How to Use Zettelkasten Method for Superior Notes Management

You are not alone if you've ever found yourself overwhelmed by notes, struggling to connect ideas, or losing track of valuable insights in the mess of information. Many people face these challenges and that’s exactly where the Zettelkasten method can become in hand. Thinkers, writers, and professionals around the world use it in such cases. Will you?

A man is using Zettelkasten method

In this article we'll get into the basics of this amazing system, explaining how you can use it and never lose an important idea again. So if you want to simplify your studies, enhance your professional work, or just organize your thoughts better, keep reading.

What is Zettelkasten

Zettelkasten method (also known as a slip box method) is more than just a way to take notes. It's a system that helps you create connections between individual information pieces and allows your knowledge base to grow and develop organically.

Unlike traditional note-taking systems, Zettelkasten note taking provides a clear way to organize and connect your thoughts. It improves a way you think, helps to learn effectively, saves time and boosts your creativity.

At its core, the Zettelkasten method involves creating simple notes, called "Zettels". Each Zattel contains a single idea or piece of information. It’s in a standard notepad you can scribble down everything in one place, but in Zettelkasten system each Zettel is separated and linked to others, forming a network of interconnected thoughts.

Key Principles Behind Zettelkasten

To get a better understanding of Zettelkasten we’ll have to take a deeper diver into its underlying principles:

  1. Interconnected ideas. Notes are linked to one another, which creates a web of connected concepts and reflects how ideas relate to each other.
  2. Individual understanding. Notes are written in your own words, which encourages personal engagement and deeper comprehension of the topic.
  3. Atomicity. Each "Zettel" contains only one idea or concept, which makes it a self-contained unit that can be understood, studied and reviewed independently.
  4. Linking and cross-referencing. Connection between notes allows you to navigate easily, which saves time and mental resources.
  5. Continuous evolution. Zettelkasten note taking allows ongoing refinement and expansion, which truly reflects the ever-changing nature of knowledge.
  6. Contextual tags and indexing. Tags and indexing helps to find relevant notes easier, which helps in categorizing and retrieving information.
  7. Avoidance of hierarchy. Unlike traditional note-taking systems, Zettelkasten avoids rigid hierarchies, which leads to a flexible and organic organization.
  8. Spaced repetition. revisiting and building upon notes promotes retention and continuous engagement.
  9. Inclusion of sources. Citing sources within notes ensures that original context is maintained, which helps with further research and exploration.
  10. Personalization. Zettelkasten is adaptable to individual needs and preferences, which allows it to tailor it to specific requirements or learning styles.

Setting Up Your Own Zettelkasten System

The great thing about the Zettelkasten method is that you don't need anything fancy to start. In fact, if you want to go “old school”, you can begin with just pen and paper. Just write down your thoughts or ideas on separate pieces of paper and then find a way to link them. Some people use arrows, numbers, or even different colored pens for such purposes, and then keep notes in a box or a binder.

But in this article, we are going to review Zettelkasten from a digital perspective, since nowadays it prevails. There are various apps available that have features to make links and notes creation easier, we’ll touch on this topic further. Just keep in mind that Zettelkasten is not only about tools. All you need is the desire to think more creatively and make connections between your ideas.

Let’s go through five simple steps that can help you start using the Zettelkasten method.

Choose Your Digital Tool

There are many options available, including apps like Roam Research, Obsidian, and Zettler. Many of these tools have features designed specifically for the Zettelkasten system. Such Zettelkasten software makes it extremely easy to create and link notes. Explore a few options, consider their features, and pick the one that fits your needs. Many offer free versions or trials, so you can test them.

Write Individual Notes with Single Ideas

As we already mentioned, each note or "Zettel" is meant to contain only one specific idea or thought. Start writing your notes with this principle in mind. For instance, if you're studying a complex topic like climate change, you could create a separate note for each aspect, such as the causes, effects, or potential solutions. This way, you can later link related notes together, which helps to get a more comprehensive and interconnected understanding of the subject.

Create Links Between Your Notes

While using Zettelkasten method, connecting your notes is as important as writing them. With the software you've chosen you can create hyperlinks between related notes. Example: you might link a note about the causes of climate change to a note about its effects. Most Zettelkasten software will have a simple way to create these links, often with just a click or a keyboard shortcut.

Organize Your Notes

As your collection of notes grows, organizing them becomes crucial. Most digital Zettelkasten tools offer features like tags, folders, or categories to help you keep your notes tidy. Use these to group related notes together or to quickly find a specific topic. Also many digital tools (like Obsidian) offer features like search and visualization that can help you see your thoughts from different angles.

Make Note-Taking a Habit

The real power of the Zettelkasten method comes with regular use. We recommend you to set aside some specific time to consistently add new notes, review existing ones, and explore the connections between them. Whether for study, professional work, or personal growth, committing to use Zettelkasten as part of your daily or weekly routine, can transform the way you process and generate ideas.


Let’s sum up: Zettelkasten is more than a note-taking technique, it's a pathway to clearer thinking and creativity. By implementing the principles and steps we went through, you can transform your approach to learning, working, and generating ideas. Whether you prefer digital tools or just a pen and paper, this method molds to your personal style and evolves with your thoughts. If you like such an approach or think it may fit your needs, this journey may begin with a single Zettel right away.