Zettelkasten Method

What is the Zettelkasten Method?

The Zettelkasten method is a way to process your thoughts, store and connect them so that they can be helpful later on. This note-taking method helps with systematically organizing your knowledge in small bits that connect to each other to create a “second brain”. It is especially useful during research or content creation.

Additionally, to the knowledge storing and organizing, the Zettelkasten method also helps you to memorize your newly gained knowledge while also refreshing your memory of the old contents of your slip box. The connections come into play whenever old notes correlate to new ones, which will then help to understand the new knowledge faster.

The Zettelkasten is mainly used if you want to organize your knowledge in a way that will be available to you at a much later date. New ideas will automatically click together with your old already used ideas by simply having the same tag used onto both of the notes stored in your system.

All in all, this style of note-taking can increase your productivity by a lot without putting too much work into it for it to work effectively. A good recommendation for everyone who wants to keep track of their thoughts and ideas throughout the day.

The 2 Principles of Zettelkasten

This note-taking method relies on 2 different principles that are essential to be maintained for it to work effectively:

Principle of Atomicy

The Principle of Atomicy says that each note or in this case each “Zettel” has to contain one idea or thought. The idea behind this principle simplifies every note and makes the connections between the notes much clearer. The reason why certain notes are connected will be revealed at first sight.

An example of this would be the single components of a book or article. Each chapter or segment of a book will become one unique note. These notes then combine to the  Zettel that contains all the references, tags and links to all the other related topics.

Furthermore, these notes should have their own unique identifier so that if you link them inside your knowledge system they will be recognized instantly, and you know what they are about without looking into them in detail. These identifiers also make sure that each Zettel is indistinguishable from the other.

It is also very important to keep the notes as simple as possible. Notes should not contain more than one thought or idea. If it is a more complicated thought, it might be a good idea to further split it into multiple parts so that it immediately becomes clear what the thought behind the note is.

Principle of Connectivity

The principle of connectivity describes the heavy emphasis on the connection between notes, which is the “magic” behind the Zettelkasten Method. It is the notion that a new theory or idea must not only explain new facts and data but explain the old one from a previous theory as well.

Every Zettel should be placed in the context of other notes by referencing or relating to at least one other Zettel. There should be no standalone ideas, every single idea must have at least 1 other note that it can relate to. This includes simple tags that mark one Zettel with its specific topic or theme. Looking at these tags will already help you figure out what they are about without further looking into it.

With these tags, Zettel will automatically connect with each other under their respective tags. Additionally, if you look for the specific tag or topic you will find multiple notes related to it, making it easy to find more information about that topic. Seeing all these Zettels under the tag together also improves recall of that knowledge and train your mind to see these patterns more easily.

This principle not only helps you remember your own notes with their relations better but also improves your skills as an observer in general. Being a better observer simultaneously increases the insight you gain from what you observe. 

Different Types of Notes

Literature Notes

Literature Notes are notes that you take while reading a book or an article. Whenever you find an interesting part in a book you can simply jot down a few of your own thoughts. These types of notes can simply be labelled with the book title and the chapter and you found the segment in.

While taking down your ideas you usually reread the passage you wanted to comment on which helps you remember what the actual content was. Oftentimes the first things that come to your mind are the most important ones. However, it is important to keep it as short and concise as possible.

To use literature notes in Zettelkasten you have to also include all the metadata needed to directly label the Zettel that you are writing with the most important information. What book is the note about? What kind of book is it? What was the purpose of reading it? All these questions should be answered in the note when making these literature notes.

In essence, you should keep these 3 findings in mind when taking literature notes:

  1. The note itself should be as short as possible.
  2. Don’t quote from the book itself, use your own ideas and words.
  3. Metadata is very important.

Reference Notes

Reference Notes are a way of grouping up information and organizing notes and ideas into certain groups. These groups can later be found by creating tags to find the categorized information again. A simple example of this would be a collection of books that each can be categorized by their different topics. The main note titled “Science” includes all other notes that have something to do with science. From here there could be a section for books that lists all books connected to the general topic of science. The Zettel containing the links to the others can then be considered as a Reference Note.

Permanent Notes

Permanent Notes are storing the actual information in your knowledge management system. Whenever you pick up something interesting that you think is worthwhile keeping in mind for a certain topic or source you will write Permanent Notes. This type of note will contain only your own words about whatever idea you just read or heard about and then will be linked to the main reference point so that you can link them together with other Zettels of the same topic (see “Reference Notes”)

While writing permanent notes you automatically process the information better than simply reading it once. Using your own words and thoughts will help you memorize the newly gained information better for the future and makes rereading it a breeze.

Fleeting notes

Fleeting notes are short notes on any thought or idea that comes to your mind. They are usually the first thing that you will write down. This type of Note can be anything and should be later reviewed at a later time to either dismiss them or form them into permanent notes under a certain reference tag. They don’t need to be highly organized, and in fact, shouldn’t be. They are not meant to capture an idea in full detail but serve more as reminders of what is in your head.

If you want to understand better and learn how to use these types of notes to create your own Zettelkasten you might want to check out this beginners guide.

Why Use Zettelkasten?

The Zettelkasten method encourages you to connect the dots between different trains of thought and knowledge. The steps facilitate our intrinsic ability to generate new connections between ideas and thus increase our knowledge and productive output. 

It’s an integral system for dealing with knowledge capture and acts as an amplifier of your writing and knowledge management.

Knowledge Management Systems

Knowledge management (KM) is the process of creating, sharing, using, and managing knowledge and information. The main objective here is to make the best use of existing knowledge.

When creating a personal knowledge management system, you ultimately develop a system and structure for organizing your ideas, thoughts, and information in a way that suits your thinking. In a way, you develop a web of knowledge and build up a “second brain” of all the information that you collect to help fuel an emergent approach of thinking. 

Zenkit Hypernotes for Knowledge Management

Hypernotes is a note-taking app designed to enhance your knowledge management, and help you create, share, and understand knowledge in a totally new way. It’s designed to be used for any writing task; wikis, Intranets, documentation, book outlines, research, diaries, first principles, a personal Zettelkasten, etc. This means that it can also be used by just about anyone, and the range of plans makes it accessible to anyone from students, NGOs, and freelancers, all the way up to SMBs and large enterprises.

Hypernotes creates a living knowledge base. It’s structured kind of like your brain is. With Hypernotes, notes organically link to one another, so finding relevant knowledge is much easier, even if a note was written years ago! The more you write, the greater your knowledge becomes and the more links are created between things you didn’t even consider to be related.

With Hypernotes, your “read/write” ratio is therefore increased: Because notes organically link to one another, finding relevant knowledge is much easier, even if someone is accessing them for the first time. Readers simply have to click through to find relevant articles that always link back to where they started, and new knowledge is automatically connected to old with suggested links.

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