Very thankful for this system - using it for creative work especially

I am so thankful for the Johnny Decimal system and the way it helped me to kick my ADHD brain into some semblance of order. I started using JD a while back and immediately broke half the rules. :stuck_out_tongue:

Problem is, I don’t remember numbers. I think it’s just mild dyscalculia. Took me two years to remember my own phone number. With ADHD, it’s also been a long journey of discovering exactly how my brain ticks. So I use letters first, which I remember easily, and I also go several folder levels and subfolders deep, depending.

I use it to organize research notes, which is mostly for creative worldbuilding and somewhat for work and somewhat for other personal interests. I also use it to organize creative projects and at work, and in each place I bend the rules based on the needs there. I also tweak things when a certain subsystem of organization needs to evolve.

I like that it’s a good system for managing huge amounts of information because of the core principles: no more than ten (limits!), managed friction, defining categories with intent, leaving a breadcrumb trail, specifying how many levels deep you want to go, and relying on specific structures for quick memory recall and to outsource a lot of mental load. Those are really, really good principles for managing ADHD.

I use Obsidian to keep records and information related personal interests and pursuits only. It’s important to me to keep that completely separate from personal life and from work (GDrive for work and home is where those reside). Top level looks like this:


‘Knowledge’ and ‘Projects’ are the ones that currently require a deep organization system, and the others don’t really need any multiple project notation… yet. (‘Media’ is just stuff related to various games or books, nothing very in-depth. ‘Notebook’ is where scattered, personal thoughts about everything go - if it reaches a certain level of cohesion, it usually gets moved under ‘Projects’ or a ‘Published’ category under ‘Dashboard.’)

So the second level is where the bastardized JD system kicks in, broad areas organized by 3-5 abbreviated letters, so I can remember them. Here’s what Knowledge looks like:


Most are self-explanatory, so I’ll use the one that isn’t:


‘Holocene’ is a fancy shorthand way of referring to All Of Human History And Culture. I’m not interested in ALL of it, but I often need to know and store a lot of knowledge related to it for reference and inspiration, so anything that doesn’t fit under other more specific areas like Philosophy or Mathematics goes here.


So Holocene is further subdivided by less broad categories that cover most of the types of information I use, and the 90s are a dedicated category of random things that don’t necessarily fall under those topics and that don’t necessarily get too deep. (Modern urban legends, disaster response, etc.) Which leaves room past the 30s, in case any of those random topics gets big enough to coalesce into a larger category that needs its own folder.

I also took inspiration from the JD index system to set up intensive indexes for each creative project, which lets me remember exactly where I left off and what I’ve done, where everything is, and what I need to do next.

It’s WONDERFUL. A massive ADHD issue for me was not being able to follow through on projects, due to disorganization, and information overwhelm, and losing interest but then coming back to things, and not being able to find or remember anything, et cetera. It was miserable and so frustrating that I ended up with an ADHD diagnosis because I couldn’t figure out what was WRONG with me – all drive and motivation but no control over it. After I got on medication, I started working to organize my life.

It’s better to work with my brain and its natural patterns, not against it. So, a while ago, I tentatively let myself lose interest in a project for a while, trusting that I would come back to it and be able to pick it up again with minimal effort and frustration. And a few months ago, I picked it up again, and I was fine. I was able to make progress on it without overwhelm or frustration. The relief was visceral, and it really was because Obsidian and JD made me realize that I just needed to make folder systems work for me.

So! Thanks. <3


This is amazing! Thanks for posting. I love this so much.

I realised recently that this thing might be a godsend to people with ADHD. Some of the ideas I’m exploring with Lucy for the Workshop I think will be particularly helpful. I’m not claiming to have ADHD but I sure know what it’s like to find myself standing in the kitchen wondering what I’d come in for and an hour later smelling the bread burning. Or whatever.

We haven’t recorded those bits yet, and I think it’s something that we’ll just touch on in the Workshop, but I’ll explore as a side topic later.

Curious if that’s a you thing or if that’s an ADHD trait? As you might imagine I’m the opposite. I have a mild prosopagnosia so I won’t remember who you are but if you tell me your phone number I’ll be able to call you from memory five years from now.


JD has a lot of good stuff for people with ADHD! Small deliberate friction and limits are helpful for redirecting the side quests I would otherwise go on. Even just being able to follow a funnel of chosen categorization is good - keeps me from wandering into other areas just because I can’t find something and now I’m distracted by all the interesting stuff in this other folder and nothing gets done.

I’m interested in the topic of knowledge management, and information science in general, but I think the online discussions around it aren’t necessarily geared for managing ADHD. At least for me… I don’t need to be more creative or get in the “flow” of notes, I need to slowww down and record information in a way that’s a lot more ordered than my thoughts, so that it’s actually usable.

JD is more like an everyday person’s information management, and it clicked right away for me. I still need to poke around some of the other topics and the Workbook - would love to see any future thoughts!

Curious if that’s a you thing or if that’s an ADHD trait? As you might imagine I’m the opposite. I have a mild prosopagnosia so I won’t remember who you are but if you tell me your phone number I’ll be able to call you from memory five years from now.

It’s probably comorbid with ADHD. Learning/processing disorders usually crop up with it. It’s weird - aside from some issues with recall, I can remember most things well as long as I compensate for the poor working memory and lack of focus. But numbers get transposed somewhere along the processing circuits - I will read a multi-digit number three different ways and not be able to remember which one was correct no matter how many times I try, even if I’ve successfully recalled it before. I still get my phone number wrong sometimes.

But that’s why the underlying JD principles are solid… it’s built on your good number sense, but with some tweaking my number blindness isn’t an issue.