Zettelkasten Forum


Do you organize your personal notes in your Zettelkasten or in another space/app?

Hello,

I am new to this method and I am confused if I should separate my personal notes from my Zettelkasten. I understand that this method is mostly for work-related stuff - ideas, quotes, anecdotes, etc. But what about notes that are about our personal lives? Examples:

  • a note about books we would like to read;
  • a note about our personal observations on a health problem we have
  • a note about how to best use a software/app, etc.

Should we keep these notes in a separate app (like Evernote or OneNote)? And if yes, don't you get overwhelmed using so much different productivity apps: a to-do list for tasks, a calendar for events, a note-taking app for personal notes, The Archive for Zettelkasten, etc.?

Comments

  • Here's my 2 cents: I do, in fact, have notes with lists of things to do when I set up a new Mac in my note archive, for example. I also have my workout plan in there for easy access. For personal observations, I'm torn, because I tend not to revisit personal notes in my archive but they may still end up in search. Is that a good thing? Do I want to connect the personal note to another note one day? I don't want to keep an ongoing diary in there because then the notes I know I do want to use later might drown in the deluge of my personal life.

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

  • Here's my 2 cents: Like @ctietze I want to keep the "deluge of my personal life" separate. But what is just 'mind weather' or 'mental diarrhea' and what might be useful in connection with the contents of my zettelkasten is something I can not trust myself to define. The way I deal with this conundrum is first keeping a personal journal into which I put the "deluge of my personal life". Second I put whatever feels, in any sort of vague way, cogent to building knowledge into my zettelkasten. I'm a poor judge of what might be useful in the future and what will not. Do I put useless things in my zettelkasten, sure? It is mine, who cares. Do I sometimes put things in my journal that would be useful in expanding my knowledge, sure? Do I worry about all this, no? I can only do as good as I'm able to with the skills and attention I have right now. I am trying to be better.

    Will Simpson
    I'm a Zettelnant.
    Research: Attention Horizon, Dzogchen, Non-fiction Creative Writing
    kestrelcreek.com

  • @Will said:
    I'm a poor judge of what might be useful in the future and what will not.

    This is a very important point you make: we all are terrible at this, and the effect of surprise/serendipity cannot be planned. It's because one takes note of virtually everything for later re-use that makes the magic possible. Or, as Luhmann said, "Am Anfang produziert man weitestgehend Müll" (~ "in the beginning, one largely produces rubbish [notes]")

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

  • I put everything in my archive that falls under the category of information. Recipes, personal stuff and so on. A correctly set up system doesn't clutter.

    Example 1: When I do research on (physical) training I often encounter my own experience reports. They are useful.

    Example 2: I do a lot of work on my mental state (meditation, specialised reflection methods and more). All written stuff of that type also goes in my archive. I connect my personal experiences with scientific research and case studies from my clients to formulate tools that I further apply in my work as a trainer and publish them as a writer.

    Even the Zettelkasten follows the same pattern: I compiled a method for my own use, offered it freely, saw its success with other people and then formalised it with science and experience.

    I am a Zettler

  • @lrlazarov I am also new to the method so I am trying to decide the same issues for myself atm. The way I see it, of the three examples you gave, only the third (how best to use a program) would be best suited to the zettelkasten. I think the first two are too dependent on their temporal situation.

    The first is about something you want to read in future, so, this note will become irrelevant once you have read the book. (You might then make other, real, long lasting zettels about the content of the book, but that is a different matter, as they will be linked to other ideas and so will find their natural home). In the case of a book I wanted to read, I would keep a draft email called 'To Read', or a sticky note taped on my desk, or a sheet of scrap paper in a little jotter notebook along with other TO DO items for that day or week, what to do in the garden or life admin or whatever... perhaps not the most sophisticated way but hey ho, once those items are crossed off I forget them.

