Tiago Forte - Build your second brain - Summary

by GGa, 2023-11-07T00:00:00.000+01:00

In today’s Information Age, you can’t rely on your brain alone to remember facts and retain information, says productivity expert Tiago Forte. Trying to keep abreast of the nonstop flow of information will overwhelm you. When Forte suffered a chronic, debilitating illness that damaged his working memory, he developed a smart note-taking system to help him function. He outsourced the cognitive demands of remembering to intelligent machines, so he could focus on creative work. Forte shares actionable insights to help you create your own personal knowledge management system – your “Second Brain.”

Don’t rely solely on your brain to keep track of information; create a digital system.

People face a deluge of information every day. This onslaught isn’t empowering but overwhelming. It leads to anxiety and “information exhaustion” – that constant niggling feeling that you’ve forgotten something. The average US employee wastes 76 hours annually searching for mislaid files, items and notes, according to research from Microsoft. Knowledge workers spend 26% of a typical workday searching for information across various systems, then consolidating it, and they end up tracking down only 56% of the information they seek, according to research from the International Data Corporation.

“To be able to make use of information we value, we need a way to package it up and send it through time to our future self… [thus, giving us] access to the wisdom we need to make good decisions and take the most effective action. It all begins with the simple act of writing things down.”

To stay abreast of the torrent of information, create a personal knowledge management (PKM) system. This “Second Brain” can help you keep track of the most important insights and ideas you encounter when consuming information. The system easily retrieves what you’ve stored away; organizes your accumulating knowledge so you can leverage it to achieve your goals; saves your best ideas; shares information easily with others; connects disparate ideas and identifies patterns; frees up mental capacity for creative work; and allows you to waste less time trying to find information. Once you adopt this system, you’ll start to see technology as more than just a storage device but as an assistant to support and enhance your thinking. Your Second Brain – “the world’s best personal assistant” – will enable you to unleash your full potential.

Harness the power of technology to turn information into knowledge.

Historically, only intellectual elites, such as philosophers, writers and scientists, needed to keep track of their notes. Great thinkers, including Leonardo da Vinci, Virginia Woolf and Octavia Butler, were known to carry around a “commonplace book” (auf deutsch: Kollektaneen-Buch, in which they jotted down interesting ideas and factoids.

According to The New York Times, the average person consumes the equivalent of 174 newspapers’ – or 34 gigabytes’ – worth of information daily. Given that people encounter more information than they can effectively manage otherwise, everyone needs a personal, digital commonplace book – a Second Brain. Once your notes are digital, you can search them, organize them, sync them across devices and save them in the cloud. You are, essentially, creating a “knowledge vault” for your thoughts and ideas. Recording your thoughts helps you solidify your ideas, uncover unusual or unexpected associations between concepts, cultivate your ideas over time and sharpen your perspective.

“Those who learn how to leverage technology and master the flow of information through their lives will be empowered to accomplish anything they set their minds to. At the same time, those who continue to rely on their fragile biological brains will become ever more overwhelmed by the explosive growth in the complexity of our lives.”

Your Second Brain is a collection of tools – a to-do list, a digital calendar, a reading app, and more. But the “neural center” of your Second Brain is a note-taking app. Choose a note-taking app that best serves your needs: Notion, Evernote, Apple Notes, Microsoft OneNote or Google Keep, for example. The best note-taking apps are capable of storing media in various formats. They are messy and informal idea boards that allow your thoughts to incubate, bloom and grow. They act as open and unrestricted spaces for free-flowing ideas. Their goal is not to deliver any output. They aren’t exact, polished or precise; rather, they are tools to help hone your focus.

To build your Second Brain, follow the four-step Die CODE Methodik nach Forte 2023: capture, organize, distill and express. ... (dive deeper by following the link, and come back afterwards)

When your creativity dries up, build momentum by collecting ideas, leveraging yesterday’s momentum and starting small.

Feelings of creative block can fester and grow, especially in the distilling and expressing phases of the four-stage CODE process.

“Note-taking is like time travel – you are sending packets of knowledge through time to your future self.”

Three strategies can help you overcome inertia and complete creative projects if you’re having trouble getting started:

  1. “The archipelago of ideas” – Collect a group of ideas, or stepping stones, that will form the skeleton of your creative project. Once you’ve gathered a “critical mass” of ideas, create an outline to connect them logically.
  2. “The Hemingway bridge” – Novelist Ernest Hemingway famously finished a writing session only when he felt sure of the next plot point in the story. By building a bridge to his next writing session, he could begin that session with a burst of creativity. Maintain a similar momentum by clarifying the next steps for your next work session. Note your biggest challenge, any details you want to remember the next day, and your intention for your next work session.
  3. “Dial down the scope” – If you have big, lofty goals, tackle something smaller and more feasible first. For example, if you want to write a book, perhaps start with a series of online articles.

Effective digital organizers maintain good habits.

The Second Brain strikes a healthy balance between order and creativity. But to make the system work for you, you must perform regular maintenance. Integrate the following good habits into your routine to keep your Second Brain functioning effectively:

  1. Project checklists – Identify action steps to ensure consistent execution. Create checklists to support yourself in starting and finishing projects.
  2. Periodic reviews – On a weekly and monthly basis, take time to review your life and career. Reflect on whether you’d like to improve or change anything.
  3. Noticing habits – To support your projects, notice small opportunities to capture, better organize or share information, and act on them.

It’s time to fire your biological brain from the job of managing and remembering every aspect of your life. Delegate those tasks to your Second Brain, and promote your biological brain to the role of CEO of your life, “orchestrating and managing the process of turning information into results.” You’ll feel less anxious and free up more time for the tasks that matter.

Tiago Forte is a global productivity expert and the founder of Forte Labs. He wrote The PARA Method: Simplify, Organize and Master Your Digital Life.