Zettelkasten Forum


[Brainstorming]: The Benefits of the Zettelkasten and the Zettelkasten Method

Hi Zettlers,

I am creating a growing list of the benefits of the Zettelkasten Method. This is in itself neither new nor exciting, since it would be a repetition of the marketing babble already existing in the domain of knowledge management.

My take will be to highlight the steps of the causal mechanism how the benefit is created. There is a lot of talk about that the Zettelkasten gives you a certain set of benefits, sometimes a blurry idea of the how. There is a lack of explicitness and precision. This is what I am going for.

So, my request is for you: Give me every benefit you can think of. Being it a benefit that you want to be justified or rejected. Being it a benefit that you experienced. Being a benefit that other's claim and you are not sure about.

GIVE ME EVERYTHING!

I am a Zettler

Comments

  • ACHTUNG: Many of the benefits of Zettelkasten methods are not specific to Zettelkästen. Last year @Will started a discussion on a Zettel of his titled "The Power of the ZK Method". I commented there that a feature that Will had called a "magic" or "power" of the ZK Method seemed to me to be a general feature of reviewing ideas or stimuli for creative ideation, not specific to a Zettelkasten. Keep this in mind!

  • @Andy said:
    ACHTUNG: Many of the benefits of Zettelkasten methods are not specific to Zettelkästen. Last year @Will started a discussion on a Zettel of his titled "The Power of the ZK Method". I commented there that a feature that Will had called a "magic" or "power" of the ZK Method seemed to me to be a general feature of reviewing ideas or stimuli for creative ideation, not specific to a Zettelkasten. Keep this in mind!

    Simply writing down your ideas (without doing Zettelkasten) already has benefits that are not specific to the Zettelkasten method either (similar to reviewing ideas as @Andy said). So one of the benefits of the Zettelkasten method might be to create the habit of doing these things systematically, but one could argue that a journal also achieves that :^)

  • edited January 24

    Three for me, very important, noticed on myself.

    1. Training effect. applying Zettelkasten requires a lot of effort. But this is a good thing, not a bad one. You get used to deep think, even in tasks outside the zettelkasten, too. It's like training done for sport. Train to read, train to understand, train to find relationships, train to think, train to write. it's a lot of stuff...
    2. defeats the information overload
    3. Engaging effect. It's a process that moves away the boredom, the (negative) fatigue and the frustration that can involve the knowledge processes, often when they need to done for duty. Zettelkasting can take the trais of a game, a puzzle, a quest, a jungle exploration. During zettelkasting you can notice evidently your progresses. I feel myself that I obtain better results week by week. During the process many "eureka" come out. It's fantastic.

    With these things I could search, write and think for many hours a day without notice, if I could :-) Before meeting zettelkasten I haven't this attitude.

  • One benefit of the ZKM as explained on zettelkasten.de is that it provides a standard vocabulary and procedure that people here can use to talk about personal knowledge-work systems, much like how GTD provides a standard vocabulary and procedure that people who have learned about GTD can use to talk about personal productivity systems. That vocabulary and procedure helps both when you are trying to systematize your own work and when you want to communicate with others about it. But it is also beneficial to be familiar with several standard systems and to feel the freedom to do things your own way so that you do not become a member of a cult of The One True System. :)

    I thought that Sönke Ahrens did an OK job of explaining some of the mechanisms of Zettelkasten work that cause its benefits in his book How to Take Smart Notes.

  • edited January 24

    @Andy said:
    One benefit of the ZKM as explained on zettelkasten.de is that it provides a standard vocabulary and procedure that people here can use to talk about personal knowledge-work systems, much like how GTD provides a standard vocabulary and procedure that people who have learned about GTD can use to talk about personal productivity systems. That vocabulary and procedure helps both when you are trying to systematize your own work and when you want to communicate with others about it. But it is also beneficial to be familiar with several standard systems and to feel the freedom to do things your own way so that you do not become a member of a cult of The One True System. :)

    I thought that Sönke Ahrens did an OK job of explaining some of the mechanisms of Zettelkasten work that cause its benefits in his book How to Take Smart Notes.

    In my experience I've met the opposite dynamic, actually. :-)
    I've found during my learning many misconceptions, very much noise, very much confusion. All created by a superficial storytelling of the method.
    In my Zettelkasten noteset (or even better in a discussion here...) I'd like to highlight this aspect of Zettelkasten.