    The second could work, if you have a sequence of notes and you are trying to track the progress and changes of the condition. But the problem with this is that without links to put it in context with other ideas and integrate it into your whole personal bank of knowledge, a branch of zettels will get lost and die. What I do with long running issues that I want to track, such as the development of my baby niece, is I keep a separate document with each entry under a date, and then I can be as sprawling, as personal, as diarylike as I like, and I don't need to distill it. I don't yet see any place in the zettelkasten for anything connected with this diary, but that could change I guess. In contrast I see the zettelkasten as being quite timeless, so, if a diary gives rise to insights and information about the progression of a condition, then that could be distilled into a zettel. For example if you were keeping a separate diary about every time you had an attack of a condition, a zettel might look like: "From personal experience of 3 years, attacks of xxxxx seem to last for 2 days and be followed by several days of fatigue". This is already information.

    HTH... I'll write more if and when my method changes

    @lrlazarov said:
    Hello,

    I am new to this method and I am confused if I should separate my personal notes from my Zettelkasten. I understand that this method is mostly for work-related stuff - ideas, quotes, anecdotes, etc. But what about notes that are about our personal lives? Examples:

    • a note about books we would like to read;
    • a note about our personal observations on a health problem we have
    • a note about how to best use a software/app, etc.

    Should we keep these notes in a separate app (like Evernote or OneNote)? And if yes, don't you get overwhelmed using so much different productivity apps: a to-do list for tasks, a calendar for events, a note-taking app for personal notes, The Archive for Zettelkasten, etc.?

  • @lrlazarov
    I keep my personal notes separate from Archive (knowledge management). General rules are loose (see my note at the end of this comment) but somehow close to:

    1. Project notes or notes from different lifestyle areas which I do not consider "knowledge work" (I am sure that I will not need them beyond project/area needs or in my general knowledge work (where I am interested in other subjects). I do not want to clutter these two broad areas. Examples are
    • recipes (I will never publish cook book and do not intend to scientifically work on the subject, just to prepare my dinners)
    • notes from work with my clients - what to change, what to be aware of (I again - do not want to publish or anyhow connect this subject to other knowledge)
    • tips for trips / walks / accommodation etc.
    • project notes / todos
    • bookmarks

    I put these notes in Evernote (info) / Things (todos) and some other apps (calendar etc). When it would happen that suddenly I would consider this info important for my knowledge work, of course I would put it in the Archive, but not before this moment.

    1. Separate systems of specific texts/for specific use
      I want to keep them separate from various reasons. I do not want my emotional personal note about some realisation to appear when I am looking for scientific info on emotions in Archive etc. Theoretically, this connection might be important/revelatory, but practically it is not for me. Examples are:
    • personal diary
    • excerpts and study material for separate subject I study but I do not consider it part of my Archive (and I need this material to be in context, in connections, in one flow - which is important for rehearsal/memorisation - not as atomic knowledge)
    • my fulltext articles (I doubted about my authored articles whether to put them to Archive, but in the end I decided as people here suggested - only atomised knowledge goes into Archive, so I excerpt/dismantle main points from my articles and put them into Archive)
    • fulltext articles from other authors
    • articles which I am working on (in various stages)
    1. And our beloved The Archive (Zettelkasten system)
    • for everything I consider knowledge work = information/ideas which I meet/think about and consider important.

    It is very difficult for me to explicitly state the exact borders among above mentioned areas but as usually the practice itself is easier than definitions - by using these areas and working with information flow every day I am quite sure to where to put each piece of info.

  • I’ve been playing fast and loose with the idea of zettelkasten across various apps with good intentions. The result is that I end up with a bunch of pull quotes, half ideas, and other ephemeral nonsense. It becomes a junk pile.

    I’m thinking that I’m going to try to make a sacred file folder to act as a disciplined “by the book” place to make zettels for knowledge work according to the ideas laid out here on the site.

    If it works well and I get some better habits and discipline I may consider opening it up to more stuff. But at this point, I just want to get it working well.

  • @lrlazarov I am really only just getting into the swing of building my Zettelkasten. But I know from my GTD practice that for me systems work better when everything — both personal and professional — is in one big system.

    We like to compartmentalize our lives, I think. It looks more organized that way. But it's really just one big life.

