Separation of notes?

I just recently started learning about Zettelkasten and I’ve reading Ahrens’ book. One thing that he emphasizes is the need to separate fleeting, permanent and projects notes. I can see the fleeting notes being taken in different locations includes annotations in pdfs, onenote etc and then transfer to the permanent notes later on.

But what about the project notes that are specific to a project and not relevant once project finishes? Does org-roam have a way to separate project notes from permanent notes? How do you guys handle this?



People don’t discuss project notes very much in my experience. I think the answer depends on the content of the project notes. Do you have actual project notes, or are you just asking in the abstract? If the latter, I suggest bracketing this question until you have some concrete examples because everyone’s project notes will be different. The function of your project-specific notes are very tied to you and the actual project.

Here’s (a simplified view of) my current system:

   \_ notes/
      \_ topic/
         \_ {topic}.org
      \_ journal/
         \_ {YYYY-MM-DD}.org
      \_ literature/
         \_ {YYYYMM}-{book_title}.org
      \_ meeting/
         \_ {YYYYMM}-{recurring_meeting}.org
         \_ {YYYYMM}-{archived_recurring_meeting}.org_archive
      \_ project/
         \_ {YYYYMM}-{project_title}.org
         \_ {YYYYMM}-{archived_project_title}.org_archive  
   \_ tasks/
      \_ {company}.org
      \_ {company}.org_archive
      \_ personal.org_archive

org-roam-directory is set to ~/org/notes.
org-agenda-files are set to ~/org/tasks and ~/org/notes/project

I have org-roam-capture-templates for topic, literature, meeting, and project. These are all picked up as roam tags (except for topic).

The files under tasks are classic big-ass agenda files containing Areas as first-level headlines and TODOs as second-level headlines. I use org-capture to add TODOs and archive them when they’ve been DONE or CANCELLED for 2 months.

The files under projectand meeting are archived by renaming to .org_archive when they become irrelevant. A project usually arises from TODO subtrees in the tasks or journal files starting to get big.

literature and topic files are never archived.

I don’t bother with zettelkasten too much since I do relatively little research. My usage is as a programmer and manager.

I use org-roam as a wiki with backlinks, which is what I’d been missing in org-mode for a long time, since org-agenda is very task-management oriented and does not offer a good solution for general knowledge management in my experience

UPDATE (2020-08-11):

  1. Moved topic notes under a topic directory

In my job I work in a specific project for several months and then move on to a different project. One project could involve a analyzing data related to a particular disease for example (say a type of cancer) while the next project could be related to a very different disease (say a neurological one). So it seems like it would be useful to have some sort of separation since a lot of information is very specific to a project and not relevant to other projects.

Perhaps adding tags specific to projects is sufficient differentiation?

this is helpful!

I wouldn’t bother separating the permanent files—what I’m calling the {topic}.org files, such They can just link to different project files using org-roam-insert.

As @cobblepot points out the right granularity of the system depends very much on your activity. If I was working on a single project for months at a time I’d reshuffle the system above quite a bit.

Separating project notes from topic notes is difficult and, I think, unnecessary. What’s necessary is to make sure that “evergreen” notes – e.g. how to use something to do something – don’t get buried in project notes. If they do, then once the project is done you’ll lose them.

Your project notes can, and I think often should, link to evergreen notes, e.g. how to do something. As long as that how-to content is located in at least one natural evergreen-titled topic (e.g. if it’s how to connect SuperCollilder to Haskell, you might include it in both your notes on SuperCollider and your notes on Haskell), you’re not going to lose it.

Thank you so much for sharing this. After reading for many weeks, on how to use org-roam/zettelkasten/org-mode, I was bit lost, and your post is what made the most sense as I have the same use case.

I am not sure if I can ask this in this thread but I couldn’t find a private message system in discourse.
Could you share few examples of your notes ? (couple topics/literature/meeting/project/journal)

Sure, glad it can be helpful.

These are the permanent notes that are linked to from all the others

Notes taken while reading books, for the most part. The date corresponds roughly to when I started reading them but it’s not very important.

Notes taken during recurring meetings. It’s useful to keep them in the same note because very often I want to quickly check what was said/agreed to on the previous meetings. Archived once the meeting is no longer taken. The date corresponds to the month I started the note, so that meeting names can be archived then reused without thinking too much about it. One-off meeting notes just go on the project note—if there is one—or else in the journal.
e.g. 201803-weekly_checkpoint_{provider_name}.org,

All notes referring to a project, including TODOs and meeting notes. Archived as soon as the project is done.

That’s just a org-journal directory, one file per day. That’s where I start taking notes if I don’t want to think where to put them.

This is the heart of my task management/org-agenda system. Most TODOs are entered here usually from org-capture or beorg on mobile, then I have a few ways to review/organize, archive them.

I also just started a who directory with one file per person. I’m just starting to slowly migrate an Evernote database with notes dating all the way back to the early 2000’s (when I was using InfoSelect). The system there is very stable, but it’s not entirely settled how it will translate in org-mode.


thanks for sharing

@rodelrod I have doubts about the journal directory. The notes written to this journal directory are temporary notes to be deleted or archived? or notes to be kept and so they can be linked with topic/literature/… notes?

I link from them but never link to them. I’m acting as if they’re going to be archived at some point.

Journaling is the only really new thing I’ve introduced in my note-taking workflow when adopting Org-Roam and I’ve only started that a couple months ago, so things may change over time. Case in point, I’m not totally satisfied of what archiving means in Org, or on the options for full text search; so I’m not entirely sure on how this will settle.

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