Zettelkasten Forum


Migration from Bullet Journal to Zettelkasten

Years ago my personal note taking was no longer based on trial and error but on a solid concept called Bullet Journaling. It started on paper with a lovely Moleskin book and a black fine liner from Neuland. Going digital with my Bullet Journal I decided to use a brilliant tool for note taking named OneNote. But time went by. In March 2022 I got my first contact with Obsidian and at the same time with the Zettelkasten method from Niklas Luhmann explained in the brilliant book from Sönke Ahrens about “How to take Smart Notes”.

Migration from OneNote to Obsidian was a migration from structured notes to networked notes. But how to migrate a Bullet Journal to a Zettelkasten? Difficult to switch from one concept to another? No, it’s very easy. The Bullet Journal is now a set of Structure Notes in my Zettelkasten. Also Zettelkasten is a Custom Collection in my Bullet Journal.

In other words:

  • my Zettelkasten is a Bullet Journal and
  • my Bullet Journal is a Zettelkasten.

The best of all: I did not need to change the basic concepts from Ryder Carroll (Bullet Journal), neither the concepts from Niklas Luhmann (Zettelkasten). Both concepts support each other in a perfect manner.

What about your experiences with theses methods? Do you use the Dataview plugin to support your Bullet Journal collections?

  • Ahrens, Sönke. How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking, 2022.
  • Carroll, Ryder. The Bullet Journal Method - Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future, 2018.

Comments

  • edited July 2022

    @Edmund My experience has some similarities, as I still keep a bullet journal and I have been working on a ZK for a few years. But they are not fully integrated, by any means. My ZK is created in The Archive and I keep my bullet journal in NotePlan 3. Despite the different software, there is still a lot of overlap between the two systems. So far, I haven't found it necessary to make them fully integrated.

  • Again, lovely illustration! :)

    I had a similar experience when I tried bullet journaling. The principles appear to be sound, and the practice worked well. Linking collections by book-and-page number worked nicely, too. It's amazing. I just found that I prefer to work on a computer to keep stuff organized and searchable, and the double-bookkeeping with a BJ eventually felt like a burden. The approach can be replicated on a computer as well, of course, it's just not as nice. I love pens :)

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

  • @GeoEng51 said:
    @Edmund ... there is still a lot of overlap between the two systems...

    Yes, it's true. And that was a reason for me to integrate both with very little effort.

    On top of my Bullet Journal I'll now find a simple structure note:

    |200

    But You are right, the system is very open and the choices are endless. Today I'm also using the app DayOne for my diary. And it needs some more ideas how to migrate about 1,5k of notes to my Zettelkasten. But it's not a must. ;-)

  • @ctietze said:
    Again, lovely illustration! :)

    Thanks. I'm pleased you like it.

    I just found that I prefer to work on a computer to keep stuff organized and searchable, and the double-bookkeeping with a BJ eventually felt like a burden.

    That's my reason to use BJ on a computer. Paper -> OneNote -> Obsidian

    I love pens

    The same I do. But I'm losing them step by step :-(

  • edited July 2022

    How much self-improvement could a person possibly withstand? I have one or two things to work on, myself, excluding the day job which is about as multi-tentacled...

    @Edmund said:
    On top of my Bullet Journal I'll now find a simple structure note:

    |200

    Erdős #2. ZK software components. “If you’re thinking without writing, you only think you’re thinking.” -- Leslie Lamport. Replies sometimes delayed since life is short.

  • @ZettelDistraction Are you proactively looking for the breaking point so that one becomes someone or something else? :)

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

  • edited July 2022

    @ctietze said:
    @ZettelDistraction Are you proactively looking for the breaking point so that one becomes someone or something else? :)

    Some sort of breaking point. I had to "renormalize" or rein in my interests periodically, or they would get out of hand. This isn't the case so much now. Perhaps the ZK helps with this. That and inanition. An admission: I used to quip that my greatest weakness was my weakest strength. But that weakness is that I haven't advanced as much as I want.

    Erdős #2. ZK software components. “If you’re thinking without writing, you only think you’re thinking.” -- Leslie Lamport. Replies sometimes delayed since life is short.

  • @ZettelDistraction said:
    How much self-improvement could a person possibly withstand?

    Don‘t take it to serious. For me it‘s all about playing with ideas. There is no difference if the ideas are about the outer world or about my personal self. Without Zettelkasten and Bullet Journal my vision could be: Eat, sleep, go swimming.

    But so, it‘s more sophisticated ;-)

  • I love using the combination of bullet journaling and zettelkasten. If done well, they interplay in a way that is more than the sum of the parts. This is how I look at it: the bullet journal is an extension of my working memory, the zettelkasten is an extension of my long-term memory. And they interplay similarly as in my brain.

    I have a physical bullet journal that I use for current things and I collect my thoughts throughout the day in there. Aside from tasks and todos etc, these are mainly fleeting notes and some literature notes. I can let them stew or process them immediately, depending on what feels right. Occasionally, i will go over them and turn them into permanent notes in my Obsidian zettelkasten. When doing so, I usually generate more permanent notes and not every note from the bullet journal will go into the zettelkasten.

    The nice thing about using obsidian is that I can add some Todo items in my notes when it comes to thoughts I have about learning more and questioning things related to these notes and add them in place. I can find them back with dataview. They will only enter the bullet journal to moment they are relevant. This will never be the case when I create those Todo items. They serve as a reminder of a question that I had but it is not relevant for me to know the answer now. Chances are that they will never become relevant and that is fine. I just skipped a potential distraction but left enough crumbs to continue when it becomes important.

    Because my physical bullet journal is numbered, I can refer back to my original notes from my zettelkasten. For me, this is particularly useful when I have proven some property on paper and created a permanent notes stating the property. I also do this for notes on presentations that I attended or course notes. I Learn many interesting and valuable things, but not everything is relevant. When more details become relevant, I can look back. Same with rereading a paper during a different context. Now, different details are important.

    Conversely, when working on a project related to some threads in my zettelkasten, I can create a collection that refers to the "starting" notes from the zettelkasten. Similar to an index. That way, i can easily find where to start or continue.

  • @Aerylia Nice approach; I do something vaguely similar, except that I use NotePlan for the bullet journal and The Archive for the zettelkasten.

  • edited November 2022

    @Aerylia …just today, I was setting up my recently purchased paper notebook to create a workflow very similar to what you describe in your post. I too plan on depositing some of my writings/thoughts from the notebook into Obsidian (which I’ve been using to build my Zettelkasten for two years now). It’s comforting to know that other folks may be traveling down a similar road during their journey. Thanks for posting.

    Post edited by Sascha on
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