Practically Paperless with Obsidian, Episode 29: Filling Out Forms

tax documents on the table
Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich on

Welcome to my blog series, “Practically Paperless with Obsidian.” For an overview of this series, please see Episode 0: Series Overview.

It sometimes seems to me that most of the paper I deal with day-to-day are forms. I find this ironic. Given that so much of what we do is online, it seems almost archaic to fill out paper forms. And yet, that is what I do. I am the form-filler-outer in the family. If there is a form that needs to be filled out, it ends up on my desk. Kelly says this is because she is bad at filling out forms, but I like to think it is because I am fairly efficient about it. After all, I’ve filled out enough of them.

Obsidian is part of the reason I have become efficient filling out forms. By combining a number of its basic features, I’ve made it easy for myself to have all of the information I need at my fingertips when completing a form.

Family notes

The vast majority of the forms I have to fill out are for a specific person. School forms are for a specific student. Camp forms are for a camper, sports and other activities are for the participant in question. Then there are medical forms for the patient, insurance forms are for the insured, etc., etc.

The foundation of my system for filling out forms starts with a note for each member of the family (the only people I really ever have to fill out forms for). Each of these notes contains the most common information I’d need if I was filling out a form for the person in question.

Below is an example. I took an actual note as a model, but replaced the information with made-up data. You should get the idea:

An example of a family member note
An example of a family member note I use to fill out forms

In addition to the two sections shown above, the family notes also contains three sections containing medical information, school information, and emergency contact information. These sections make use of Obsidian’s embedded note functionality, pulling the information from supporting notes.

Supporting notes

In order to keep information up-to-date, I try to keep it centralized. I keep several notes for this purpose. These notes include:

  • Family doctors
  • Covid vaccination records
  • Other notes with contact information

Within Obsidian, you can embed the contents of one note within another by adding a note link and prefacing it with a ! symbol. In addition, you can include the content of a particular section of a note by referencing just the section in the note link.

Within my Family Doctors note, for instance, I have a section for each doctor that we use. The section contains the doctor’s name, and then contact information for the doctor.

In the Covid vaccination records note, I have a section for each family member, and within that section, a table that lists the vaccinations and dates for each person.

Finally, I have other contact notes (people notes) with sections titled “Contact Info” that are used for emergency contacts. By using embedded links to these notes within my family person notes, I always have the most recent information in each of the family notes when I use them to fill out forms.

Embedding common information

Here is what the embedded sections look like in my fictional note:

Embedded sections of a family note
Embedded sections of a family note

Now, here is what the source for the family member note looks like for each of these sections:

Source view of the embedded sections of a family note.
Source view of the embedded sections of a family note.

Note the highlighted links are embedded links to other notes. That means that I only have to update information in the source notes for it to be reflected in any notes in which they are embedded. It saves me from hunting down every reference to these notes.

Filling out forms

When it comes time to fill out a form, I go through the following steps:

  1. Pull up the family member note for the person in question.
  2. Use the information in the note to fill out the form.
  3. If there is any information on the form that I couldn’t get from the family note, I’ll note it down (usually as a task in my daily notes) as something to add for the next time I have to fill out a form.
  4. When the form is filled out, I’ll scan it, add it to Obsidian, and note that I completed a form for whatever purpose in my daily notes for the day, with a link to the scanned document for reference.

Filling out forms shouldn’t be this hard. Indeed, this seems like the perfect task for A.I. to handle. Instead of focusing on identifying images in photos, or writing blog posts for people, I wish that A.I. focused on more practical tasks like filling out forms. For now, however, Obsidian helps me manage the information I need to fill out forms so that I don’t have to go hunting all over the place to find it.

In two weeks, I’ll post the final episode of my Practically Paperless series. The final episode will be on how I use Obsidian to manage projects. Why the final episode? It was never my intention for this series to go in forever. My focus was on finding practical ways of using Obsidian to go paperless. My original outline for the series had 20 episodes. As I wrote those episodes, I outlined 10 additional episodes. I’m ready to write about other things now and continue using Obsidian to be practically paperless. I’ll see you back here on May 24 for Episode 30.

Prev: Episode 28: Archiving in Obsidian: A Tour of My Digital Scrapbook
Next: Episode 30: Managing Projects in Obsidian (coming May 24, 2022)

Written on May 9, 2022.

Did you enjoy this post?
If so, consider subscribing to the blog using the form below or clicking on the button below to follow the blog. And consider telling a friend about it. Already a reader or subscriber to the blog? Thanks for reading!

Follow Jamie Todd Rubin on


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.