Having a reliable and efficient knowledge management system for remote work is essential for anyone wanting to do more in less time.
A knowledge management system (KMS) helps create an organized virtual space to store important information, documents, and data that can be easily accessed in centralized locations.
This article will discuss how KMSs have become increasingly vital in today’s remote work environment and explore some of the best solutions available for 2023.
Why Having a Knowledge Management System For Remote Work Is Important
The shift to a remote work environment has made knowledge management systems even more critical.
Having a reliable knowledge management system for remote work is essential in today’s digital world, especially for those who are looking to do more with less time.
KMSs help create an organized virtual space that can store important information, documents, and data in centralized locations which can be easily accessed at any time.
Having a KMS also helps ensure that critical information isn’t lost or forgotten by providing an easy way to store data in one place where it won’t get misplaced or deleted due to hardware failure or human error.
KMSs are also beneficial for remote work environments because they help you scale your output and become more productive.
This not only increases efficiency but also gives you more time to devote to higher-level tasks.
What You Will Learn
In this article, you will learn what the benefits of using a KMS are, and everything else you need to build one for yourself.
From understanding the overall strategy behind the system to choosing the right tool(s), this complete guide has everything you need to go from zero to hero.
The Benefits of Using a KMS When Working Remotely
A KMS helps you stay on top of your tasks by providing easy access to the necessary resources needed to complete them.
With a KMS, you will have all the tools you need readily available from one central location without having to search through multiple sources or platforms.
In other words, with the right KMS you won’t forget anything anymore!
The best knowledge management strategy I found so far is called “Building a Second Brain“.
This concept is championed by Tiago Forte through his fantastic content and his course.
In Tiago’s words, the overall strategy goes something like this:
Or C.O.D.E. for short.
So what does it actually mean?
Capturing the information you need is the very first step of this process.
As a remote worker, I imagine you’re regularly attending calls where a bunch of links are shared (i.e. Google Docs, internal company docs URLs, etc.) only to be forgotten forever ever after the call.
Being able to capture this information in a way that’s easily accessible in the future will help you actually find these docs again when you need them.
How many times did you and your colleagues find yourselves saying “What was that doc X person shared again?” before spending the next 15min digging into Slack, emails, etc. without finding it?
Find a way to effectively capture the information you need so that you become the smartass who finds that doc in 2min.
This second step’s goal is to make it easier to find the information you captured in the future.
Following the same example as above, imagine if you had one Google Doc where you just copy/pasted every single useful link with no context.
You’d end up with a giant block of URLs including self-development resources, docs you need to get your job done, YouTube playlists to listen to while working, etc.
It would be a mess!
Effectively organizing your knowledge will make finding what you need at any given time a breeze.
This is an optional step but a very important one.
The goal of the Distill process is to make it easy for your future self to understand the knowledge you captured today better and faster.
Imagine you’ve completed a complete course and took a bunch of notes along the way. These could be multiple pages long!
Imagine fast-forwarding 2 years and coming back to those notes. Can you see it? The confused and defeated look on your face thinking you have to re-read all these pages?
Now let’s go back to 2 years prior. You’ve just finished the course, you have all these pages worth of notes, and the content is still fresh in your mind.
This time you take an extra 30min to summarize everything in a way that your future self would remember the course’s concepts in a couple of minutes.
Pro tip: Try using AI tools like Chat GPT to speed up the Distill process!
This is the most important step of all as this is where the magic happens.
What’s the point of going through all that knowledge accumulation if you don’t end up using any of it in practice?
“Expressing” your knowledge comes in various forms.
In a remote working context, you might be working on a project involving a few moving pieces and requiring that you speak with multiple people.
If you followed the previous steps, you would:
- Have easy-to-understand context and information from all conversations linked to this project
- Have a clear place where all resources relevant to this project are accessible
So when you’re asked to make a decision, explain some parts of the project, or get X done, you can just go back to the project’s “folder” and have everything you need in one place.
Alright, that’s all great and sounds good in theory but how do you actually make this happen?
Choosing The Right Tools
The right tools to use for Knowledge Management Systems depend on the user’s personality.
