# New to Zettelkasten

Hello,

I am new to Zettlekasten,

I am an architect by trade and most of the examples that I see of zettelkastens are ideas or personal/professional development, research or writing etc.

I need to attend a ton of webinars to maintain my credentials so I get a lot of information about building systems, and products and when to use what type of insulation etc.

Not sure what to be putting into my notes or linking things, what is necessary and what is not. I would really appreciate someone more familiar with this system to help me get started on the right foot

• edited January 2021

As suggested by others in the past days: The blog posts by @sfast and @ctietze are very helpful to start with. After that, I suggest you read what people in this forum suggested and discussed. Most beginner problems solve themselves automatically. Also: Start small and play around for a few days/weeks to figure out how you want to use your ZK.

As for your field of interest: One way of implementing your ZK in the manner of information on material could be to use structure zettels whereas each describes a certain application and links to the various materials you could be using. Each linked zettel could contain information to that material. Other zettels could deal with certain construction modes (I am not familiar with specific terms). Then there might be concepts for sustainable construction that have certain specifications, etc.

• I have read how to take smart notes. I have read the introduction and have been perusing the forums. Still having difficulty. I think where I am getting tripped up is that I have a special use case and have not seen how others have done it or just having someone to talk to about my use case would be appreciated.

• edited January 2021

Sorry, I edited my answer to be a bit more specific:

One way of implementing your ZK in the manner of information on material could be to use structure zettels whereas each describes a certain application and links to the various materials you could be using. Each linked zettel could contain information to that material. Other zettels could deal with certain construction modes (I am not familiar with specific terms). Then there might be concepts for sustainable construction that have certain specifications, etc.

# ›[[202101042345]] Structure Zettel 1

This Structure Zettel deals with carbon based construction

- Carbon →[[202101041134]]
- Alternatives to Carbon →[[202101041156]]
- Another aspect on carbon →[[202101041234]]
- Carbon and sustainability →[[202101042334]]
- sustainability in housing →[[202101042336]]
…

• Structure Zettel? trying to understand. Is this like an indexing card where you put your overarching ideas.

For example the first webinar I am recording is on Rooftop Deck Systems. (I will put it in a traditional outline format because I am unsure how to code it into the forums yet)

Rooftop Deck Systems

• Pedestal Systems

1. Base Levelers
1. Top Levelrs
1. Couplers
1. Fasteners
1. Wind Uplift
• Pavers

1. Wood Pavers
1. 2cm Pavers
1. Paver Trays
1. Paver Cubes and Planters
• Design Considerations

• Sustainability
• Selecting a System

Does this make sense. I guess I am just used to standard bullet note taking

• For what structure notes are, see this discussion, including the links to examples in my first post.

In a nutshell: They are notes with the main purpose of linking to a set of other notes that have a certain relationship (e.g. being on the same topic).

• edited January 2021

@dtp81390 said:
Does this make sense. I guess I am just used to standard bullet note taking

It does make sense if it makes sense to you. I would suggest that each bullet point could include a link to a zettel that deals with the specific topic.

As @Vinho mentioned: the discussion on structure notes is quite good and you can see lots of aspects and applications of that concept. It helped me a lot to understand the importance of this layer of structure. Also @sfast's article on complexity is quite important in that regard.

As zettels should ideally consist of one idea each to be really atomic, you could also write your own thoughts on zettels about the various concepts and materials and link to them from your structure note, such as "When fasteners break there should be an extra layer of security" (I'm just making it up, I have no clue, actually).

As it was pointed out somewhere in this forum: A structure note does not necessarily look like a table of content (TOC) but can also be a flow chart (monodraw is a neat app for that → see the discussion here) oder a table.

An advice that could have helped my younger self in the beginning: take the mentioned terms as flexible as you need and don't be dogmatic about it. Others here would disagree, also for good reasons but I myself got really confused in the beginning because I wanted to adhere to "the real ZK method" which IMHO should be what you make of it

• @dtp81390 said:
Not sure what to be putting into my notes or linking things, what is necessary and what is not.

I get the impression that quite a few people think that the Zettelkasten method is very prescriptive, and if you don't do things right it won't work (which might be true of architecture!). If anything, my impression of the Zettelkasten method is the opposite -- I see a lot of flexibility, and that as long as you give each note an ID so that you can link to it, it is difficult to go wrong. The method really seems to be about building a network of ideas through linking individual items to each other. In other words, it is about creating associations. I have some training as a psychologist, so making associations (sometimes across the boundaries between categories) is familiar terrain to me. If you are used to working in categories, perhaps this might not come so naturally. Anyway, I would say "be Freudian -- free associate"!

• @dtp81390 Here is @sfast 's description of what structure notes are:

https://zettelkasten.de/introduction/#structure-notes

(Note, this comes right out of his "Introduction to the Zettelkasten Method", which can be accessed from the "Getting Started" page of this web site).

First comment - your particular use case sounds perfectly suited to a Zettelkasten and not at all unusual.

One approach to start entering information into a Zettelkasten would be to identify some main topics or categories that apply to the information you receive from the webinars you attend. Create a structure note for each topic. Then on one structure note, write a list of related information. I'm just making stuff up here, but as an example maybe you would have one structure note for "Soundproofing" and then you might write several zettels, one for each kind of material that could be used to soundproof a room.

Structure notes provide a way for you to identify topics or areas that you want to write about and also let you organize the "top end" of your Zettelkasten. Some people have several levels of structure notes, a high level for major topics and then another level for sub-topics. They thus form a hierarchical system.

