Zettelkasten Forum


Chose what to make zettles on - make it less time consuming

Hi
Context:
I am not working in academia. I have a master in human geography (social science focus). I am reading a lot of modern and classic philosophy. I have been zettling for a year or two.

Problem:
I find myself spending a lot of time typing notes into my ZK... too much time. I am not quite sure that this is the best way to do things, so want to hear how you go about this.

How I read:
When I read it is not by my computer. I have slip of paper in my book, and note page number and thought or quote whenever I find something interesting that gives a new perspective.

How I zettle:
When I am finished with the book I sit down and type my notes into my ZK. When typed, I split them into small notes, relate/link and expand thoughts.

Maybe one of my problems is that I don't read for writing anything or with any specific project in mind. So I find lots of different bits in the text interesting and produce many notes.

Maybe I am not selective enough? but how to be more selective without loosing valuable content.

I feel that typing takes too long time and are not productive but I don't really see how to get around it. Any one had a similar thoughts? how do you deal with it?

thanks

Comments

  • edited October 6

    I find myself spending a lot of time typing notes into my ZK... too much time.

    What is the standard your judgement is based on?

  • It is based on the standard of my own felling. I have a feeling that I put in too much (boring typing) work compared to the expected outcome (making connections/thinking/reading more).

    To give a more concrete (but random) example: Nietzche, on the genealogy of morals. app. 170 pages long took me 3 hours of note typing before I could even start the zettel-work.

  • Maybe one of my problems is that I don't read for writing anything or with any specific project in mind. So I find lots of different bits in the text interesting and produce many notes.

    That's my primary mode of inquiry when I read, too, since all my work revolves around a craft (programming) for which I do ready books, but not that often.

    Combined with this statement in your reply:

    I have a feeling that I put in too much (boring typing) work compared to the expected outcome (making connections/thinking/reading more).

    ... it sounds as if you want to have more fun with the process.

    You could solve the problem by being less thorough. Leave the book and its notes aside for some time before you start processing them, for example, to have a fresh look at your stuff. When (!) I process my notes, I'm often astonished by the sheer volume of stuff I found relevant while I read the book and had its contents and all its details fresh on my mind. But what I can really make use of is a lot less than all of this. It's hard for me to filter freshly acquired paper notes. Everything still seems so relevant. After a while, though, this urge to keep everything I had prepared (Collector's & Sunk-Cost Fallacy combined? :)) fades and I am content with keeping less.

    That may or may not work well for Nietzsche. It depends on what you want from him and his writing, I guess. If you do not have any writing project in mind, don't want to start a new one, but still collect for throroughness's sake, it's hard to figure out what's relevant and what can be skipped. (Which puts me in "better keep all the thing!!1"-mode.)

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

  • @hchaase said:
    It is based on the standard of my own felling. I have a feeling that I put in too much (boring typing) work compared to the expected outcome (making connections/thinking/reading more).

    To give a more concrete (but random) example: Nietzche, on the genealogy of morals. app. 170 pages long took me 3 hours of note typing before I could even start the zettel-work.

    I wouldn't just type but rather rephrase what you have written long-hand. In Nietzsches words:

    Improving style -- this means improving the thought, and nothing more.

    Then you would give this step more meaning.

  • When you read, your brain is identifying interesting things. You should trust that intuition. Don't try to be an exhaustive note-taker—but also don't avoid capturing the things you find interesting. Lean into what your brain wants to do.

    You could try to speed up your collection mechanism, but it actually sounds like you're using a system you like, and that those tools already impose some constraints.

    If your reading brain is "writing checks" that your note-taking brain "can't cash" (ie, if you are highlighting too much material in the reading phase, and it makes the work boring in the note-taking phase) then you need to move the workload back to the reading brain. Or, alternatively, split this process up into multiple passes.

    For example, you could type down the first-pass notes as you read. Your reading brain would take that extra work into account, and make better decisions about what to highlight.

    Alternatively, break Reading, Noting, and Zettling into three distinct phases. The work of the Noting brain is just to get down the information. The work of the Zettling brain is to organize and "think with" that information. By breaking it up, at the last phase, you'll have a different and more pointed sense of what is interesting and meaningful.

  • Thank you all for your replies

    @micahredding said:
    If your reading brain is "writing checks" that your note-taking brain "can't cash"

    How elegantly put.. it perfectly captures my feeling. I think it is good advice to try yo move the workload back to the reading brain (again: I love having multiple brains). Though I am not sure how to do that yet. I have to explore that. any suggestions? Braking reading, noting and zettling into phases is what I am doing at the moment and what is creating the "Un-cashable checks".

    @sfast
    Your advice to rephrase my longhand note is a good idea and could properly improve the zettle quality. It would properly also give me more work rather than less, but maybe make the process more fun and give a better output.

    @c@sfast
    you have the most concrete suggestions.

    being less thorough

    and

    Leave the book and its notes aside for some time before you start processing them.

    I am not sure I want to be less thorough, but maybe it is necessary. Or maybe I just have to accept that not all parts of the process is equally fun and work takes time.

  • @hchaase
    Your advice to rephrase my longhand note is a good idea and could properly improve the zettle quality. It would properly also give me more work rather than less, but maybe make the process more fun and give a better output.

    That seems to direct towards the problem. There are not only things you have to do anyways. Doing some thing itself is the thing you want to do. Rewriting, filtering, selecting and so on are not only means to an end that ought to be efficient. They are also the very things that should be trained and improved. That only can be achieved with doing it a lot, consciously and deliberately.

    It is not about the quality of your notes, though they will improve of course. But rather you ability to write and think. That is what I mean with more meaning. The notes have to be put into your archive anyways. And that happens with writing. :smile:

  • My initial pass through my notes isn't to put them in the zettelkasten or even to re-phrase them -- it's to cross out as many of my notes as I can. Often, my notes say the same thing more than once in different ways (because whatever I was reading was saying the same thing more than once in different ways. Other times, I realized that something that seemed worthy of a note really wasn't.

    Then as I integrate the notes with the zettlelkasten, if working on a particular note or part of a note feels like a hassle, I stop and ask myself whether that's because it's not really worth adding. Usually when that happens, I realize I can get rid of a big chunk of it, and just integrate the most important points.

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