Zettelkasten Forum


Turning brain dumps into zettels using outlines

edited June 14 in Workflows

Hey all, I wanted to share a successful experience of turning my chaotic voice to text brain dump into zettels using a very simple method.

I was going through my journal which I use for fleeting notes and I found a brain dump that I wanted to process into zettels. I kept struggling with figuring out what is important enough for it's own note and what belongs inside another note? Also, how do I want to break up these ideas where there are so many different ways I could do so?

I found a post response by @andang76 where he described the "train of thought" method of brainstorming he uses. Instead of using this to brainstorm, I applied this idea to processing a brain storm and it worked amazingly! I wanted to share it here because it seems like such an obvious and simple way to process your notes but I just never tried it.

All you do is go through your brain dump and make an outline. Make a new bullet for new ideas, and make an indent when you are expanding on an idea. Every time you put a new bullet, you can decide where it falls in the current flow.

Your top level bullets can be used for zettels and everything inside the bullets can either be used for content. Of course, you can adjust this as you see fit - you can expand and dive deeper inside the topics or split them up. The point is that instead of having a jumbled mess of thoughts, you have an organized starting point for your zettels.

Using this on my notes felt like a breath of fresh air. So simple and easy. No overthinking or stress. This is a good example of my brain over-complicating something that could actually be quite simple :D - I obviously know outlines exist but it was so helpful to see a real life example of another person using this for a similar purpose!

Here is my actual brain dump to outline if anyone is interested:

I'm thinking about high-functioning people and how they don't seek help, how they mask, and how there is a lack of support, awareness, and belief in high-functioning people. They don't realize that what they are dealing with is not normal and that it doesn't have to be this hard. They've been told that they are lazy or need to toughen up all their lives, even though other people do not have to deal with what they do. Invisible illnesses. Sometimes they are shunned from the neurodivergent community because they don't deal with as intense symptoms, so people say they are not neurodivergent enough. They think that they are high-functioning, so they shouldn't need help, like if they can go to work, is it really that bad? They self-gaslight. Society's opinion on it. The lack of distinction between high-functioning people and introverted people or people who are neurotypical but share some qualities of high-functioning people plays down what they actually go through. Being not truely neurodivergent or neurotypical. Having it be hard to distinguish from someone who is neurotypical but shares some of the same qualities. We expect high-functioning people to learn to act normal, and how neurodivergent people learn to mask and learn workarounds to their issues.

This is the outline I created:

  • High-functioning people often don't seek help

    • High-functioning people often think what they are dealing with is normal and that everyone else is just better at dealing with it than them
      • They don't realize that it doesn't have to be this hard.
      • They have been told that they are just lazy or weak and should just "do it."
      • They self-gaslight
        • Is it really a problem if I can function this well?
  • Invisible struggles

    • High-functioning people mask
    • Society expects high-functioning people to learn to act normal
      • high-functioning people develop work arounds to their issues.
  • There is a lack of support/awareness/belief in/for high functioning people

  • Isolation and Identity challenges for high-functioning people.
    • High-functioning individuals often face rejection from both their community and the neurotypical community.
      • They are "not neurodivergent enough."
    • It can be hard to distinguish from a neurotypical person who has some shared qualities and a neurodivergent person who has actual differences in their brain.

I ended up creating notes based on the top levels of this outline and used the inside to expand on the content:

  • [[High-functioning people often don't seek help]]
  • [[High-functioning people and their invisible struggles]]
  • [[There is a lack of support, awareness, and belief in the conditions of high-functioning individuals]]
  • [[Isolation and Identity Challenges for High-Functioning People]]

Thanks again @andang76 for the very clear detailed description of your process - it really helped!

Post edited by sam453 on

Comments

  • Another struggle I have is linking too early before I've defined the note itself. I've noticed this causes the note to feel like a part of another note rather than an atomic note itself, which leads to struggles linking it to other notes later. Having this outlined helped with with that because I could make sure each note was atomic and could stand on its own. The while writing each note, I forced myself to first write without any links - this helped me expand on the note title itself.

    This also makes me thing of the QEC (Question, evidence, conclusion) method and how the goal of it is to remove the ideas that a source provides from it's structure and view it outside of the order the creator put them in. Using this outline helps me, in a way, remove the ideas from my own structure in order to create atomic notes (not sure if that really makes sense - just a thought I had).

  • @sam453 Thanks for sharing that idea - it totally makes sense! Like @andang76 , I've been using the approach for taking notes and thoughts for years, but never thought of applying it retroactively :smile: Someone mentioned logseq the other day in a post - it would be a good companion to your method.

