How I Learned How to Use Roam
Roam is a revolutionary, highly flexible productivity app that I recently discovered.
Roam is a revolutionary, highly flexible productivity app that I recently discovered. It’s hard to categorize. It’s simultaneously a productivity app, a journaling app, a To Do app, a CRM, and overall “Second Brain” app. It was a bit hard to get started, but once you get the hang of it, it’s wonderful and almost addictive. I use it multiple times a day.
I created this article to share my journey. At the end, I give you specific steps to get started for yourself.
I came across it by seeing this tweet from Jeff Morris Jr.:
Then I read his Medium article:
Investing in Roam Research
In San Francisco, there is a small music venue called Rickshaw Stop in Hayes Valley. I used to go there when I was…
In San Francisco, there is a small music venue called Rickshaw Stop in Hayes Valley. I used to go there when I was young and cool.
I sometimes went to the venue on a random night and saw people waiting in long lines for a band I had never heard of. Without asking questions, I would hop in line too, knowing something special must be happening inside.
More often than not, the music would start playing and the 400'ish fans inside knew the lyrics to every song. The shows were a religious experience for these people. It almost felt like being part of a cult.
About a month ago, I discovered a piece of software that reminded me of those nights at Rickshaw Stop.
I was on a Zoom call with one of my most discerning engineering friends (Alex Sharp) and he showed me his Roam Research workspace — a meticulously managed operating system for many parts of his life.
Alex kept track of books and articles he was reading, to-do lists, work projects, and research ideas. The product also became his daily journal. Like I said, an operating system for his life.
I tried the software myself and was blown away. After signing up, I opened my Daily Notes and just started typing, and typing, and typing. I haven’t stopped typing ever since.
That got me hooked.
Why I’m interested in an app like Roam…
I read a lot of articles on the web, listen to podcasts, read books, and listen to a lot of talks. That’s a lot information which has the potential to go in one ear and out the other and not get retained in my brain. I’m always on the lookout for apps and productivity hacks to retain and make sense of that information.
I’ve long conceptually understand the power of compounding information over time and the importance of making connections between bits of knowledge.
I’ve tried a lot of tools over the years to make my knowledge intake more effective over time.
- Instapaper is great to file away interesting articles that I come across on the web. It’s a great service for saving web articles. Just add a browser extension and save anything you come across on the web. I use it to read article later and archive article for future reference. The problem though is that it’s limited to websites.
- I tried Evernote briefly. It tries to solve the problem saving of different file types and it’s cross platform. For some reason though, I never figured it out and it wasn’t effective for me.
- I’ve also tried ToDoist, but I couldn’t figure out break up my tasks into discrete To Do items and make appropriate deadlines. I just couldn’t stick to its framework.
- I’ve used paper notebooks to take notes about bits of information that I come across. This was very easy and straightforward, but how do I find something months or years later?
- I heard about Notion but I never tried it.
Now I discovered Roam from this tweet and Medium article. The idea sounds great!
Let me give it a try…
How did it go?
- I go to the Roam website (www.roamresearch.com) and I come across this:
- I think: Great let’s sign up! Then I get to this page…
There’s a 31 day free trial but it’s $15 per month! That seems expensive…
I decide to do ahead and sign up now before I knew how to use Roam. I figure the 31 day trial limit will give me incentive to quickly make a decision about Roam before the $15/month kicks in. Also, if I decide to use Roam going forward, the $15/month cost gives you incentive to use Roam to the fullest. If Roam improves my life even a little, I figure I’m worth 50 cents a day.
Next, I see a screen asking me to set up my first graph and see that I get three graphs with my subscription.
- What’s a graph?
- Why am I limited to three graphs?
Then I need to pick a name for my first graph.
- What name should I pick?
- The web suggests using your Twitter handle or a nickname.
I go ahead and take a leap and use my Twitter handle.
Next I see a screen with my Daily Notes page.
- What do I do now?
I’m stuck again. I don’t see any tutorials or help screens.
