ZettelKasten(ZK) method is a method of optimizing workflow of learning and producing knowledge.
Zettelkasten — How One German Scholar Was So Freakishly Productive is a good introduction to the method.
Here is twitter therad by the creator of roam research. See also these two essays by Niklas Luhmann who was the originator of this method .
A paper on ZettelKasten - Project MUSE - Life without Toothache: Hans Blumenberg’s Zettelkasten and History of Science as Theoretical Attitude. Hans Blumenberg’s use of ZK system (a historian and philosopher of science and technology).
Talk How to take smart notes by Sönke Ahrens.
- Feynman – “writing is thinking”. Notes are not records of our thinking. we think in our notes.
Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998)
- publications ~600, 60+ books.
- Luhmann wrote a thesis, rehabilitation and got a degree all in one year when he was offered a professor’s job and he did not have any of these pre-requisites.
I’m not doing that on my own, i’m doing it with my zettlekasten. I never force myself to do anything that I don’t feel like.
- Zettelkasten = slip-box. 90,000 notes, index with ~1250 entries. about 600 notes as manuscript outlines. one extra box for literature notes with ~15,000 notes.
- 6 notes per workday (excluding weekends).
- day starts with reading
- simple notes on a sheet paper of the form “on page
- at the end of the day write the notes on a card
- every note would get an index, starting at 1.
- nothing like a topic structure. everything builds from bottom-up.
- “entries into a line of thought”
Specifics / core features:
- what kind of workflow this kind of note taking enforces?
- note sequences for developing ideas (instead of storing)
- links and indeces are helpful, but not central features
- the workflow is streamlined towards writing. Turn notes into writing. The time consuming part is not the writing, but finding the right order
three main types of notes:
- Fleeting – daily, reminders of what you have in your head. you chuck it after a day
- Project Related
- Permanent notes – main notes. Understandable even if you forget where they come from
- one idea per note / all notes have the same format.
Status quo of higher education / writing:
- Find topic / research question (brainstorming)
- research / find literature
- read and take notes
- draw conclusions / outline text
- hit or miss your deadline
- start all over with the next project.
“the above makes sense intuitively” (subtext: but does not work very well in practice)
ed: invert, always invert!
Status quo: note taking
- collect notes for each course in one place, in sep notebook or section of a notebook… this only arranges the material in chronological order.
The difference between the methods makes the difference:
If you can’t explain it your own words, you have not understood it – Richard Feynman.
What happens when you use the ZK system:
- thinking, connecting and understanding become concrete actions… people tend to want to “do things”, ZK helps you to convert vague notions into concrete things.
- focus on the process – and not on the outcome.. making connection happens on the paper, not in the brain.
- writing broken down into reasonable steps (one note at a time). “Write 3/4 notes a day. because that’s the outcome of reading something, thought about it and made some connections”.
- the value of each idea compounds – the more notes the better
- clear distinction between permanent and temporary notes
Mentions “Inbox” by David Allen’s GTD. difference is, this is not goal oriented, but “insights”.
|What works||What doesn’t|
|Interleaving||One thing at a tie|
|Self-testing||Underlining and cpying|
- spacing is the technique of “spaced learning”.. problem: they dont come with context.
- “self-testing” can be frustrating because you feel the gaps in your knowledge. many students go back to re-reading because it feels like progress.
- “make it stick” by peter c brown, et al
- “how to take smart notes” by sonke ahrens (speaker).
“real experts dont make plans, they become experts in making informed decisions in the context they are in”.
How to Take Smart Notes | Zettelkasten Method in Roam Research - YouTube:
My ZettelKasten setup
[work in progress; Sat, Mar 14, 2020]
- Using Emacs’ zetteldeft
- TODO: Import notes from my
How I would like to use zettelkasten:
- use “daily notes” to make note of things I read on twitter/books/blogposts, thoughts, questions, “nice to know/do” etc.,
- remember something “SURPRISING” as Claude Shannon said (something along the lines of the information content in a message is the “surprisingness” in it).