Zettelkasten Forum


Help me ultralearn the Zettelkasten Method

Hi,

I found by chance a summary of the Ultralearning book by Scott Young in a forum post in this forum, and I decided to make an Ultralearning project to "improve" my approach to learning the Zettelkasten Method.

I want to learn the method to become a better writer/learner/note-taker, so I'd like to learn how it works, how to work with it, and why it works.

Could you please answer the following questions to aid my project?

The questions are:

  • Which are the important concepts I need to learn?
  • What are the important parts of the method that I need to practice?
  • How do did you learn the method?

Thanks in advance for your comments.

Comments

  • edited March 15

    not to be rude (but ¯\(ツ)/¯) aren't you supposed to do the research yourself with Ultralearning? For point 1 and 2 i recommend:

    I started with reading "How to take smart notes" which i wouldn't recommend you for your goal, because it offers very little information about Zettelkasten itself. It is still a valuable resource for many things that involves the use of a Zettelkasten, which turned out to be important in the long run.

    If you are also interested in using ZKM yourself i suggest you learning by doing. I could read stuff all day but it wasn't before using my own Zettelkasten before i figured out how (or why) it works (for me).

    You say you want to improve - does this mean you already have some knowledge on the topic?

    Finally, if you have any questions, we are here to help.

    Post edited by zk_1000 on

    my first Zettel uid: 202008120915

  • I would agree that learning by doing is the best way. These things can be very personal. What works well for one person may not work for another. I don't think of this method as a set of rules to be followed. I just take what is useful to me, and I don't worry too much about the rest. I create notes, most of which are very short (less than a hundred words), make sure that each note has a unique ID number so that I can find it again, and use tags so that I can find more than one note pertaining to a certain subject area. And I make links between notes that are associated with each other in some way. That is all there is to it, for me.

  • edited March 15

    A key tenet of ultra learning is to focus on learning the core principles in the new topic or skill, and to specifically ask existing practitioners what core principles to focus on first.

    OP seems to be doing exactly that by asking these questions. They are not asking for someone to do the learning for them, they are asking what to focus on the most.

    If we were to take the advice given strictly literally then there should be no reason for this forum or any forum or any books to exist, because there is no reason to try to learn anything from anyone, since the advice is to learn it strictly on your own.

  • @Senketsu Despite @davecan 's comments, I still have a lot of sympathy for @zk_1000 's point of view. There is a lot of good learning material on this site. It behooves you to read through and glean from it first, then ask informed questions of the forum.

    Having said that, I've been guilty of asking newbie questions myself. We all have to start somewhere.

  • @MartinBB

    I would agree that learning by doing is the best way. These things can be very personal. What works well for one person may not work for another. I don't think of this method as a set of rules to be followed. I just take what is useful to me, and I don't worry too much about the rest. I create notes, most of which are very short (less than a hundred words), make sure that each note has a unique ID number so that I can find it again, and use tags so that I can find more than one note pertaining to a certain subject area. And I make links between notes that are associated with each other in some way. That is all there is to it, for me.

    I think the same way about learning by doing.

  • @davecan

    A key tenet of ultra learning is to focus on learning the core principles in the new topic or skill, and to specifically ask existing practitioners what core principles to focus on first.

    OP seems to be doing exactly that by asking these questions. They are not asking for someone to do the learning for them, they are asking what to focus on the most.

    If we were to take the advice given strictly literally then there should be no reason for this forum or any forum or any books to exist, because there is no reason to try to learn anything from anyone, since the advice is to learn it strictly on your own.

    I see that I should read the book because I clearly don't understand what ultralearning is. Thanks for making me realize that.

  • edited March 16

    @Senketsu While there is more to ultra learning in general, my comment was not against your approach – I was actually saying you appeared to be generally taking the right approach by asking those questions.

    I've not read the book myself either, but I was following Scott Young and others a decade ago when he first did his MIT project and learned quite a bit from him along the way, including those fundamental principles as he discovered them himself (and blogged about them) so reading the book is not necessarily a requirement if you have that background knowledge. And I can tell from a brief review of the ultra learning notes that while there is more to it, asking those types of questions does strike at the heart of the method.

    So I see no problem with asking questions like that, but I do agree with others that it is important to not just ask the questions but also to put in the work.

    What targeted questions provide is focused attention on core principles so you know what to focus on the most in the beginning, which is a reasonable strategy as long as it is combined with practical experience.

    See also: Khan Academy, Justin Guitar, etc which distill complex concepts down to core principles and teach the most important principles first, to accelerate learning.

  • My two cents:

    If you want a good overview of creating research questions, drafting atomic notes, and then turning those into usable papers, check out Eco's How to Write a Thesis. It's meant for academics, but in my opinion, does a lot to put you through the paces of really using your ZK.

    Observations logged here: write.as/via-poetica

  • Eco's How to Write a Thesis

    Ordered, thanks.

    Also recommended:

    • Adler's How to Read a Book
    • Paynes The Lively Art of Writing (which I stupidly got rid of after college, with all its margin notes that I could turn into atomic notes.... arghh....)
  • @davecan, those are both good though I have my misgivings about both --- and I say this as a former literature teacher. If you are wanting something useful for writing well, I always go with Strunk & White (aka The Elements of Style). Not only is it good writing advice, but it's excellent modeling for atomic ideas. One of my professors (who taught classical rhetoric, composition, etc.) used to insist to her classes that "If you can't say the basic idea in a sentence, ask yourself if you've grasped the idea."

