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Streamline Your Workflow: How a Personal User Manual Created in Obsidian Can Improve Collaboration

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Benefits of a Personal User Manual

This note was sparked by an email from Tim Duggan, author of Cult Status, but I have seen this concept before. A search in my Obsidian vault did not reveal any notes however, so here is an opportunity to document this concept.

The creation of a Personal User Manual could be of significant benefit for work environments, Boards and committees, Community Leadership, member involvement and many other areas. Really, the concept is only limited by imagination.

Origins of a Personal User Manual

According to a post on the website Friday, the concept was first mentioned in a post on the New York Times which is unfortunately behind a paywall. Not to be beaten however, here is a video about the concept. It is 40 minutes long, but you only need to worry about the first 20 minutes. After that, the participants are engaged in personal exercises.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTKj7KpU1eE[/embedyt]

Benefits of a Personal User Manual

1. Tells People Who You Are and Saves Time

A well thought out Personal User Manual can inform people about who you are and how you operate. We tend to treat others as we like to be treated, but often this is not the way others like to be treated. It is just our default position because we don’t know any better. A Personal User Manual can provide others with a window to who you are and help them communicate with you.

2. Be Prepared for Vulnerability

Detailing your preferences can provide you with great personal insight, which, if documented correctly, can create vulnerability. Such openness is a refreshing change from the faces and walls we erect to protect our inner selves. Being vulnerable can lead to greater understanding and closer relationships, but requires courage on your part. Courage is a quality to be encouraged.

3. Particular Useful in Online Situations

We seem to deal less and less with people in real life. When working in an online situation, our interactions are specific. We don’t get to engage in the coffee room or Friday night drinks where personalities are more visible. A user manual can help break these situations down and create talking points for people. It’s almost like a “get to know me better” invitation.

How To Create Your Personal User Manual in Obsidian

  1. If you use a Personal Knowledge Management System like Obsidian, you can set your Personal User Manual up like a Map of Content. It becomes your master document. Add your headings in here and some brief instructions of insights and then create notes linking back to this MOC note. Working in this way will avoid a really long single note and provide focus in each area with a specific note.
  2. Another way you can use Obsidian is with a Canvas and include all your notes above on the Canvas. This will create a visual representation of your Personal User Manual.
  3. If you prefer a short and sharp Personal User Manual, you could use a slide presentation. Although this might be useful to present to others, it won’t afford you the deep dive into the various headings that making notes will. Here is a link to a slide template you can use based on the Atlassian slides.
  4. You can also create slides in your Obsidian vault using the Advanced Slides for Obsidian Community plugin.

Creating Your User Manual

The content of the manual should be broken up into well-considered headings. Share what you feel comfortable with sharing and take comfort in the fact that you can edit, add and subtract from your Personal User Manual at any time. It should, in fact, be a dynamic document that is always a work in progress.

1. Introduction

Write an introduction to the user manual to explain its purpose to people. Explain why you have taken the time to prepare it, an overview of the contents and even an invitation to engage about the content.

2. Share a Fun Fact

Share something light and interesting about yourself to set the tone of your personal user manual. Can you think of something that would surprise people about you and initiate a conversation, perhaps?

3. My Preferred Work Hours

We all operate best at different times of the day. Some people are better in the morning and others in the afternoon or evening. When do you perform at your best? Do you have better times for creativity and meetings? Provide people with the information that will allow them to interact with you for maximum results.

4. My Core Values

Personal values are important and tell others a lot about what is always critically important to you. Selecting four core values that rise above all others signifies quite clearly the areas where you probably don’t compromise and can convey a lot about interacting with you. For example, if authenticity is one of your core values, people can expect a very direct, no holds barred communication style. You can do a free core value survey at Personal Values Assessment website.

5. My Personality Type

There are several personality type assessments online. We are all different and some personality styles work well together while others clash. Disclosing your style up front can be useful to others to gain greater insight into how you operate. There is no right or wrong personality style, it is just who we are.

Here are some links where you can do a free test:

6. What Energises Me?

What sort of work do you enjoy most? Are you a creative who loves to come up with the big ideas or are you better at the detail aspects? This can be both at work and at play. Disclosing the sort of activities that you respond to best helps others call on those talents and activities you enjoy most. This is where you do your best work, so create the opportunities to become involved where you love to be.

7. What Drains Me?

Motivation equals production and interest. What are the things that have the opposite impact on you? Do you switch off in long meetings? What sort of impact does stress have on you? Do you find small talk frustrating and like to get to the point? What are the things that reduce your motivation levels and cause you to lose interest?

8. I Have a Superpower

What is your superpower? What is it you have that is different and can make a difference? In Tim Duggan’s book “Cult Status”, he talks about developing and refining your superpower. We all have one, and it is just a matter of identifying it. Let people know in this section what you believe your superpower to be, as this is the point where you will have maximum impact.

9. My Feedback Preferences

There will always be times when people will need to communicate feedback to you and how you like to receive it is crucial to how it will be received and implemented. Do you need examples of what people are referring to with feedback? Do you like direct feedback without a dance around the venue with flowery words and terms? Do you prefer immediate feedback? Providing this information will give others the structure you prefer your feedback to gain maximum improvement.

10. Where I Am Most Misunderstood

Others can often misunderstand our motivations, so it is worthwhile sharing these things. For example, do you believe in calling out conflict early rather than letting it get to a stage where it becomes really emotional? Many people avoid conflict and could see your willingness as a confrontational approach. Do you speak your mind directly and have the result of hurting people, although that is not your intention? Let people know this is how you communicate and there is never an intention to hurt.

11. How I Like To Learn

People enjoy learning in different ways. Do you prefer written instructions or would you prefer a video? Do you like to be shown how to do something and then practice under guidance to hone the skill?

12. Where I Can Struggle

What annoys you most? You are being vulnerable here, but if others are to avoid annoying you, they will need to know what not to do. Be open and honest and review this area deeply. Not only will it help others, but it will also provide interesting insights into your own self.

13. Closing Fun Fact or Favourite Quote

End the deep dive into who you are with another interesting, fun fact about yourself. Alternately, include a favourite quote and even what it means to you.


Now that you have created your living Personal User Manual, the next step is to share it. Initially, a good idea might be to share it with trusted confidantes and seek their feedback. When writing about ourselves, it is often easy to leave things out because we already know them. Others, however, will not and there may be things that need to be added to your Personal User Manual.

To ensure your Personal User Manual is up to date, diarise for a time in the future to spend some time going through the various sections. You will find the manual as much help to yourself as it will be to others and it is worth recording your personal reactions and those of others for future reflection.


1 thought on “Streamline Your Workflow: How a Personal User Manual Created in Obsidian Can Improve Collaboration”

  1. I think that this could be a good exercise to get to know yourself better even if you never share it! But the concept of giving this to collaborators is a really good idea.

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