Zettelkasten is a note taking process and a knowledge management system. It's really good for researchers, academics who want to create content - but also good for people trying to learn.


When learning reading and re-reading is useless for understanding. This is called the Mere-Exposure Effect. What helps is trying to explain what you learned - that will show all the gaps in your understanding. Taking notes is a simple way of doing it. Micro testing.

When taking notes, you should Capture Understanding - Don't Quote - don't copy the text as is. This will show you how much you understood - and what the gaps are.


1. Fleeting Notes

When consuming content - a video, podcast, article or books, take down fleeting notes. These are temporary notes that serve as memory reminders when creating the actual notes.

2. Literature Notes

You can convert these notes into a better formatted version called literature notes. It will be a summary of the entire content. Keep it short, be very selective and use your own words.

3. Permanent Notes

When you have finished the content(or at some smaller point if you are reading a book or consuming something big), you go thru these fleeting notes and write down the main concepts that are presented. These are the permanent notes. Make sure the permanent notes meet the following criteria

  • Write one idea per note - but as complete as possible
  • Write as if you are writing for someone else - use full sentences, show sources.
  • Be precise, clear and brief
  • Should be understood even if you don't know the context it was taken from.

Think of how the new notes are connected to the other existing notes in the system...

  • How does this idea fit into what I already know
  • What does this idea mean for another idea I already have
  • Does this add to, contradict or explain another idea I already have

If the new idea is connected to an existing idea, link out to that idea from the current one. After a while, this will end up being an interconnected web of ideas.

Published on: 3rd January, 2021