Zettelkasten Forum


Need help in tracking Zettels created

Reading Christian Tietze's and Sascha Fast's blog posts on the importance of tracking inspired me to track how many Zettels I create.

I figured that keeping a list of Zettels created daily would be useless without a workflow to integrate it in. So, I watched Brian Crain's presentation on optimizing productivity, which was cited in one of the blog posts from the Zettelkasten blog. Also, I read this article from the Quantified Self website that I found along the way.

I decided that I want to do something similar to Brian Crain. From tracking how many pomodori he completed, he gained the ability to achieve two things: notice a standard for his good days/weeks/months/quarters/years, and compare how well he did with how well he is doing. I want to achieve the same from tracking how many Zettels I create.

From looking at his setup, I'd have to track the following:

  • Total from a year
  • Total from the first to the fourth quarters
  • Monthly average
  • Weekly average
  • Number of weeks in which I get my weekly average or above it
  • Daily average
  • Number of days in which I get my daily average or above it

He tracked more, but this is all I could understand from his presentation and slides.

My problem is setting up an user interface to manage all of this in a way that is simple and allows me to get every item easily. Brian Crain didn't talk much about his setup. Also, I have zero knowledge in using spreadsheets. So the question is: How do I achieve what I want to accomplish?

Really appreciate any help you can give me.

Comments

  • @Dilan_Zelsky

    I'm sure you will get some good, practical answers from people on the forum. Many here do such tracking and find it useful.

    I'm not one of them. I find tracking how I spend my time to be a mostly futile exercise. I'd rather spend time doing than tracking.

    So, not everyone would agree. I'd just encourage you to examine why you want to track yourself in this manner and what you will get out of it, and decide whether you will get value for output :smiley: , before investing all the time to set up such a system.

  • edited July 11

    I can imagine a phone app (or browser extension) that would let you press a button and count and then it would calculate anything you might possibly want to know about your activities. My Wyze scale connects to their app on my phone and records the latest readings and shows a bunch of values over time. My wife's blood pressure machine also provides the information about what it is capable of measuring to their app on her phone and it will e-mail the data in a file that you can send to the cardiologist's office. I'm sure someone could create a similar Zittel creation counter.

    I agree with @GeoEng51. I don't see the real value of doing all that work. If you really want to do it, I'm sure you can find someone who would be willing to assist (for a price). Might even be some open source code available which could be tweaked to do what you want, who knows.

  • @Dilan_Zelsky To get unstuck or not get stuck with this at all, I'd recommend figuring out a comfortable way to count your notes of the day. Keep a simple list of these. If everything else fails, you can still add the numbers up manually at the end of each month.

    That cumbersome, but not impossible, so you have a manual fall-back option. In the meantime, you can still investigate which automated process would work for you.

    In terms of spreadsheets, take whatever app you have handy, or Google Sheets if everything else fails, and track the data there. Summing up cells sometimes is as simple as selecting all cells and then hitting a "Sum" function button. (Apple's own Numbers.app shows aggregates like sum, average, min and max in the window's bottom status bar when you select cells, which makes this even simpler.)

    Once you have the daily count, you will get to sums and averages one way or another, that I do not doubt.

    @Will's scripts could get you started for daily statistics: https://forum.zettelkasten.de/discussion/1597/zettelkasten-statistics-v2021-1

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

  • Googling "What isn't measured can't be improved" leads to many articles stating this is not true or bad advice. Coming from a business management paradigm, this probably is true. But, in a scientific sense, what isn't measured can be understood. Rather or not you are interested in work statistics depends on if you view your personal knowledge project as a scientific project meant to help discover new and novel ideas.

    @Dilan_Zelsky said:
    ... I'd have to track the following:

    • Total from a year
    • Total from the first to the fourth quarters
    • Monthly average
    • Weekly average
    • Number of weeks in which I get my weekly average or above it
    • Daily average
    • Number of days in which I get my daily average or above it

    To do what you want, you only need two pieces of data for each day.
    1. The date
    2. The number of zettel created on that date

    Collect this in a .csv file, and the rest is just easy-peasy math.

    My problem is setting up a user interface to manage all of this in a simple way and allows me to get every item easily.

    I'd advise collecting data now and then slowly developing a view into the data as you get a feel for how you'd like to be presented with the data. Do you journal, and maybe you might insert a template into your journal each day to show zettelkasting stats? Or maybe you'd find more use out of an ad-hoc viewing of the stats whenever you got to wondering about your progress.

    Also, I have zero knowledge of using spreadsheets. So the question is: How do I achieve what I want to accomplish?

    This is a great time to stretch and learn a few targeted things about spreadsheets. This will be rewarding, and the knowledge is transferable. Learning something new is fun when tangible outcomes and actual rewards apply to your use cases. Just focus on what you want your spreadsheets to do.

