PKM-workshop: Sense making

One of the assignments of the PKM-workshop that I’m currently participating in, got me to think quite long about my approach to it, which resulted in some Evernote-cleaning and a new blog post on my business blog about social bookmarking.

The assignment was to use a new tool for sense making and as a source we could use Jane Hart’s learning tools directory.

New tool for sense making?

My fist response was NOT to pick a new tool because I’ve already been trying so many tools and I know that ‘the tool is not the answer’. But then I saw Workflowy in Jane Hart’s list of notetaking and PIM tools which was a tool that I had never given a serious chance until now and so I decided to start using it for outlining my blog posts. I thought that would be useful, because writing blog posts for my business blog (in Dutch) just takes up way too much of my time. I thought that creating an outline in Workflowy might help me to them write faster. But when I started doing that, it just felt wrong to use an extra tool, while I can also create these outlines in Evernote (which I already use for many things).

Workflow redesign

So I decided to redesign my ‘blog idea’-workflow in Evernote and to clean up the big mess of blog ideas for business blog posts that I had in Evernote: I had notes with lists of ideas, notes tagged as ‘blog idea’, saved articles tagged as ‘blog idea’, and other notes for blog ideas gathered in my ‘Blogs to write’-notebook.

So now my ‘sense making’ process for writing my business blog is back on track:

  • When I have an idea I create a note in my Inbox-notebook in Evernote. If I have enough time at that moment, I note down my first ideas for an outline and then I save the note in my ‘Blogs to write’ notebook tagged as ‘outline’ and the category of my blog post.
  • Evernote - blog ideasIf I don’t have the time or energy to create an outline, I just tag it as ‘blog idea’ and leave it in my Inbox-notebook, until I clean my inbox later that day. Then, when I clean my inbox, I write down some ideas for an outline in the note, tag the note with the ‘outline’ tag and move it to the ‘Blogs to write’-notebook.
  • For each blog category, I will keep a list of blog ideas that are either already published (in this case I see a blue link that leads to the published article) or still needs to be written (in that case I see a green link that leads to note with the post outline in Evernote).

Following these rules, I was able to clean up Evernote a bit and now I have a list of blog ideas for each blog category (even one for this blog!) which will hopefully make it easier to write the blog posts in the future.

Other tools for Sense making

I use Evernote for most of my ‘Sense making’. Not only for storing blog ideas, but also for storing articles, storing my own thoughts, writing drafts of articles and even this post is first drafted in Evernote. I do this because if I can’t finish it at this moment, I know that it will still be there in Evernote by tomorrow. I can also link notes to eachother and tag them with multiple tags.

Besides Evernote, I also use:


Although I could store all my bookmarks also in Evernote, I just can’t seem to give up using Diigo. It’s a social bookmarking tool where I can store articles to read later, highlight texts, add comments, and very easily share these all with others.
I love to use a tool for the things it was meant to be. So Evernote is for notes, and Diigo is for bookmarks.
It’s just that some time ago I decided to keep my articles in Evernote and use Diigo only for bookmarking webpages and portals. I did this because Evernote’s search function is so extremely good that I wanted to be able to include saved articles in these searches. But as a consequence I didn’t use Diigo very much anymore and I stopped sharing valuable articles (I don’t share much from Evernote, although it is very well possible).
So this week I decided that I will start using Diigo again, also for sharing articles.


It’s very easy to build blogs with WordPress and I use it for my personal blog (this one) as well as for my business blog. I recently started blogging again on my personal blog, which you are reading now. This time in English, so I can share it with more people. It is really meant for sense-making. Writing articles for this blog doesn’t take me very much time.
As I mentioned above, I also have a business blog. I use that blog most of the time to explain things to others. Writing these posts take a lot of time. Of course I’m also learning from writing these blog posts, but that’s not the real purpose of that blog.


