how I use tags in Obsidian
The usage of tags can be a sensitive topic. There are strong supporters for tags as well as the counterpart who doesn’t use tags at all. I’m more in-between both parties.
I’m kind of using tags in Obsidian, but not in a typical way.
I don’t use descriptive tags like Learning, Philosophy, Data Science, Design, or Psychology to link my notes together. I tried it. But tags like these didn’t add much value to my note-taking process. I added tags to my notes but never used them. One tag had roughly 100 notes assigned to them. It was just too messy.
But I use tags in a different way. I use them to define the state of my notes.
state of note
The state tags I use for my notes are #idle, #processing, and #shaped.
Idle means the note or the literature note is waiting to be processed and finalized. If I take a quick and dirty note, which I want to finalize in the future, I add the #idle tag to it. If I export my book notes from my kindle into a literature note but haven’t started working on the book notes yet, I’ll add the #idle tag.
Once I start working on a note or a literature note, the tag changes from #idle to #processing. Sometimes finishing a note takes longer. But migrating my book notes into my Obsidian Zettelkasten always takes longer. So, to remember which literature notes or notes I’m working on, I’ll add the state tag #processing to it.
Once the note or the literature note is finished — or as I call it shaped — the state of the note changes to #shaped. All finalized notes in my Obsidian Zettelkasten are “shaped notes”. I, for example, can use this tag easily to only revisit my shaped notes inside the graph view.
In addition to these tags, I also have one tag that isn’t really a state tag. I’m also using a #collection tag. A note gets the #collection tag if it groups a lot of notes together. If I have a bunch of notes which are related to one another and I want to chapter all their meaning in one note, I’ll create a collection note and a link to all relevant notes.
These tags helped me refine my note-taking system and made the process more frictionless.
benefits of state tags
A lot of times our note-taking systems are just too complex and we don’t feel like working on our notes, even if we know we should. There is just too much friction.
But by using these state tags, I can just open Obsidian, open the tag pane, and go through my idle notes until I find one I want to work on.
This way I can see very quickly which notes are already shaped, but more importantly, which notes are idle or processing and need to be developed further to get shaped at one point.
Because I can go through my idle notes fast, I always find something I want to work on instead of forcing myself to work on my notes. So I don’t need much willpower and drain energy to take notes.
This makes the note-taking process a lot more frictionless for me.
I can also use the #shaped tag only to revisit my shaped notes and ignore my idle or processing notes in the graph view. This way my idle notes can’t disturb me while going through my links.
Because of the IDs I use, I don’t have to add descriptive tags to my notes. I can use the IDs, the file explorer, and the graph view to see clusters of notes. But, as always, it depends on your workflow and note-taking system. Use the tags that you want in order to have a note-taking system that you want to use.