# How do you "start" when working with your notes?

I've been adding a lot more notes to my Zettelkasten recently (in The Archive of course) and while I've been reading the forum more as well as existing posts about things like Structure Notes, there's still something that I don't feel like I've gotten a good answer to yet. And that's the idea of: when you open your full Zettelkasten and want to start doing something, how do you get to whatever starting point you need for working on that? Whether it's a Structure note, a Structure of Structures Note, or whatever else. Especially as you scale out the number of notes you have, I could imagine a search for a topic, a keyword, #structure / ##structure, or whatever else could end up returning a non-trivial number of notes.

As I've been thinking about this, I've come up with a few ideas of how I might try do interact with/"solve" this, but while I'm going to put those ideas here, I really do want to here from people vastly more experienced than me about how they manage this workflow. (the reason I focus on "starting" is because if you have links you can navigate, or if you're just trying to explore an idea you don't care if there's a lot, but working with something existing to explore that specific series of links or add knowledge or whatever else seems like it would turn into a challenge eventually) With that said, here is what I've come up with so far:

1. Have a concrete starting point for everything. What I mean by that is you have a single note that you always go to, and it links to other topics that are themselves Structure of Structure Notes and whatnot. You can easily get to this starting point by saving its ID as a search and either pressing the hotkey, clicking the button, or just having a unique name for it that's easy to remember so you can find it at any time.
2. Similar to having a single entry point, having multiple concrete entry points. Same idea of saving the ID to searches or whatever else. (though thinking about it, since searches aren't syncable across devices, you'd still likely want a place that you can find to retrieve those IDs and save them into a search, ending up with something that looks like idea 1)
3. Do you have things you can look up that are unique enough that you'll only find a handful of notes, thus allowing you to start from there? Seems like it could end up hard to keep things unique enough over a long period of time that this attribute would remain without ending up with an ID-like value that's somewhat obfuscated to remain unique.
4. Start with a search for something like ##structure, and then add to that search in order to narrow down what you want to look at. An example might be ##structure #programming that could get you just the starting point (or multiple) for stuff related to programming. I'm not sure at what point this would theoretically stop scaling easily, if at all. Though I'd personally find it annoying to have to either type out that search every time, or save a search for ##structure and then have to add to it each time. Takes multiple steps (use search, press right arrow, type rest of search) or repeating something very similar each time.
5. ???

I'm looking forward to what everyone has to say about this topic, or resources they can point me toward to continue learning.

• edited April 2021
• _ HOME NOTE.md (realistically I rarely use this though)
• Search function

For more clarity, I have many "structure notes" / "hub notes" / "MOCs" that are typically my starting points when adding notes on various topics. Often I'll either (1) find the relevant MOC and add a new (nonexistent) link to its outline, then click the link and create the note, or (2) I'll create the note then open the MOC and add the (now existing) link to the MOC outline.

For question #3 yes I use emoji prefixes in certain note titles. ✧ denotes a low-level hub note while ✨ denotes a broad "MOC" that often has links to multiple lower-level hub notes. I also have a structured ID format for most (non-MOC) zettels like Note title (YYMMDDHHMM) and add a prefix to that suffix for certain types. So an actual example of a source note from today containing notes captured from a report is titled distillatecapital2018 The Costs of Myopic Thinking (S.2104031229) and a note derived from it is Do not mistake short-term market volatility for long-term risk (L.2104031423). With this I can easily search for risk (L. and get all lit notes referring to risk, separate from permanent notes, etc.

Also note that the suffixes are subject to change. I'm not saying you should do it this way, just that I do and it works well for what I need. The date suffix also lets me easily include a temporal component if I know approximately when a note was written, e.g. I can search history file:((L.21) meaning find files that are about history, from a single source, written in 2021. (I use Obsidian so it has this ability, I'm assuming other apps do)

That search would return As institutions evolve they influence history, smoothing some paths and closing off others (L.2103131528) which is a lit note I pulled from putnam1993 Making Democracy Work (S.2103131407). I could have titled the lit note "path dependency" since that is the actual name of the concept, but since I prefer meaningful titles that capture and scope the idea contained in the note I try to minimize use of strictly noun-based titles. (not always successful though)

Post edited by davecan on
• @FreezerburnV said:
I've been adding a lot more notes to my Zettelkasten recently (in The Archive of course) and while I've been reading the forum more as well as existing posts about things like Structure Notes, there's still something that I don't feel like I've gotten a good answer to yet. And that's the idea of: when you open your full Zettelkasten and want to start doing something, how do you get to whatever starting point you need for working on that? Whether it's a Structure note, a Structure of Structures Note, or whatever else. Especially as you scale out the number of notes you have, I could imagine a search for a topic, a keyword, #structure / ##structure, or whatever else could end up returning a non-trivial number of notes.

The way into a zettelkasten is not usually via links. Once past a critical mass, you ask your archive questions rather than clicking links to navigate around. Questioning is done via a targeted search. Becoming an expert zettelnaut is to become an expert at querying. Yes, links are important. Yes, starting from structure note and following links will that you places. But a smartly formed query will land you in the smack middle of the garden!

Example: quoted from https://forum.zettelkasten.de/discussion/comment/11456/#Comment_11456

silence 2019 AND @Cage OR @Blofeld

A series of ideas gathered from 2019 investigation into Silence taken from the pianist John Cage and a 1994 book on Huang Po by John Blofeld. This takes me to a specific series of ideas, and each note has multiple links to other 'graphs.'

1. Have a concrete starting point for everything. What I mean by that is you have a single note that you always go to, and it links to other topics that are themselves Structure of Structure Notes and whatnot. You can easily get to this starting point by saving its ID as a search and either pressing the hotkey, clicking the button, or just having a unique name for it that's easy to remember so you can find it at any time.

Might be a good idea for most ideas. Starting a note with a link on an established note of some kind is a great habit to get into. It can help you refine your ideas as you capture them.

1. Similar to having a single entry point, having multiple concrete entry points. Same idea of saving the ID to searches or whatever else. (though thinking about it, since searches aren't syncable across devices, you'd still likely want a place that you can find to retrieve those IDs and save them into a search, ending up with something that looks like idea 1)

Saved Searches are not yet automatically synced across devices, but unless you have dozens, it is trivial to create them manually. How about creating a note that has all your Saved Searches in it?

1. Do you have things you can look up that are unique enough that you'll only find a handful of notes, thus allowing you to start from there? Seems like it could end up hard to keep things unique enough over a long period of time that this attribute would remain without ending up with an ID-like value that's somewhat obfuscated to remain unique.

I'm not sure what this means in the world of full-text search.

1. Start with a search for something like ##structure, and then add to that search in order to narrow down what you want to look at. An example might be ##structure #programming that could get you just the starting point (or multiple) for stuff related to programming. I'm not sure at what point this would theoretically stop scaling easily, if at all. Though I'd personally find it annoying to have to either type out that search every time, or save a search for ##structure and then have to add to it each time. Takes multiple steps (use search, press right arrow, type rest of search) or repeating something very similar each time.

Yes, this is a problem. The Archive's inability to recall searches typed into the Omni Bar is annoying. I'm trying to develop a Keyboard Maestro macro to solve this but it is proving harder than I thought.

Will Simpson
The quality of our thinking is directly proportional to the quality of our reading. To think better, we must read better. - Rohan
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