# Luhmann always worked on something easier and interesting
Niklas Luhmann had written more than 70 books and 400 articles on various subjects. The amount of writing he had written is not only a matter of quantity, but of quality as well. Luhmann's "The Society of Society" was so radical that not only it changed sociology, but stirred debate in philosophy, education, political theory, and psychology as well (Ahrens 14).
Despite the abnormally impressive productivity that Luhmann demonstrated, he never did anything that he thought was not interesting (Ahrens 15). From his interview:
I only do what is easy. I only write when I immediately know how to do it, if I falter for a moment, I put the matter aside and do something else.
What is "something else" in Luhmann's world? If he's stuck, he would switch context and write on something easier (Ahrens 141). From his interview:
Well, writing other books. I always work on different manuscripts at the same time. With this method, to work on different things simultaneously, I never encounter any blockages.
Ahrens, How to Take Smart Notes (p. 14).
When he finished the final chapter, almost exactly 29 and a half years later, as a two-volume book with the title of "The Society of Society" (1997), it stirred up the scientific community. It was a radical new theory that not only changed sociology, but stirred heated discussions in philosophy, education, political theory and psychology as well. Not everyone was able to follow the discussions, though. What he did was unusually sophisticated, very different and highly complex.
Ahrens, How to Take Smart Notes (p. 15).
He not only stressed that he never forced himself to do something he didn't feel like, he even said: "I only do what is easy. I only write when I immediately know how to do it. If I falter for a moment, I put the matter aside and do something else." (Luhmann et al., 1987, 154f.)
Ahrens, How to Take Smart Notes (p. 141).
Remember: Luhmann's answer to the question of how one person could be so productive was that he never forced himself to do anything and only did what came easily to him. "When I am stuck for one moment, I leave it and do something else". When he was asked what else he did when he was stuck, his answer was: "Well, writing other books [...]" (Luhmann, Baecker, and Stanitzek 1987, 125-55)
Link to the interview (Ahrens 16 footnote): Niklas Luhmann - Beobachter im Krähennest (eng sub) - YouTube
- Zettelkasten enables constant focus on interesting materials
- Luhmann always worked on something easier and interesting, and that is made possible because Effective workflow forms positive feedback loop. The zettelkasten consists of a well-defined workflow, therefore allowing the practitioners to focus on interesting and easier things. This is good to keep yourselves motivated.
- Context switching helps when you get stuck
- When Luhmann got stuck, he will write on a different book (Luhmann always worked on something easier and interesting). Authors, who are Slow-motion multitasking, also switched context when they got stuck. In the Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2020, 54.4% of the respondents would Do other work and come back later when they got stuck; considering that this is the highest option after Visit Stack Overflow, it is quite a significant number. Context switching, therefore, can be helpful when you get stuck. If getting stuck is unproductive, then context switching is not always harmful for productivity.
- Slow-motion multitasking
- Niklas Luhmann has also demonstrated pattern where it took him 29.5 years to finally publish "The Society of Society", whilst working on other ideas simultaneously in his slip-box. (Luhmann always worked on something easier and interesting)
- What makes something interesting?
- Zettelkasten enables constant focus on interesting materials, but what does interesting material mean? How do you know know if you have come across an interesting material? Luhmann always worked on something easier and interesting, but what if there are too much of interesting things that you have come across during the day? Would you take notes for them all? Perhaps what we need to better definition of ‘interesting’.