In today’s episode we had a lot of interaction with you, dear readers and listeners and watchers. Thanks for being great! Here are some show highlights:
Peter K. asked: How do you use your Zettelkasten setup for collaborative work? (That’s roughly the first 30 minutes.)
At 37:45, you see a demo of creating and maintaining structures, based on Tanya’s question: “Can you go over what goes into a single zettel? And also how do you make the Zettels ‘talk’ to each other? How do you manage not to get lost in all the Zettels?”
At 1:01:00, you’ll see an epic demo of how to write a long Zettel, then splitting it into multiple notes.
Mr. Andersen asked if we have daily Zettelkasten routines. I don’t have any knowledge work routine at the moment, but Sascha reveals his twice-weekly routine (55:00).
If you watch the video and find note-worthy topics, drop us a comment on YouTube or in the comment section of this post with the times. (On YouTube, you can type 30:00 to denote “30 mins into the video” and it’ll be clickable by default!)
Sujith Abraham asks on YouTube: Why did you choose nvALT, where you have to create manual links so that you can search and find which other notes ‘backlinks’ to other notes, instead of a wiki (like DokuWiki, Tiddlywiki) where this would be provided automatically along with the benefit of plain-text writing/storage.
Say you start with a fresh Zettelkasten or you learn more about an existing topic. You write your note and expand the text – and then you ask yourself this: should I create a new Zettel? Should I split this up? Can I attach this detail there? Finding an answer is pretty easy as the scenarios are limited:
When we read, another person thinks for us: we merely repeat his mental process. It is the same as the pupil, in learning to write, following with his pen the lines that have been pencilled by the teacher. Accordingly, in reading, the work of thinking is, for the greater part, done for us.
That’s not much of an invitation: if you read, you don’t think for yourself.
Fittingly, Shane rephrases Schopenhauer’s point in this way:
We need to digest, synthesize, and organize the thoughts of others if we are to understand. This is the grunt work of thinking. It’s how we acquire wisdom.
Reading alone doesn’t cut it. Reflecting is important.
Now guess what the Zettelkasten Method helps you do. Part of the knowledge cycle is to take the inspiration from a text and transform it into knowledge, which is acquired through a process of constructing. Don’t stick to the exact words of the author and try to memorize them. Write something on your own.
Dan’s screenshots of Zettel notes in Sublime Text about his doctoral thesis in philosophy convey how you can tackle complex problems in the long term.
About a third of his example seems to be made up of annotated connections to other notes. As you can see in the “mini map” of his note in the upper right, his Zettel is quite long. That’s just fine.
Most of our recommendations sound like you should avoid anything longer than a paragraph. But brevity is quite ambiguous a term. I can imagine Dan is keeping it brief but the material is so vast he’s just adding more and more valuable references and connections to the note.
Writing a doctoral thesis often requires you go deep, and going deep will inevitably result in more details and more references to back up your argument and interpretation. Don’t chop off half of it only because you don’t like scrolling.
Last week, I found out how large my backlog of unassimilated information really is. (Spoiler: it is huge.) Sascha and I share a small apartment and recently re-arranged some furniture. Both of us had to empty our bookshelves so we could move the furniture around. Only a week later did I finish actually reordering the books and using my bookshelf again.
I am moving next month, and so I though about getting rid of stuff in my life. There are lots of books I’ve read, but from which I never processed all the notes. I know for sure that at I finished least one book in the collection about two years ago! You see, I was, and still am, vulnerable to the Collector’s Fallacy. While I try to get through the pile of books, I reviewed my reading process. This is a summary where I put together some of the topics I already wrote about
I want to answer the question: Why are unique identifiers useful when you work with a Zettelkasten? The objective of a Zettelkasten note archive is to store notes and allow connections. Both are necessary to extend our mind and memory. As long as the software you use doesn’t provide any means to create links between notes, you have to come up with your own convention. Even if the software did provide such a mechanism, I’d suggest you think twice about relying on it: I want to evade vendor lock-in for my Zettelkasten, and I think you should, too. So let’s assume you don’t care about the software and create your own hyperlink scheme.
As a knowledge worker, you have to learn a lot in your field. The internet is full of information, and there’s the books you just have to know in and out. How do you speed up the process and learn efficiently? Scott Young learned linear algebra in 10 days due to a very efficient method. It works for other fields of knowledge as well. The “Drilldown Method” consists of three stages:
As I said in my last post, my reading workflow consists of GTD-like phases: collect, process and write. While I wrote about collecting before, this post is about the three phases of processing notes. In the last section you’ll find a few example Zettels I wrote.