Luhmann’s slip-box: build second brain

context – its network of associations, relationships, and connections to other information.

But Luhmann often remarked that he never forced himself to do anything he didn’t feel like doing: “I only do what is easy. I only write when I immediately know how to do it. If I falter for a moment, I put the matter aside and do something else” (Luhmann et al., 1987, 154f).

10 principles

  1. Writing is not the outcome of thinking; it is the medium in which thinking takes place
  2. Do your work as if writing is the only thing that matters
  3. Nobody ever starts from scratch
  4. Our tools and techniques are only as valuable as the workflow
  5. Standardization enables creativity
  6. Our work only gets better when exposed to high-quality feedback
  7. Work on multiple, simultaneous projects
  8. Organize your notes by context, not by topic
  9. Always follow the most interesting path
  10. Save contradictory ideas

The 8 Steps of Taking Smart Notes

  1. Make fleeting notes
  2. Make literature notes
  3. Make permanent notes
  4. Now add your new permanent notes to the slip-box
  5. Develop your topics, questions and research projects bottom up from within the slip-box
  6. Decide on a topic to write about from within the slip-box
  7. Turn your notes into a rough draft
  8. Edit and proofread your manuscript


Principle #8: Organize your notes by context, not by topic

Specifically, the context in which it will be used. The primary question when deciding where to put something becomes “In which context will I want to stumble upon this again?”


I always thought I have not much good ideas. But from now on, I think I will not have much good ideas, if I don’t do much research. Or I have not done the research in the correct way. So let me build my second brain.