I want to share an idea with you that forever changed the way I study and learn new things for the long term. It’s called a slip box/slipbox or in German, Zettelkasten.
The idea of a slip box is to take notes in a one-thought-per-note format, where each note is a “slip”. Each slip has a unique ID, and each slip is supposed to be “permanent”, so try to write it to that standard of excellence. The magic of the slip box comes from a few basic logical consequences of these rules.
- If you put only one idea on a slip, then the slip is re-usable, and you can more readily relate that idea to other topics besides the one you had in mind originally, which allows ideas to grow in complex, organic ways.
- There is no pre-defined boundary determining how much space you can devote to a given topic. If you get super into some subject, you could end up writing thousands of notes about it, and a slip box can accommodate that. You can always just buy more boxes if necessary. Thus, a slip box is inherently flexible.
- Each slip having a unique ID means you can link from one slip to another, then later you can browse from one slip to another, and it forms a network like a Wiki. But bear in mind it is very different from a wiki because of the one-idea-per note rule.
The above description is really just intended to whet your appetite for some better resources I’ll list below. The topic has been covered in detail elsewhere on the Internet, so really I wanted to compile some links to other resources and put it in a shareable package that will send you to better resources than this page. The slip box is a hidden gem deserving more attention.
Note that the leading photo on this post is my own slip box, which is a physical box of paper slips. That was my choice. But there are software options of course.
Here are some resources to get you started:
- https://zettelkasten.de/posts/overview/. Great place to start, and a great place to keep coming back for clarification on the details.
- Sönke Ahrens’ How to Take Smart Notes. Truly an excellent book on the topic of starting and building a good slip box/Zettelkasten. Ahrens goes much further than just summarizing what is already on the Internet. The book is well worth buying.
My recommendations are my own. I’m not deriving any payment of any kind of kickback for sending you to these other resources.