Share your Zettel note template

Here is the structure for my atomic notes.

[[Reference to a Book, Article that sparked the thought]]

> Quote, if any.

My own thoughts or a rephrase of the quote.

Tags: [[Tags]], [[Associated]], [[with]], [[Thought]]

Tags are what most would call MOCs. I use actual #tags only for metadata. So for example each book note will have a #Book tag and status tag (#read, #reading, or something like that.)


Started seriously Zetteling a couple months ago. This is the template I settled for. It uses the templater plugin to insert the ID of the Zettel, date and time.

# 202101031548 Write atomic idea here
**January 3rd 2021 / 3:50:01 pm**

### Body of the Zettel. This is where the main idea of each Zettel will be explained. 
Below, a few bulletpoints allow you to add more information and flesh out each idea.
- Sub-idea 1
- Sub-idea 2
- Sub-idea 3

**Related Notes**
Space for adding links to [[internal notes]]

Space for adding external references in the form of links or [bibliographic sources]. 

For my current template for creating permanent notes I’ll still want to improve one thing, but don’t know how.
Right now I write my note content, cut the content, use the templater plugin and then paste the content again. I really like to just automate it. And I also don’t want to write my note content after using the templater because it’s too cluttered…
Maybe someone knows? :slight_smile:

UID: {{tp_today:f=YYYYMMDDHHmm}}
title: [{{tp_title}}]
bibliography: ../library.bib #path to bibtex file for citations via pandoc 
link-citations: true
csl: ../apa.csl #citation style for american psychology association

{{tp_cursor}} "Note Content"


<sub>[[followed by note link]]</sub>
*Here comes all the relevant note links or links I didn't used in "Note-Content"*


"References in APA Style (Zotero)"

"Backlinks in document plugin"

Your wording is interesting to me. “wrapping your head around” zettlekasten…While I approach this system with a similar energy, I’m also trying to approach it as an exploration, into the unknown, planting a garden. The point is not to understand, but to explore and eventually make connections. This implies being lost, not knowing, messing up. It mimics life in many ways.


I really like the Key Phrases and the list of questions to define the Connections | Conseuquences | Implications…

… and I’m trying myself to find a way to get all my links being very functional, that is oriented toward a goal or a specific situation.

Do most/all of your questions come from the book “How to take Smart Notes”?
Have they proven to be useful? Can you share examples?

I’m really torn between adopting a minimalist system or developing one that relies on more functional categories like the one you describe.

@splnkr this looks well thought out. What is your thinking behind using tags?

Thanks :slight_smile:
I use tags to mark Zettel as entry points for specific topics. I thought about using map of concepts but I in my opinion they are “adaptive folders” on steroids and still are priming a hierarchical/top-down approach.

I am not a fan of MOCs either, or at least the top-down ones I’ve seen so far. They don’t really support the emergence of ideas. But having said that, what I really meant by my question is what is the significance of your <sub> tags. It’s something I’ve not seen before.

Ah that’s only formatting to please my eye. I also didnt use the “follows note” link and just use the backlink plugin for rendering it within a note at the bottom.

I hope that in the future the graph plugin will show something like the impulse function in neuron.

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@krivaten What are the examples you have for Type: [[Articles]] ? Curious how you use this.

MOCs and index notes (etc) only replicate folder structures when they are defined top-down in that fashion.

But they can be incredibly useful when you allow them to emerge from the bottom up.

For example, the MOC approaches you see that use some form of decimal system to establish structures as a framework to start with are well-intentioned but flawed, IMO.

A better approach is to just start with notes and then identify themes and collections organically from the bottom up, collect those into notes, and then eventually label them MOCs or whatever else you want.

In my own note collection I have multiple “levels” of “hierarchy” without imposing a hierarchy at all. (its more of a heterarchy, because I can freely put any note in any list anywhere at any time)

  1. Notes - lowest level
  2. Outlines/Lists - ordered or unordered collections of notes on a very specific theme
  3. Topic Clusters - ordered or unordered collections (including list notes) on a broader theme
  4. A handful of MOCs - top level broad collections

Notes from higher levels can freely link to any of the notes in the lower levels.

Actual example from my own notes:

  1. Individual notes on note taking methods, principles, ideas, etc
  2. Two list notes: List of note taking principles and List of note taking methods collecting the notes from #1 in various ways
  3. Topic clusters: one on Zettelkasten method, one on note taking systems in general, etc, each linking to items from #1 and #2 as appropriate
  4. A few MOCs: I don’t have a “note taking MOC” but I do have one titled Reasoning and Learning MOC which includes a section on knowledge digestion and note making, containing links to various items from #1 - #3 as appropriate

In this manner a broad grouping of topics has emerged from my notes, with no central planning. MOCs are a useful concept for collecting these together, without requiring me to pre-define a central taxonomy. The MOCs in my collection are analogous to academic disciplines or fields of study in a sense but are unique and specific to my needs and interests.


