• Academia is always based on writing. If your main form of output is a manuscript, it would be foolish to start your work on anything else but a set of notes.
    • The Zettelkasten ensures you never start from a blank page.
    • “Every intellectual endeavour starts with a note.
  • You can’t hold onto all the discourse, your own ideas and how the two relate to each other in your brain alone.
    • Going from written notes to written manuscript is easier than trying to pull all of it out of your brain onto paper.
  • Insight can’t be planned. While productivity guidelines like GTD might help you keep track of other work, don’t try and apply it to your thinking.
    • Planning imposes inflexible structure.
  • Never work on anything you don’t feel like doing if you can avoid it.
  • Start early. Give yourself the time needed to go back to the literature and refine your argument.
  • Develop ideas through reading. Don’t superimpose an idea and search for evidence right away. Let your reading guide you.


  • Autor: Sönke Ahrens
  • Jahr: 2022
  • Status: in-progress
  • Gelesen am:


“It is a huge misunderstanding that the only alternative to planning is aimless messing around.”

“Poor students do not have any of these problems”

“Routines require simple, repeatable tasks that can become automatic and fit together seamlessly (cf. Mata, Todd, and Lippke, 2010).”

“GTD relies on clearly defined objectives, whereas insight cannot be predetermined by definition.”

“Only if we know that everything is taken care of, from the important to the trivial, can we let go and focus on what is right in front of us. Only if nothing else is lingering in our working memory and taking up valuable mental resources can we experience what Allen calls a “mind like water” - the state where we can focus on the work right in front of us without getting distracted by competing thoughts.”

“the secret to a successful organization lies in the holistic perspective”

““I, of course, do not think everything by myself. It happens mainly within the slip-box” (Luhmann, Baecker, and Stanitzek 1987, 142).”

“Intuitively, most people do not expect much from simple ideas. They rather assume that impressive results must have equally impressively complicated means.”

“Luhmann had two slip-boxes: a bibliographical one, which contained the references and brief notes on the content of the literature, and the main one in which he collected and generated his ideas, mainly in response to what he read.”

“Writing that an author struggles in one chapter to justify his method can be a much more adequate description of this chapter’s content than any quote from the text itself (this would call for an explanation, of course).”

“Everybody is motivated when the finish line is within reach.”

  • Are stress and panic motivators? Why do we think of motivation as being comprised of positive elements?

“each step is clearly not only within your abilities, but also straightforward and well-defined: Assemble notes and bring them into order, turn these notes into a draft, review it and you are done.”

“Writing these notes is also not the main work. Thinking is. Reading is.”

“If you want to learn something for the long run, you have to write it down”

Update 2022-10-16

Writing a paper step by step

“Make fleeting notes. Always have something at hand to write with to capture every idea that pops into your mind.”

“Make literature notes. Whenever you read something, make notes about the content.”

“Make permanent notes. Now turn to your slip-box. Go through the notes you made in step one or two (ideally once a day and before you forget what you meant) and think about how they relate to what is relevant for your own research, thinking or interests.”

Update 2022-10-30

“always take the path that promises the most insight”

  • How do I know?

“Tools are only as good as your ability to work with them.”

“The research on willpower or “ego depletion” is in a bit of turmoil at the moment. But it is safe to say that using willpower is a terrible strategy to get things done in the long run. For an overview cf. Inzlicht/Friese 2019.”

5 Writing Is the Only Thing That Matters