Zettelkasten is a way to organise notes.
When you get any information (via a book, an article, a podcast episode, etc.) that you think is important for you, it suggested that you write it down. In the process of writing it down, it is essential that you write it down in your own words. Later, it is essential to consider where this idea fits into your understanding of the world. This helps to retain and apply the information that you obtained.
Eugene Yan summarises the process succinctly:
- Write each idea you come across on a card.
- Link idea cards to other relevant idea cards (idea -> idea link).
- Sort cards into broader topic boxes (idea -> topic link).
Before I talk about my personal experience, I would like to record how I discovered this process.
I stumbled upon the Zettelkasten in March 2020 when I read this piece on the process by David Clear on the Writing Cooperative. This is the most comprehensive write-up I’ve seen on the Zettelkasten.
I found Roam Research during a Twitter conversation I was having with a friend who mentioned it as a note taking app that he was using.
There are a bunch of videos that have been put out by it’s founder Connor Sullivan-White. But, those did not make any sense to me. I tried taking notes on two days of April. I could not figure out what people were going crazy about. Hence, I dropped the whole Zettelkasten experiment there.
Roam Research then found mention in a Thomas Frank video. I subscribe to his YouTube channel for tips about productivity. This was where the tool started to make some sense.
I agree with Thomas that the major drawback of this app is that it does not have a mobile companion app. It is a good tool to research a subject.
Then two days ago I found these two blog posts on Eugene Yan’s blog which I found through Twitter again. I liked his writing style which is short and to the point.
- Learning an Easier Way to Write: 3 Simple Parts
- Stop Taking Regular Notes; Use a Zettelkasten Instead
Shu Omi’s YouTube channel has two videos that explain both the Zettelkasten method as well as the way he takes notes. The method is similar to the one that Eugene Yan uses. So, you can watch the videos if you like to watch this method work.
I have now started using the Bullet Journal and have found it more useful as a tool that I want to use. I have not had success with digital tools and I seem to keep replacing them when I find a shiny new thing. This, is why I prefer to keep things in a bullet journal. In the next blog post, I will go into the details of how I incorporated the practice of the Zettelkasten into my BuJo practice.