If that was all there is to a Zettelkasten, then it wouldn't be any different than hundreds of other hierarchical systems for storing and (sometimes) accessing information. The real magic of a Zettelkasten comes when you connect zettels in a more "organic" manner, creating networks of connections that are independent of the structure notes. There is a good discussion of the process here:

https://zettelkasten.de/introduction/#connecting-zettel

So, you use the structure notes to get your thinking organized and to identify ideas that you want to turn into zettels. Later on, you might use a structure note as an entry point into your Zettelkasten. But once you start reading a zettel and follow a connection to another zettel, and so on, thereby also pursuing a line of thought, your thinking moves outside the hierarchy of your structure notes and you discover new ways of relating the ideas in your Zettelkasten.

Tags are another way of identifying zettels with a common theme. I use them quite a bit; others don't like them or use them only minimally. Here is some discussion on that topic:

https://zettelkasten.de/posts/object-tags-vs-topic-tags/

• edited January 2021

@dtp81390 said:
Structure Zettel? trying to understand. Is this like an indexing card where you put your overarching ideas.

For example the first webinar I am recording is on Rooftop Deck Systems. (I will put it in a traditional outline format because I am unsure how to code it into the forums yet)

Rooftop Deck Systems

• Pedestal Systems

1. Base Levelers
1. Top Levelrs
1. Couplers
1. Fasteners
1. Wind Uplift
• Pavers

1. Wood Pavers
1. 2cm Pavers
1. Paver Trays
1. Paver Cubes and Planters
• Design Considerations

• Sustainability
• Selecting a System

Does this make sense. I guess I am just used to standard bullet note taking

You're doing it alright!

I'd recommend you to keep capturing seminars and books like this as a temporary note. Then, when you have time try to process and select the topics that you could make into separate brief notes. Use the original outline as a structure note linking to the more specific brief notes that derived from the outline. In the process delete anything that is just clutter or random facts. The idea is to keep the most essential from the webinar or book, and deconstruct it into smaller and concise notes about a single topic or idea that can be interlinked with other notes.

• Here's how I work with structure notes.

I have what I call project notes (26 in total) as an overall front door/TOC (note the identifiers in the note ID). These are the broad categories of ideas that have arisen organically from my various notes/areas of interest:

Within those project notes I have different kinds of structure notes. Some, hub notes (h/t @Will) are flat lists, further divided like the project notes into structure notes and content notes but at a more thematically granular level:

Other structure notes are general introductions and/or definitions, like this:

And I also have a few sequence notes (a bit like the folgezettel idea) which connect content notes in a sequential thread, sort of like mini-drafts of larger arguments:

Hope the examples are helpful. There are many ways to thread a needle, so experiment, make mistakes, and think about what works for you.

Started ZK 4.2018. "The path is at your feet, see? Now carry on."

• @Phil Thanks for sharing that information.

• edited January 2021

@Phil said:
Here's how I work with structure notes.

Thank you for sharing! I like that a lot! Did you develop your "project notes" after you realised that hub notes aren't sufficient anymore? I always wonder how people develop the structure of their ZK and what questions do they ask themselves for my own inspiration.

@dtp81390 Phil provided good examples on how you can structure your ZK. As a beginner myself, I would urge you to not "go berserk" over finding the "perfect structure". I did this in the beginning and my ZK is still suffering from that mess that I am fixing every day.

Another example for a structure note could look like this (instead of a TOC):

The example shows a structure/definition note in the very early stage of my research on public space (it's written in German but I hope you get the idea). The topic is not my main research focus (rather something I stumbled upon in the beginning of my ZK journey) that I just wanted to structure properly in case I want to get back to it later.

I used TableFlip and monodraw for the chart and the table.

In another thread this morning @sfast repeated his mantra:

Shift your thinking away from "Zettels" and towards to "knowledge". You don't need to integrate notes into the Zettelkasten, nor do you need to link two notes. This is the physical (digital) embodiment of your action but nothing more.

I think that is a very important lesson that I have to keep reminding myself as well.

Post edited by analogue_man on
• The "front door" metaphor is nice @Phil!

@dtp81390 You mention that you ruse case might be a hindrance. I can only second the overall encouragement here -- the method is not prescriptive and should work with about anything you throw at it.

Now in your original post you mention webinars. And that's, I think, a tricky topic when I liken them to University seminars or classes at school: you get a condensed version of relevant info through a performance. That's a source of ideas and connections, but it's often not bullet-proof source material for your Zettelkasten. That would be to follow the leads from the teacher and look of original sources, and then cite books as the definitive source. -- That would be rigorous scientific work.

I personally would capture the ideas/connections/leads/recommendations/topics/... provided by a teacher in notes outside my Zettelkasten to capture what the performance was about, then afterwards make tasks from this ("get book A, B, and C" or "research what XYZ means") to get to the original sources eventually. That being said, the ideas and overviews you get from a teacher's performance during a seminar can be higher-level material for your Zettelkasten as well.

The things I captured into my Zettelkasten based on what a professor said (and that's not many!) are more like the sparks of cross-connections that one does come up with after collecting the foundational material for a while. Instead of having the idea yourself, you can steal the idea from someone else.

It's like getting a very rough blueprint for a Structure Zettel, but with placeholders for the details that back up the claim that is being made. You have to walk the mile to gather the info yourself, but from a teacher you can get an interesting starting point.

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

• Thanks, everyone for your input. I believe that I have a good starting point and an idea of how I would like to organize things.

This has been very informative and motivating.

I guess it is hard to see the effectiveness of a ZK when you only have a few notes, which is where I am getting bogged down. I will push through and keep going. Thanks again all of you