Obsidian Zettelkasten

81 - Forming Knowledge - To work with knowledge, you first must form information in your mind . While this may seem quite obvious to you, there are good and bad ways of doing this. Improving this skill will help you learn quicker and form a more useful understanding of the world.

You want to avoid rote memorization, going for precision memorization (19d2a) instead. Then you want to organize the memorized information into a useful working mental model.

See also 17b - Creation of Knowledge

19d2a - Precision Memorization #todo

82 - Durable Memories - The knowledge you are forming and working with (17c) is stored in your brain as memories. You can learn more effectively by making sure information is well encoded while learning with the use of effortful processing strategies.

  • 19d3a - Effortful Processing Strategies #todo

83 - Good Judgment - Developing good [judgment] can help you better evaluate the existing evidence, which helps in choosing the right solution in problem solving.

One way to develop better judgment is through forecasting training courses. See the work of Danny Hernandez during his time at Twitch, Open Philanthropy, and OpenAI. For more information see related interview with him.

  • 19d4a - Judgment #todo

84 - Good Reasoning - Good [reasoning] skills help you form more coherent arguments and spot flaws with existing ones. This in turn helps you form a more accurate view of the world, so you can make better decisions.

Related - Critical Thinking (19b1)

19d5a - Reasoning

85 - Problem Solving is one of the key ways you can add value to the world. It is the process where all the other cognitive skills come to fruition and is the driving focus behind Creative Productivity Project. It is an important skill to have even if you aren’t directly solving problems and instead contributing to the knowledge base.

86 - Decision Making - You are constantly making decisions, so honing your decision making skills can help you make better use of your time and efforts in life. One example of this is deciding what knowledge is worth acquiring vs. ignoring.

87 - Communication and Production of Language - is the last step in the creative productivity project because it doesn’t matter how much knowledge you produce if you can’t effective communicate it to others. This is also necessary for gathering the resources (labor, knowledge, technology) needed to act on your new knowledge to the betterment of all. The better you can do this, the more effective you will be in the world.

88 - "Thinking is cognitive behavior in which ideas, images, mental representations, or other hypothetical elements of thought are experienced or manipulated." In this sense, thinking includes imagining, remembering, problem solving, daydreaming, free association, concept formation, and many other processes.

Thinking may be said to have two defining characteristics:

  • (a) It is covert—that is, it is not directly observable but must be inferred from actions or self-reports
  • (b) it is symbolic—that is, it seems to involve operations on mental symbols or representations, the nature of which remains obscure and controversial (see symbolic process)."

Source: American Psychological Association Dictionary

  • 19b1 - Different approaches to thinking (e.g. psychological, biological, etc - see Spreading Activation)
  • 19b3 - Critical Thinking
  • 19b4 - Creative Thinking
  • 19b5 - Thinking 3 Dimensionally

89 - Types of Thinking - why try to understand the different types of thinking? What are the different types of thinking?

Note to Self be careful about a lot of this not having much research behind it. Pop Psychology in a sense. Think of the lack of evidence for “power poses”, “myers-briggs tests”, and “learning styles”.

  • 19b3 - Critical Thinking
  • 19b4 - Creative Thinking
  • 19b5 - Thinking 3 Dimensionally
  • Metacognition
  • Thinking Fast - Thinking, Fast and Slow by Kahneman
  • Thinking Slow - Thinking, Fast and Slow by Kahneman

Evaluate Research On

Lateral Thinking (might be BS), Cross Thinking, Analogical Thinking, Abstract Thinking, Divergent Thinking, Convergent Thinking, Concrete Thinking, Sequential Thinking, Holistic (nonlinear) Thinking, Conceptual Thinking

90 - Cross Thinking is the ability to see patterns (20e) in thinking and conceptualization (10d1). Then connecting how you can apply concepts across domains. Two examples are:

  • Story of applying ecological extinction patterns to business extinction patterns to come to the insight that planning the future is impossible, from Adapt: Success starts with Failure

  • David Kilcullen using evolution terminology and thinking in the context of adaptive behavior of terrorists and adversaries in warfare. See his 2020 book Dragon and the Snakes

  • Information Processing Theory emerging out of the study of Computers, whereby the mind is equated with a computer. As they both are information processing machines.

91 - Three Dimensional Thinking is is applying a latticework (20d) of mental models to a problem or situation in order to get a better picture of reality.

Find a good example of multiple mental models intersecting to solve a problem #todo

92 - Structure is the arrangement of and relations between the parts or elements of something complex (Oxford Dictionary).

“Common types of structure include hierarchies (a cascade of one-to-many relationships), a networks featuring many-to-many links, or latticeworks featuring connections between components that are neighbors in space” - Wikipedia.

The key idea to understand about structure is that it allows for order, which in turn leads to repeatability. Everything is meaningless without repeatability. Mathematics is the language of patterns, which are themselves are connections that repeat.

Further Research:

  • Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies
  • The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect

  • 20a - Links are explicit navigable connections
  • 20b - Hierarchies
  • 20c - Networks
  • 20d - Latticeworks
  • 20e - Patterns
1 Like

93 - Layers of Structure in a Digital Zettelkasten - When you build a zettelkasten you are adding layers of structure to facilitate note retireval.

