Zettelkasten Forum

Do a little bit of thing on each one everyday or the opposite?

Suppose that I have a lifestyle that I can manage my time at my will
for 95% of my time. My goal is to explore more ideas, to learn more
new things by reading books.

An easy example would be reading books in different categories. If I
need to read a 700-page psychology book to read. I have two choices:

Plan A: read the book with a fixed schedule, e.g., two hours before
sleep every day.

Plan B: read the book anytime that I have free time. I am not saying
all the free time. Even during a busy day, I would still like to
allocate time to stress my body. Reviewing my weekly time
distribution, etc.

I think Plan A is less "stressful" than Plan B. With
Plan B, I tend to run towards the finish line, i.e., finish reading
this book. It might mean that I am more concentrated on the book. But
the downside is the feeling of rush.

Although Plan B is less "stress", it has a downside. I don't have a
longer working memory compared to Plan A, which requires more time
with concentration during a shorter time frame. The good thing about
Plan A is that I can work with a much more different board of view at
any time. Thus, it might make more chances for creativity.

What plan do you typically use in your life? Do you strictly follow one
mode or making adaption according to different content? Do you think
that Zettelkästen is more suitable for Plan A or Plan B or neither?

I would like to hear from you.


  • I just have 1-2 books that I am reading and then I read whenever it is the right time. So, perhaps I am on Plan B.

    I don't think that there is any difference regarding the ZKM. If you process books chapter by chapter you wouldn't divide reading and processing that strictly anyhow.

    I am a Zettler

  • I also just follow my gut feeling, so if sometimes you just want to 100% focus on a single thing, get a single thing done, even if it can last you a couple of days or even weeks, then that will be fine as long as it's out of your own curiosity, out of your own interest, out of your own personal pursuit. But in the end, when these things happen, I would say it's definitely a happiest moment for a person's life, but, you know, always have a but, if you don't have that kind of intention or desire to work on one single thing, then just pick up the idea that it's most interesting to you, even just for 10 minutes ever or 20 minutes, as long as it is your own interest, it doesn't matter. When I read Luhmann's stories, he had over 3,000 manuscripts unpublished, and that tells something here, so that's currently my thoughts. And my actions as well.

  • At times I have found that I should finish a book ASAP in order to integrate it into my overall thinking. Either to advance a specific project or my life in general.

    Having said that, reading a bit day in day out is the better way. The main reason is that it is more sustainable:

    • You will end up having processed more books over the long run.
    • Giving your brain more time to process will also make for higher quality in your work.
    • Training your brain to have a fixed reading/notation time will be less taxing energy wise.

    What is missing so far in this discussion is the role of or brakes or rather breaks and abstinence. It is mainly a decision about how you want to live, but generally speaking one needs rest.

    In terms of time management techniques, it doesn't have to be a fixed schedule vs spontaneous engagement, there are also modi operandi in between those to rather strict poles.

    A thing to note at this point is that what is needed is trust in your own process, whatever that process might be. If your brain (or your gut) doesn't trust the process, that you will return to the work at some point, it will produce what the OP described at rush, a pressure, in order to secure the goal of finishing the book.

    Not every book is worth the time and the effort to be read in its entirety. If an author looses me, I'll stop. There is enough good stuff out there.

  • @Perikles said:
    What is missing so far in this discussion is the role of or brakes or rather breaks and abstinence. It is mainly a decision about how you want to live, but generally speaking one needs rest.

    Thanks for rescuing this discussion. At first, it seems counter-intuitive that the reading resting phase is more important than the active phase for growth. It works the same way as exercise. The activity of exercise occurs when muscles get broken down. It is only during the rest phase that muscles get repaired and grow. Constant exercise and no rest leads generally to poor muscle growth.

    This holds with reading because it is not during the act of reading that knowledge is built but afterward when connecting the ideas read about with other knowledge.

    Of course, exercise and reading are necessary, but not sufficient. And that more is called rest. This also argues for a customary review after rest/breaks/abstinence/sleep.

    Not every book is worth the time and the effort to be read in its entirety. If an autholoseses me, I'll stop. There is enough good stuff out there.

    You give trophy-winning reading advice. Skipping around in a book can help keep interest up. I find when my attention gets lost by an author; it helps to attack the table of contents for any of the remaining chapters that look interesting. Sometimes I find that it is only the current chapter that feels like crap.

    Will Simpson
    I must keep doing my best even though I'm a failure. My peak cognition is behind me. One day soon I will read my last book, write my last note, eat my last meal, and kiss my sweetie for the last time.

  • I try to practice Ichigyo Zanmai (一行三昧)--focusing on one thing at a time. I'm only missing a few inessential elements.

    1. What to focus on. I understand this takes wisdom, experience, and a capacity for serious thought. An alternative is to be lucky enough to feel like focusing on the right thing at the right time. I'll settle for luck instead of wisdom. One cannot be judgmental about this.
    2. How long to focus. This might not be easy to predict. There are diminishing returns. I'm inclined to sleep on problems--including the issue of how long to focus.
    3. Relating the last thing you focused on to some previous thing you concentrated on. The Zettelkasten is supposed to help here.

    Usually, if you're not a crank, you find a Wissenschaft and competent people who work in the area who will accept you and your work. Maintaining a guild membership in good standing will help address missing elements 1 and 2 above. If the thing you decided--or didn't decide--to focus on has no accepted standards or isn't a cognitive subject, then you still have numerous options, such as doing bad philosophy in an English department or becoming a charlatan, but that might not help with the missing elements unless you are a mindful, disciplined charlatan. If you're a scattered dilettante, all bets are off.

    GitHub. Erdős #2. CC BY-SA 4.0. Problems worthy of attack / prove their worth by hitting back. -- Piet Hein.

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