Zettelkasten Forum


Greetings and a Question on Dating Paper Index Cards

Hi, folks! I feel like I have found a group of kindred souls in this forum! So many of you have followed the same path I have (GTD, hipsterPDA, Markdown, Things, txt files, nvAlt, etc).

I am starting a new ZK system for a research project, writing a textbook for a literature course. That will be the focus for now but eventually I would like it to become my "One Research Management System to Rule them All." I made my first few cards last night... about the ZKM :smile:

I want to use 4x6 index cards. I need the paper because otherwise I get overwhelmed and I become the prisoner and not the master of my material. When I wrote my dissertation, it took me 10 years because I was so stressed out from a lack control.

Questions for those who use a paper system: (I did search on this but did not find my answer.)

  • Do you put the date on the cards when you make them?
  • What about adding a date when you make a change?
  • Where on the card do you put the date?

Thank you!

Comments

  • edited February 28

    I don't use a paper system, but:

    • you put the date on the card when you make it
    • you don't date changes. If you need to keep before / after then you make two separate notes, otherwise you simply change the original one
    • navigation is important, so the date should be on top. take a moment to think how you go through your notes before you decide where you want to place it. Being left / right handed matters here, among other things.

    You also need to branch off your notes, so dates are probably a bit cumbersome for a paper system. I think the Luhmann-ID would be a better alternative.

    my first Zettel uid: 202008120915

  • Hi @davidleitner ! I label mine with a date on top of the card in the middle (in the format YYYY/MM/DD/HHMM). This is because I want to have a space for ID on the left and eventual keywords on the right. I originally used the date as a way of linking the paper note to its digital, markdown version. Now, it’s mostly to have a reference for when it was written, as I almost never retype the notes anymore...

  • Thank you both for the rapid replies! And I appreciate the tips. I think I will add the date in the top right and the Luhmann-ID in the top left with the title/topic in the middle. In terms of keywords, I will underline those in the note itself.

    I will keep you all posted on whether this works or not.

  • @davidleitner I believe @amunicapunica keeps a paper Zettelkasten and could probably give you some hints as well (hope I’ve remembered the right person).

  • @davidleitner said:
    Hi, folks! I feel like I have found a group of kindred souls in this forum! So many of you have followed the same path I have (GTD, hipsterPDA, Markdown, Things, txt files, nvAlt, etc).

    Welcome! That's more or less the exact path I went :)

    • Do you put the date on the cards when you make them?

    FWIW, back when I used paper note cards, I wrote down the date in the top-right corner. The ID was in the top-left. It was just for context and to track progress over time, but since I never kept that tool, I can't say if that's useful or not.

    • What about adding a date when you make a change?

    In my digital system, I didn't find change tracking to be useful at all. It sounded nice to trace the evolution of my thoughts, and go through revisions and reminisce about how ideas could change -- but in the end, it's hard enough to keep up with writing things down, and then extending existing notes as I go, and make use of all this. Revisions only added noise, and on paper I imagine writing down the date of every addition you make will compete with actual content for space. Content would be more important to me.

    All in all: Working daily with a Zettelkasten is far less romantic than imagining to work with a Zettelkasten. Most ideas that felt really, really good in advance didn't survive. Like change tracking. Like "needing" visualizations. -- Once using the tool worked out for me and became second nature, once the process was established, the fruits of labor (ideas, order, being able to find stuff, being able to come up with stuff) became more important. That boils down to typing, reading, revising, clarifying, and it's hard enough to do :)

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

  • @GeoEng51 said:
    @davidleitner I believe @amunicapunica keeps a paper Zettelkasten and could probably give you some hints as well (hope I’ve remembered the right person).

    I will add that member to my list! Thank you, GeoEng51!

  • Heyhey! Sorry for the late answer, i was kinda distracted with paper work ;-) I have not developed a full fleshed out Zettelkasten routine until this point to be honest. Yet i have installed an analog system for my readings etc. (What i have discussed in this forum was a system for my area of study, which i gave up because of exam-specific requirements). This means i do not have "one system to rule them all" on purpose right now.

    So after this little disclaimer, here is what i am doing right now when it comes to "knowledge work" or reading: It is heavily inspired by this post by the way!
    https://forum.zettelkasten.de/discussion/1348/phd-student-reporting-what-its-like-to-use-a-zettelkasten-for-the-first-time-with-my-classes#latest

    I read and take notes (if it is my book, i draw symbols like a square for hypothesis, a star or something else to easily catch up). Taking notes does not mean what others might refer to as "literature notes", but i am working with the text i read heavily (diagrams etc.) to understand what i read (if necessary). I also write down questions which pop up. All this will be trashed after it is processed. I come back to this material later and write thoughts down (A5 paper). This leads up to a little book by itself (you might call it a project). At the end of the month, i take all these paper Zettels and type or modify them on my pc and work with prior notes. I also thought it would be nice to have a little summary of the book at the end (on a specific Zettel) but i do read way more articles than books and kind of trust my memory with this right now.

    pro: I can concentrate way better
    con: I lack motivation to take on the next step and work on my pc and produce something (but that is a whole other story).

    Regarding your layout question, it is just like you said: Title in the middle, date on the right (no specific purpose tbh) and a number on the left. To be honest, i might switch to a book where i can write everything into and just link across pages before i switch to pc. I just like to be able to stay offline completely (for similar reasons - i would probably think about writing a phd analog as well) and think about the scale of this paper database. In 3 years, i would like to be able to look up what i wrote about book x quickly.

  • Thanks for your explanation and thoughts on your process, @amunicapunica , very helpful! Please keep us updated on how does your system develop. My Zettelkasten isn't dissimilar to yours and I opt for paper not least because my regular job involves siting in front of screen for much of the working hours. I can't tolerate more of that in my free time and it doesn't help for concentration either. The other reason is that I simply can't part from my fountain pens (one with red ink, the other with blue or black)!

    I underline and annotate during reading (philosophy, politics, economics, so "challenging the author" is a must), and then I write my literature notes in notebooks or note cards, hesitating endlessly between the two on this, as each has advantages. As the last step, I choose interesting parts of my reading - either quotes, or my own words (even quotes have at least a headline that introduces where it fits into my other research) - and put them on A6 note cards and into a regular slip box. There is a highly interesting recent post at Reddit here, which describes a similar process.

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