# How do you handle research "to dos"?

When I am processing reading notes and working to add them to my Zettelkasten I often identify ideas or concepts I'd like to study further. I'm curious about what some best practices might be for this. How do you track or manage these research ideas or questions?

• [] Create a "Further Study" note
• [x] Mark items off as you ... study further.
• [] cf in a weekly tasks note to keep it at the fore. [[Weekly Tasks]]

• [x] Archive them below to keep the top clean.
• @blundin said:
When I am processing reading notes and working to add them to my Zettelkasten I often identify ideas or concepts I'd like to study further. I'm curious about what some best practices might be for this. How do you track or manage these research ideas or questions?

I (automatically, using @Will 's Keyboard Maestro macro) create a new zettle with a title and perhaps a sentence summarizing what I want to study further. The zettle has a standard set of starting metadata - two of which are the tags Unfinished and Unlinked. The first one tells me that the zettel is mostly just a stub and needs further work. I have a saved search that contains this tag, so I can quickly see which zettels need more work.

If you wanted, you could use a more specific tag such as Follow_up if you wanted, with its own saved search, or you could have a saved search containing both tags Unfinished and Follow_up.

Once the zettel proceeds to a reasonable condition, I simply remove whatever tag no longer applies and that zettel disappears from the saved search the next time I check on it.

• @blundin, you ask a hard question.

The method I'm experimenting with is to use tags. Currently, I only use two #2do & #done, but I can envision expanding the tags to refine the work wanting attention. As an example, #reseach-project-2do. I don't put these tags in the front matter. I put them interstitially in the note where the queue for further work is written.

This screenshot displays an interstitial #2do with the prompt I wrote earlier. It is gathered into a saved search, and you could have many saved searches, one for each of the research areas where you "identify ideas or concepts I'd like to study further."

Manually switch the tag to #done when done. We might find value in some intermediary tag but don't go crazy.

I use a script to tell me how many #2dos are current. We could change this to tell how many 2dos were waiting in which research area.

grep "#2do" /Users/will/Dropbox/zettelkasten/*20*.md | wc -l

When I whisper this to the terminal, she tells me that I have 8 ideas I want to steer my attention towards. Some notes have more than one #2do embedded. Each tag is counted in the simple script above, not each note. Once looking at a note, use the ⌘G to cycle through the note's #2dos, quickly jumping to the relevant queue + tag.

The beauty of this system is that when selecting the saved search and surfing to one of the notes, you are presented with the portion of the note directly relevant to the tickler pushing the relevance of the #2do, and the tag is highlighted (a function of the theme). This keeps you from searching the note for the queue to work wanting work or relying on memory.

Now for the hard part of your question.

Does tracking todo's or really anything help or distract? Distraction is a new research area for me, but I'm already getting the sense that, like the Collectors Fallacy, by tracking todo's, ideas are placed in a holding pattern. A jolt of endorphin is felt, putting the item on the list, and a small sense of accomplishment is felt. There is a sense of completeness. We can be lured by the pleasure of adding to our take list instead of actually doing the work, which frankly, often doesn't give us the same endorphin kick.

I think David Allen would say these items were now safely outside the hurricane of the mind and now have a chance for fruition.

How to reconcile these conflicting notions?

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

• I create "question" notes, which formulate some the questions I have about a topic. I prefix them with "Question: ", but apart from that they are just normal notes, but more incomplete.

An example is:

How big an impact does pilot symbols have upon nonlinear interference noise?

>

[[Higher-order QAM contributes to long-correlated nonlinear phase noise]]. How is this impacted by the choice of pilot symbols? Could a choice of pilot symbols be used to shape the noise?

In this way I can capture the potential for a connection and still make it clear that this is something unknown. I link to these questions in the relevant places, so they can be found. Backlinks also help with discovering these questions.

Whenever I am browsing my Zettelkasten, for example when writing a paper or planning a project, I naturally stumble upon them from search or links. If I find that I have answered a question, I make a new note with the conclusions/answers, but keep the question around.

• edited March 28

I also use questions. These can be tagged #question (as some people do) or in my case I use an emoji in the question.

To use @henrikenggaard's example it would look like this in my notes:

How big an impact does pilot symbols have upon nonlinear interference noise ❓

I've fiddled with having it at the front of the question also just to call it out visually when I read a note.

Also since it is an emoji it can be part of a file name, unlike ?.

I have a simple Alfred snippet that inserts it.

Then I can type the same snippet into the search box and find all notes with open questions.

To me this prevents cluttering the todo capabilities that may be present in your app, since these (as I understood your question) are more about potential future areas of inquiry rather than direct next required actions.

• I just create a Markdown-Comment right at the place at which I need to tackle the task.

I am a Zettler

• edited March 29

Interestingly, there is another app, Imdone, that creates a kanban board on top of an existing set of code and markdown files. It automatically detects todos in certain formats and aggregates them up to the kanban board. You can also create new items from within the app and move them between statuses. The items it creates are just markdown files in whatever folder you tell it to use within your notes system.

With this you can create a todo and give it any type of label you want (status, context, whatever) and the app automatically detects it and makes a new column/swimlane on the kanban board for it. You can even set due dates and its all still markdown in your folder.

I'm not affiliated with it in any way, just thought it was a neat idea. I tried it myself and ultimately decided not to use it since I'm hesitant to add todo tracking into my notes. But it does do one thing very well which I think is the killer feature for heavy note takers – it lets you declare the todo anywhere in your notes (similar to @sfast's use) and it just magically appears in the right column in the kanban. I don't care as much for some of the other implementation details but that is slick and fluid.

Dev releases updates every few days.

https://imdone.io

• Sweet, a plain text TODO aggregator app! Thanks for the link @davecan

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

• @Will said:
The method I'm experimenting with is to use tags. Currently, I only use two #2do & #done

I like it.
Thank you for sharing.