Use a Real Notebook

Considering the tech-heavy approach to knowledge work most people advocate nowadays, the imperative to use a real notebook may sound a little bit strange.

But I am dead serious.

The search for the perfect software application is one of the distractions which prevent you from stepping back and seeing the whole of your system. You are part of it, and each of your characteristic idiosyncrasies too.

One bottleneck in my knowledge work was that I didn’t feel inspired to take notes. Sure, I took notes all the time, but I didn’t feel any urge to work with my notes.

I adopted the ubiquitous capturing device idea from the GTD-Method, but this habit of keeping pen and paper with me all the time slipped away. I also piled up notes and had to force myself to make Zettels out of them. They were short notes and thus by their nature very sketchy. Many times, I was trying to create Zettel notes from a mess of pieces of paper, scattered all over the place. I still have have many notes that still didn’t make it to my archive.

Sascha's notebook
My notebook

I denied an important piece of the puzzle: aesthetics. I always marveled at the notebooks of Darwin and da Vinci. But for my self, I just had bleak, small tear-off pads that got torn up in my pocket.

Christian has a nice collection of old notebooks himself. When I saw them all together I adored them. I felt the same inspiration to when I looked at the notebooks of Darwin and da Vinci.

I realized that it wasn’t my affection for traditional scholarship. I just liked notebooks.

So I bought one and started to scribble and sketch. It paid off.

I begun to write real notes instead of sketchy riddles that I had a hard time to dissolve into a Zettel. I started to think with a pen in the hand, forming whole new ideas and started to get more and more comprehensive. I like the idea that I won’t throw away my notebook like I have thrown away my slips of paper in the past. I keep them and like the idea.

What Can You Learn from My Story?

Inspiration is a key element in your productivity. Yes, it is very important to be efficient and all that stuff. But remind yourself that you are a human being and not only involved in your Zettelkasten. You are the most important part of it, so take care of yourself!

Happy wife, happy life. I believe in that saying as I believe in the following: happy you, happy Zettelkasten. This could be a saying you can apply to your own version of productivity.

I learned this during the course of my research on being an artist. I have a notebook that is DIN A5. It is to big to put into my pocket. But it feels right and I love it. Even this blogpost is sketched in that book.

Productivity is not always only about efficiency. Sometimes it is about your own feelings.