The Zettelkasten - How to Take Smart Notes
The Zettelkasten is a system for taking notes and knowledge management made famous by prolific German sociologist Niklas Luhman and summarised to a modern audience by Sonke Ahrens in his book “How to Take Smart Notes” . The underlining principle of the system is to act as a second brain, facilitating connections and discovery of insights. The method can be summarised in the following steps:
- Whenever you think of something, a fleeting thought, write it down in a collection of notes known as your fleeting notes.
- Whenever you read/watch/listen for knowledge, ensure you are doing so with a pen in hand so that you can actively take notes on it using your own words. Keep this collection of notes closely linked to a reference system, forming together your literature notes (how do I read scientific literature?).
- Make permanent notes ( zettels ), as soon as possible. Ensure that
- you ask yourself how these new ideas relate to your existing notes.
- you have only one idea per note.
- the notes are atomic: they can be read independently of other notes
- the notes are resilient: they are written well enough to still be understood far in the future.
- “Position” the new zettels within your notes, the slip-box, the Zettelkasten:
 Ahrens, S. (2017). How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers. Sönke Ahrens.