Posts tagged “toolbox”

The Iceberg Theory of the Zettelkasten Method — Exploring the Depths

The Zettelkasten Method is not only a method of knowledge work. It is also a diagnostic tool. To demonstrate this, I would like to start with a short story from my work as a health and fitness trainer: A client contacted me because she wanted to lose weight. We discussed her situation and I sent her the first steps. One month later, she reported failure. She was unable to implement the program that we had discussed together. We reduced the program because my client said she was unable to implement it as planned due to time constraints and stress. The pattern repeated the next month. So we looked more closely for the causes. A surprising problem came to light:

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Little Machines in Your Zettelkasten

A basic description of a Zettelkasten could be that it is just a hypertext of your notes. But this definition falls short of the intended goal to create a tool that assists your thinking. Technically, an interconnected quote collection could be a tool to assist your thinking and it would meet the above definition of a Zettelkasten: It is a hypertext of your notes (which consists of just quotes in this example). But it violates the spirit of what a Zettelkasten is. An interconnected quote collection does not express the full potential of the Zettelkasten Method since your past self could have created vastly more value for your current self. It is up to you how much you want to invest in your future self.

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How Value is Created in a Zettelkasten (and Any System of Knowledge Work)

The first question we need to ask ourselves is: What is value? I propose a simple answer to this question: Valuable is what is useful to us. Let’s look into knowledge on nutrition as an example: Knowing how to eat healthy is not very useful to a lot of people because this knowledge is not put into practice. Most of the time this knowledge is not what is needed. Eating healthy is rather about building habits. Then again, knowledge on healthy nutrition becomes useful when those healthy habits are built.

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