    Some of them:
    1. Zettlekasten is a method for writing purposes. So, if I don't write, it's not for me
    2. Zettelkasten is fantastic because "thanks to it" Luhman has written tons of stuff.
    3. Permanent note... Literature Note... WTF they are named, where and how I write them....
    4. Eccessive struggling on very secondary details and reaching the "Real Zettelkasten", rather than catching few important principles and adapting for ourself

    and so on.

    for me it has been a shared confusion, not a shared culture :-)
    Internet if full of low-quality stuff about.

  • edited January 24

    @Sascha said:
    Hi Zettlers,
    So, my request is for you: Give me every benefit you can think of. Being it a benefit that you want to be justified or rejected. Being it a benefit that you experienced. Being a benefit that other's claim and you are not sure about.

    GIVE ME EVERYTHING!

    Here are a few benefits that I can think of (maybe more will come later):

    1. I can focus on a single idea and write a short note that captures its essence, independent of any other ideas. That idea is not part of a story or sequence; it stands alone in the bright light of my razor-sharp focus, with no side distractions. This process forces me to think clearly about the idea.
    2. It also allows me to create zettels somewhat randomly, not having to work through an overall concept or story linearly. The effort is made when I am inspired by the topic and disposed to make it. Ironically, I find that the resulting zettels, collected over time, form a more coherent and satisfying group.
    3. Minutes, hours or days after writing a zettel, I will consider how it connects to other ideas, inside or outside my Zettelkasten. The effort of connecting zettels is thus independent of the effort of creating a zettel and involves a different type of thinking. By asking how an idea is connected to others in my Zettelkasten, I force myself to see the network of connections and discover new, not immediately apparent, connections. Those connections may never have occurred to me outside of the Zettelkasten.
    4. The thought necessary to create tags for each zettel is an exercise that establishes the idea's value (and also allows later connections). This benefits me because it opens my mind to the possibilities inherent in the idea rather than being limited to my original, narrow concept.
    5. Consistent effort in writing and connecting zettels over time allows me to discern themes I may have yet to be aware of. Specific themes are by design native to my Zettelkasten; others arise of their own volition. The latter surprise and enlighten me.
    6. Commitment to a Zettelkasten requires discipline to make regular progress. That discipline accomplishes much which would otherwise be left to fate and perhaps never realized. The discipline and its results enrich my life.
    7. When it comes time to write an essay or article on a theme inherent to my Zettelkasten, much of the heavy lifting has already been done. Each idea "recovered" from my Zettelkasten is already well-tuned and connected to other ideas. The essay does not write itself, as there is still effort required to tell the story, but much of the content already exists.
  • @andang76 said:

    In my experience I've met the opposite dynamic, actually. :-)
    I've found during my learning many misconceptions, very much noise, very much confusion. All created by a superficial storytelling of the method.

    That's a very good point, but I don't think you are saying that is true of the ZKM as explained on zettelkasten.de, like in the Introduction to the Zettelkasten Method? That's what I had in mind when I said one benefit is "a standard vocabulary and procedure that people here can use to talk about personal knowledge-work systems": terms like "Zettelkasten", "Zettel", "Unique Identifier", "Structure Note", "References", "Principle of Atomicity". When you use those terms in this forum, people know what you're talking about and you don't have to begin by explaining it all.

  • edited January 25

    @Andy said:
    @andang76 said:

    In my experience I've met the opposite dynamic, actually. :-)
    I've found during my learning many misconceptions, very much noise, very much confusion. All created by a superficial storytelling of the method.

    That's a very good point, but I don't think you are saying that is true of the ZKM as explained on zettelkasten.de, like in the Introduction to the Zettelkasten Method? That's what I had in mind when I said one benefit is "a standard vocabulary and procedure that people here can use to talk about personal knowledge-work systems": terms like "Zettelkasten", "Zettel", "Unique Identifier", "Structure Note", "References", "Principle of Atomicity". When you use those terms in this forum, people know what you're talking about and you don't have to begin by explaining it all.

    Oh yes. But you have to be lucky to meet zettelkasten.de on the first try :-)
    More frequently you are initiated to zettelkasten in other places.

    Reflecting on this point, anyway, this might not be a bad issue (it wasn't for me, at least).
    If I had found the "right advices" on the first try, maybe my method would have developed in a "too straight and standard" way. In my building process, instead, having to face the confusion, dead ends, doubts I wash pushed to search, compare, try, recognize and correct the errors, forced to assess myself if it works. Maybe in my case this tortous and long way brought me to develop a more personal, adapt method, builded by experience and not only reading the "good things".