    An alternative is to use scripting. I'm learning and prepping a little personal script in bash to do this sort of thing for me. Which zettelkasting software are you using? Some store this information in a database. Some have it all in the open for the user to grab. I might be able to help depending on which zettelkasting app you are using.

    I journal daily separately from my zettelkasting adventures. Stats are placed in my daily entry showing how I'm doing. I've found that I'm more interested in word production and the number of note links than I am in the number of new zettel. I'm spending more productive time refactoring older ideas than I am creating whole new ones. This varies from time to time. Below is a snippet of the stats that are included in each day's journal entry.

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

  • @GeoEng51

    Now that you mention it, I didn't put much thought into why I want to track how many Zettels I create. As per the "Get Started" article from the Quantified Self website, I wrote down my purpose. However, I now realize that it's vague: "I want to gain insight into how many Zettels I create."

    I don't know how I could make it any better, but I'm confident in the benefits of tracking this. There are the benefits I outlined in my post: noticing a standard for my good days/weeks/months/quarters/years, and the ability to compare how well I'm doing with how well I've done. Then, there's my main motivator that I forgot to mention: identifying patterns. E.g.: If I notice that I was really productive in a particular month, I'd like to look into that so that I can keep being productive.

  • Thank you and @geoeng51 for pointing out the flaws in my idea. As I explained to @geoeng51, I'm confident in the benefits of tracking how many Zettels I create and using the system I outlined. However, I'll reflect on this because it might not be worth it after all.

    With regards to automatizing the system, it's a good suggestion, but I'm broke, so it's out of my reach.

  • @Dilan_Zelsky

    I understand the attraction to tracking and how it might be useful. For me, there are so many intangible factors that impact productivity, many of which I don't have a lot of control over. I guess if I was trying to get through a specific project, say doing research for a Masters or PhD, and I was time-limited, I would want to be as productive as possible. It would make sense to examine what impacted my productivity and what I could do to improve it.

    (As an aside, I assume by "productivity" we are talking about quantity of zettels that meet a certain minimum standard of quality or focus).

    However, that is not my main goal. I want to take the time to capture what is deeply important to me. That requires a lot of contemplative thought, directed reading and explorative conversation with others, all of which prompts or inspires or reminds me on what ideas to focus. My sense of progress is tied not at all to quantity but to knowing that I'm capturing ideas that are important to me, with a focus on the quality, clarity and depth of each zettel. This is related to the overall purpose for my ZK (but perhaps it is related to age and stage of life as well).

    I was only encouraging you to examine what the purpose is for your ZK, as that is what will drive your sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. It may be tied to productivity but it might also be tied to other qualities not associated with productivity (as defined above).

  • @ctietze

    I had already been doing the manual fall-back option that you suggested. Either way, I appreciate that you pointed it out because I think there is value in having a temporary workaround to something that you want to improve upon. E.g.: Optimizing an old laptop to work with it seamlessly until you get a better one, as is my situation.

    I completely forgot about functions of spreadsheet programs. Thank you for reminding me about them. I think I'll try doing that for a while. If it's not helpful, then I'll look further into automatizing this.

    Also, thank you for pointing out Will's scripts. They're not what I want to achieve, but they might serve for inspiration.

  • @Will

    Thanks for your suggestions.

    I already have the data, but I didn't think of keeping it in a .csv file. I'm immediately changing the format of my file to that file format.

    When it comes to the user interface, I have an idea in mind: the user interface would show me the stats that I outlined whenever I opened it and they would be up-to-date all the time.

    However, I'm starting to question myself for doing this. I'll reflect on this and if I decide that I want to do it or do something similar, I might hit you up for that scripting project of yours.

  • @GeoEng51

    Ah, now I get you. I haven't thought about my goal with my Zettelkasten. I'll reflect on what you said and think well about what I want to achieve with it. Then, I'll do tracking if at all necessary.

    Thank you for your clarification!

  • Coincidentally, and with some serendipity, I today read an article by Cal Newport about productivity in our work and in discovering new ideas. I thought it might have some application to this discussion. It’s at least worth pondering his insight to see if it changes our perspective on how we work on our Zettelkasten.

    https://www.calnewport.com/blog/2021/07/21/on-pace-and-productivity/

  • there are quite some ideas mentioned in the discussion. I still don't understand why they say that Galileo & co was very productive in a lifetime but unproductive on a weeks scale. Sure, they were busy doing their stuff, but that seems like a poor excuse considering what they had achieved.

    my first Zettel uid: 202008120915

  • @GeoEng51 said:
    Coincidentally, and with some serendipity, I today read an article by Cal Newport about productivity in our work and in discovering new ideas. I thought it might have some application to this discussion. It’s at least worth pondering his insight to see if it changes our perspective on how we work on our Zettelkasten.

    https://www.calnewport.com/blog/2021/07/21/on-pace-and-productivity/

    An interesting article. Thank you for sharing it!

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