Stop Overthinking Your Zettelkasten System: How To Get Started Writing Your First Notes


Hatched by Glasp

Aug 18, 2023

3 min read


Stop Overthinking Your Zettelkasten System: How To Get Started Writing Your First Notes

In today's information age, where knowledge is readily available at our fingertips, it can be overwhelming to keep track of all the information we come across. This is where the concept of a Zettelkasten system comes into play. A Zettelkasten, which translates to "slip box" in English, is a note-taking method that allows you to organize and connect your thoughts and ideas in a meaningful way.

The first step in building your Zettelkasten system is understanding the different types of notes you will be taking. Literature notes are often the first draft of a note, and they don't have to be perfect. Their purpose is to capture your initial thoughts as you read or consume information. These notes can be ugly and incomplete, but they serve as the foundation for further exploration and development.

Permanent notes, on the other hand, are top-level topics or groups of notes that help you establish coherent thoughts and arguments. These notes are more refined and polished compared to literature notes. They are the building blocks of your Zettelkasten system and provide a structure for your ideas.

Within your permanent notes, you will find sequence notes. These atomic notes contain one idea each and sit underneath the corresponding permanent note. Sequence notes add depth and expand on the original thought, contributing to a more comprehensive understanding of the topic. It's important to note that one note should represent one thought to maintain clarity and avoid confusion within your Zettelkasten system.

While the structure of your Zettelkasten system is crucial, it's equally important to approach it with a flexible mindset. Don't overthink it. Your system is a living ecosystem that can grow and evolve over time. You may find that certain permanent notes are similar and can be merged together, or you might need to rewrite a note title to better reflect its content. Embrace the adaptability of your Zettelkasten and allow it to reflect your ever-changing thoughts and ideas.

However, the power of a Zettelkasten system lies not only in its structure but also in the practices you employ to make it work. Building your system is just the first step; supporting it with good practices is what will truly make it effective. Here are three actionable advice to help you make the most out of your Zettelkasten system:

  • 1. Practice and figure out what works for you: Every individual is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Experiment with different techniques and approaches to find the system that resonates with you. It's through practice and exploration that you'll discover the most effective way to utilize your Zettelkasten.
  • 2. Focus on engagement and value: Just like the Inch-Wide Mile-Deep go-to-market strategy used by successful companies like Strava, concentrate on building a product that caters to a small niche of people who find immense value in it. By prioritizing engagement and ensuring that a small number of users continue to extract increasing value from your Zettelkasten system, you can establish yourself as a leader in your field.
  • 3. Start small and grow over time: Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither will your Zettelkasten system. Begin by capturing your initial thoughts and gradually expand your notes as you delve deeper into a topic. Remember, it's about the quality of your notes and how they contribute to your understanding, not the quantity.

In conclusion, a Zettelkasten system can be a powerful tool for organizing and connecting your thoughts and ideas. By embracing a flexible mindset, focusing on good practices, and continuously refining your system, you can unlock the true potential of your Zettelkasten. So stop overthinking and start writing your first notes today. Your future self will thank you.

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