# Tracking Unfinished Notes

Does someone have a good way of tracking unfinished notes? As my ZK gets larger, I don't want to resort to stepping through each note to see if I've finished it off or not. This situation arises when I have an idea for a particular note or for a series of notes, get started on it (or them), but then get sidetracked on some other note. It's happened more than once and I've only got about 60 notes in total (I know, a real neophyte). I'm guessing it'll get worse, not better, as time goes on.

I guess I could use an #unfinished tag, or add a particular symbol to the note file name. Any other thoughts?

• Are they ever really finished though...?

I don't give mine a title until they are "finished", they just have a TSID until they are close enough. That makes the unfinished ones obvious when I see them in the sidebar in the Archive.

• @TRumnell said:
Are they ever really finished though...?

Haha! True enough; I can't resist tweaking a note any time I read one.

I don't give mine a title until they are "finished", they just have a TSID until they are close enough. That makes the unfinished ones obvious when I see them in the sidebar in the Archive.

Good idea; thanks. Since my note titles evolve, your approach would be doubly helpful.

• Why not do the opposite? Tag finished notes with #finished or a similar tag, then create a saved search in The Archive like this:!#finished to view all unfinished notes.

• I assign my go to book mark: "qqq"

When it gets so bloated that it is not longer functional to use it for quick bookmarking I process unfinished notes.

I am a Zettler

• I use a #inbox tag to signify work started but not complete. These notes are kept in a saved search that is at the top of the saved search list.

I try and remember that each note represents an atomic notion. Once recorded, I move on. I find if I linger too long massaging a note it becomes bloated. I have a review process that helps catch incomplete notes.

Will Simpson
“Read Poetry, Listen to Good Music, and Get Exercise”
kestrelcreek.com

@Will said:
I use a #inbox tag to signify work started but not complete. These notes are kept in a saved search that is at the top of the saved search list.

Ah, that's the idea I needed - use a tag but then also have a saved search to quickly access it.

I try and remember that each note represents an atomic notion. Once recorded, I move on. I find if I linger too long massaging a note it becomes bloated. I have a review process that helps catch incomplete notes.

I understand the balance you are trying to achieve - making sure your atomic notion is complete but not bloated - then moving on and not obsessing about making the note "perfect". If at a later time you are reading the note and have a new idea you want to add, you can always do that on the existing note or create a new note.

From what you said, I'm assuming the "review process" is another step that you apply to ensure that you don't have incomplete notes or notes that are not linked or notes that are not properly tagged?? Can you share more about the review process that you use, Will?

• I use a tag called "Zettelkasten-candidate": I know there's material for a Zettel there but its needs to be refined. When it has, but has not been placed properly in my archive, I use the tag "unlinked". Allows me several levels of refinement depending on the time I have 😅

"A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it." - Ernest Hemingway

Mac / iOS user, Zettelkasten built upon DEVONthink, GTD system upon OmniFocus.
Writing done using Drafts as an inbox, Scrivener and Ulysses for production.

• @GeoEng51 said:
From what you said, I'm assuming the "review process" is another step that you apply to ensure that you don't have incomplete notes or notes that are not linked or notes that are not properly tagged?? Can you share more about the review process that you use, Will?

I shared a detailed look at my review process in a June 13th post. Check it out.

Will Simpson
“Read Poetry, Listen to Good Music, and Get Exercise”
kestrelcreek.com

• edited June 2020

I have two ways to deal with this:

1. I don't care about the finished state that much (or even reaching it) and care more about the progress made towards completion. A general heuristic which I found helpful is to add value to a note any time you touch it, meaning that notes I visit frequently are probably worth the time and effort to improve. Tracking and reviewing notes too much has not been worth the effort. A finished note is a moving target. But having this kind of habitual review/improvement process that happens naturally when working with your Zettelkasten is indeed helpful and fun.
2. Since I use Evernote as my Zettelkasten, I employ processing notebooks (inbox -> ideas/references/-> mature notes) and have used project notebooks at times.

EDIT: This thread was posted in The Archive category. But I thought that giving an outside perspective still might be helpful - a Zettelkasten is a Zettelkasten after all (mostly). I don't want to persuade anyone to try Evernote, not to take anything away from The Archive.

• @matti said:
I don't care about the finished state that much (or even reaching it) and care more about the progress made towards completion. A general heuristic which I found helpful is to add value to a note any time you touch it, meaning that notes I visit frequently are probably worth the time and effort to improve. Tracking and reviewing notes too much has not been worth the effort. A finished note is a moving target. But having this kind of habitual review/improvement process that happens naturally when working with your Zettelkasten is indeed helpful and fun.

Yes, this is pure inspiration. I too strive for this attitude, one of adding value to a note every time I touch it. It matters not if the value is a spelling correction or grammar fix or adding a link or removing a tag or a complete refactoring.

The most important attitude you mention is an attitude of fun! My motto is if I'm not having fun, I leave it and move on, maybe to return maybe not. I can't find the quote but I think Luhmann said something to the effect that he'd work with his Zettelkasten on writing and if he found himself not having fun, he'd put the writing aside and not fret and look for something else that was fun. I probably missed the whole idea here but I'm going with it.

Another perspective I strive for is a "we'll see" attitude. This lets connection and structure appear where it will and I don't have to worry or even think about imposing my will on my Zettelkasten.
I'm not perfect at this but these are my goals.

Will Simpson
“Read Poetry, Listen to Good Music, and Get Exercise”
kestrelcreek.com

• One additional thought: If you want to nudge yourself towards better (cleaner) work make something that gets more annoying the more unfinished Zettel you have.

I am a Zettler

• @GeoEng51

I pay a bit of attention to my unfinished zettels (note: even if most time a zettel can indeed be a work in progress). My workflow to keep them tracked is similar to what has been already explained above.

I have two different tags:

• #tbd= to be done. Almost empty zettels (almost empty because I sometimes place one or two important references and wikilinks) that often pop-up while I'm doing another zettel and don't have time to address this new one. They work almost as a 'to do' list. (Note: they are often generated while I'm compiling a reading note.)
• #tbc= to be continued. These are zettels that already have some information, but are obviously incomplete. (For instance: a topic about which I have written its concept, but data on its application is still to be done.)

I keep these tags in a saved search on the sidebar that I call in progress (high placed on the sidebar so I can remember to address them).

Another kind of zettels that I temporarily maintain are tagged as #snippet. I think here in the forum there's a similar concept called "buffer notes". I also keep them on the sidebar and once they are processed (sometimes integrating other zettels), they are out. I have a specific template for these that mainly consist of a copied-pasted text and its source.

================
_Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose. _ -- Zora Neale Hurston

• @Will said:
The most important attitude you mention is an attitude of fun! My motto is if I'm not having fun, I leave it and move on, maybe to return maybe not. I can't find the quote but I think Luhmann said something to the effect that he'd work with his Zettelkasten on writing and if he found himself not having fun, he'd put the writing aside and not fret and look for something else that was fun. I probably missed the whole idea here but I'm going with it.

"How to Take Smart Notes" had this quote:
"I only do what is easy. I only write when I immediately know how to do it. If I falter for a moment, I put the matter aside and do something else." -- Luhmann et al., 1987, 154f