The Search for a Better Brain

written • read time: approx. 3min

I want to be able to remember things. A good way for people like me with ADHD to do that is to use a personal knowledge management (PKM) system. So I'm trying to figure out how to do that.

Optimal features

  1. Syncs easily between my iPhone and my Linux desktop. This is a must-have.
  2. Preferably uses org-mode. While I don't necessarily mind Markdown — hell, it's what I'm writing this article in — I would like to use Emacs more in my daily life. I used to use it for a brief period in high school and it was probably the most productive I ever was.1
  3. Costs as little as possible. I still don't have a job and would rather not need to ration the cash I scrape together on more things than I need to.

Seriously, you should've seen me back then. My history teacher would have us do notes in a sort of outline format, and I would painstakingly copy each question by hand into an org file, do the work, and then compile it to a PDF using pandoc and LaTeX. It was such a gratifying process that it made me actually do schoolwork, which was incredibly rare. Dopamine is a powerful drug.

My complicated relationship with Logseq

One of the tools I've been most interested by in my research is Logseq. It's open source, supports org format, even has an iOS app. Sounds great, right?

Unfortunately, there's a few very vital caveats. First of all, Logseq's org syntax isn't exactly the same as org-mode's syntax. I'd technically be better off using their desktop app, but like I said, I'd prefer to use Emacs more. That said, I stumbled across this article by Troy Hinckley that shows how you can work around that. Which is great! Yay, extensible text editors.

The bigger problem is syncing. The Logseq iOS app will only sync with iCloud Drive, which I can't access on Linux, and Logseq's $5/mo in-house sync service. A popular way of getting around this is with a git repo and Working Copy, which I've tried before, but felt way too clunky, even with Shortcuts set up to automatically commit, push, and pull my changes.

Other alternatives

Obsidian (the dark side)

I run into similar issues with Obsidian. Only iCloud sync, Working Copy, or their (this time $10/mo) dedicated sync, and the added drawback of no org-mode.

Notion (the dark side, but this time as in proprietary software is evil)

Notion already loses points for not using plain text files, being a proprietary cloud service. In my experience, it also just doesn't click with me, mentally. It feels too abstract yet simultaneously rigid with its databases, whereas the above two are more just notebooks with hyperlinks, which is what I'd strongly prefer.

Dishonorable mentions

These didn't work for me, but they might interest you.

The future

Hopefully I'll be able to update this section when I figure out what to do. For now, I am sad.

If you have any comments, feel free to reach out to me by email or Mastodon.