Zettelkasten Forum


Direct to the Archive (or Zettelkasten) or written notes first?

Hi all,

One more tactical question. I started enthusiastically writing notes by hand first in a book and then creating zettels. But I will confess that I am struggling with that because I feel my reading pace is really fast compared to my writing pace. So the problem is either 1) My written notes are inefficient and/or ineffective (I should improve - how?) or 2) at least for certain books that are not insanely dense, I can create zettels directly without the written path. Here is an example. I am reading the book personal kanban and in my mind's eye I already feel like I can see the main zettels I want to create for future reference so I can just search by the book tags and topic tags later. I don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater by slowing down my reading OR quitting the ZK practice. Any thoughts on how others have solved this or what I can do differently will be welcome and much appreciated. For the more dense text-type books I think the write first then zk may still work (but probably I have not read too many of these lately - have been forced to be inch-deep mile-wide due to demands of project) Thanks!

Comments

  • I am doing both. Direct to Zettels and handwritten notes first then Zettel. I really like creating Zettels from my personal notes. When I create these notes I work with the book/study materials closed and I am rephrasing the work when creating handwritten notes. I let this percolate for a few hours. I am creating the Zettel withing the day. Then I reread notes, rephrasing them yet again as I enter them into The Archive.

    Sometimes though an idea will strike in the midst of work on the computer and it will be easy and important to capture it immediately. I could revisit the note as a routine to re-encapsulate it in fresh terms but I don't. I could tag it as a draft note but I don't.

    Other people, more skilled than me, for sure have other ideas.

    Will Simpson
    kestrelcreek.com

  • So the problem is either 1) My written notes are inefficient and/or ineffective (I should improve - how?) or 2) at least for certain books that are not insanely dense, I can create zettels directly without the written path.

    For a long time I struggled with a very similar challenge:
    When to take physical, hand-written notes while reading? When to enter material directly digitally into a notes archive? And when to make sense of, integrate that written material ("process") into my canon of content? (Assigning tags, making wiki links to related content, and so on.)

    As you point out, reading material (and your response to it) varies, so you might find, as I did, that the perfect workflow is an adaptive one. Your most effective note-taking may be dictated by your visceral response to what you are reading.

    Some content, especially that which you already have familiarity, can be put down and set aside while you reach for a laptop or other device while you spend some time integrating the new content into your notes database.

    Other content, particularly new knowledge or uncommonly complex or dense material may require much more concentration and make it extremely distracting to record a note on a digital device.

    Here is my note-taking strategy for such cognitively loaded (dense / complex) content:
    1. Highlight relevant text, and make a few physical notes in the margin of source material (or on stickies);
    2. Re-read the parsed (highlighted) content after some time has passed to allow the the ideas to have percolated subconsciously (to aid understanding of the new material);
    3. Copy, refine, and process margin notes into the notes archive.

    I find that I tend to learn new material by taking notes first physically in my own hand. Margin notes in a book or printed article is one version. For more extensive notes (perhaps including my own reactions to the source material's content) , I may opt for paper index cards (one idea per card). These notes may well find their way into my electronic notes archive .

    I have found that I really vary my reading and "data entry" routine depending on the source I am reading. The note-taking approach is dictated entirely by my visceral response to the material. I have become very comfortable trusting my reaction to the content as to what is the appropriate method of note taking.

    So, sometimes I read a passage and set down the book and happily pick up the laptop to enter a note. Other times, I am intentionally reading far removed from any electronic device. I am learning and taking notes entirely "old school." It's highlighters, pen, and index cards.

    I enter new material with an open mind. I am completely comfortable now responding to it as it strikes me. I "process" it slow or fast; analog or digitally; whatever seems appropriate to the task as it strikes me in the moment.

    Approaching content in this fluid, multi-modal way has reduced my stress over note-taking and information processing, and, I believe, increased my comprehension of the material I am reviewing, as well as the quality and utility of the notes I am adding to my repository.

    I hope you find methods that work for you.

    Don

  • @DrBop said:

    As you point out, reading material (and your response to it) varies, so you might find, as I did, that the perfect workflow is an adaptive one. Your most effective note-taking may be dictated by your visceral response to what you are reading.

    "This", as The Youth say. It totally depends on how you respond to the piece at hand and/or your intent wrt it. Is this a thing that you just want to pull a quote from, or a thing related to a larger subject you are studying?

    I generally keep a 3x5 card as a bookmark in most books I'm reading. I use this to jot down notes, quotes, page numbers. At some point I use that as a base for transferring notes to my Zettel, whether that means just copying quotes and making commentary on them (which is usually of the form "this is related to [201901221644 other thing]"), or if it means a bunch of analysis and thought.

  • @newzettelkid said
    But I will confess that I am struggling with that because I feel my reading pace is really fast compared to my writing pace.

    This is very normal and I would be very suprised if it is different for anybody.

    I solve your problem by reading books twice. In addition to that, I have a note book with me and if something really kicks I write it down there. But most of the time, the second reading gives me all the value out of the book I need.

  • @DrBop , @sfast , @mediapathic - many thanks for your detailed and helpful comments. They are all very useful. Now I have a better level of confidence in indulging in some more trial-and-error as well as leveraging all your learnings. Thanks!

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