    It's a bit of a simplification, but it is good practice for learning how to write in a ZK. Your notes need to be detailed enough to be clear to your future self but brief enough to be useful to your future self.

    Observations logged here: write.as/via-poetica

  • edited March 17

    learning what core principles to focus on first is entirely different from learning how it works, how to work with it, and why it works. To focus on every single little detail first OP must learn and master 100% of all topics related to ZKM to get a check mark on each goal set. I figured that the goals haven't been elaborated which is why i suggested learning by doing and also why i complained.

    If the ultra learner want to focus on what matters first he/she must elaborate outcomes: writing about what (academic, fiction, ...), previous but relevant work / workflow which should be adopted, learning about what - there are gazillions of learning strategies, taking note about what - every Zettelkasten is different, ...

    the first question, formulated as is, must always result in failure. It must be impossible to answer the question within an infinite time period. Without the extra work it is also not possible to cover the case of "learning x doesn't suit your needs, you may try y first".

    With all this said, please don't take it personal. I am a newbie 24/7 and am making this mistake every single time. What i find helpful in this situation is when others ask me questions rather than providing answers.

    Post edited by zk_1000 on

    my first Zettel uid: 202008120915

  • @Senketsu In response to the second and third questions you asked, you will find some good practical advice here:

    https://blog.viktomas.com/posts/slip-box/

  • @zk_1000

    not to be rude (but ¯\(ツ)/¯) aren't you supposed to do the research yourself with Ultralearning?

    I have.

    But it was one of the steps to ask people who learned the method how they learned it. By the way, I'm not going to read all that.

    I started with reading "How to take smart notes" which i wouldn't recommend you for your goal, because it offers very little information about Zettelkasten itself. It is still a valuable resource for many things that involves the use of a Zettelkasten, which turned out to be important in the long run.

    I've just read it and have yet to process it, and you're right, it doesn't align with my goal because it's more focused on the theory behind the method than on the method. (My draft for the initial post is a week and some days old, though.)

    If you are also interested in using ZKM yourself i suggest you learning by doing. I could read stuff all day but it wasn't before using my own Zettelkasten before i figured out how (or why) it works (for me).

    I will keep that in mind. Thanks!

    You say you want to improve - does this mean you already have some knowledge on the topic?

    Yes.

    Finally, if you have any questions, we are here to help.

    Thanks :D

  • @Senketsu i am glad to hear some of my insights have been helpful :blush:

    as for your reading list i think this is already too much :wink: Applying the principles described here and building up the bottom layer should be everything you need to get started.

    Prior to this you are probably going to make some decisions on whether you want to use a paper system or digital, or solving some doubts on the purpose of a Zettelkasten or which options are available, or learning Markdown, or...?. Then, steps should roughly be:

    1. clearing some doubts (about Life, the Universe, and note taking)
    2. setting up the system
    3. applying the principles
    4. building the bottom layer
    5. trusting the system
    6. building the middle and top layer, with a goal in mind (perhaps with "how to write a thesis"?)

    there is no definitive set of "essential concepts" that works for everyone. You should be able to cut down a bit on history, Folgezettel, note signifier and tags. A reference manager may or may not be essential. You'll need to experiment yourself how long you want your Zettel to be, how many links, etc.

    Finally, a rule that works for everyone: less is more!

    my first Zettel uid: 202008120915

  • @GeoEng51

    @Senketsu Despite @davecan 's comments, I still have a lot of sympathy for @zk_1000 's point of view. There is a lot of good learning material on this site. It behooves you to read through and glean from it first, then ask informed questions of the forum.

    I will (and am).

    Just to make things clear, I made this post (and others) because I was a bit confused with the method previous to reading HTTSN (How To Take Smart Notes), even though I had read several articles from the overview. Only after reading HTTSN did some things click, and my literature note-taking vastly improved, which is now allowing me to understand things better.

    Having said that, I've been guilty of asking newbie questions myself. We all have to start somewhere.

    I agree. Thanks for the empathy.

  • @davecan

    @Senketsu While there is more to ultra learning in general, my comment was not against your approach – I was actually saying you appeared to be generally taking the right approach by asking those questions.

    Ah, alright. I didn't catch what you said at first. Sorry.

    What targeted questions provide is focused attention on core principles so you know what to focus on the most in the beginning, which is a reasonable strategy as long as it is combined with practical experience.

    I will (and am) putting in the effort, but thanks for the reminder. As you can tell from my reading list, I sort of fell for the Collector's Fallacy, but I'll make up for it.

  • edited March 20

    @Sociopoetic @davecan
    Thanks to the two of you for the book suggestions. I already had Adler's in my S/M List, but the other ones are a great addition that I will read shortly.

  • edited March 20

    @GeoEng51

    @Senketsu In response to the second and third questions you asked, you will find some good practical advice here:

    https://blog.viktomas.com/posts/slip-box/

    Thanks for the source!

  • @zk_1000
    Thanks for all your advice! I will make sure to apply it all, especially reducing my reading list to only the overview from zettelkasten.de, learning by doing, and following your practical (and handy) steps to integrating the ZKM.

  • edited March 20

    @Senketsu My copy of Eco's book arrived and I started reading through it last night. Confirming it is very good* and there is a lot of alignment with the zettelkasten philosophy.

    (* well I mean it's Umberto Eco so of course it's good... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)

  • @davecan That's awesome. I'll make sure to read it, as well as any other works by the same author.

    Oh, and enjoy your reading!

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