I’ve been wrestling with the usage of the Zettelkasten method for months. At first, my interest was merely piqued. Then I started to consider how I could benefit from using this method. Finally, I started to consider how to get started.
That eventually led to purchasing How to Take Smart Notes, which has been an enjoyable read (I’m currently about 75% finished). The problem? The focus has been very much on why you should use this method, but hardly much at all has been said about how you use it. Or rather, how one gets started.
This has led to a lot of review of previous blog articles I’ve read previously, then a lot of Google searches. Finally, I ended up back at Zettelkasten.de, landed on their curated article overview, and started reading through every post mentioned there.
Under the topic of what to store in your first note, this thought well captured the mental state I found myself in:
Starting your Zettelkasten note archive can be confusing at first. Getting it right first seems so important to some folks that they get stuck completely – paralysis by analysis.
Thankfully, I found inspiration in one of the other posts mentioned near the top of the overview. In a discussion of why categories are a bad idea, Christian states the following:
If you’re stuck setting up your knowledge management system, stop setting up anything at all. Just add information to it. Store text in files of your liking and put them in a folder if you’re uncertain which software to use. Starting is always better than not doing a thing. You can’t analyze your way into the perfect system without getting your hands dirty. Only experience reveals where the bottlenecks are, and whether you are really going to use (or miss) the oh-so-awesome feature X of the super expensive app Y.
I hope to have more to discuss in the coming weeks.
Regarding notes, this update from the Ulysses team caught my eye.
In addition to that, version 18 will bring the ability to use Ulysses’ own file format in external folders. This is bigger than it sounds, as it removes almost all of the limitations when working with these folders. You’ll not only be able to use all of Ulysses’ Markdown XL tags, but also to add writing goals, images, keywords and notes. Dropbox will therefore become a serious alternative for anyone who can’t – or doesn’t want to – rely on iCloud for synchronization. We’re happy about willing testers for this one, too.
As I’ve thought about adopting the Zettelkasten method, I’ve wondered whether Ulysses was a good choice. One concern with these types of things in lock-in: if I invest a lot of time putting notes into Ulysses, what happens if I ever stop using the product? Can I easily get my notes out of it?
Using Ulysses with external folders was a thought I had. This news that the advanced formatting Ulysses provides would be available for use with external folders caught my attention as it’s not currently possible. My research continues.