  • edited June 14

    Yes, what you've found is the use case of brainstorming, but the "train of thought" is a poweful method for idea development and knowledge processing, too. I've found even other use cases for that :smile:
    It really works well for me, I've developed, applied and refined it a lot in these months.
    Glad that you find it useful.
    It's not "my" method, is something born taking inspirations and mixing a variety of other proposals. The main source I think was Digital Garden Model. Is filled with some principles of folgezettel and compass model, too.
    I consider train of thought for idea development a folgezettel drawed on a plane, in the end.

    Later I complete reading your posts, seeing if there is something to say.

    Post edited by andang76 on
  • edited June 14

    @GeoEng51 said:
    @sam453 Thanks for sharing that idea - it totally makes sense! Like @andang76 , I've been using the approach for taking notes and thoughts for years, but never thought of applying it retroactively :smile: Someone mentioned logseq the other day in a post - it would be a good companion to your method.

    Yes, I've studied in more details daily notes these days, there is an hidden power behind their use that I've largely overlooked in the past.

    A tool like Logseq opens a powerful way, but it is a still unexplored land for me.
    The biggest fear about this kind of software is i don't think it is future proof.
    I think Il'able to read a text note after ten years passed. I don't think I will able to open an outliner database

  • @GeoEng51 Thank you for the suggestion! I currently use obsidian which I love and seems very similar to Logseq and I love it!

    @andang76 That's interesting. I've always liked the digital garden model. I would be interested in hearing how this method has changed for you since you wrote the original note.

  • @andang76 said:
    A tool like Logseq opens a powerful way, but it is a still unexplored land for me.
    The biggest fear about this kind of software is i don't think it is future proof.
    I think Il'able to read a text note after ten years passed. I don't think I will able to open an outliner database

    I've played around with logseq a bit, to see what it can do. It has a "journal", which captures daily entries, and "pages", which are like separate locations for storing information or discussing separate ideas. The logseq manual suggests that you capture everything in your journal and then link to a variety of pages (I would be tempted to do the opposite, but each to his own). Pages are automatically created when you type in a link. It's a very simple and clean approach.

    The important point, though, is that when you look for the data files, there is a "journal" folder with a separate markdown file for each day and there is a "pages" folder with a separate markdown file for each page you have created. So - quite future-proof.

    The logseq manual also emphasizes privacy and longevity. The former you get since the data files are only stored on your computer; if you want some sort of streamed backup, you do that using Dropbox or a similar service. The latter you get from the use of markdown files that are easily accessible in a simple folder structure on your computer.

    Logseq is open source and currently free. There will apparently be a "pro" version at some time in the future which you can pay for (to support the developers). But they commit to keeping logseq open source and having a free version.

    I don't see much downside in trying it out and even using it for a while. Even if the community that is developing it withers away, your markdown files will still be easily accessible and useable in other software.

    One feature of logseq that I like is the ability to link to individual blocks in a page of text, and not just to the entire page (which you can also do). This goes beyond the linking that is provided in The Archive.

    Using @sam453 's suggestion, you could have one logseq page that addressed some general topic, with a number of primary bullets and sub-bullets. You could think of the primary bullets as zettels, if you like. But you can link to a bullet at any level in logseq, not just the main bullets.

    There is a lot to like about this software; it is worth giving it a trial run. You might have to be patient with the "start here" instructions, as they are quite pithy.

  • edited June 14

    @sam453 said:
    @GeoEng51 Thank you for the suggestion! I currently use obsidian which I love and seems very similar to Logseq and I love it!

    @andang76 That's interesting. I've always liked the digital garden model. I would be interested in hearing how this method has changed for you since you wrote the original note.

    Oh, it's a very long story.
    Every page of Andy Matuschak's work hides pearls.
    I've captured some of them after the third or fourth read...

    I'm sure, anyway, that there are two very relevant things that changed dramatically my method of taking notes:
    1) The importance of the note title. Well thinked titles are strategic in my way of taking notes, and when I feel that I've obtained a good title, I'm sure that I've made a good note and I've learned something. * You can state yourself, in your train of thought, how much the train of thought is effective when the single titles are effective.
    2) The metaphor of system that grows as a garden grows.

