Do you create new products and services for your business? If so, you may spend time reading, learning, and researching. It can be quite extensive and time-consuming. The biggest challenge is that you need to remember, comprehend, and get insights from what you read. You need to connect this information with thinking and analysis to turn it into valuable assets.
This is not an easy task and you need to manage it so you have access when it’s needed. The more complex the subject, the more organization you must have, the more connections you can make, and the more paths you can go down.
Let’s look at the information itself. Finding it is easy and can be obtained from many sources, a Google search, a scholarly journal, books, websites, articles, etc. It’s readily available. Once you find the information you need, you can collect it and put it someplace like Evernote.
However, information alone isn’t of much value unless it ties into new useful knowledge. You need to take all the random information and connect the relevant parts to create an understanding of the topic. An understanding that you can use in other situations and get beyond the surface level and find more depth and details. This is known as PKMS, a personal knowledge management system. Below, we’ll explore a well-known one.
Let’s introduce and explore this tool that both collects and connects insights in a meaningful way to deal with the knowledge you acquire in your life.
The Zettelkasten Method is referred to as a “personal tool for thinking and writing”. It is a non-linear approach to note-taking. It allows you to capture information and your thoughts about the topic in the same place and link them together so you can go back and see what ideas are important.
Many note-taking systems let you capture an article or a paragraph and put them into categories for easy access, but does nothing to reveal the thoughts and ideas you have about the subject and allow for connection and relationship.
Here are the features of Zettelkasten
These features are the traits necessary in an effective system. For a more in-depth explanation about Zettelkasten, read here.
It has hypertextual (linking) features to make a web of thought possible. The difference to other systems is that here you create a web of thoughts instead of notes of arbitrary size and form, and emphasize connection, not a collection. These texts refer to each other and connect related notes. The hypertext allows you to form relationships between notes and thoughts. Taken together they help to realize deeper insights.
2-It follows the Principle of Atomicity.
Atomicity means that each note contains one and only one unit of knowledge. You can then put things together which belong together. But put them in separate notes so they can be linked from any place where it applies. Think of these notes as the writing you would scribble on the margins of a book when you want to capture a thought or insight, but with the added benefit of relating it to other information.
3-It is personal.
Personal in that you are writing these thoughts for yourself and not public view. Therefore you do not have to filter what you write. If, in the future, you use your ideas, content, and thinking to create a project. then you can decide what to share.
How a note is constructed
There are three components of an individual note, called a Zettel.
- The unique identifier
- The body of the Zettel
A unique identifier is mandatory, and the only way can you address each note individually. That is the key to creating a web of thoughts. By linking to the relevant Zettels can you put together your collection of knowledge for access. You connect the new information to existing notes through the identifier.
The body of the Zettel contains the piece of knowledge you want to capture. One of the core rules is that you write the information in your own words, instead of copying and pasting. This leads to an increased understanding of the material and makes it yours. It can be long and detailed or short in outline form, as long as you know its significance and how it is relevant.
References are put at the bottom of the Zettel and show the source of your information. If it is from any external sources, provide the bibliographical information. If it comes from another note use the unique ID, and if the idea is from your insights or thoughts, you can leave it blank or indicate that that it’s an original idea.
Why is this system effective?
“Creativity is just connecting things.” ~ Steve Jobs
We started with the idea that you probably use writing, learning, and creativity to develop new materials and products for your business. And that knowledge connected to your thoughts and insights is the power behind creating.
The main benefit of this note-taking system is that when you relate the pieces of knowledge with your insights you create relationships. Relationships help improve recall so the information is readily available and trains your mind to see patterns. Patterns that you can call upon to use in other applications, along with insights that could lead to new meaningful directions.
That is why adding context or meaning to the link is vital. It is this explicit statement of why you created this link that creates knowledge. The knowledge that your future self will rely on as a web of thought for your creative endeavors.
Software vs Paper-based System
The original Zettelkasten system was created by Niklas Luhmann. He started with a filing cabinet of paper slips containing his notes. In order to make it surfable there needed to be hypertext. He created his Zettelkasten with entry points and a way to surf from one note to another. You can still use a paper-based system. He has written a manual titled Communicating with Slip Boxes, if you want to learn how.
However, there are several powerful Zettelkasten software products that incorporate critical features of the system and make it easier to work with. Here is a review of the top seven programs with an explanation and the pros and cons of each. Most of them have a free trial available so you try them for yourself.
Here’s a summary of what you gain from a PKMS, Personal Knowledge Management System.
1- Learn how to organize your information
2- Discover patterns that will lead to new ideas
3- Locate the information easily
4- Capture your thinking about the knowledge you collected
5-Connect the dots between knowledge and thoughts to become more productive.
Based on all the benefits of a note-taking system, you may want to try it and discover how it can help you.
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