Zettelkasten Forum


How to handle ideas for further exploration

Occasionally I have ideas or come across articles/book titles that I know I'd like to explore further for a given project, but right now is not the right time for them, usually because I'm in the middle of another task.

I want to:
-keep track of avenues that I'd like to explore further so that I can...
-surface them at the right time (ie, when I'm working on this project, and not another one, or when I'm focused on following a different trail in this project).

I'm curious how you all handle these in your workflow.

Should I drop a zettel with the info in the appropriate place and hope I'll resurface it at the right time? My issue here is that I often don't know what information is going to come out of the article until I've read it. Should I just take my best guess? (am I just overthinking it)?

Should I keep it on a separate task list or someday/maybe list? My issue here is that I almost never get to the things on my someday/maybe list because I'm never looking at it when I'm working on a current project, and my task lists quickly get cluttered if they aren't immediately actionable.

Other ideas? Thanks!

Comments

  • @NickB said:

    titles that I know I'd like to explore further for a given project, but right now is not the right time for them, usually because I'm in the middle of another task.

    @NickB, in your title you say "ideas for further exploration" but in the text of your post you say "articles/book titles". To me, these are not the same. The first refers to thoughts, the second refers to information sources (reading material). Likewise, you filed this discussion in the "writing" category instead of the "research & reading" or "workflows" category, which makes me uncertain whether I am understanding you correctly, but I'm going to assume that you are asking about handling information sources.

    There are many ways of handling information sources, and I doubt there is a "right" way of doing it, but I would say from experience that if you already think that an information source is relevant to a particular project, you should tag it with that project identifier right away so that you don't forget that it is associated with that project when you are working on the project.

    I have several places where I keep information sources: in my web browser bookmarks, in folders in the macOS file system (also indexed in DevonThink), and in my reference manager (BibDesk). I can tag items by project (and other tags) in all three places, but the web browser bookmarks (in Firefox) are not ideal because they are not searchable from the rest of the OS (i.e. from Spotlight), unlike items in the other two places. So, for me, web browser bookmarks are for piles of information sources that I haven't found a use for yet or haven't read enough to know what they are; otherwise, items go in the macOS file system or in BibDesk—especially if I'm ready to cite something in a publication, it has to be in BibDesk so it's citable with a citekey.

    In GTD terms, I think of my web browser bookmarks as more like an "inbox" and my file system items and reference manager items as more like "reference" files.

    But people who don't use a reference manager, or who duplicate the items in the reference manager as notes (zettels) in their note system (ZK), might create a new note for every information source. I definitely don't do that.

  • I'm a newbie here.
    At first, I simply used to put the new info into my notes, usually under a category.
    The result: the notes were lost in the mist of Time, really. I ended up using always the most recent notes.

    So now when I find a new piece of information, I put it inside a project and, if I don't have a related project yet, I create a new one.
    I've found that by putting the notes into actionable projects I give them context, so that they're easier to find in the future.

    Hope it helps.

  • edited December 2023

    I'm trying to manage a similar problem just these weeks, that I've defined for me "idea explosion", when during my thinking and writing suddenly come to my mind many things to be written.
    It happens often when i process the content in a source (literature) note after I've collected stuff.

    I think I've found the solution using a simple technique, I still don't know if there is a shared definition and still don't know how and how much is related with Folgelzettel, but it is simple and it works (for me), I've found the definition of "train of thought" and I think it's perfectly suitable for me.

    When many thoughts emerge in my mind, I just write them in a very raw draft form as they arrive, in the note where I am (can be the bottom of the source note, for example), using a bullet list (some people call this bullet list an outline and the technique outlining, but in these days I've noticed that this term is a little unfortunate. An outline implies a hierarchy, instead the use of bullets in this train of thougt is following a flow).
    The rules are very simple and fast to apply,

    • the first thought is the first bullet in the list with indentation 1;
    • a thought related to the first thought is an indented bullet list below;
    • an unrelated thought is a bullet restarting to indentation level 1.

    for example

    • idea 1

      • idea related to idea 1
    • idea 2

    • ...

    The trick in this phase is avoid:

    • efforts in classification and structuring task
    • refining the ideas

    Just write where come to my mind. Just drop the brain dump in a note, forming a indented bullet list.

    After the explosion quits, I return to my bullet list and I start to process them.
    In processing phase a single bullet idea can be refined, expanded, or it can also develop other ideas, added to the bullet list.
    Some related bullets can form a cluster, to which I can give a "name".
    Next I can detach single bullets or clusters with new lines to form blocks, many smaller bullet lists.

