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P.A.R.A. and Zettelkasten Experiment

Recently I decided to do something about my notes and notetaking methods.

Up until a few weeks ago, my notes were an increasingly unwieldy pile of .txt files. I was using Slack as a blackhole means of getting the odd link from my phone to my laptop.

It wasn’t great. Notes were seldom revisited. The majority of things put into Slack remained there…

So I thought about how to better the situation. Not for very long it turned out, as I was quick to reach the conclusion: I should start using a notetaking app again.

I should use an app designed for notetaking because then I can use the same thing on my phone and laptop. Provided I find a multi-platform app, of course. That should avoid the transferring of snippets out of Slack and into somewhere else. “That should address one of the problems I recognised” I figured.

I’ve used a specific notetaking app in the past, but I wanted to see what else was out there, since that was a few years ago now. So I set out in search of notetaking apps. While searching I found a couple of very interesting things. Not everybody will agree with that, but it seems there are some people out there who are very in to notetaking. I am certainly more interested in the topic than I used to be.

What I found was P.A.R.A. and Zettelkasten.

P.A.R.A. is a method for organizing digital notes and stuff, developed by Tiago Forte. P.A.R.A. is part of his online course Building a Second Brain.

Zettelkasten is a notetaking method used in research. It’s history starts long before the Internet and it is well known as something Niklas Luhmann used. There is a lively community of enthusiasts at

P.A.R.A. and Zettelkasten #

Interesting, right?

So interesting I thought, that I compelled myself to use it as an excuse to get writing. “I should write a little something about this” I thought.

As I read more, the idea developed and started taking shape. “I should write about The Terrible-Before-Times, discovering P.A.R.A. and Zettelkasten, talk about them for a bit, then The Great-After-Times.”

But there was a problem. I have only just discovered them in the last few weeks. I have barely started trying to use them. So the last part about The Great-After-Times wouldn’t have had much to say beyond “It looks like I’m going to like them.”

So I decided to postpone writing that blog post, and instead write something shorter. I still wanted something to mark the beginning of my adventure, and my experiment.

(The next part isn’t going to make much sense if you didn’t follow my P.A.R.A. and Zettelkasten links for more context. Sorry for my misleading subheading that suggested you might get a deeper description!)

What is my experiment? #

In short:

can the R of my P.A.R.A. be my Zettelkasten?

There is a bit of an opposing idea between the two, but they both resonated with me. The relatively minimal structuring of P.A.R.A. and notes having an appropriate place. The networked and unstructured (but not entirely unstructured) paradigm of the Zettelkasten world. I started to wonder if I could make use of a little from column A, and a little from column B…

After I had the experiment idea, I decided I should postpone my blog post idea and instead write this post first.

So here we are, at the end of my shorter initial blog post.

(Almost at the end.)

What is next? #

Another blog post - more about my notetaking app search.

I became a bit unsure of the first app I used and started looking for a second. I made a list of the features I wanted from a notetaking app to aid my thinking. So my next blog post will be a non-comprehensive comparison of the two apps based off my list.

Update: next blog post is here

More #

Here are some of the other things I’ve read lately, which all have been greatly inspiring:

The Notetaking Cold War

‐ Dan Shipper

Progressive Summarization

‐ Tiago Forte

Create a Zettelkasten for your Notes to Improve Thinking and Writing

‐ Christian Tietze

The Collector’s Fallacy

‐ Christian Tietze

The Zettelkasten Method

‐ Abram Demski

How to Make a Complete Map of Every Thought You Think

‐ Lion Kimbro

A Few Improvements to my Evernote Organization

‐ Andrea Mocko

Remembering what you Read: Zettelkasten vs P.A.R.A.

‐ Zain Rizvi

Header image mutated from novecentino on flickr.