Build a Second Brain

We often have brilliant ideas but forget them all too often. That’s one of the main reasons we should want to work on ourselves and produce more output from such ideas.

Hence why, we consume a lot of informational content, but where does all that knowledge end up when we need it the most?

The “Second Brain” might be an ideal place for that knowledge. After all, our brain is great for having ideas, but not so much for long-term storage.

What is the Second Brain?

The “Second Brain” is a methodology popularized by Tiago Forte that optimizes the way you store and access information. Creating a second brain helps you save ideas and insights gathered through your experience and take action.

We have difficulties organizing information. The second brain helps centralize this information from where you can reuse it.

As an extension of your mind, it takes off the load from your biological brain so it can serve its main purpose – to imagine and create.

Benefits of building a Second Brain

The second brain brings a few important benefits to the table:

  • Move forward with your goals and projects
  • It does so by an effective organization of information and ease of access in a result-oriented approach.

  • Discover unexpected connections between ideas
  • By grouping ideas, you can get insights that you wouldn’t otherwise be aware of.

  • Reduce stress by less information overload
  • Having all the ideas organized and managed in one hub makes you more effective.

  • Get maximum returns on invested time on learning
  • When you summarize the most important ideas from all the consumed information sources, you get additional knowledge and expertise.

Now that you know about some of the benefits of having a second brain, let’s see how you can build one.

How to build a Second Brain

Building a second brain can be derived into three steps:

  1. Remember
  2. Connect
  3. Create

Let’s delve in deeper.

Remember

It’s all about capturing ideas you care about, and the information you want to connect to get a sense of a specific subject.

Keep these ideas in a centralized place, such as a notes app on your smartphone. Now, you can make sense of all the connections between stored information.

The goal is to collect information strategically and save it for future reference. One good way to do so is to follow the PARA organization system, which consists of:

  • Project
  • Tasks linked to a goal with a deadline

  • Area of responsibility
  • Activity hubs maintained over time

  • Resource
  • Topics of ongoing interest

  • Archive
  • Inactive items from the above three categories

This structure follows the top-bottom approach when it comes to actionability.

Connect

Now, you want to summarize notes into insights and actionable things.

The key here is to design notes for future use. Define keywords to recall their meaning and add links to related resources.

Progressive summarization helps a lot here. With this concept, you summarize notes in multiple stages by saving the key takeaways in progressive layers. You can revisit and see the essential information from different levels, depending on the purpose at a given moment.

Add value to each note when you revisit it. By doing so, you will ensure that the essential information becomes a part of your biological brain.

Create

The two steps above have a common goal which is creating results in real-life scenarios. These results depend on your skills, interests, and personality, hence the second brain is merely guidance.

Simplify the creation process by dividing projects into separate actionable chunks. That way, you can save the output to the second brain and reuse it when needed.

Don’t wait until something is ready. Share your ideas with the world, and enjoy the benefits. Ultimately, all the information you organized means nothing if you don’t put it to use and share it.

Example of the Second Brain in action

Bob is a web designer working in a mid-sized company. One day, Bob decided to try building a second brain due to the overwhelming feeling of having too much information in mind.

First, he follows the PARA system for organizing ideas (let’s stick to “P” just for this example):

  • Project: create a draft for the landing page by Friday

He uses the notes app on his smartphone to organize ideas by project. Bob is already working on this draft for two weeks and feels overwhelmed by constant back-and-forth interaction with his client. He got lots of feedback but struggled to recall what it all was about.

Bob progressively layers information to make sense of all that feedback. The main point the client wants to convey to Bob is to be more original. Through progressive summarization, Bob comes to the simple insight that reusing specific elements from other pages less often will make his client happier.

Bob makes sure to save detailed action steps in his notes for future reference. Ultimately, he delivers the draft on Friday, and the client is delighted with the results.

Second Brain helps produce the right insights

We live in the information age where more information is consumed than ever before. Remembering and recalling all the important information from the noise of useless information is tough.

That’s why building a second brain can help you filter out important information, gain insight from it, and remember the lessons for the long term.

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