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Why I can’t stop using Roam

Roam is all the rage right now in the productivity world. Thomas has dabbled, Ali has signed up to the $500 Believer plan and if you just type Roam in to YouTube the list of video goes on and on. And on!

There are videos ranging from basic intros explaining the joys of bi-directional links, to full breakdowns of how to use Roam for your university research paper to this pretty epic 25 minute collection of 100 tips from Marc Koening

There’s no need for me to hash over those same tips but what I can do is explain why after using Roam for the 30 day free trial I have decided it’s the best note taking app for me by far and why I am happy to stump up the $15 a month asking price. Maybe some of my thoughts on Roam will help you decide if it’s right for you too.

I’m not the most organised person. I want to be but try as I might I just can’t stick with a system for more than a week – it’s why many of the apps I use daily are the default iOS and MacOS ones. Complex systems of tagging and filing just don’t work for me – I just want a place where I can dump things out of my brain and rely on search to find them again later. (Admittedly this works better on my Gmail inbox than it does in my physical office!)

Roam’s low-friction approach to note taking is what appealed to me first. There are no hierarchies here, no folders within subfolders, no notebooks within stacks, just type your notes and put double square brackets around anything important. The first time you do that for any given word or phrase Roam creates a new page for you, next time you do it, it will link to that page. Click on that link and you’ll be taken to a page that you can add info to and that links back to every other time you have mentioned it. Carry on in this way and a web builds, reaching out and linking all your pages together in a two dimensional mesh that Roam calls your Graph. Nothing is buried in a folder or nested below anything else so you don’t need to spend time thinking about where to file something or how to tag it. You can focus on the reason you wanted to take the notes in the first place safe in the knowledge .

The main reason I am so excited about Roam is the way it makes me want to use it. It’s not a pretty app like Craft and it’s certainly not as feature rich as Notion but something about seeing all my notes meshing together makes me want to take more notes. I’m a sucker for gamification and Roam seems to be doing for my note-taking what the three rings on my Apple Watch did for my activeness. Even after the first notes I could see how this was going to be incredibly powerful and now, after just a few weeks of using it, I can’t imaging watching a useful YouTube video or reading a book or a blog without taking notes.

Taking notes on what you consume is an important step towards retaining that information but until now, until Roam, noting taking always felt like an obligation. Something I knew I should be doing, but not something I enjoyed. It’s hard to stay motivated to keep producing detailed notes when those notes seem to get filed away never to be seen again. In fact, transferring my old notes from Notion over to Roam was the first time I’d seen many of them since I first created them. Now they are living in Roam, links are starting to form – new notes are reaching out to old, connections are being made, and the more than happens the more the data becomes useful. Even if I don’t manually make connections by linking key phrases, Roam will do it for me by adding unlinked references to pages.

So in short, Roam has got some nice features and it’s fast but in essence it’s just another note-taking app in an already crowded space. Oh, and it costs $15 a month! And yet here I am, happily to spend more on this single app than almost all of my other app subscriptions combined not because of what it does, but because of what it makes me do: Take notes, lots of notes!

Thanks for reading 🙏

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