A Zettelkasten makes writing texts easy. It encourages you to prepare research and the most of your writing before you compile your first draft. This way you can focus on one task at a time and needn’t sweat about getting through. This works excruciatingly well with longer texts but it’s proven indispensable for any of my shorter writing projects, too.
Posts from 2013
A Zettelkasten is a device to extend your mind and memory so you can work with texts efficiently and never forget things again. Both permanent storage and interconnectedness are necessary to use the full potential of an archive for your notes. You need a permanent storage for your notes so they can give a cue for the things you want to remember. You also need to manually connect notes to create a web of notes which adjusts to the way your mind works.
Recently, I took a look at my Zettelkasten to see which Zettel notes would make a good next post in the series. I re-discovered plenty of material, no doubt. Still, it occurred to me that there’s a lot of important things which don’t fit well in short blog posts and which neither do well when split into a series of posts.
I talked to my pal Sascha about my concerns who has plenty of experience as a writer. He’s running a thriving German blog about nutrition and healthy lifestyle called ImprovedEating which I can only recommend because of the genuine research he’s providing. His blog is a platform to get feedback for the vast amount of research material for the upcoming book he’s writing for about a year now.
The point is: Sascha is a blogger, a book author and a Zettelkasten user. Without a Zettelkasten, he wouldn’t be able to manage all the material he’s researched so far. Of course I wanted him to give me some feedback.
We considered the vast amount of notes on maintaining a Zettelkasten both of us collected through the years. In the end, we decided to create an information product together, that is: a book.
Thanks to our efficient note-taking method, the book will be available soon for feedback from early adopters. I’m pretty excited about this project and I’ll definitely keep you in the loop!
Today, we’ll talk about tools for a change. Managing a reference file is part of the collection phase of maintaining a Zettelkasten. It’s of special importance if you’re writing a research paper or a book because without proper citation management things are going to be a mess for you, soon. I’ll show you how I do it and tell you about possible alternatives briefly.
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.
My reading workflow consists of phases similar to the phases in GTD: collect, process, write. This post is about collecting. To collect, it doesn’t help to paint your text in all colors of the rainbow. No matter how much you like to use highlighter pens: think about what you want to learn from the text first, and then decide whether marks are really the best tool for the job.
Assuming you’re a writer or a thinker, why should you care about the way you take notes? If you want to think creatively and write original articles and books, you need to form associations in your mind effectively. Notes can help you with that if you adhere to a few basic principles. You can emulate communication processes with your own notes if you structure them in a certain manner. Notes can and should stimulate new associations and foster your creativity just like a good talk does.