Evergreen notes should be densely linked

If we push ourselves to add lots of links between our notes, that makes us think expansively about what other concepts might be related to what we’re thinking about. It creates pressure to think carefully about how ideas relate to each other (see Understanding requires effortful engagement and Evergreen notes should be concept-oriented). It’ll also help you internalize the ideas more deeply through Elaborative encoding.

Finding the right links requires reading old notes, so it’s also an organic mechanism for intermittently reviewing the notes we’ve written (Evergreen note maintenance approximates spaced repetition). This may lead to surprising discoveries (Notes should surprise you).

And by recording the connections, we document how we came to our conclusions, which may be useful to us (or our colleagues) later. As much as is possible, we should Prefer fine-grained associations. By contrast, Tags are an ineffective association structure.

When just reading through our notes, the connections offer many paths to move through idea-space. The temptation is to navigate hierarchically, but the links cut across fields and topics. Prefer associative ontologies to hierarchical taxonomies

Luhmann actually argues that…

In comparison with this structure, which offers possibilities of connection that can be actualized, the importance of what has actually been noted is secondary.

You don’t necessarily have to link to notes you’ve already written: Backlinks can be used to implicitly define nodes in knowledge management systems. It feels high-friction to stop and add a new note whenever it feels necessary; it’s very freeing to be able to link to a stub. (see also Evergreen notes permit smooth incremental progress in writing (“incremental writing”)).

Aside from the ongoing value of the captured links, they may help you shepherd your attention while drafting: Release valves for non-linear thought may support improved linear output.


Luhmann, N. (1992). Communicating with Slip Boxes. In A. Kieserling (Ed.), & M. Kuehn (Trans.), Universität als Milieu: Kleine Schriften (pp. 53–61). Retrieved from http://luhmann.surge.sh/communicating-with-slip-boxes

2. Possibility of linking (Verweisungsmöglichkeiten). Since all papers have fixed numbers, you can add as many references to them as you may want. Central concepts can have many links which show on which other contexts we can find materials relevant for them. Through references, we can, without too work or paper, solve the problem of multiple storage. Given this technique, it is less important where we place a new note. If there are several possibilities, we can solve the problem as we wish and just record the connection by a link or reference. Often the context in which we are working suggests a multiplicity of links to other notes. This is especially the case when the card index is already voluminous. In such cases it is important to capture the connections radially, as it were, but at the same time also by right away recording back links in the slips that are being linked to. In this working procedure, the content that we take note of is usually also enriched

In any case, communication becomes more fruitful when we succeed to activate the internal network of links at the occasion of writing notes or making queries. Memory does not function as the sum of point by point accesses, but rather utilizes internal relationships and becomes fruitful only at this level of the reduction of its own complexity. In this way, more information becomes available at this isolated moment of an search impulse than one had in mind. There is also more information than was ever stored in the form of notes, The slip box provides combinatorial possibilities which were never planned, never preconceived, or conceived in this way.

If we ask, for instance, why on the one hand museums are empty, while on the other hand exhibitions of paintings by Monet, Picasso, or Medici are too crowded, the slip box accepts this question under the perspective of “preference for what is temporally limited.” The connections that already exist internally are, of course, selective, as this example was to prove. They also do not fall into the limits of what is obvious because we must cross the border between the one who takes note and the slip box itself.

In comparison with this structure, which offers possibilities of connection that can be actualized, the importance of what has actually been noted is secondary.