Let’s face it:
Taking notes is one of the least glamorous parts of being a student. It’s often seen as a chore and something that you have to do just to keep up with your classes.
But what if there was a way to make taking notes not only tolerable but enjoyable?
A way that could help you be more efficient and productive?
Enter the Zettelkasten system.
The Zettelkasten system is a note-taking system that can help you be more efficient and productive when taking notes.
It’s based on the idea of “atomic notes,” which are small, self-contained pieces of information that can be linked together to create a web of knowledge.
Invented by German sociologist and historian Niklas Luhmann, the Zettelkasten system has been used by some of the biggest thinkers in history, including famous authors such as Ryan Holiday.
Whether you are a student, a creative individual, or even an entrepreneur, the Zettelkasten method can help you take smarter notes and be more productive.
What Is the Zettelkasten System and How Does It Work?
The Zettelkasten is a knowledge management system that can assist you in being more effective and productive with note-taking.
In case you’re wondering, Zettelkasten is German for “slip box” or “note box”.
The system is based on the principle of connecting ideas in a non-linear way, which allows you to better organize your thoughts and see relationships between different concepts.
Here’s how the Zettelkasten system works:
You start by creating a “core” Zettel, which is a central note that contains the main idea of your project. This can be anything from a question you’re trying to answer, to a problem you’re trying to solve.
Next, you create “sub Zettels” which are notes that are related to your core Zettel. These notes can contain ideas, thoughts, research, or anything else that is relevant to your project.
You can then connect these Zettels to create a web of related ideas. This helps you to see the relationships between different concepts and to better organize your thoughts.
Zettelkasten vs. Traditional Note-Taking Methods
Assuming you’re now at least a little familiar with the Zettelkasten system, let’s compare it to traditional note-taking methods.
The Zettelkasten system is a note-taking system that helps you be more efficient and productive when taking notes. It’s based on the principle of “linking ideas together.”
In contrast, traditional note-taking methods are based on the principle of “organizing information.”
This means that notes are typically organized into categories, such as by date, topic, or project.
Zettelkasten system is way better than the traditional method, here’s how:
First, the Zettelkasten system helps you see the connections between ideas. This is because each note is linked to other notes. As a result, you can easily find related information when you need it.
Second, the Zettelkasten system helps you develop new ideas. This is because the act of linking ideas together encourages you to think creatively about how they might be connected.
Third, the Zettelkasten system is flexible. This means that you can easily add new notes and rearrange existing notes as your needs change.
Finally, the Zettelkasten system is efficient. This is because you don’t have to waste time organizing your notes into categories.
Types of Notes in Zettelkasten
There are three different types of notes in Zettelkasten:
1. Zettel (atom)
These are the smallest units of information in your Zettelkasten. They are single pieces of information that you want to remember or that are important for your work.
2. Z-Stream (link)
Z-Streams are links between two or more Zettels. They help you connect different pieces of information and see the connections between them.
3. Z-File (collection)
Z-Files are collections of Zettels that you have grouped. They can be used to organize your Zettelkasten or to create a specific project.
Digital Zettelkasten Tools
There are several Zettelkasten tools that you can use to create digital Zettels.
The two that we found to be the most helpful and beginner-friendly are – Notion and Obsidian.
Notion is an all-in-one workspace app that lets you write, plan, collaborate, and organize your notes in one place. It’s simple, clean, and easy to use. You can create Zettels in Notion by creating a new page and adding your notes.
One of the key features that makes it ideal for digital Zettelkasten is its support for database linking.
Users can easily create links between notes, which helps to facilitate connections and ideas.
In addition, Notion offers a variety of templates that can be customized to fit any need, making it a highly versatile tool for anyone looking to create a digital Zettelkasten.
In fact, Notion has a free Zettelkasten template that you can start using right now!
Obsidian is a powerful Zettelkasten tool that helps you make connections between your notes and ideas.
The beauty of using Obsidian for this purpose is that it offers a clean, minimal interface that makes it easy to find and connect related ideas.
In addition, the built-in search function makes it quick and easy to locate specific notes.
And because Obsidian automatically links together notes that share common keywords, it’s easy to create complex webs of interrelated ideas.
As a result, Obsidian provides an ideal platform for developing and organizing ideas using the digital Zettelkasten method.
Zettelkasten System Benefits
- Zettelkasten helps you take notes more efficiently and effectively.
- It makes it easy for you to find and retrieve information.
- It helps you organize your thoughts and ideas.
- It encourages you to think more deeply about your ideas.
- It helps you generate new ideas.
- It helps you connect ideas together.
- Zettelkasten makes it easy for you to share your notes with others.
- It is a great way to boost your productivity and creativity.
Zettelkasten System Limitations
- It can be overwhelming for beginners
- Zettelkasten requires a lot of time to set up and organize
- It can be difficult to search through (Software like Obsidian solves this problem)
How to Get Started With the Zettelkasten System?
Step 1: Setting Up Your Zettelkasten
The first step is to create your Zettelkasten. You can use any medium you want, from a simple Notion file to a more sophisticated tool like Obsidian.
If you want to keep things simple, you can start by creating a text file on your computer.
Just name it Zettelkasten and add a date to the end of the file name, so you can easily keep track of your notes.
Step 2: Creating Zettelkasten Notes
Once you have your Zettelkasten setup, it’s time to start adding notes. When you’re taking notes, always ask yourself two questions:
- What is this note about?
- How does it relate to other notes?
Every note you create should have a clear purpose. Ask yourself what you want to remember and why.
Once you have a clear purpose, it will be easier to decide how to structure your note.
Step 3: Linking Your Zettelkasten Notes
The most important part of the Zettelkasten system is linking your notes.
To do this, you need to use a system of notation that makes it easy to find and connect your notes. It can be linking within pages of a text document or adding hyperlinks to your notes.
Step 4: Reviewing and Updating Your Zettelkasten
Once you have a few notes in your Zettelkasten, it’s important to review them regularly.
This will help you identify any gaps in your knowledge and improve the quality of your notes. You should also update your Zettelkasten as you learn new information.
Zettelkasten System Resources
If you want to learn more about the Zettelkasten system, there are a few resources you can check out:
- Zettelkasten Method – Explained in the Most Lucid Way (Both Physical and Digital System) – A YouTube video.
- How to Take Smart Notes in Obsidian using Digital Zettelkasten? – A YouTube video.
Steve Jobs rightly said something great about connecting the dots:
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards.”
Zettelkasten system is one such way of looking at your notes in a non-linear fashion, which can help you see the big picture and connect the dots that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.
Try it out for yourself and see how it can help you be more productive and efficient in your note-taking.