Generally, there are three main types of personalities:
The gardener is someone who likes to grow ideas organically and works best when allowed free exploration.
The architect likes a flexible structure and will create a well-defined system of organization, often with detailed guidelines and plans.
Lastly, the librarian loves collecting data and likes to store information in a fixed structure that is easily searchable.
With that context in mind, here are some of the most popular tools to build effective knowledge management systems.
Best for: Architects
Notion is one of the most powerful all-in-one knowledge management tools out there.
It allows you to create your own knowledge management structure so you’re not forced to use a rigid architecture.
Among other things, it integrates its own powerful AI tool, a great search functionality, and multiple ways to store and display data (i.e. Databases, Tables, Kanban boards, Calendar view, etc.)
Fun fact: I use Notion to plan this blog’s content and stay organized.
- Good balance between flexibility and structure
- Extensibility through 3rd party integrations
- Huge online community, it’s easy to find information and help
- Has a bit of a learning curve and can be confusing at first
- You have to come up with the knowledge management structure yourself
Best for: Librarians
Evernote is an excellent choice for those with a librarian personality type, as it is designed to store and organize information in an easily searchable format.
Its powerful search function allows users to quickly find the exact data they need from any device.
Additionally, Evernote includes features such as tagging and notebooks which can be used to further categorize and organize stored data.
All these features make it the perfect tool for librarians looking to keep their knowledge base organized and accessible at all times.
- Easy-to-understand structure
- Ability to save content by sending an email to your account
- Amazing search functionality
- Rigid structure
Best for: Librarians
OneNote is a great knowledge management system for librarians looking to store and share information in an easily accessible format.
It allows them to quickly search for what they need, tag documents, create notebooks, and other organizational tools.
Overall it’s a very similar tool to Evernote with regards to the knowledge storage structure with a few twists.
- Well integrated within the Microsoft ecosystem if you use it
- Good UI
- Rigid structure
Best for: Librarians
Apple Notes is one of those underrated knowledge management tools and is often overlooked.
The structure is also very similar to Evernote and OneNote when it comes to the 2-layered folder approach.
The beauty of Apple Notes is its simplicity.
Many love the absence of all the bells and whistles that allows them to keep things simple and lean.
- Easy to use
- Minimalistic UI
- Only available for Apple users
- Barebone features
Logseq, Roam Research, and Obsidian
Best for: Gardeners
These tools’ beauty is that you can essentially “brain dump” anything and all your information self-organizes over time.
Out of all the tools presented here, these three will likely have the most amount of learning curve as they offer a completely different way to take notes and store knowledge than what most people are used to.
Let’s look at an example:
Sam is part of her company’s Marketing team and constantly hears about new campaign ideas.
Every time she hears one, Sam quickly jots down some notes in Logseq and adds a link to the “Campaign Ideas” page.
Fast forward to the beginning of the next quarter, Sam is asked to come up with a new marketing plan to execute.
She whips out her Logseq window, searches for “Campaign Ideas”, and is presented with all the ideas she collected over the past months in one easy-to-read place.
No matter your preference, there is a tool out there for you!
Knowing what kind of personality you are can help you find just the right KMS tool that will drive productivity while also fitting your personal style and preferences.
How To Get Started
The best way to get started is to get started.
- Spend a little bit of time (not too much!) figuring out which of the different personality types described above you most resonate with (i.e. Architect)
- Pick one tool and one tool only to start with that’s relevant to this personality type (i.e. Notion)
- Set up the tool in the most basic and easy way possible. The goal here is to have a space where you can start “dumping” data
- Take notes every time you see or experience something that resonates with you. Don’t think to much at this stage, just take notes
- Repeat step 4 for at least 10 days
The key here is to keep things simple.
The more you try to optimize before you’ve even started, the less likely you are to follow through with this process over time.
Once you’ve developed a great note-taking habit, you’ll naturally find optimization opportunities and iterate over time.
My Knowledge Management System
If you’re wondering what I’m personally using and want to see a concrete example, here it is!
I know I’ve been talking about whether one can be a librarian, a gardener, or an architect, but that doesn’t mean you can only be one.