    "When I feel that I've obtained a good title, I'm sure that I've made a good note and I've learned something" is an example of a title for a note I'd write :D

  • edited June 14

    @GeoEng51 said:

    @andang76 said:
    A tool like Logseq opens a powerful way, but it is a still unexplored land for me.
    The biggest fear about this kind of software is i don't think it is future proof.
    I think Il'able to read a text note after ten years passed. I don't think I will able to open an outliner database

    I've played around with logseq a bit, to see what it can do. It has a "journal", which captures daily entries, and "pages", which are like separate locations for storing information or discussing separate ideas. The logseq manual suggests that you capture everything in your journal and then link to a variety of pages (I would be tempted to do the opposite, but each to his own). Pages are automatically created when you type in a link. It's a very simple and clean approach.

    The important point, though, is that when you look for the data files, there is a "journal" folder with a separate markdown file for each day and there is a "pages" folder with a separate markdown file for each page you have created. So - quite future-proof.

    The logseq manual also emphasizes privacy and longevity. The former you get since the data files are only stored on your computer; if you want some sort of streamed backup, you do that using Dropbox or a similar service. The latter you get from the use of markdown files that are easily accessible in a simple folder structure on your computer.

    Logseq is open source and currently free. There will apparently be a "pro" version at some time in the future which you can pay for (to support the developers). But they commit to keeping logseq open source and having a free version.

    I don't see much downside in trying it out and even using it for a while. Even if the community that is developing it withers away, your markdown files will still be easily accessible and useable in other software.

    One feature of logseq that I like is the ability to link to individual blocks in a page of text, and not just to the entire page (which you can also do). This goes beyond the linking that is provided in The Archive.

    Using @sam453 's suggestion, you could have one logseq page that addressed some general topic, with a number of primary bullets and sub-bullets. You could think of the primary bullets as zettels, if you like. But you can link to a bullet at any level in logseq, not just the main bullets.

    There is a lot to like about this software; it is worth giving it a trial run. You might have to be patient with the "start here" instructions, as they are quite pithy.

    Thanks, trying Logseq is already in my roadmap. Your post will help me to explore that world.
    At the moment the features that Obsidian give me are enough. For what I do, in the end, it is enough making bullet lists.
    Obsidian is not a full outliner, indeed I'm studying how to find the best way to manage daily notes contents in the long term, there are some drawbacks.

  • @andang76 said:

    @sam453 said:
    @GeoEng51 Thank you for the suggestion! I currently use obsidian which I love and seems very similar to Logseq and I love it!

    @andang76 That's interesting. I've always liked the digital garden model. I would be interested in hearing how this method has changed for you since you wrote the original note.

    Oh, it's a very long story.
    Every page of Andy Matuschak's work hides pearls.
    I've captured some of them after the third or fourth read...

    I'm sure, anyway, that there are two very relevant things that changed dramatically my method of taking notes:
    1) The importance of the note title. Well thinked titles are strategic in my way of taking notes, and when I feel that I've obtained a good title, I'm sure that I've made a good note and I've learned something. * You can state yourself, in your train of thought, how much the train of thought is effective when the single titles are effective.
    2) The metaphor of system that grows as a garden grows.

    "When I feel that I've obtained a good title, I'm sure that I've made a good note and I've learned something" is an example of a title for a note I'd write :D

    Thank you for sharing. I love Andy's notes!

  • The last thing my Zettelkasten needs is my brain to take a dump in it.

    GitHub. Erdős #2. CC BY-SA 4.0. Problems worthy of attack / prove their worth by hitting back. -- Piet Hein.

  • @andang76 said:

    Thanks, trying Logseq is already in my roadmap. Your post will help me to explore that world.
    At the moment the features that Obsidian give me are enough. For what I do, in the end, it is enough making bullet lists.
    Obsidian is not a full outliner, indeed I'm studying how to find the best way to manage daily notes contents in the long term, there are some drawbacks.

    One advantage of using Markdown files under your own control, as in The Archive and Obsidian, is that you can open the files for editing in a dedicated outliner app, like Bike (Mac only) that Sascha recommended. There is also the obsidian-outliner plugin for Obsidian.

    I never trusted Logseq because I could never get their website to load in my web browser, which means that I couldn't download Logseq even if I wanted to try it, and I wondered how reliable a software app could be if the developers can't even build a website that respects web standards?

  • @ZettelDistraction said:
    The last thing my Zettelkasten needs is my brain to take a dump in it.

    My zettelkasting philosophical hero lays out some serious plumbing. Hold on a second while I get a towel to wipe off the coffee I just spewed onto the monitor.

    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

  • @Will said:

    Hold on a second while I get a towel to wipe off the coffee I just spewed onto the monitor.

    I hope you didn't get any coffee on an Apple keyboard. They invariably short out if any liquid gets into them.

    GitHub. Erdős #2. CC BY-SA 4.0. Problems worthy of attack / prove their worth by hitting back. -- Piet Hein.

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