I search the web and somehow I find out about Roam office hours which is free and operated by Roam Research. It’s a Zoom session where I can learn more about Roam and ask questions. The next one is tomorrow afternoon. Great!
They are every Wednesday afternoon at 4:30 pm Eastern time.
I sign up and have a good experience. There were about 20 people on the Zoom call. I get the courage to ask a question. I ask a question about a specific use case: I want to use Roam to follow hot trends that I heard of.
The moderator shows me some things, but basically says “Just type.”
Here is link to my session if you want to watch: https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/play/YwWprKWCHBjSs-UnzYryvZOGeGOtH7Me3M-RuFieDgoPhZlv6BFTjOcDw_SP00ctAvbZMEuupKbxrnW0.Z5wKATznpHEXmQEn?autoplay=true
I also get a copy of the chat history with good YouTube videos to watch.
I watch some of the suggested YouTube videos:
There is a great YouTube playlist from someone know as Anonym.s who has a Roam tutorial called From Beginner to Superuser: A Complete Roam Research Tutorial Course.
It’s a very good tutorial in 37 short videos.
Each video is from 1 min to 19 minutes. Most are 4–5 minutes. You can watch them in YouTube at 1.25x or 1.5x to save time.
I’ve only finished 19 out of 37 videos, but they’ve already helped a lot.
I watch a few of the videos and then try to use Roam some more.
I also watch the following YouTube videos:
- How I Organise My Life with Roam by Ali Abdaal:
- A nice video from Les Kristofs’ daughter:
What I started using Roam for…
Basically I just start typing and putting “pen to paper”. Over the next few days:
- I type random things like
#Receipts : Picked up Walgreens prescription for XXX for $11.97 #Receipts
- I use it as a daily journal:
Woke up at 5:45 am; couldn’t stop thinking about how to use [Roam]
Listened to XXX Podcast
- I use it as a recipe tracker.
I find it’s an easy way to log things. Who know if it will be useful in the future. I’m hooked!
I use Roam for the next few days, and then I decide to write this article. I don’t know where this will lead, but I know it’s very flexible and I can basically do a brain download. I hope it will:
- Help me retain more information
- Help me make effective connections in the future
I decided to write this article in Roam to see how effective it is and to learn more about Roam. I know this will build over time. As I use it more, there will be a compounding effect over time. I think it will be very useful in the future and in any case, it’s very nice to put all my thoughts down on “paper”
Here are my suggestions for how to get started and start to change your life.
Remember there is a 31 day free trial and however it goes, it’s small investment for a potential great improvement in your life.
How to get started:
- Go to www.roamresearch.com and sign up for an account.
- Select monthly billing.
- Starts a 31 day free trial period.
- This free trial period is nice because it incentivizes you to learn the product before charges kick in.
3. Set up your first graph
- It doesn’t matter what you name you use.
- Use your Twitter or Instagram handle if you’re into that. Or use your email user name. Or use your first name or nickname. It doesn’t matter.
4. You’ll see a page for your Daily Notes for today.
5. Just start writing anything you want express or remember. Don’t worry about syntax or anything about what format to use. Just type!
6. Go back and highlight any keywords and type the ‘[[‘ to tag them.
7. If this is too much for you, skip to the next step and watch a few videos before you type anything on your Daily Notes page.
8. Watch a few of the intro videos I mentioned in the article and pick up whatever tricks that help you.
9. Go back and start typing something on your Daily Notes page when you’re comfortable. Don’t worry… you can fix syntax and format later.
10. Keep watching YouTube videos and/or reading Twitter posts searching for #roamcult.
11. You’re on your way! Just keep using it everyday and as you learn more about Roam, you can fine tune your experience, you’ll start to build a knowledge base (or what I call your “personal Google”).
I’ll try to post follow up articles about how it’s going for me. I’m confident it’s going to a very positive influence on my life.
I hope you found this post useful!
Please comment below to help all of us.