Zettelkasten Forum


Beginner's roadblock

I've tried to implement Zettelkasten method to my own everyday note-taking, but I always strucked by fear, that my slipbox would become more incomprehensible and hard to manage the more zettels I feed into it, until we reached a point where adding more zettels will achieve nothing in return. I am so afraid of this prospect, I stopped writing at all.

My main question is, how could I overcome this roadblock?

Comments

  • When I counseled students at University, of the people that actually used our department's service most were over-thinking the consequences.

    Notable examples:

    • "I think I should plan all my categories in advance very carefully so I don't regret what I did in 2 years!"
    • "What's the best formatting for notes? What should headers contain? I want to add all of these 20 metadata items to future-proof this!"

    These concerns are driven by fear. During our work together, people often, but not always, realized that there's nothing to be afraid of. For example, regarding to plan categories up front: don't do it, because the Zettelkasten is an organic system. Hierarchies will emerge while you add stuff. It's like playing with clay. The object is always malleable. You can delete notes. Split them. Rewrite them. Write new ones that say "This old note is wrong because x, y, and z! This is what I learned instead ..." and thus cover the learning process itself as part of the Zettelkasten.

    When you write in your Zettelkasten, there's always one thing you produce: notes. You write words. You type. That's more than not writing and not typing. This sometimes was super useful for students who struggled with writing their papers: when you take notes, even crappy notes!, you still hone the habit of writing things down. Writing a paper then isn't that scary anymore because you grew accustomed to writing. Also, since notes are quite small, you can improve how you express your thoughts every day, with every note, and not have to re-write all of your Zettelkasten contents. (As opposed to improving style while writing a thesis and then not liking the first half of the manuscript anymore, for example.)

    I like to think that Zettelkasten work isn't always fun, but it's always play. Sometimes it's like playing the same game for the 100th time with a very small child that for some reason enjoys the most boring of activities. It's not that bad, and shortly afterwards you both may end up playing with Legos for your own enjoyment again :)

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

  • To amplify a specific part of what @ctietze said, when I have had paralyzing fears like this in the past, they have frequently come down to a fear of doubling effort. It's usually something like "If I do this the wrong way, I will have to do it again later, when I figure out the right way, and that's wasted effort." A thing that is great about the ZK system is that, because it is built on such simple principles and technologies, even when one does need to repeat effort, that is almost always very minimal, frequently can be done as-needed and incrementally, and almost never needs to be universally applied all at once.

    Yesterday, I came across a note wherein I had written a bunch of stuff in a rambly way. I realized it should be broken out into multiple notes. I was bummed, because wasted effort! But, I just copy and pasted the rough sections into new notes. I now have four not-so-great notes, but it's much easier to find those things now. And, when I engage with those ideas, I'll take a small amount of time to clean them up as I go.

    Also, to turn your fear around into a useful thing; sometimes just doing some modifications like this is a thing I'll do as a mental warmup exercise, almost as a meditation. It helps my brain get more active about making connections, and I find it a very soothing thing to do when I have a few minutes to work on things, but am too dumb to do anything "productive".

    So, yeah. To rephrase in a more American way: Just throw crap in there. The good stuff will rise to the surface, and the system will adapt to your ways of working over time.

  • edited March 29

    @x4ynt said:
    I've tried to implement Zettelkasten method to my own everyday note-taking, but I always strucked by fear, that my slipbox would become more incomprehensible and hard to manage the more zettels I feed into it, until we reached a point where adding more zettels will achieve nothing in return. I am so afraid of this prospect, I stopped writing at all.

    My main question is, how could I overcome this roadblock?

    It is quite the opposite. I had a call a couple of days ago where we talked about this topic. The Zettelkasten Methods improves the work with the archive rather than clutters it. :smile:

    Just fucking do it. Nothing bad can happen. You will make mistakes and then correct them. :smile:

    If you have unsolved obstacles this community will be there for you.

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