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How I set up my Obsidian vaults

Obsidian still feels like my “new” app for managing my notes, but according to my daily journal I’ve been using it for nearly three years. Time flies when you’re organising information!

I’ve grown to really like it, and I expect to keep using it for a while to come. Its approach to tagging and linked notes fits my mental model, and there’s a lot of flexibility in the plugin architecture. I can make it look nice, add a few basic features I want, and it syncs nicely across my Mac and my iPhone.

Inspired by Steph Ango’s example, I thought it might be useful to write a little about how I structure my Obsidian vaults. My setup is somewhat fluid, so consider this as more of a point-in-time snapshot than a definitive approach – I keep tweaking it as I find better ways to organise my notes.

My vaults

I have two vaults:

The two vaults have the same structure, but different contents. Usually the distinction is pretty clear-cut, but occasionally there’s some overlap. For example, I learn about AWS in the course of my work. If I learn something which is generically useful and not specific to my employer’s setup, I’ll put the notes in my personal vault rather than the work vault.

A screenshot of a note and the top bar in my personal vault. The top bar has a red tint, and the title of the note is a matching shade of red. The note text is in a serif font (Geneva). A screenshot of a note and the top bar in my work vault. The top bar has a yellow tint, but the title of the note is a dark green. The note text is in a sans serif font (Inter).

I’m using the Minimal theme, and I use the Minimal Settings plugin to give each vault a distinct appearance. I’m a very visual person, and making the two vaults look different helps reinforce the distinction in my mind. I use a similar set of colour-based themes to help me distinguish between Slack workspaces.

A screenshot of my tag panel in Obsidian. There's a list of tags on the left-hand side, and counts down the right. The first few tags are daily-journal (773), books-ive-read (173), articles-to-write (124) and talks-ive-watched (97). There are also a couple of collapsed tag lists, which indicate prefixes, including 'aws', 'event' and 'python'.


I’m a big fan of keyword tagging, and I use it in all my notes. Every note has at least one tag; often multiple.

I tag liberally, adding all the keywords that I think I might use to search for something later – I think of my tags as a “search engine in reverse”. If I think I might look for a note in three different ways, I give it three different tags.

I create lot of different tags – my primary vault has at least 800. The distribution is very skewed, with maybe 50 tags that I use a lot, and then a long tail of tags that are only used a handful of times. This might seem messy to some people, but it works for me – even if a tag is only used once or twice, it’s still useful for searching.

I use prefixes as a way to namespace some of tags, like aws/amazon-s3 and python/pip. This helps keep my list of tags somewhat organised, but otherwise it’s a bit of an inconsistent mess. e.g. I don’t have any rules about singular vs plural

I have different tags in each of my vaults, but I try to use the same tag in both places if it means the same thing.


I have a handful of top-level folders, and I put most notes in folders. Both of my vaults have the same set of top-level folders.

I try not to keep too many notes in my root – it’s mostly brand new notes, stuff I’m actively working on, or notes I refer to frequently. When I’m finished working on a note, I move it into a folder.

The folders I use:

At least to me, it’s always obvious which of these folders a note belongs in. This has been a constant feature of all my folder setups – I want to be able to file notes immediately, without thinking. I don’t want to be wondering where a particular note should be stored on a day-to-day basis.