About these notes

Hi! I’m Andy Matuschak. You’ve stumbled upon my working notes. They’re kind of strange, so some context might help.

These notes are mostly written for myself: they’re roughly my thinking environment (Evergreen notes; My morning writing practice). But I’m sharing them publicly as an experiment (Work with the garage door up). If a note seems confusing or under-explained, it’s probably because I didn’t write it for you! Sorry—that’s sort of an essential tension of this experiment (Write notes for yourself by default, disregarding audience).

For now, there’s no index or navigational aids: you’ll need to follow a link to some starting point. You might be interested in §What’s top of mind.

👋 Andy (email, Twitter, main personal site)

PS: My work is made possible by a crowd-funded research grant from my Patreon community. You can become a member to support future work, and to read patron-only updates and previews of upcoming projects.

PS: Many people ask, so I’ll just note here: no, I haven’t made this system available for others to use. It’s still an early research environment, and Premature scaling can stunt system iteration.

Last updated 2023-10-23.

My morning writing practice

As part of my My daily routine, mornings are often spent writing and revising Evergreen notes. This is typically the most challenging work I do all day, so I like to do it when I have the most clarity and focus. It’s not for “note-taking” in a traditional sense—writing down other people’s ideas, or recording things that happened—it’s for developing ideas. (i.e. Most people use notes as a bucket for storage or scratch thoughts vs. Evergreen note-writing helps insight accumulate)

Unless I have something in mind that I’m particularly excited to write about, I usually begin by opening my writing inbox (A writing inbox for transient and incomplete notes) and flipping through those prompts and incomplete notes. If any strike me, I’ll draft Evergreen notes about them. This may happen over multiple days: I may flesh out a note considerably, then run out of steam and leave it in my inbox to finish another day.

If my inbox is relatively low, I’ll get out my memo pad (Pocket memo pad to capture into writing inbox while out) and fill my inbox with those notes. I don’t force it: if none of the prompts seem interesting, I’ll archive the ones which seem most boring and move on.

After working through my writing inbox, I’ll focus my attention on my primary creative projects and ask myself prompts like:

  • what are the most important unknowns for this project?
  • what new ideas am I excited about?
  • what are the most interesting things I know about this project?

For these prompts, I’ll use my Daily working log as a scratch space, splatting a dozen or so one-liners into a haphazard bulleted list. After emptying my head, I’ll write about any that seem interesting. Usually that leads to rabbit holes which consume the rest of the session. I’ll add promising stragglers to my writing inbox for future days.

If those prompts don’t feel fruitful, I’ll use the time to Write about what you read to internalize texts deeply. I’ve usually got a backlog of books and articles I’ve read but for which I haven’t yet written Evergreen notes. If the prompts don’t feel fruitful for several days in a row, that’s a sign that I need to shake things up: my inputs aren’t high-variance enough, or I’m not giving myself the right kind of creative space, or I may need to re-evaluate my projects. My writing inbox should always feel like a cornucopia.

I take 5-minute breaks to get up and move around every 25 minutes, but even with those breaks, I usually can’t continue this practice longer than 2-3 hours. Sometimes I can do another session later in the day.

Last updated 2023-07-13.

A writing inbox for transient and incomplete notes

Even if you aspires to write Evergreen notes, most notes begin as transient notes. You should be able to capture thoughts without friction (Close open loops), then reliably develop them into evergreen notes over time (Knowledge work should accrete). This implies two important mechanisms:

  1. a quick way to capture transient notes which clearly isolates them from evergreen notes; and
  2. a place to put notes you want to develop further and a practice which reliably drains it (Inboxes only work if you trust how they’re drained)

I use a “writing inbox” for this purpose. Undeveloped ideas, excerpts from my Daily working log, notes from reading, one-line prompts, etc all begin in that queue. During My morning writing practice, I’ll look through notes in this inbox and spend time developing any that strike me. On most days, I spend the majority of my writing time in this way.

Many notes in my writing inbox end up as evergreen notes, but that’s not appropriate (or possible) for all of them. If a note doesn’t seem sufficiently interesting after a few looks, it’s best to archive or delete it. (A challenge here: Triage strategies for maintaining inboxes (e.g. Inbox Zero) are often too brittle)

While I’m at my computer, I capture notes directly into my writing inbox. I also feed it with: Pocket memo pad to capture into writing inbox while out.


Building Blocks of a Zettelkasten • Zettelkasten Method

Last updated 2023-07-13.