While most discussions of knowledge management focus on KM from an organizational perspective, personal Knowledge Management practices are just as important – and something we have more control over on an individual level. In this series, we’ll take a look at personal knowledge management following the standard framework for KM: People, Processes, and Technology.
Principles for Personal Knowledge Management
People are at the heart of all knowledge management efforts. In terms of personal KM, it can be helpful to start by establishing a set of personal principles to apply. Here are some ideas for developing your own principles for applying Knowledge Management to your life.
Start with a purpose: determine what you’re trying to accomplish
With any kind of KM, it’s helpful to start by thinking about what you’re trying to accomplish – are you trying to be more organized? Have an easier time putting your hands on an article you read a while ago? Make it easier to find a note you jotted down six months ago? Get more knowledge out of everyday experiences, work, or learning processes? Grow your internal knowledge base? Make your knowledge and expertise easier for others to find and use?
Think about what you’re trying to accomplish in terms of how you work when you’re at your best. What’s the most effective way for you to get things done? What motivates you? How do you learn? I’m a kinesthetic learner — I process knowledge by writing, drawing, and talking out loud. I’m also very deadline-oriented. These are traits that I try to harness as much as possible in terms of my personal KM efforts. It’s also important to know and understand your weaknesses so you can be realistic in your approach.
Make time for reflection
At the top of the list for personal KM – and, truthfully, for most organizations – is taking time to reflect on what you’ve learned, what you’ve accomplished, and what you can take away from those experiences. Some of the most successful, thoughtful, effective, and productive people I’ve worked with excel at personal reflection.
Be realistic and consistent
Aim for progress over perfection. You’re trying to accomplish a particular knowledge-related goal, not change your entire personality. Adopt one or two new practices or test a few different tools, see what works, and move on. Give yourself time to embed new practices/processes into your workflows, but also be able to recognize when something isn’t working and move on.
Similarly, aim for incremental steps — try to make small, manageable changes to workflows without radically overhauling how you work.
Think about what you can do that will make the most impact. If you struggle with finding things, focus on improving the organization and findability of content. Even so, trying a new search tool and committing to adding tags and metadata might be far more effective than agonizing over a folder structure for your email, documents, or other types of digital files.
In the next post, we talk about putting some good practices and processes into place to help improve the management of your personal knowledge.