I use MindMeister if I find the need to create a mindmap. MindMeister works really smoothly and you can create three mindmaps in a free account. Recently I took a paid account, but for years I worked with two free accounts and whenever I want to create an extra mindmap, I exported one of the three mindmaps to my hard drive so I could delete it from the account and then I had ‘space’ again for a new mindmap. Worked like a charm 😉 Though recently I needed some other export facilities which is why I decided to get a paid account.

Flipboard, and ZEEF

I also use Flipboard, and ZEEF, but I’m never really sure wether to categorize these as Sense-making tools or as tools for Sharing (or even just for Searching!). For ZEEF it’s necessary to think carefully about the categorization of links on your ZEEF-page, which comes pretty close to sense making for me. But on Flipboard and, I only have to think about the category that I want to share the link in. And although it’s optional to add an ‘insight’ to the link, I can share a link via Flipboard or, without thinking very deeply about it.



So, my conclusion for this assignment is that new tools won’t always do the trick. I tried to add a new tool to my workflow, but it just wasn’t the right solution. But it put me on the right track. Because, what I did need, was to redesign my workflow for blog ideas. And when I knew that new workflow, it also enabled me to better structure and tag my blog ideas in Evernote. Things had gotten quite messy in there.

But I think that’s a bit inherent to the process. Sense making is ‘messy’, and you need the the space (the tools and the workflow) to create that mess and then make sense of it again. And then clean up the mess again so you can start over 🙂



  1. Hi Marsha. I a big fan of Harold and loved his PKM course. Thanks for sharing your tips on how you use Evernote. I keep jumping in an out of using it and am trying to figure out a better way to organize my notebooks and tags. This was very helpful.

    • Mascha

      Hi Kate,
      I’ve also been struggling with organizing my notes in Evernote for a long time. But now I finally seem to have found something that works for me.
      I have written a blog post about it, but it is in Dutch (on my business website). Maybe the pictures and the lists of tags and notebooks will help you anyway. I have some more resources about Evernote collected on a ZEEF page. There you can also find a video that inspired me for my system.
      Well, I hope it helps. Evernote is a great tool because it can be used in many ways and for many things. But that’s also why it’s so hard to organize it well. The great search function will also help you out in many cases 🙂
      Good luck with getting organized!

  2. Hi Mascha,

    I’ve also done Harold’s PKM course (twice in fact) and found it very beneficial. I think sense-making is the most challenging, and most valuable, part of the Seek-Sense-Share framework. Your article aligned with my thinking about using the tools I already have better rather than adding tools (although I recently started using Snapchat to create a diary of each day in photos and videos). I am a big fan of Evernote and your post has given me some ideas for improving how I use it and defining my workflows – thanks for this.

    I’m inconsistent in using Diigo and Evernote for storing articles / links to articles. I maintain my use of Diigo in part so I can share resources easily with others, and also curate relevant links I add to my personal Diigo account immediately to a group Diigo account I use with my work team. I’ve read your next post about workflow for marking up articles and writing up insights on articles in Evernote, and shall be immediately adopting this process. Ha! I should start right now by saving this and your next post.

    Thank you for working out loud about your insights on the PKM course as you go. I shall follow your blog with great interest.

    • Mascha

      Hi Michelle,
      I’ve been waiting for the moment that I was finally able to set aside enough time to participate in the PKM course, which is indeed very valuable. I knew I was already doing some steps of the process, but I really wanted to know all the pieces of the puzzle, so I’ll know how I can keep improving it.

      I’ve actually been following your blog for a while now (got there by following @ActivateLearn on Twitter), although I’ve had some trouble to catch up with all my readings (which is also something I wanted to improve via the PKM course).
      Anyway, I love it to see you around here on my blog and hopefully we can share more insights in the future.

  3. Thanks for the resources Mascha. I just got back from my summer holiday and ready to refresh my practice so these will help. Michelle had also been really helpful in inspiring me to update my process and I look forward to following your insights as you work through this and sharing mine. Hopefully we can help each other ; )

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