  • It is a means to declutter your mind. Michel de Montaigne, inventor of the essay, didn't actually want to write essays. He wanted to write books, but he was distracted by thoughts on various subjects unrelated to his books, so he decided to write everything he thought about those subjects so he could set them aside and not think about them. So I think part of the benefit of a zettelkasten is that you can get ideas out of your head without forgetting them so you can pick them up later.

  • The three most important benefits/advantages for me:

    1) Works as a metaphor:
    The analogue Zettelkasten serves as an effective metaphor for dealing with personal knowledge management. It is a kind of physical manifestation of the way in which ideas, information and connections can be processed, stored and retrieved. The recollection of the old wooden box with notes and follow-up notes also always helps with orientation in the stream of digital miracle methods.

    2) Dampens "[[Fear of Missing Opportunities]]":
    All ideas and impulses are physically and logically hoarded in one place and do not get lost. Instead of following new impulses immediately, like a young cat following every colourful ball, the material collects in a system and waits patiently for later consolidation.

    3) Common basic understanding:
    with a clear number of rules and terms, Zettelkastenmethod offers a common basic model for communicating with interested people about personal knowledge management

    immer am Rand der Sammlerfalle

  • Since we are only talking about benefits: Zettelkasten provides a storage solution to overcome limitations of a classification system to some degree.

    my first Zettel uid: 202008120915

  • @Sascha Give me every benefit you can think of. Being it a benefit that you want to be justified or rejected.

    A great benefit for me is: I can confidentely forget things. They are processed and connected and stored away in a safe place, where they can even profit from beeing connected further. And my courious brain is free to roam elsewhere, rested assured that ZK might reveal the previous thoughts and ideas with a quick search - and offer even more than that.

  • edited January 28

    The Zettelkasten is the only system I've stuck with. Or that I can't get rid of. From my initial post of March 2021, with some editing.

    I've tried to organize and improve my note-taking, writing, drawing, and research with index cards, blogs started and abandoned, Kanban boards, journals, mind maps, structured procrastination, spaced-repetition algorithms for long-term memory, dual-N-back for short-term memory, bookmarking sites like delicio.us, flashcards, incremental reading in SuperMemo, Microsoft One Note, Scrivener, Markup, Markdown, YAML, emails to myself, wikis, and straw grasping.

    Wikis were the most effective, but they soon ran out of gas. Still, the siren song of brain prosthetics, ringing like the tinnitus in my ears, led me to the Zettelkasten Method.

    The Zettelkasten Method became the TROLL system, Tortuous Repository of Labyrinthine Lucubration. It's a sunk cost and a deadweight loss designed to inflict catastrophic and unrecoverable financial losses upon anyone who tries to mine it for any commercial purpose. It's also impervious to propaganda and narratives of all kinds--all narratives are false. I don't have an overarching personal narrative--I wouldn't believe it if I did. Since each day seems disconnected from the day before, I use the Zettelkasten to figure out what to do. Today, I converted a spare Raspberry Pi into a DigiPi--almost.

    Virtually everyone has their own so-called "knowledge graph" these days. It's more beneficial to "Link Locally, Think Globally." Here's a fragment of mine.

    I got as far as downloading and unzipping the software image and moving the spare Pi4 to my desk. The thought of searching for a MicroSD adapter and recalling the name of the Pi SD card flasher program--presumably stored in my Zettelkasten--dampened my enthusiasm. Remote control of digital modes for radios I don't own and don't feel like purchasing suddenly seemed pointless. Perhaps I could turn a hot water pipe into an antenna. I might need to experiment with copper straps or loop coupling. An SWR meter or antenna analyzer would be required. The pipe is superior to anything else I could erect for shortwave. It might work for digital modes. Barely.

    Post edited by ZettelDistraction on

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

  • Someone said ...

    “You do not rise to the level of your ideas, or intentions. You fall to the level of your systems.”

    Zettelkasten is a good methodology, which adds good "systems" to learning, remembering, questioning, capturing, etc.

  • I think the core benefit of the zettelkasten is that over time it facilitates the improvement of ones understanding of a topic. For example there are a set of 5-7 books that I've found really helpful to understand the topic of storytelling. But these five books didn't all come out before I started my zettelkasten. By having notes that are organized & centrally located, I can easily bring up my past understanding of a topic, even after many years of passed.

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