Note-Taking: Zettlekasten Method

The Zettelkasten Method is a note-taking method that organizes information in a way that allows an individual to see connections between ideas. This method was devised by prolific German sociologist Niklas Luhman who utilized his expansive Zettelkasten throughout his life in his research. During his career, he published more than 70 books and 400 scholarly articles on a wide array of subjects. It was making him one of the most influential sociologists of the twentieth century.

When Luhmann was asked how he was able to produce so much work quickly, he stated, “I’m not thinking everything on my own. Much of it happens in my Zettelkasten.”. Luhmann organized his Zettlekasten in twenty-four separate wooden drawers, each of which was packed full of paper notes; Over his lifetime, he managed to file away 90,000 note cards in these drawers.

For many, this vast amount of information may seem overwhelming; however, the Zettelkasten Method allows for better learning, better thinking, a higher level of productivity, and heightened creativity.

By building a web of interconnected knowledge using the Zettelkasten Method, you are essentially building another brain. Luhman himself often referred to his Zettelkasten as his “Zweites Gehirn,” or his second brain.

Zettelkasten can power up your note-taking

The Zettelkasten Method is, in many ways, similar to the notecard method, which many of us learned in school. However, by using Luhman’s tried and true technique, singular notes become integrated into a vast web of ideas, which will lead to more insightful thinking and the construction of relevant questions, allowing for deep reflection on a given subject or concept.

This superior research method becomes more potent as your Zettelkasten grows and will be able to act in many ways as a well-informed conversation partner. For instance, if you have a question in mind and begin looking through your Zettelkasten, which contains countless ideas which you recorded years ago and have since forgotten, it will provide you with some surprising answers.

You can quickly begin your own Zettelkasten by following a few guiding principles:

A friend of the community @trms posted this very informative video about the Zettlekasten method. Consider following him and let him know I sent you.

Advantages of the Zettelkasten method

The Zettelkasten Method provides those who use it with a vast repository for the things they learn throughout their lifetime. Of course, it does take time to reap the full benefits of your Zettelkasten. In the beginning, you’ll start with just a few notes, but over time, it will mature. You will have access to long-forgotten bits of knowledge you learned months, years, or even decades previously.

Using the Zettelkasten Method is a sure way to enrich your mind by increasing the knowledge you can retain. You will stop fixating on understanding a complex concept in its entirety and will be able to extract a few key ideas.

Furthermore, because you are writing down these ideas and linking them with other pre-existing ones, the information becomes more like a natural train of thought. Because of this, creating your own Zettelkasten by using the Zettelkasten Method truly is like having a second brain; who could say no to that?

Have you heard of the Zettlekasten method? Are you using it? Let me know on Twitter. What software are you using for your Zettlekasten?