How to setup your own Zettelkasten

3 simple rules for note taking

If you are using paper index cards or entries to a digital system you should follow theses principles:

  • Make "atomistic" notes. The idea is to have one thought, one idea on each note. Later you will be able to link these notes together and derive new creative insights from these notes. But you won't be able to do so, if you enter large, complex notes to your systems that cover for instance whole lines of arguments.
  • Do NOT copy text to your notes. If you are taking notes from something you here or read, do not use ctrl-c, ctrl-v to copy paste an idea to your Zettelkasten. Also this is very tempting you will sabotage your system. You have to "play" with the content, you have to really think about each Zettel. Otherwise you will accumulate a huge pile of unprocessed content, that won't help you.
  • Make your notes "self contained". Keep in mind that you will rearrange and move your notes individually and shuffle them around. You will link your notes but every note should stand for its own. In a couple of years it will be very hard for you to grasp an idea from a note if the context is completely missing. Also add references on every note, otherwise you won't be able to cite properly, which will reduce the effectiveness of your Zettelkasten.

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