Zettelkasten Forum

What to do if you want to insert an "unrelated" Zettel inbetween?

Hello guys, another question from a beginner. (I've already posted sth but it does not show up, so my apoligies if somehow im repeating myself):

I'm gonna start the preparation on the second stage of my law studies and want to use an analog Zettelkasten for my notes, graphics etc. (Definitions and similar stuff which needs to be performed without thinking goes into Anki):

But the material i'm learning already has pregiven structures in many parts. It is not about creating knew thoughts/ scientific work. It's more like using known tools/knowledge on new cases (definition, comparison, result):

So here is my problem: I number Zettel 1; 1a....2....3 and so on.

But what do i do when i learn something new and it belongs between 1 and 2 hierarchally without being a subtopic of 1 or 2? I cant use 1a obviously.

I don't get it :-D sorry. I guess the Zettelkasten method follows another thinking process? Any recommendations?

Post edited by amunicapunica on


  • @amunicapunica, good morning and welcome to the forums.

    What you are describing is how hierarchical structure is conveyed in your zettelkasten. One way to do this is via modifications in the ID numbering scheme and another is via creating a structure note in an electronic system. I'm not sure the 'officially recognized' method how this accomplished in an analog workflow. One way that comes to mind would be to use a special ID numbering format for these notes that are 'tweeners'. For example, you could ID the tweener note BT1/2 or BT1a/4c (BT - for between) and then list the 2 or more notes that this note refers to and place it between the appropriate notes. This way the note would have an ID that you could refer to from other notes and it would have a place in your zettelkasten. The key is to have an ID that you can reference in later notes.

    Will Simpson
    I'm a Zettelnant.
    Research: Rationalism, Zen, Non-fiction Creative Writing

  • edited August 18

    @amunicapunica I believe a lot of people get confused by this because we naturally think of table of contents and how books are organized in a hierarchical manner when we see the "1 - 1a - 1b -1c" type of organization.

    Giving hierarchical structure is not the purpose of the system, instead it was intended to allow the user to infinitely expand any section of the zettelkasten. You do this because you don't come across all the relevant information (readings & own thoughts) at the time of creation of your notes. So you need some way of adding more information to the notes collection at a later date.

    When he created branches off one of the sequences of notes, they were arbitrary (.e.g. 1 - 1a - 1a1 -1a2 -1a3 - 1a4 - 1b) and 1a1 would just have to be loosely connected to 1a.

    Below is a section of an essay from Luhmann, the bolding is my own

    Fixed numbers, abstracted from any content-based order relying on the entire structure has a number of advantages which, taken together, enable us to reach a higher type of order. These advantages are:


    1. The possibility of arbitrary internal branching. We do not need to add notes at the end, but we can connect them anywhere—even to a particular word in the middle of a continuous text. A slip with number 57/12 can then be continued with 57/13, etc. At the same time it can be supplemented at a certain word or thought by 57/12a or 57/12b, etc. Internally, this slip can be complemented by 57/12a1, etc. On the page itself I use red letters or numbers in order to mark the place of connection. There can be several places of connection on a slip. In this way, a kind of internal growth (Wachstum nach innen) is made possible, depending on what kind of material for thought occurs. The disadvantage is that the originally continuous text is often broken up by hundreds of intermediate slips. But if we systematically number the papers, we can find the original textual whole easily.


    1. Possibility of linking (Verweisungsmöglichkeiten). Since all papers have fixed numbers, you can add as many references to them as you may want. Central concepts can have many links which show on which other contexts we can find materials relevant for them. Through references, we can, without too work or paper, solve the problem of multiple storage. Given this technique, it is less important where we place a new note. If there are several possibilities, we can solve the problem as we wish and just record the connection by a link [or reference]. Often the context in which we are working suggests a multiplicity of links to other notes. This is especially the case when the card index is already voluminous. In such cases it is important to capture the connections radially, as it were, but at the same time also by right away recording back links in the slips that are being linked to. In this working procedure, the content that we take note of is usually also enriched


    1. Register. Considering the absence of a systematic order, we must regulate the process of rediscovery of notes, for we cannot rely on our memory of numbers. (The alternation of numbers and alphabetic characters in numbering the slips helps memory and is an optical aid when we search for them, but it is insufficient. Therefore we need a register of keywords that we constantly update. The [fixed] numbers of the particular slips is also indispensable for the register. Another complementary aid can be the bibliographical apparatus. Bibliographical notes which we extract from the literature, should be captured inside the card index. Books, articles, etc., which we have actually read, should be put on a separate slip with bibliographical information in a separate box. You will then not only be able to determine after some time what you actually read and what you only noted to prepare reading, but you can also add numbered links to the notes, which are based on this work or were suggested by it. This proves to be helpful because our own memory—others will have similar experiences to mine—works in part with key words and in part with author’s names.

    As a result of extensive work with this technique a kind of secondary memory will arise, an alter ego with who we can constantly communicate. It proves to be similar to our own memory in that it does not have a thoroughly constructed order of its entirety, not hierarchy, and most certainly no linear structure like a book. Just because of this, it gets its own life, independent of its author.

  • @sfast posted a video today: https://forum.zettelkasten.de/discussion/1304/eva-thomas-on-zettelkasten#latest

    There you could see in some screenshots from Luhmann's stuff that between 1a and 1b is room for 1a2. And between 1 and 1a is room for 1,1 :)

    Author at Zettelkasten.de • https://christiantietze.de/

  • Yeah it doesn't have to be hierarchical. It's more about putting it in proximity to other similar things. I've working on a paper system right now, and here's how it worked out. Note 27 was about a particular topic. Then another note came long later that was loosely connected, so I made it 27A. But then that sparked a crapload of new notes related to 27A. So 27 isn't all that important, and certainly isn't more important than 27A. 27A happens to be a place in my system where a lot of growth happened. Doesn't matter that it was on an "A" instead of a whole number. Honestly, it's kinda fun to see where these bigger chunks show up.

  • Wow, thanks for your feedback! it is very helpful. So when i put 1a1 between 1a and 1b the number does not need to repressnt the hierarchical relationship between each other, am i right? (I would draw even more tree diagrams then :D).

    Actually i was so confused today that i changed everything: i simply sorted the cards the way the law does (paragraph 1 plus all my notes on it, 2, 46..). it might actually be good to think like the law you use instead of representing some text books proposal of thinking.But of course, you don't apply the law in chronological order :D

    i see the advantage of an "organic" growth with a stronger relationship to my own growth of understanding. I will try it out and see if i can put the pregiven structures of certain tdchniques "on top" afterwards.

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