We have written a beginner's guide to building a second brain so you can unlock your full potential, increase productivity and lead a more fulfilling life.
The Second Brain is a concept created by Tiago Forte for managing all the information that floods our brains every single day, because there is no way our minds can remember and retain every thought, idea or thing we learn, forever. Information is so important, and it's what leads us to live the lives we have today.
So imagine what could happen if you create a way of retaining all the information you ever receive? Instead of worrying about forgetting something you'll want to remember when it's important, store this information in your second brain to keep it safe.
Let's get into it and unpack the true way to build a second brain:
What is The Second Brain Concept?
A second brain is a method of digitally organising your thoughts, ideas, notes, recipes, questions and pretty much every piece of information you want to retain.
With a second brain, you can package everything up and make this information easily accessible to your future self who might want to remember what idea you had about something or the old recipe your Mother told you about but you never wrote it down.
The second brain concept essentially increases productivity and creates a more fulfilling, stress-free life. How? Because you no longer need to live on the edge of questioning yourself because everything is there inside your second brain.
You can create a second brain using different tools and apps, we will go into this further along this guide.
What Are The Key Teachings?
There are a few key teachings when it comes to using a second brain. There are also some systems you can put in place to help you build and manage your very own second brain.
Here are a few main teachings/reasons to build a second brain.
- Using a second brain reduces information overload by creating your own information storage unit, the second brain...
- A second brain is a digital environment that promotes peace and clarity inside your mind.
- You can begin to reach your full potential by making use of all information you learn and collect through reading, courses, podcasts and more.
- Find anything you want to retrieve or remember instantly.
- Be able to achieve and complete goals by organising needed information in a useful way, rather than tons of written and lost notes.
- Finally, relax and feel a sense of calm knowing all information you need is safely stored.
CODE (Capture, Organise, Distill and Express)
The CODE method for using a second brain is a four-step process most people already tend to follow without realising it. It essentially gives you a way to build and manage your second brain easily.
- Capture: Capture your thoughts, ideas, and information inside your second brain. When beginning, think about the topics that resonate well with you, the things you always wish you could remember and things you know you'll find useful in the future. The things your future self will thank you for.
There are a few guidelines for making sure you only capture what you need.
- Learn to instantly consume less and learn how to save things for later.
- Only keep information that resonates with you or that you feel will be useful.
- Begin to learn more about capture tools like read later, notes, and web clippers.
And the next step, organize.
- Organise: You will need a way to properly organise your information, otherwise you will find it hard to retrieve it and make the most of it. Organising information with folders, or under broad subjects isn't great for managing digital information. Instead, you want to adopt a more simple and flexible method, like the PARA method.
PARA (Projects, Areas, Resources, Archive)
PARA is the method for organising your information inside your second brain. All information can be put into four categories, keeping it simple and easy to navigate.
PARA starts with the most actionable information such as things you can complete or information you will need shortly, to the least actionable, meaning information you will need in the future.
- Projects - Short-term items with an end goal.
- Areas - Long-term items to continue managing.
- Resources - Useful information for the future.
- Archive - Things you haven't used or organised.
So how do you organise from here? A good place to start would be by moving all notes and information into the archive folder. Once you have done this, spend some time each day thinking about where you can place your notes, which notes you don't need, and which ones you will leave in the archive for now.
Over time you'll have organised your current notes and be able to add new information into the right places.
- Distil: Write your notes in a distilled, actionable way to pay it forward to your future self. Don't write notes you won't understand in time, and always include keywords and links to help spark your memory.
Another good tip for writing distilled notes is to add to a note each time you use it, this adds value and allows you to organise information better. Maybe you decide this note needs to be moved to Areas or Archive now that you are done with it.
- Express: The purpose of building a second brain is to create and see results in real life, not just store endless information and never use it. Express what you have learnt by creating things like the book you want to write, or the new project you want to start.
The Benefits of Second Brain
Here are just a few benefits of adopting the second brain system into your life.
- Knowledge management: A second brain system allows you to capture and organise information, ideas, and insights in a structured way. This helps prevent information overload and makes it easier to retrieve and utilise knowledge.
- Enhanced creativity: By having a system in place to capture and store ideas, you can free up mental space and alleviate the stress of trying to remember everything. This can foster a more creative mindset by allowing you to explore new ideas without the fear of forgetting them.
- Improved productivity: With a second brain system, you can offload the task of remembering and organising information to an external system. This allows you to focus more on the task at hand and be more productive.
- Better organisation and planning: A second brain system provides a framework for organising and categorising information, making it easier to find what you need when you need it. This can enhance your ability to plan and execute projects, as well as keep track of deadlines, tasks, and commitments.
- Knowledge retention and learning: By actively capturing and reviewing information in your second brain, you reinforce your learning and retention. It becomes full of valuable insights and references that you can refer back to over time, for continuous learning and personal growth.
- Collaboration and sharing: A second brain system can also be a valuable tool for collaboration and knowledge sharing. You can share specific parts of your second brain with colleagues, teams, or the public, allowing others to benefit from your curated knowledge and insights.
Classic Note-Taking Tools for Second Brain
You can use anything you would like to store notes and information to create a second brain, some people just use their notes application and have found a good enough method for themselves.
However, there are specific apps available to support building a second brain, we think these three are a good place to start.
Building a Second Brain with Obsidian
Locally stored tool for managing notes, ideas and thoughts - a fan favourite.
Obsidian is a well-known advanced note-taking tool, perfect for connecting notes and thoughts to build a successful second brain system.
With Obsidian, the more notes you take and save the better your knowledge base becomes, like your own personal wiki. You can then search and bring up notes and suggestions to help you express your information in the real world and achieve results.
Using Evernote as a Second Brain
Evernote is one of the most popular note-taking applications to create a second brain system. Lots of people already use the app to store and organise information including web clippings and read later snippets of info.
Building a Second Brain in Notion
Notion is a super customisable space meaning you can build a second brain exactly how you want. Create a space for organising information and retrieving it when you need it.
Not only can notion be used for second brain building, you can use your notes and information directly inside Notion to create, and carry out projects and plans.
Learn the Second Brain concept
You can learn the Second Brain system in full depth with Tiago's new Foundation course, unlocking vital skills, immersing you in a self-paced course for note-taking.
- What is The Second Brain Concept?
- What Are The Key Teachings?
- CODE (Capture, Organise, Distill and Express)
- The Benefits of Second Brain
- Classic Note-Taking Tools for Second Brain
- Building a Second Brain with Obsidian
- Using Evernote as a Second Brain
- Building a Second Brain in Notion
- Learn the Second Brain concept
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