    We benefit greatly from the cross-pollination of thoughts across our various areas of activity. That is a major source of our creativity. I come across truths in my business work that benefit my piano practice. Conversely, insights into my creative process inspire change at work and provide fodder for a blog post. And, of course, my meditation and more spiritual practices inform everything.

  • @sfast said:
    I put everything in my archive that falls under the category of information. Recipes, personal stuff and so on. A correctly set up system doesn't clutter.

    Example 1: When I do research on (physical) training I often encounter my own experience reports. They are useful.

    Example 2: I do a lot of work on my mental state (meditation, specialised reflection methods and more). All written stuff of that type also goes in my archive. I connect my personal experiences with scientific research and case studies from my clients to formulate tools that I further apply in my work as a trainer and publish them as a writer.

    Even the Zettelkasten follows the same pattern: I compiled a method for my own use, offered it freely, saw its success with other people and then formalised it with science and experience.

    @sfast, I assume you still follow this practice in 2021. When you put the experience reports to Zettelkasten, do these go to zettels or to reference database or to reference database + zettel do add some "knowledge" on top?

    I am asking, because I am thinking where to put stuff like meeting notes (similar to your experience reports?). It is useful as a reference, but not knowledge per se and possibly need to be processed/post-processed to extract the bits of knowledge.

  • @Artem

    Yes, I am still following this practice. My experience reports go into my ZK.

    It depends on the nature of the meeting notes if I'd create notes out of them. From the experience of my own meetings, I wouldn't. :)

    I am a Zettler

  • edited February 3

    @lrlazarov said:
    Hello,

    And if yes, don't you get overwhelmed using so much different productivity apps: a to-do list for tasks, a calendar for events, a note-taking app for personal notes, The Archive for Zettelkasten, etc.?

    This is a really good question. I’ve tried probably 15 different note-taking apps and as many again productivity apps over the past few years. Life simplified quite a bit when I started a) bullet journaling, and b) discovered The Archive and Zettelkasten, both about 6 months ago.

    Recently, someone on this forum mentioned NotePlan and I decided to check it out. After a week, I’m abandoning Things (for tasks; lovely as it is), Fantastical (great calendar), Bear (for personal notes; again, a lovely app), and Drafts. All that stuff - to-do’s, events, bullet journal entries, and personal notes, fits very nicely in NotePlan - one app to rule them all (haha).

    What’s left - for my Zettelkasten - The Archive on my MacBook and 1Writer on iOS. And of course, the million dollar question: what should go in my Zettelkasten and what belongs in personal notes? Turns out, it’s not that hard to decide.

  • I will note that I consider my most important use case for the Zettelkasten to be mental health improvement -- "work on my mental state", per sfast. As such it's valuable for me to include transcriptions diary entries produced by free journaling. Yes, it's formless. But I toss it in a folder of "stable"/"reference" materials, make notes citing it, and can come back to it if I think it has something to teach me later.

    Crucially, I happen to store it in the same file structure as my notes, but it is more of a timely artifact for reference than a proper durable note. To sfast's point, it's not in the way; it's just another file I can navigate to.

  • Ideas, thoughts, conjecture, musings: Zettelkasten.

    Mere data (folks mentioned recipes for example) and facts (example, I keep a list of new words to learn), and the like: Bullet Journal or annotated in Joplin in an appropriate folder.

    Perhaps various principles surrounding cooking those recipes: Zettelkasten (perhaps)
    Philosophical musings on etymology (word origins/change): Zettelkasten
    Not the best examples, but I hope you are grasping my thoughts on the matter.

    Sometimes it is an intuitive thing, but it all boils down to:

    • ideas ⟶ ZK
    • banal facts ⟶ elsewhere
    • things that don't further your thinking ⟶ elsewhere
    • things that aren't as obvious ⟶ pick one, life is short and imperfect

    It's irrelevant as to whether a quality musing is personal or based on some project. I would sort that out with Topic Notes or Structure Notes. I also think many notes are incomplete, mismatched to purpose, and often irrelevant. I suppose this irons out with experience.

    I am a Zettler.

Sign In or Register to comment.