  • The first layer of structure is having a single storage mechanism. In this case it is plain text files using markdown syntax. The reason for this is it helps makes your notes future proof. Luhmann used his zettelkastens over a 46 year period, so you want something that lasts the test of time.

  • The second layer of structure for a digital zettelkasten is having a single storage location. I’ve been somewhat bad at that because I’ve been experimenting with programs. I’ve been slowly working on coalescing all my notes into one program.

  • Third layer of structure I use is having my notes in Dropbox. Reason for this is that it keeps a copy of my zettelkasten in multiple locations in case of disaster.

  • Fourth layer of structure is having a unique identifier for each note, which means giving each file a unique name. This can take the form of a unique filename, a time ID + filename, or a luhmann ID (which is what this zettelkasten uses). For my Obsidian zettelkasten, I use a combination of time IDs and time IDs + filename.

  • Fifth layer of structure is I try to keep to keep my note sizes between 1-3 paragraphs. This keeps you from getting confused when linking between notes and makes a note easy to comprehend. Ideally this would also mean you learn to be concise with your writing.

  • Sixth layer of structure is what I call note sequences #todo

  • Seventh layer of structure are hubs #todo

  • Eighth layer of structure is the index #todo

1d1 - Obsidian Structure

  • Search
  • Graph View
  • Tags

1d2 - Other Possible Digital Layers

  • Table of Contents
1 Like

94 - Connection is “a relationship in which a person, thing, or idea is linked or associated with something else as to provide access and communication.” Oxford Dictionary. When you bring together multiple connections, you build a structure (e.g. hierarchy, network).

Overlap with association, relationship, link, etc

21b - Facilitating Connections
21c - Causation

95 - Sorting is when you systematically arrange items into separate groups based on common features (Oxford Dictionary). Typically this is done to make the storage and retrieval (5c) of information easier. It can also be used in a more exploratory way to learn more about your notes.

Sorting methods have emerged from the need to add structure to large bodies of information that emerged from the [information overload] involved with [evolving mediums].

96 - Selecting is the process you used to retrieve the information you are looking for. Typically people use [finding devices] that help you by sorting the information or using a search algorithm.

To start the selection process, you need a information trigger. In memory terminology this would be known as a retrieval cue, whether it be a word on a page, something someones says, or a evocative smell.

97 - Summarizing is the process of creating a brief generalization of a body of information. It is a layer of structure that allows us to more easily process a body of information, creating a very shallow model in the process.

Summarizing is one of the ways to deal with [infoglut]. The other being the creation of structures that allow you to search the information.

98 - Effortful Processing Strategies are ways you can engage with information in order to better encode it in your memory (making it stick).

  • 19d3a1 - Chunking
  • 19d3a2 - Mnemonic
  • 19d3a3 - Mental Hierarchies
  • 19d3a4 - Distributed Practice
  • 19d3a5 - Deep Processing
  • 19d3a6 - Meaningful Information

These are workflow examples of layers of structure that help you more deeply encode information.

99 - Zettelkasten Model (a.k.a Zettelkasten Principles) - Set of Rules (Model) that best facilitates the four functions within a zettelkasten.

Storing / Sorting / Selecting / Summarizing - #todo

  1. Zettelkasten is geared towards Knowledge Development

Zettelksaten is about Knowledge Development

100 - Niklas Luhmann was a German sociologist during the 20th century who is known for his prolific writing and work towards creating a theory of society. He created two zettelkastens over his career, starting the first one as a response to the need for an effective way to organize notes for the long term (Johannes F.K. Schmidt, 2018).

The reason he is so popular among the zettelkasten community is because his zettelkasten is public, the focus of a long term university research project, was part of his prolific output, and has a book written about it.

1B1 - Prolific Output

Notebox 1

Note box I: 7 extracts with notes from the period from approx. 1952 to 1963, a total of approx. 23,000 pieces of paper


The notes were largely written during the time when Luhmann worked as a legal trainee in Lüneburg or as a member of the government at the Ministry of Culture in Lower Saxony and document his reading of administrative, political, philosophical and increasingly also organizational-theoretical and sociological literature.


Notebox 2

Note box II: 20 extracts with notes from the period from 1963 to the beginning of 1997, a total of approx. 67,000 pieces of paper.


The notes are characterized by a clearly sociological-conceptual, theoretically and methodologically controlled access to a large number of publications from a wide variety of scientific disciplines. In terms of theoretical history, the new beginning with the development of a theory of administration may have taken place; The programmatic formulation on the first slip of this collection is paradigmatic for a fresh start:


Department Overview

The overview created by the NL Archives is based on the structure of the collection with its 108 thematic departments (as well as the four register departments) specified by Luhmann and provides a further breakdown within the individual thematic departments based on Luhmann’s priorities on the respective notes.

Therefore, the number structure does not represent a hierarchical structure. The departmental overviews do not claim to be complete (thematic or numerical).


Luhmann himself has not created a detailed overview of the contents of the collection. For ZK I there is only a department overview without further internal differentiation

source - section 4.1

Summary - It looks like Luhmann did not use detailed categories but instead had a somewhat vague overview of the different departments. What keeps it from going into the realm of traditional categories is that he did not further differentiate with subcategories.

Related Links

Questions I have about Luhmann’s Zettelkasten