    Taking a block, I can develop text around it, and only at this time starts the real note forming.
    When the text become quite substantial, can form the body of a new note or integrating an existing note. If I create a new note, I cut the text, place in the note and substitute the cluster in the outline with the link to the note.
    In the next step I can now finally form the structure of the note, or processing another cluster, or develop other bullets, too, it depends of my feelings in that moment.

    The big advantage of doing this is that I dont' lose a single idea during the explosion phase. they all tracked in the train of thought. In a second moment, even tomorrow or next week too, I can review the unelaborated bullets of the train and processing them. If new ideas come when processing the existent bullets, I can stop processing, follow this new flow and return to the original activity later.

    Doing this:

    • I can stop and resume any task when I want
    • I can delay a decision to a second moment, if I have not clear vision about it in that moment (what title to give, how to develop the idea, how tagging, where to place the idea, what links form)
    • I can follow a non-linear order of tasks suitable for the specific moment I'm working: dump my thought, next develop a single thought, forming a note, returning to increment the bullet list, stop, tomorrow forming the second note.

    How drop my trains of thought:

    • in the bottom of a source note, when I process source contents
    • in a dedicated note (train of thought note), when needed
    • I've a special note, a "working stream" note, that is just like an instant scratchpad where I lay the thought of the actual moment. When one of the bullet lists contained in it become substantial, I can choose to detach it and creating a train of thought note linked to the working stream. In a second moment this train of thought note can become an index note, if many bullets of it develop in many notes, or can be disgregated if after creating notes it become useless.

    I've quickly written an explanation as it came to my mind, maybe it's a bit confusing :-)

    This aspect of my workflow is still under heavy developed, it derives from ideas read months ago (if I remember, from Maggie Appleton), now is becoming a first class tool in my workflow.
    Probabily someone has just give it an accurate name. Maybe this name is exactly train of thought.

    Post edited by andang76 on
  • @andang76 said:

    I'm trying to manage a similar problem just these weeks, that I've defined for me "idea explosion", when during my thinking and writing suddenly come to my mind many things to be written. [...]
    Probabily someone has just give it an accurate name. Maybe this name is exactly train of thought.

    Although this topic is quite different from what I thought @NickB was asking about, what @andang76 called idea explosion is the same as what is often called brainstorming, a term popularized by Alex Osborn in the 1940s and 1950s, originally to refer to group creativity but generalized to individual creativity as well. (You can see the similarity in metaphor: explosion and storm.) When the brainstorming happens spontaneously it's related to the so-called eureka effect or aha! moment. Brainstorming is also the third step in the natural planning model in David Allen's book Getting Things Done, where it is succinctly described in a way very much like what @andang76 said above:

    A number of graphics-oriented brainstorming techniques have been introduced to help develop creative thinking about projects and topics. They've been called things like mind-mapping, clustering, patterning, webbing, and fish-boning. Although the authors of these various processes may portray them as being different from one another, for most of us end-users the basic premise remains the same: give yourself permission to capture and express any idea, and then later on figure out how it fits in and what to do with it.

    What @andang76 described above is essentially plain-text mind-mapping.

  • edited December 2023

    @Andy said:
    @andang76 said:

    I'm trying to manage a similar problem just these weeks, that I've defined for me "idea explosion", when during my thinking and writing suddenly come to my mind many things to be written. [...]
    Probabily someone has just give it an accurate name. Maybe this name is exactly train of thought.

    Although this topic is quite different from what I thought @NickB was asking about, what @andang76 called idea explosion is the same as what is often called brainstorming, a term popularized by Alex Osborn in the 1940s and 1950s, originally to refer to group creativity but generalized to individual creativity as well. (You can see the similarity in metaphor: explosion and storm.) When the brainstorming happens spontaneously it's related to the so-called eureka effect or aha! moment. Brainstorming is also the third step in the natural planning model in David Allen's book Getting Things Done, where it is succinctly described in a way very much like what @andang76 said above:

    A number of graphics-oriented brainstorming techniques have been introduced to help develop creative thinking about projects and topics. They've been called things like mind-mapping, clustering, patterning, webbing, and fish-boning. Although the authors of these various processes may portray them as being different from one another, for most of us end-users the basic premise remains the same: give yourself permission to capture and express any idea, and then later on figure out how it fits in and what to do with it.

    What @andang76 described above is essentially plain-text mind-mapping.

    mmm, i've always understood brainstorming as a collective technique for problem solving and idea generation...

    Textual mind mapping, yes it can fit.

