Building a Second Brain - by Tiago Forte

If you’re like me, you’ve forgotten countless ideas and failed to write down something you read that resonated with you because you thought you would remember it and then forgot it.

According to The Guardian, we receive the equivalent of 174 newspapers in our inboxes every day. The brain is for having ideas not holding onto them.

Building a Second Brain is a how-to-guide on building a digital note taking system that can be accessed later for life, work and creative endeavors. For example, in my March 2022 newsletter, I shared with you the Google document that I use to store Case Citations that I can quickly access and cite.

The second brain methodology is based on a system referred to as CODE – Capture, Organize, Distill, and Express.

We need a system for capturing information such as emails, articles, books, podcasts, webinars, and memos that resonate with us. It’s impractical to try to remember all this information. Instead, we should digitally store this information by keeping it in a single, centralized place such as OneNote, Apple Notes, Roam, Google Keep or Evernote.

Forte recommends organizing your information by projects or actionability (where you will use it) and not by topics or where you found it. This helps ensure you are purposefully capturing information. You should only keep what resonates with you, keeping in mind that you’re building a personal knowledge base.

Next, you should distill your notes into actionable summaries that are useful. As you review your notes, add value to them in some way by saving them with key terms or by adding references. Also, make an effort to summarize the longer notes with titles using key points or ideas.

Finally, the whole point of having a second brain is to express and share your ideas. The second brain allows you to work on multiple projects over time so that when it comes time to use your second brain (e.g., to write a brief, draft a memo or opening statement, create a slide deck, or post something on your blog) most of the heavy lifting has already been done. According to Forte, the real payoff is when you create something from the knowledge you’ve collected and share it with the world.