# 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.
Focusing just on the interesting things at the moment may sound like a risky approach, where there is a risk to not produce any output. Counterintuitively, the top down approach (where you'll start with a hypotheses and find relevant materials) will pose a greater risk due to the heavy reliance on willpower (Workflow trumps willpower). Pursuing anything that you'll find interesting at the moment doesn't mean that you'll not produce any output, but you'll have multiple things that are going on in parallel. Producing the output will also be a lot easier that you have collected a lot of materials.
Ahrens, How to Take Smart Notes (p. 25).
After a while, you will have developed ideas far enough to decide on a topic to write about. Your topic is now based on what you have, not based on an unfounded idea about what the literature you are about to read might provide.
Ahrens, How to Take Smart Notes (p. 26).
In reality, you never work on just one idea, but many ideas in different stages at the same time. And that is where the system plays out its real strength. We cannot help but think about more than one question at a time and the chances are that you will think and write in the future as well.
Ahrens, How to Take Smart Notes (pp. 50-51).
But those who have already developed their thinking through writing can keep the focus on what is interesting for them at the moment and accumulate substantial material just by doing what they most feel like doing.
- Ahrens, How to Take Smart Notes
- Zettelkasten disregards planning
- Sticking to a plan, however, requires willpower (Ahrens 6) and willpower is not a sustainable way to writing, especially when what you write takes a multi year of research (Workflow trumps willpower); you want to gain enjoyment from writing instead, and Zettelkasten enables constant focus on interesting materials. We have Overconfidence bias too which means our plan tend not to work out as we expected. Sticking to a plan will also disregard new discoveries (Ahrens 11). The DNA structure won't be discovered if the scientists sticked to their plan (DNA structure was discovered on cancer treatment research).
- Find writing topic in your zettelkasten
- Instead of brainstorming, you should find a writing topic in your zettelkasten instead. Your zettelkasten would contain all of the interesting materials as you’ve been capturing them as part of your workflow already. Not only you’ll find an interesting idea by combining all those interesting zettels (Zettelkasten enables constant focus on interesting materials), you’ll also not be starting from zero as most of the research had been done before.
- Zettelkasten requires a balanced routine
- Even though Zettelkasten enables constant focus on interesting materials, you wouldn't capture interesting materials (transient notes) and zettels if you don't dedicate time or make a habit for it. A routine, therefore, is a necessary element in the practice of zettelkasten (Ahrens 10).
- 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’.