Zettelkasten Forum

How Many Notes in Your Zettelkasten?

How many notes do you have in your Zettelkasten and over what time period have you written them?

This is not a competition! I'm just curious about what range of answers we will get from forum members.

A supplementary question is what do you think is the minimum number of notes before a Zettelkasten starts to become useful (in whatever way you define that word)?


  • edited September 2020

    Number of notes: 9474 (words: 1,272,584; 134 per Zettel)

    Over a time of: I started my Zettelkasten as a Zettelkasten a decade ago (on paper slips). In the last years, I increased the production of Zettel. 2017 I wrote 2.845 Zettel (7,8 per day), 2018 I wrote ~1400 Zettel (3,84 per day). Then I stopped measuring because I finished refining my workflow to a greater extend. I create the vast majority of the Zettels during two mornings per week. The Zettel production will vary with the amount of research necessary. If I need to process a lot of empirical studies on topics that are foreign to me I would create 8--10 Zettels per morning. If I have less obstacles I could produce up to 30 Zettel per day. (Want to say: This is not a competition. If you wrestle with hard sources one Zettel could take hours)

    The Zettelkasten Method is useful from Zettel 1 on. It provides a clear and structured workflow which is the reason I use it to help mentally challenged students especially.

    I suppose you ask in the direction of creativity and the Zettelkaste becoming alive? I think it depends on the amount of topics and your dedication to connecting with context. My topics range from stretching over philosophy to agriculture and the psychology of attention. It might lower the amount of Zettels necessary or increase it. It is an empircal question for which we won't have data for a long time. My Zettelkasten reached the final stage (there are several) with ~4000 Zettel. After this amount no more new complexity developed.

    I think in terms of creativity a couple of dozen Zettels are sufficient if you make an effort to connect and focus processing instead of collecting. I reached this point in the low hundreds as far as I can remember.

    I am a Zettler

  • 80 Zettel in one month. I have a few connections with 2nd degree vertical focus. My Zettel are useful starting from Zettel 2.

    my first Zettel uid: 202008120915

  • Here's mine:

    |   Date     |  Zettel |   Words  |
    | 2012-01-29 |    1463 |          |
    | 2015-03-16 |    3489 |   555043 |
    | 2019-08-01 |    4921 |   776038 |
    | 2020-09-01 |    5412 |   834782 |

    Started on my computer in 2009

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

  • edited September 2020

    I keep needlessly flopping back and forth between paper and digital. I started my digital a few months ago and have 353 notes. But I also use The Archive for tasks, projects, GTD stuff as well as proper Zettelkasten stuff.

    Just the simple fact that I can create and find and link things easily makes this useful from Day 1. But I'm excited to see what develops when I'm several thousand notes in.

    I always wanted to write a book, and I suspect Zettelkasten will make that an actual reality.

  • I have around 400 notes and I started the last week of April. I found ZK beneficial as a tool to structure my notes from the beginning, but I don't think I started to understand the full benefits until about 100 notes in, which was when I got outside of just noting down things that I was already comfortable with and starting working on notes for which I had no previous basis of understanding. Around note 250 was where I started to group zettel into a structure note that ended up becoming a draft of a paper (currently in submission).

  • I've created 2,090 notes in my ZK since April 3, 2018, which is an average of 2.3 notes a day, although, of course, some weeks I only write a few notes, other weeks a lot.

    The first two years I felt like I was simply feeding my ZK, converting paper notes into digital. My structure notes, such as they were, tended to be simple aggregated lists of related notes, more like loose tables of contents. It's only over the past summer, inspired by @Will , @ethomasv, and others, that I've seriously started digging into structure notes in accordance with @ethomasv's principle that a ZK should be a "map, not a maze."

    Started ZK 4.2018. "The path is at your feet, see? Now carry on."

  • I am new to the concept of slip-box, but I found it suits me well every
    since I started to make them.

    To motivate myself, I used a dedicated screen to show some statistical
    data about my slipbox. For example, how many ideas I build everyday and the
    total number of the ideas I have so far.

    When the dedicated screen is shutdown to do other jobs. I found myself
    less focusing on generating new ideas. Instead, I find myself easily
    got distracted by noises around me.

    I also have another small dedicated screen just under my main screen.
    I make it to show how much time I need to spend on some tasks
    everyday. Again, I found myself get distracted if these data is not
    properly shown in front of me.

    The goal of using these two dedicated screens for me is simple. Just
    try to finish the time goal. And being able to see how much work I've
    done and bing able to see these little achievement everyday.

  • Wow. What happened in the beginning? 90 ideas on a day?

    I am a Zettler

  • edited September 2020

    I have 2,145 notes in my active zettelkasten from about a year and a half of work. Then about 1,000 notes I'm transferring over from TiddlyWiki. But don't be impressed by that.

    When writing, a paragraph is made up of a core idea + supporting sentences/information. The vast majority of my zettelkasten notes are the supporting sentences/information. I have a lot of definitions because I find them to be useful as anchor points for further reading/research. I also have a crap memory, so I find the ability to quickly pull up definitions and related information helpful.

    My zettelkasten is also very imprecise because I'm a scattershot reader. You could have someone with a much more impressive zettelkasten at around 300 notes, if all their notes are core ideas, centered around a single topic/category, and well connected.

    My zettelkasten is also not as interconnected as it should be. What @Sascha said earlier is key, "make an effort to connect and focus processing instead of collecting. I reached this point in the low hundreds as far as I can remember", which I've admittedly been bad about doing. I have started a second zettelkasten within my zettelkasten of sorts, where the files are delineated and the focus being explicitly on processing and connecting.

  • To date, 949 zettelkasten notes. The majority is work-related: optics, communication theory and such. The vast majority are short: A title, a few sentences to expand and a reference or two.

  • Current number of notes: around 2360. The first is dated 2006. Only in the past 10 years did I approach the notes as a whole hypertext and start focusing on interconnecting them. (I had created other separate discrete hypertext projects since the early 1990s, but the idea of one master personal hypertext system did not occur to me back then.) Only in the past five years, with the help of websites like this one, did I develop a mature systematic method for curating the notes.

    Luhmann said: "The slip box needs a number of years in order to reach critical mass. Until then, it functions as a mere container from which we can retrieve what we put in." This is correct in my experience. My note system has always been "useful" insofar as I can retrieve the information that I need from it. But only recently, in the past two years, have I noticed that the system is starting to have its own life, as if it is talking to me.

  • @Sascha said:
    Wow. What happened in the beginning? 90 ideas on a day?

    On the day of creating 90 notes, I created a lots of branches from a
    topic of content from a book. In terms of the number, it's impressive,
    but the influence of such creation is still unknown to me. During the
    interaction with my ZK, I found that I have attention to create new
    ideas from these newly created branches, but I only occasionally to do
    so. I feel those new branches are not attractive compared to the first
    time I saw them in the book.

    I am still finding a better way to create more ideas on a day to day
    basis. I am observing myself. I want to know under what circumstances,
    I am willing to write more.

  • Can people also share (or point me to where I can find) the tools to track this? I'd love to have that data for my ZK.

  • @Sociopoetic said:
    Can people also share (or point me to where I can find) the tools to track this? I'd love to have that data for my ZK.


    I'm also guessing that @Will has a brilliant Archive macro for this.

    1. I run a cronjob to log down how many ideas I've generated

      All my notes is in plain text format and it's under version
      control. The file name is based on the time created, so it's very
      trivial to achieve it.

    2. I write my own python script based on a 3rd python lib

      An example: https://plotly.com/python/renderers/

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