The Zettelkasten Method

The Zettelkasten Method: Examples to help you get started


Zettelkasten Workflow

1. Fleeting notes

These can be ideas that you get in the shower, things you think you might want to do, questions you have etc. Or they can be ideas that you get from a book, movie, article, social media etc.

First, fleeting notes are reminders of ideas, a ‘hold this thought’ location pin on a map.

Second, in order to take a fleeting note, it must meet at least one of the following two criteria:

  1. You want to remember the idea permanently.
  2. You want to use the idea in your work (in a blog, book or something that will help you take a step forward in achieving a concrete goal).

2. Literature notes

At the end of the day, go back to your fleeting notes and pick out the ideas that you really want to keep. The fleeting notes that spark joy/interest stand out.

The next step is to elaborate those reminders of those ideas into a paragraph that describes the idea in full.

There are five criteria it would be beneficial for your literature note to meet:

  1. Write it in your own words.
  2. Write it in such away that if you read it 10 years later it would make complete sense by itself.
  3. One idea per note. If you need to define a term for the idea/concept to make sense, create a term definition card and link to it from the concept note.
  4. Include the complete reference for the source you got the idea from.
  5. Include the relevant citation (lastName, year, pp.22).

3. Permanent notes

There are a couple of differences between Literature notes and permanent notes:

  • Literature notes are written in the context of the source they were inspired by. Whereas permanent notes are written in the context of your own ideas and interests.
  • Literature notes only have one connection, to the book they came from. While permanent notes can have many connections (to individual notes, as part of multiple topics etc).
  1. Index notes
  2. Keyword notes