How To Build A Digital Zettelkasten

Effortlessly link ideas together with Roam Research. It’s like a bank account for your brain

In our last post, we discussed Niklas Luhmann’s Zettelkasten method and how to build one with physical notecards. Catch up here.

The gist is this: take notes on cards, review them, then link them together. It’s simple, but powerful.

It’s powerful because, thanks to the way notes are linked together in a Zettelkasten, the more information you add, the more you increase its overall value. 

It’s like compound interest: if you put a dollar in a savings account today, over a lifetime, that dollar will create many more dollars for you. Likewise, in a Zettelkasten, the more notes you add, the more the value of each individual note compounds. 

New concepts reference old concepts, which creates an ever-increasing network of knowledge. You will remember more and create more connections, leading to insights that you wouldn’t have otherwise developed. 

A Zettelkasten is like an interest-paying savings account for your mind.

Luhmann used physical cards to build his Zettelkasten, and back in the 1960’s that was the best option. However, today we have software and computers. They give us a few advantages over notecards:

  • Search. Searching through a box of physical cards is tedious. It’s much easier to type in a search bar. 
  • Linking. Links in a physical Zettelkasten are equivalent to hyperlinks online. Computers make links clickable and the underlying information accessible in an instant (so speed is an advantage, too).
  • Storage. If you’re going to index a lifetime of knowledge on notecards, you’re eventually going to need a lot of space for boxes. It’s a little easier if you keep this information on the internet, where you can get to it from your laptop or phone, or any device anywhere in the world.
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