I might sound a bit schizophrenic by saying this but I switch between all three personalities based on the outcome I want to drive.
The tools I use on an almost daily basis are:
I use Logseq to capture almost everything on the fly for work and personal purposes.
A work use case would be taking note of every single Google doc shared with me and attaching them to their topic.
Logseq uses markdown so one of these notes could look something like:
“[Doc name – Google Doc](https://google.com/docs/link-to-doc) [[Topic’s Page]]”
On a personal level, I used Logseq to document the places my wife and I traveled to. That way I can “remember” them forever, especially when my friends ask me for tips and travel advice for X or Y destinations.
I adopted and left Notion a few times before I stuck to it and truly managed to make it fit my knowledge management preferences.
The main reason I use Notion today is to manage this website.
I use it to:
- Plan content
- Store branding guidelines
- List useful learning resources
- List and budget the tools needed to run this website
Evernote is my archive space.
I love the fact that you can simply forward an email to your Evernote inbox so I can keep all my important documents there.
For example, I forward my warranty documents, purchase receipts, etc. to my Evernote account so that I can easily find them if and when I need them.
Pro tip: A good use of the distill method here is to rename the “note” title in Evernote to clearly define what it’s about. That way it will be much easier to find it later.
Another tool I use that I didn’t list above is… My trusty mini notebook and pen!
As a remote worker, you sometimes find yourself on the go, whether that’s going to work from a coffee shop or traveling abroad, and a pocket notebook is one of the knowledge management travel essentials.
You can easily whip it out, quickly jot down whatever idea came to mind, and put it back in your pocket until you have time to sit down and properly incorporate these ideas in your second brain.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a personal knowledge management system and how can it aid remote work?
Anyone can use a personal knowledge management (PKM) system to collect, organize, store, search for, and retrieve knowledge for their everyday tasks. A PKM is essential for remote work because it makes it easier to organize and access knowledge, which can boost productivity, inspire creativity, and facilitate problem-solving.
How can I set up a personal knowledge management system for remote work?
Creating folders on your computer or using specialized software can both be simple and sophisticated ways to set up a personal knowledge management system. Choosing what kinds of information you need to manage, how you want to categorize that information, and what tools you want to employ to store and retrieve it are usually included in the process. A cloud-based solution might be very helpful for remote work because it enables you to access your knowledge from any location.
How can I ensure that my personal knowledge management system stays up to date?
You must regularly examine and maintain your personal knowledge management system to keep it current. This could entail adding fresh knowledge as you pick it up, updating older knowledge as it changes, and getting rid of knowledge that is no longer relevant or valuable. Keeping your system up to date can be made easier by developing a routine, such as reviewing it at the end of each week.
What should I do if I’m having trouble finding information in my personal knowledge management system?
If you’re having trouble finding information, think about how well your existing system of categorizing is serving you. To make information more accessible, you might need to restructure it, add new categories, or utilize tags. You can use the search features included in a few PKM tools to find what you’re looking for.
How can I maintain the security of my personal knowledge management system while working remotely?
It’s crucial to keep your personal knowledge management system secure, especially if you work remotely. When accessing your system online, make sure it is password-protected and that the connection is secure and encrypted. Things like 2-Factor Authentication (2FA) also help make sure your data can only be accessed by you. Regularly backup your data to avoid losing it in the event of a malfunction. Check the security guidelines of the cloud service provider if you’re using one, and think about implementing two-factor authentication for additional security.
There you have it! A complete guide to building your very own knowledge management system so you can 10X your productivity while remote working.
With the right strategy and tools, you’ll be able to achieve more with less effort and spend more time doing what you love.
Remember, take it easy at the start and slowly build up this new habit before hitting beast mode 🙂
About the author
Karim Bel Hadj
As his name suggests, Karim is the founder of Creme de la Karim. He fell in love with remote working since he left his first corporate job and never looked back! And because something you love is almost always better shared, he is on a mission to help all remote workers and digital nomads make the most of this amazing lifestyle. You can reach out to him via Twitter @cremedelakarim