Notion Architecture: Memories

Publish Date
Sep 17, 2020
Productivity In Notion
Last Edit
Mar 23, 2022 12:50 AM
Word Count
Order ID
This is the fifth entry in a series on my Notion architecture for various life management systems. To see the full series, please visit the home page, 🏗️Productivity In Notion
In the course of researching Notion, one thing I came across is the concept of a "Second Brain" popularized by Tiago Forte. Put simply, the idea is that we can use our digital environments as an synthetic add-on to our biological brain.
In fact, we all already do this. Our phones act as a natural extension, and their omnipresence means our brain treats content in a phone as an extension of it. We've naturally adapted to rapidly think "I don't need to know how to get to Fred's house, I just click on the map icon and get it to tell me the route."
Since our digital world acts in this way, it is important to a) think about how to organize it, and b) spend time developing it!

The Yearly Database

It is in that vein that I decided to include several ways to keep track of memories in various areas of life. While this runs the risk of overloading on nostalgia, I also believe that being introspective and retrospective is important for both good times and bad.
This system consists of a few parts, but core to it is the Year Database. This contains one row for each calendar year. By itself, this doesn't contain too much information yet, but everything else I'll mention here does connect to it.
A view of the first few years of my life, with not too many memories unsurprisingly!
A view of the first few years of my life, with not too many memories unsurprisingly!
Here are four things that connect directly:
  • Past Travel Database - a list of trips and at least a few photos from each trip that I've taken
  • Events - a list of major life events: moves, new jobs, degrees, engagement, etc.
  • Golf Memories - a list I copied over from my time as a semi-decent golfer of my top golf memories: the first birdie, my hole-in-one, first tournament round under 80, first round under par, playing golf on Live TV, etc.
  • Race Database - a list of road races and the singular triathlon that I've done, along with the results of those races.
That's a good start, and going through it was surprising to see how much came back once I started thinking about these events. Eventually I'd like to add some details in about each, or at least the most memorable ones, but I mainly wanted to get them all connected.
We could talk about each of these, but in the interest of time I'll keep it to the past travel database as that is the most interesting and developed one at this point.

Past Travel Database

Most people who travel have at least some way to track their trips and the places they've been. For some that is a physical trinket of some kind, or a post card. For me, it just happens to be a database!
I've been fortunate to travel quite a bit. For each trip I uploaded a couple photos or so, which makes the gallery view quite fun:
This is a sampling of my trips from June 2016 to April 2018 - it was a busy time!
This is a sampling of my trips from June 2016 to April 2018 - it was a busy time!
As you can see here, aside from pictures, each trip is tagged with a country and/or states that the trip included. This is handy because it can track the number of countries and number of states I've been to as Notion has a handy "count unique" feature. These numbers have been on-hold throughout 2020 at 46 states and 35 countries, but hopefully these counts will resume again soon!

The Journal

Next, I have the journal, which is fairly self-explanatory. I've kept journals in various places before, but Notion is a natural fit, so I plan to move everything here eventually.
Within the journal, I have a few templates that can provide easy prompts for certain reflective exercises: gathering my thoughts on specific topics (e.g. work), taking a minute to inventory things I am thankful about, or I can just start with a blank slate.
These journal entries don't have too many fields aside from the raw text, and they actually don't link to the yearly database directly. What they do link to though is the Monthly Database. As you might expect, this connects then to the yearly database, but serves for more granular aggregations of various things.
Is it essential for journaling to be able to by synced with the various trips and events I mentioned above? Not really. Sure it may be interesting to ask, "what was I thinking during my trip to Southeast Asia?" But I could have found that just by going through the journal.
That said, what the yearly database does is provide a really cool visual of my life, and the journal adds context as needed as to what I was thinking around that time (though little will exist for that prior to 2006 or so). But taken together it provides a sort of an autobiography. That may not be of much interest to the broader world, but for me it's a source of pride, shame, gratitude, frustration, aspiration, success, failure, and more. In short, it's a lot of what makes me who I am!

We'll talk more about the Monthly database in a future setup, as that plays a larger role than simply a memory repository. I did not recreate past months, but going forward these will serve to aggregate various journal entries and other metrics.
One thing of note I will mention there, is that I've started a "photo of the day" effort. This was something that I never wanted to download yet another app for, but started as it was easy to setup in Notion. So those are done daily but aggregated to the monthly level. But I wanted to mention it here as it is another aspect to creating a "memory bank" in my second brain.
The concept of a "second brain" may sound too nerdy to buy into. That's fair. But the point is that you are already acting in a two-brained world when you turn to the digital world for map directions, for search results, for note taking, and more. The "second brain" isn't some fad - it is reality. Given that, it's worth taking time to organize it and make it serve your first brain more effectively!