    In the use case presented by @nickB, anyway, I've felt natural the method for the purpose of idea tracking. It's good for this, too, not only idea development. The last two lines of Paul Allen you've written is an important part of this benefit, indeed.
    As stated, sometimes my problem is manage too many thoughts at the same time in a sequence of quick start-and-stops, or continue tomorrow what I'm thinking now.

    If @nickB has not the time right now to develop what he's thinking now, at this time he can track it and resume where he can. What he need is write that track in a place where he can easily retrieve tomorrow.
    An "home note" that contains a bullet list of "current thoughts" can be a perfect fit.

    I think that in this use case the tool used has to be simple, fast to type and frictionless.

    Post edited by andang76 on
  • edited December 2023

    @andang76, I should have said before: I thought your description of your process was great. It is helpful to hear someone give a detailed description of how they work.

    The term brainstorming first referred to the collective creativity technique, and the term is still used that way, but the term also came to be applied to individual situations, as in David Allen's GTD book; see also, for example, the section "Individual brainstorming" in the Wikipedia article on brainstorming, which mentions as examples "techniques as free writing, free speaking, word association, and drawing a mind map".

    I see your emphasis on keeping track of where you left a train of thought after a break. That does require maintaining some kind of linear order, as in a list/outline. In contrast, putting thoughts in random places on a blank canvas (and without metadata that would provide an order) wouldn't work well for such idea tracking. But such order can also be established through timestamps, which are what I typically use to track the temporal order of thoughts. If the software you use doesn't automatically assign temporal metadata to each block, you could also consider inserting timestamps with a key command if it would be helpful. [EDIT: Unless by "train of thought" you mean a topical train of thought instead of a temporal train of thought. There is some ambiguity here, as thoughts can be ordered into a "train" by various properties. In a sophisticated information system where all relevant blocks have multiple properties, they would be automatically ordered into multiple "trains" by different properties. I will let the computer scientists in the audience jump in here if there are special technical terms for this.]

  • edited December 2023

    @Andy said:
    @andang76, I should have said before: I thought your description of your process was great. It is helpful to hear someone give a detailed description of how they work.

    The term brainstorming first referred to the collective creativity technique, and the term is still used that way, but the term also came to be applied to individual situations, as in David Allen's GTD book; see also, for example, the section "Individual brainstorming" in the Wikipedia article on brainstorming, which mentions as examples "techniques as free writing, free speaking, word association, and drawing a mind map".

    I see your emphasis on keeping track of where you left a train of thought after a break. That does require maintaining some kind of linear order, as in a list/outline. In contrast, putting thoughts in random places on a blank canvas (and without metadata that would provide an order) wouldn't work well for such idea tracking. But such order can also be established through timestamps, which are what I typically use to track the temporal order of thoughts. If the software you use doesn't automatically assign temporal metadata to each block, you could also consider inserting timestamps with a key command if it would be helpful. [EDIT: Unless by "train of thought" you mean a topical train of thought instead of a temporal train of thought. There is some ambiguity here, as thoughts can be ordered into a "train" by various properties. In a sophisticated information system where all relevant blocks have multiple properties, they would be automatically ordered into multiple "trains" by different properties. I will let the computer scientists in the audience jump in here if there are special technical terms for this.]

    Yes, another method is having the process driven by time dimension.
    There is a diffuse use of timestamps and daily notes, indeed.
    I don't feel comfortable with the use of the temporal dimension> @Andy said:

    @andang76, I should have said before: I thought your description of your process was great. It is helpful to hear someone give a detailed description of how they work.

    The term brainstorming first referred to the collective creativity technique, and the term is still used that way, but the term also came to be applied to individual situations, as in David Allen's GTD book; see also, for example, the section "Individual brainstorming" in the Wikipedia article on brainstorming, which mentions as examples "techniques as free writing, free speaking, word association, and drawing a mind map".

    I see your emphasis on keeping track of where you left a train of thought after a break. That does require maintaining some kind of linear order, as in a list/outline. In contrast, putting thoughts in random places on a blank canvas (and without metadata that would provide an order) wouldn't work well for such idea tracking. But such order can also be established through timestamps, which are what I typically use to track the temporal order of thoughts. If the software you use doesn't automatically assign temporal metadata to each block, you could also consider inserting timestamps with a key command if it would be helpful. [EDIT: Unless by "train of thought" you mean a topical train of thought instead of a temporal train of thought. There is some ambiguity here, as thoughts can be ordered into a "train" by various properties. In a sophisticated information system where all relevant blocks have multiple properties, they would be automatically ordered into multiple "trains" by different properties. I will let the computer scientists in the audience jump in here if there are special technical terms for this.]

