Zettelkasten Forum


Mixing physical and digital zettels: so far so not terrible -- my workflow

I'm curious if anyone has experience with a dual-zettelkasten format. So far, it hasn't caused any (major) problems.

If I write a "good" zettle diligently and feel too lazy to rewrite the full note in digital form, particularly a note with lots of diagrams (mathematics, etc) I'll resort to the following...

Workflow: Physical to Digital

  1. Scan the zettle making sure its readable
  2. Create a zettle with the same id and title in digital form
  3. Insert the scan as a large image
  4. Write the header in digital form (using a physical-scan-template) this is quick
  5. Write any links in digital form
  6. Write a one-sentence summary in digital form.
  7. Liberally use NON-hashed tags for keywords in the scanned text for easy searching.
  8. Keep the physical copy and add to physical slipbox

At some point, if I get around to it, I will slowly convert notes that have been post-semi-digitized per the above into purely digital form.

I find the above most helpful when doing mathematics: the diagrams of category theory can take lots of time to write in latex. So if you have a particularly well-formed note with lots of notation, then I've found this method can work out fine in the short-term. The most important items -- by trial and error -- from above are 5 6 and 7 so as to preserve the ability to search, link, and see a short summary.

Workflow: Digital to Physical (perhaps this is a bit obsessive)

  1. At the end of each day collect the digitally created zettels from that day (easy with timestamp ID)
  2. Print them out 2-per page and cut in half
  3. Add to physical slipbox
  4. Always maintain a printed copy of any index or structure notes.

Now you have a synchronized digital and physical slipbox. Its not perfect but sometimes the good enough, is.

Comments

  • Your workflow sounds solid. I do something similar. Only the end product is digital. What zettelkasting software do you use? Below is an example from mine. In this case, I took an image of an illustration from a book, but it could have been a hand drawing with annotations. Here I surrounded the image with my ideas about the illustration.

    In your example, the important step would be the keywording in the digital zettel. A way to embed powerful and useful keywords is to describe the contents in a few sentences of the illustration or scanned zettel. It sounds like what you already do.

    This may have advantages when printing out the digital zettel. The illustrations are clear, and the digital zettelkasten helps find links.

    The disadvantage of the workflow you describe is the redundancy. Keeping two systems in sync is unnecessary cognitive overhead. But without keeping both up and in sync, you lose the advantages of both.

    I discard illustrations once scan into my zettelkasten.

    This shows one way to handle simple math formulas, not perfect but good enough for me as a beginner. Latex is great for presentation in journals, but for my own notes, something like this suffices.

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

  • @bradfordfournier

    Your workflow sounds pretty good, but I agree with @Will that two Zettelkásten creates a bit of a mess. May I ask why you keep two? Would love to hear your response.

  • @Will wrote:

    This shows one way to handle simple math formulas, not perfect but good enough for me as a beginner. Latex is great for presentation in journals, but for my own notes, something like this suffices.

    I'm a bit skeptical about the "not perfect but good enough" - I wonder how the next revision of the zettel may look like, after a clarification of the meaning of XP - PX and of the role of h. And "the portion of a particle" is another item of interest.
    My more general point: The writing substrate one uses can severely influence one's capacities for insight.

  • Thinking about this more deeply, you are right to be skeptical about my laxitude. Further clarification, interest, and attention will move this idea forward, and I should have said so.

    You might be right: "The writing substrate one uses can influence one's capacities for insight."

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

  • @Dilan_Zelsky said:
    @bradfordfournier

    Your workflow sounds pretty good, but I agree with @Will that two Zettelkásten creates a bit of a mess. May I ask why you keep two? Would love to hear your response.

    First, and only obliquely related, I follow @sfast in his advice to create links before creating the zettles themselves: i.e., link as you go: this has helped me create more local structure which is more natural and helps in the elaboration of a cluster of ideas.

    The above has helped me generate more relevant notes which are well suited for certain structure-notes and thus in preparing papers.

    Once I have enough to start thinking about ordering on sections, subsections, etc for a paper, I like to arrange the notes in a way I imagine will represent the first draft. During this process I like to scribble, re-order, play, etc.

    For me this "playing with notes" in preparation for a single work feels stiff when working digitally. So, to have all my printed zettles which will inform the paper, spreading them out on my desk and working by hand feels more natural and frankly is more fun.

    I can go to town making a mess without impacting the digital zettelkasten.

    The process feels creative, and usually results in ideas for more zettles and connections, which then go into the digital zettelkasten -- either as edits / additions to extant notes or as new notes.

    So, I suppose it boils down to making the process of examining links, reviewing notes, and elaborating possibilities more fun -- which, for me, in turn, leads to better notes and better work.

  • @Dilan_Zelsky said:
    @bradfordfournier

    Your workflow sounds pretty good, but I agree with @Will that two Zettelkásten creates a bit of a mess. May I ask why you keep two? Would love to hear your response.

    Also, I don't really think of it as a second Zettelkasten. I simply have a printed copy of my notes ordered by ID which I can play with physically. (see my comment above).

    If I edit a note in the digital zettelkasten I hit print and replace the old printed copy.

    If I edit a note in the physical zettelkasten, I make the changes digitally and it's done.

    The extra couple clicks and printing is, for me, well worth the process I mentioned in my preceding comment.

  • @bradfordfournier

    Ah, I see. I got the wrong idea then. Sorry :P.

    I may try printing my Zettels too. Sounds like a really fun way of outlining.

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