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Ali Abdaal: Content Creation, The Perfect Note-Taking App

โ€” Norm

In this episode, we talk with Ali Abdaal, a Cambridge university medicine graduate, a former doctor in the UK National Health Service and a prolific YouTuber, making videos about life as a medical student, productivity tips, tech, Roam Research, Notion and more.

We talked about:

  • Ali's note-taking origin story: From storing notes on close-up magic to seduction, medicine and now book notes
  • His information capture workflow, using Evernote, Notion and Roam for specific uses.
  • Why Ali thinks he is not a creative person
  • Defining creativity from remixing content as opposed to originality
  • Pursuing the perfect note-taking app, and the similarities between note-taking apps and marriage
  • And content creation, as well as the value that we can provide to others who we are trying to help defining the perfect note taking app. Ali talks to me about the similarities between a note taking app and marriage.


For the full transcript, click here


  • 1:09 Life after 9-5
  • 3:09 Fulfillment from creative work
  • 5:21 Ali Abdaal's note-taking origin story
  • 8:09 When Building a Second Brain came into play
  • 9:30 "It was as if this guy was speaking to my very soul"
  • 10:18 Ali doesn't use PARA at all
  • 12:44 What is a project? Ali's use case as a YouTuber
  • 14:13 Evernote as a base for long-term memory
  • 15:53 Ali Abdaal's fluid information capture workflow
  • 17:17 Discovering Roam and the $250,000 missed opportunity
  • 19:17 Roam is unsatisfying so far, and the Nibble Framework
  • 21:49 How productive does Ali Abdaal want to become?
  • 25:00 What is enough? How much money is enough?
  • 26:46 "I'm not creative at all. I don't think I have any original ideas"
  • 30:46 Creativity does not come from originality
  • 33:40 First-brain breakthroughs and how Roam encourages that to happen
  • 35:13 We have observed X, therefore we think Y
  • 38:20 The flaw behind Roam Research, and Notion vs. Roam
  • 39:45 Roam vs. Notion followers on Ali Abdaal's YouTube channel
  • 40:23 Drafting a video: The Perfect Note-taking App
  • 41:27 There is no such thing as a soulmate
  • 43:43 Different people are attracted to different personalities
  • 46:43 Getting divorced is messy and expensive
  • 48:25 Meaningless sex with lots of people is unfulfilling
  • 51:41 Polyamorous note-taking relationships
  • 53:34 Why all these note-taking apps aren't competing against each other
  • 55:29 Labeling is simplifying and dangerous
  • 59:11 What system do I want? How do I know this app fits me?
  • 1:02:30 Talking with a creator vs. a consumer
  • 1:05:27 How does Ali handle parasocial interactions?
  • 1:06:23 Repeated value is value nonetheless
  • 1:08:21 Repeated vs. Original vs. Spontaneous value
  • 1:10:42 The Table of Contents Notes Game
  • 1:12:50 What Ali Abdaal would like to see from Roam
  • 1:19:40 Ali doesn't think about Motivation
  • 1:21:41 Editing our respective podcasts
  • 1:27:35 What Norman does
  • 1:29:18 How I explain myself to family
  • 1:30:56 [[How would you describe Roam to someone who hasn't started using it?]]
  • 1:32:07 [[What does Roam mean to you?]]