Fleeting Notes

Fleeting notes in Zettelkasten are for capturing ideas while reading, listening, or thinking. They are designed to be short-lived and should be stored in an inbox for processing into Literature Notes, ideally within 1 to 2 days. They can be highlights, notes within a page, or notes on paper.

The standard note-taking approach where we collect chronologically ordered notes, for example, in a scientific journal, presents us with 2 problems:

  1. all notes are treated as Permanent Notes. This means really good ideas can be "diluted" amongst all ideas
  2. the ordering makes searching, combining, and rearranging old ideas difficult.

Also, without a system for processing fleeting notes, they can quickly accumulate to the point where the benefit of taking notes diminishes with every new entry, leading to a desire to "start from scratch".

Ahrens (2017) (pg. 48-49)

The system of converting Fleeting Notes into Literature Notes then into Permanent Notes is a loop that gives us opportunities to absorb, filter and elaborate on ideas. In that way, it shares goals with the Rule of Loop in Game Design.

Cover image by Jhayne on Flickr.


Sönke Ahrens. How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking: For Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers. CreateSpace, North Charleston, SC, 2017. ISBN 978-1-5428-6650-7.