I like the observation that you want to avoid feeling like you’re at the DMV. Here’s my template:

<empty line>
<empty line>
## References

started: [[{{date}}]]
tags: #type/uncategorized, #state/stub

I put my metadata down at the bottom because I don’t want to be bothered with maintaining compatibility with YAML. I only ever set new #type/* and #state/* values when I find myself meaningfully interacting with the note after its creation.


@mambocab Can you share a couple example notes that you used your template to start from so I can see what a ‘completed’ note looks like - thanks

They’re just notes with a small section for metadata. I’d say that they are structurally something like Andy Matuschak’s, though less densely linked. Many are basically short essays but others are lists structure notes. Honestly most are stubs.

As an example, here’s Everyone forgets most

[[Ideas are ephemeral]]. [[In some environments, people understand their ideas' ephemerality]] -- everyone understands _l'esprit de l'escalier_ and "shower thoughts"[^shower-and-lesprit].
([**NO MORE GREAT IDEAS DOWN THE DRAIN!**](, as they say.

In spite of the fact that everyone gets this, there's little concerted effort to manage the effect -- [[Many understand that they forget their shower thoughts. Why do so few take action?]].
The common thread between use of [[🏷️ Spaced repetition]] systems and [[🏷️ Graph Note Databases]] --
and the reason people aggravate me by conflating the two --
is that users of each have successfully internalized that everyone forgets most things!
But SRS use focuses on avoiding forgetting _facts_, while the use of associative text apps avoid losing the thread of ideas.

## References

Wikipedia: [_L'esprit de l'escalier_](, retrieved 2021-01-31:
> During a dinner at the home of statesman [Jacques Necker]( "Jacques Necker"), a remark was made to Diderot which left him speechless at the time, because, he explains, "a sensitive man, such as myself, overwhelmed by the argument [leveled] against him, becomes confused and \[can only think clearly again when he\] finds himself at the bottom of the stairs" ("_l'homme sensible, comme moi, tout entier à ce qu'on lui objecte, perd la tête et ne se retrouve qu'au bas de l'escalier_").

[^shower-and-lesprit]: It's worth noting that Diderot -- Diderot! --
    claimed that the blocker to coming up with a good comeback was being a
    "sensitive man", "overwhelmed" and "confused" by an argument "levelled" against him.
    There is a distinct lack of safety in this description -- there's an *expectation* that he will have a witty comeback.
    Similarly, what's special about the shower? No expectations; the mind is allowed to roam free.
    The bottom of the staircase and the shower provide a chance for [[🏷️ Self-communication]];
    [[Creativity starts from safety]], and these are safe, solitary spaces.

started: [[2021-01-31]]
tended: [[2021-01-24]]
tags: #type/uncategorized, #state/stub
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I have a very similar note writing style to @mambocab as I am also heavily influenced by Andy Matuschak.



Thanks again for the example; helps! Whare are the little tag things like before Spaced repetition and Graph Note Databases (sorry, learning md amidst everything else)?

so in your note, you say - ‘Adapted from a claim in Cheng…’ yet you don’t link to anything but you do explain it in your own words; no thought or need to keep the link to the ‘claim’ in your experience?

@kdnavrat Ah whoops that’s a subtlety of my system at work here. :slight_smile:

In the note title you will notice the suffix (E.2102150921) which denotes it as an evergreen note of my own thinking.

In the reference section at the end of the note is a link to another note with the suffix (L.2102150922) which denotes it as a literature note capturing a single concept from a single source.

Here’s what that note looks like:

Notice the source link at the bottom. Literature notes in my system by definition have a single source, not a “sources” or “references” section.

That source note (with the S... suffix) in turn looks like this: (zoomed out a bit to be more visible in the screenshot)

These “source notes” are where I take my rough notes from a source, then compile them together and turn them into those individual literature notes capturing specific concepts. (yes this is a different use of the term “literature note” than many people)

Here’s an example of a source note that is partially complete, for Wozniak’s 20 rules of knowledge formulation:

As I (gradually – incremental reading!) process the source I extract information and chunk it together into those phrase-titled literature notes, each tied back to their source.

I will admit I’m not 100% happy with the L. and E. distinction because the line between them gets very blurry fairly often. Creating this distinction really helped me when I was dealing with a rapid explosion of my notes in the early days but now I’m starting to question the utility. It may be that I convert most/all of my L. notes to E. notes in the near future. TBD.


Thanks - makes sense and seems very clean; I’m new and working thru various ways of working with the tool and your examples are very helpful.

Good question – those are literally just the label emoji (:label:) in the title of the file. I experimented a bit with links-to-files-as-topic-tags-denoted-with-naming, but it creates too much friction, as I had to make decisions about “oh, is this an MOC or just a list or is it a tag note or…”. I just haven’t cleaned them up because their continued presence doesn’t do any harm.