to test with my own life what happens if, after rebuilding my personal system, I’m basically always doing something that has a defined JD ID. If I’m going to the shops for dinner that’s all I’m doing, I’m not also checking my email or doing something on the iPad or whatever.

I’m going to find a way to have this front-of-mind thing written somewhere that makes it impossible to forget. Not sure what that looks like yet. And so that thing is my guide: I’m doing whatever is written here. Until it’s finished, and I consciously switch to doing the next thing.

I’ve no idea if this will be helpful. Does this sound like something that might be helpful? Obviously this is just the very beginning of the idea, it needs a lot of work.

Today’s blog post expands on this theme.