Urmila Gudihal, 1937–2021

I lost my grandmother, my Ammamma, this week. She was my last remaining grandparent.

Grief is strange. I haven’t been able to talk to anybody about how I feel. My voice can’t seem to carry the words that describe my sorrow. There’s too much to say and nothing to say. But somehow, I’m able to write this. And for some reason, this makes me feel better. So consider this essay my form of self-therapy.

Ammamma in 2004

It’s funny how little you think you remember someone until you start writing about them. Images of places, objects, and expressions float in and out of…

Use cases and Explanations of Δ

I’ve used Roam Research for over a year to capture ideas, memories, and book notes. Now, I also use Roam Research to remember.

Note-taking methods (like the Zettelkasten method) help you build a repository of ideas from the information you’ve consumed. But how do you remember the ideas you’ve generated and captured? How do you remember to remember these ideas?

Roam Research’s Δ feature provides an easy, scalable solution for remembering ideas you’ve stored in your graph.

This post describes how you can use Roam Research’s Δ feature to:

  1. Remember and retain information
  2. Set reminders for yourself
  3. Track the evolution…

Syncing Kindle Highlights with Roam Research

This post builds off my post about Zettelkasten note-taking in Roam Research.

I’m a believer in the Zettelkasten note-taking method and have found that creating literary notes from what I read has helped me understand the content. But I have a confession to make: a lot of times, I don’t like taking notes while I read. I read in cabs, in elevators, while waiting in line, and while lying in bed. I love becoming absorbed with what I’m reading without being concerned about “learning.”

Naturally, I had to find another way to take literary…

It took me a couple of weeks to adopt Roam Research as my primary note-taking tool. Roam was intuitive enough to get me interested, but once I learned how to create and use templates, I became hooked. I use templates in most of my current workflows: daily journaling, book and article metadata, and Zettlekasten notes.

Here is how I create and use templates in Roam Research.

Building Blocks

There are existing resources on Roam’s basic functions, but here are the functions relevant to my template creation process.

Block References (())

Easily reference notes from another page by using the ‘(())’ shortcut.

Attributes ::

Place two colons after…

Featuring the Zettelkasten Method

I’ve recently become more deliberate about interacting with the content I read. I’ve consumed hundreds of books, but have never been able to accurately retain what I’ve learned from them. Thankfully, I read a book called How to Take Smart Notes, which presented a solution: the Zettelkasten note-taking method.

In this post, I share how I use the Zettelkasten Method in Roam Research to store notes and ideas from what I read.

I use templates extensively in my Roam Research workflows and talk about them in this post. …

Two phrases that could save you during a rough interview.

As an interviewer, you want to use your one hour with a candidate to collect as much data as possible. You want to help the candidate feel comfortable so they feel well equipped to showcase their skills — not just in your session, but in future sessions.

But how do you help the candidate feel comfortable when it’s obvious that the interview is not going well?

Say “thank you,” and “I’m curious.”

“Thank You”

You’re interviewing a candidate and they haven’t made progress on your question. You’ve given them several hints and they’ve nodded in acceptance. You wait for them to redirect…

Use Present Time to Create Future Time

I recently wrote a post about mental bandwidth, and its impact on our choices. In this post, I will describe time scarcity: a common cause of reduced mental bandwidth for managers. It’s the all-too-familiar problem of having too much work and not enough time.


If you’re operating under time constraints, you’re experiencing time scarcity. If you’re operating without enough food, you’re experiencing food scarcity.

Scarcity, by Sendhil Mullainathan, cites a study where subjects were given a task to push a button when they saw a red dot on a screen. …

Hopefully, the first of many.

Two months ago, I decided to improve my writing. I made a proclamation on Twitter, published a blog post on the subject, and set out to create new writing habits.

While learning a new skill, I like reflecting on my growth in order to draw motivation from it. That’s what this post is — my first reflection.


“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” — James Clear

After years of learning how to learn, I’ve found truth in James Clear’s quote. …

Your most valuable mental resource.

Follow me on padmini.substack.com.

A few years ago in the middle of a technical interview, I experienced a mental “blink”. I stared at the whiteboard but couldn’t think; it felt like my neurons were frozen in their tracks. Like a computer that couldn’t spare processor cycles to run an application, I couldn’t spare enough “mind,” to solve the problem.

Try multiplying two two-digit numbers in your head while playing basketball. Or try listening to a physics podcast while grocery shopping. You most likely can’t do both, not because you aren’t trying hard enough, but because you can’t.

The failure to…

How I stopped flaking on my friends.

A few years ago, I decided to be a better friend.

I don’t know whether it was my love for my friends or my fear of losing them that motivated me to pursue this goal. Whatever the reason, I knew that my actions did not reflect my values; I valued friendship, but I was accustomed to canceling last-minute, or “flaking,” on my friends.

Work stress, introversion, and the lack of palpable consequences for my absenteeism perpetuated my flakiness. It had become a bad habit.

To be a better friend, I set a new intention for myself. I was going to…

Padmini Pyapali

Engineering Management 👩🏾‍💻. Ex-Uber, Ex-Sonder, Ex-Zynga. Follow my writing on smallbigideas.substack.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store