    Yes, another widespread technique is the use of temporal dimension (daily notes, for example, and timestamp). But I don't feel comfortable with this kind of flowing.
    My ideas in the outline is appended in a more tematic way, with little "jumps" if needed.

    Suppose I have, at that point, my outline:

    • in Zettelkasten Forum it emerges the need of handle ideas to be explored in a second time
      • I think the approach of train of thought could be suitable. I've written about this in the topic
        • for explain further the method, could be useful to find a shared definition of this method, if
          exists
          • it could be Train of Tought. Later retrieve in your note something about, It could be cited
            by Maggie Appleton
          • it could be related to Folgezettel, yesterday I've read an essay of Bob Doto. Later, try to
            retrieve that article
          • Andy cited this method as related to Brainstorming and Paul Allen Works
            - but brainstorming isn't a tecnique for collective idea development?
            - it seems that it exists a concept of individual brainstorming. Cool, point to
            investigate. See the link [...]
            • It emerges that another method for organizing thoughts is on a temporal axis
              • yes, I could try to develop the similarity between time-oriended flow and topic-
                oriented flow
                bu does' exits other method? Think a little about

    I don' build the three immediately one bullet below the other as they come to my mind. Rather, I attach the thought of this moment as the child of most related bullet i've already taken. For example, if you give me another information about individual brainstorming, I inserted that as the child of "it seems that it exists...."

    The outline grows in a random access.

    I find the temporal dimension secondary. It's not important if the bullet about brainstorming is taken a hour ago, it's more useful that brainstorming concepts are close each other.

    This is the traking. After tracking, every bullet or cluster of bullet can be develeoped. I can search on internet about Individual brainstorming and write about that. I can develop the theory about "viable dimension of trains of thought", and so on.

    If in our talks new idea arises, I can add these ideas.

    The main point is that I don't have now enough time to develop all the points emerged in that outline. But I've saved a track of all of them, for the next days.

    Another advantage is that making this outline can be fast, if need. that example is not perfect, but I had to drop in very few minutes, during my dinner.
    If I would to do the same thing using a suited structures of notes up front, I'd to spend several minutes making notes and links.

  • @andang76, thanks for the demonstration.

    The temporal dimension may not be important to you in the moment when you are thinking, but later it could become important to you. Later you might wonder what thoughts you were thinking at the same time or what sources you were read around the same time and how the combination of sources or thoughts influenced the evolution of your thinking. See Dan Sheffler's 2014 blog post on chronological association. You may disagree, but I agree with Dan that it's useful over the long term to maintain both the topical train and temporal train somehow.

  • edited December 2023

    @Andy said:
    @andang76, thanks for the demonstration.

    The temporal dimension may not be important to you in the moment when you are thinking, but later it could become important to you. Later you might wonder what thoughts you were thinking at the same time or what sources you were read around the same time and how the combination of sources or thoughts influenced the evolution of your thinking. See Dan Sheffler's 2014 blog post on chronological association. You may disagree, but I agree with Dan that it's useful over the long term to maintain both the topical train and temporal train somehow.

    Yes, I'm aware there could be this benefit of time aspect.
    Sometimes this aspect is really vital (in notes about my projects, for example). When I feel this need, I simply add a datetime information near the thought. In some of my notes, the bullets are organized by time, just like a software log.
    I don't use sistematically, for all ideas, nor I generally organize the flow according to time. Time organization is an exception, not the default.

    Thoughts derived from this discussion, for example, are "timeless" for me :-)

  • edited December 2023

    I hesitate to join my car on this train. I am but a beginner. My understanding is less than perfect.
    The trajectory of this "train of thought" is just blasting off. You zettelnauts are launching this train into orbit.

    You guys are getting into the weeds. This idea train dovetails with the thread post in the minutes before this one. @mediapathic's Current process: CHURN file

    Here we are on the "Why" Train, and in @mediapathic's thread, we are on the "How" Train.
    I've started an "Idea Storm" based on this discussion. Thank you.


    Idea Storm 202312311445

    Will Simpson
    My zettelkasten is for my ideas, not the ideas of others. I will try to remember this. I must keep doing my best even though I'm a failure. My peak cognition is behind me. One day soon, I will read my last book, write my last note, eat my last meal, and kiss my sweetie for the last time.
    kestrelcreek.com

  • I tend to write and file a card adjacent to the most likely note it is related to, with a title that prompts me for later work.

    In all my notes (which I keep on Goggle docs), I insert a horizontal line above quotes or links about the idea. My writing (synthesis) is above the line. For things idea I will return to later - I leave the top blank (except for links to other notes).

  • I do it in my second brain. :)

    I am a Zettler

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