In modern life, we have to deal with too much information.
The content we consume daily is an average of 174 newspapers.
Because of this, we needed a second brain to help us store, sort, and use this information to add value to our daily lives.
In this article, I will tell you:
- What does it mean to build a second brain?
- Why should I create a second brain?
- A step-by-step guide to building a second brain
Let’s dig into each section.
What is building a second brain?
Building a second brain is an effective method for capturing and storing daily content.
When you have a second brain, you never have to worry about forgetting something or putting in too much effort to remember something. Every piece of information will add value to your life over time, and people will be amazed by how quickly you perform tasks and create things.
Why should I build a second brain?
You will have a reliable thought partner.
In the second brain, you organize the information by actionability instead of the old methods like organizing based on topic, source, or time frame. How many times have you bookmarked a quote, note, or resource only to forget about it or never use it again?
When you organize information based on how actionable it is, you make it easy for your future self to access it whenever they need it.
It frees your mind from recalling information.
With a second brain, the information is always there and builds up over time. The second brain will be your priceless asset.
Now let’s get to the fun part, which is how to make one.
How to build a second brain?
To build a second brain, you need to save information in four categories called PARA, ordered by actionability.
The projects category includes anything you’re currently working on in your personal or professional life. Projects have a clear start, endpoint, and specific output.
An example of a project is making a website, holding a team meeting, getting a driver’s license, etc.
The Areas category includes everything you’re actively working to improve or maintain. However, unlike projects, areas are based on interests; they do not have a deadline but do have a goal.
An example of an area is being fit, playing music, Running a small business, Relationships, etc.
The resources category is for anything that doesn’t belong in your projects or areas but could be handy in the future.
Think of it as your library of facts, sources, and ideas that you can use to start new projects. Resources can also be areas you are interested in but don’t have a place in your life right now.
An example of a resource is a collection of pictures that inspire you or an area you don’t have time for now but will soon, like traveling.
The archives category is for any information that doesn’t serve a current project or area of interest. Also, it will not be a resource for any upcoming projects.
An example of an archive is a list of inactive projects, areas you no longer care to improve or maintain, and any information you have no immediate plans to use anytime soon.
💡Personal insight: I think of the archive as a dumping ground that will help me keep my second brain decluttered and ensure that my projects, areas, and resources reflect who I am and what I’m currently committed to doing.
By moving any information, you don’t need at the current moment to the archive, you free up space in your system for newer, more relevant data. However, the information is never lost; you can retrieve it whenever you desire.
Now that we have covered how we set up our second brain, it’s time to know the method we use to capture information in the second brain (CODE).
It’s essential to gather information thoughtfully, so how do you do this?
CODE is the answer.
CODE stands for “capture, organize, distill, and express.” It’s a clever method to keep information in our second brain so we can easily use it again at any time in the future.
CODE is a thoughtful way to collect and process daily content.
Capture is the first step. Capture means putting any valuable information you find throughout the day in your “second brain.”
Every day, we lose a lot of valuable information forever, like our inner thoughts, videos on YouTube, books, tweets, etc. Then, we have to use a lot of brain power to try to remember and find these bits of information.
Instead of using our first brain to store and remember things, we leave this task to our second brain by simply capturing them.
There are two essential questions here: what to capture and how to capture it.
How to capture information
You can use any tool you like and feel comfortable with to gather information.
The point behind building a second brain isn’t to use a new piece of software but to make a system that evolves with us, giving us the freedom to create. You can record, bookmark, or write it directly in your digital note-taking app.
Whatever the way you choose to save information, it has to be digital so that it is easy to find and organize in the future.
💡 Personal Insight: You will need many apps that suit your need to build a second brain system. There isn’t a single app that could be enough to create a second brain. However, start with just one and add to it as you go.
What to capture?
You capture information, whether external or internal.
- External information can be quotes, videos, book highlights, etc.
- Internal information can be insights, stories, ideas, etc.
💡 Personal insight: I like to capture anything that resonates with me. It could be a quote I’ve underlined in a book, a thought that came to me while walking, a website whose look I like, or even notes from a meeting.
Whatever surprises me, I capture it in my second brain.
💡 Personal insight: You can use any tool to capture information for your second brain, but it is vital to do so with as little friction as possible. We don’t want our second brain to be a tedious job. I prefer to store information within the Notion app and Apple Notes. But feel free to use the capturing tools that suit you the best.
Here is a list of note-taking apps for your second brain:
Best Apps for Building a Second Brain
Now that you have captured valuable information, it’s time to organize it.
Organizing information where and when you find it is the wrong way to do it.
Let me explain in more detail.
Where you found it
Don’t be tempted to organize the information by category, like putting books in one folder, podcasts in another, etc.
That’s not how we use the second brain. Its job is to organize information based on its actionability. To make it easier, ask yourself: Where will this information help me the most at the right time?
When you came across it
I can’t stress this point enough:
The best time to organize information is not when you capture it.
The second brain should be easy to use, and it must be. Trying to figure out where to put the information at the moment adds to the friction. You can think of the information you capture as a guest on the waiting list, waiting for you to organize it.
Capture information now and organize it later.
Now that we have collected a large amount of information and organized it based on its actionability, how do we know the essence of what we stored?
That’s when distilling comes in.
Distilling is creating a summary of what we’ve saved so that you won’t be too overwhelmed when you need this information in the future.
Tiago suggests using the progressive summary method to distill.
In a progressive summary, you add five summary layers to your notes.
For instance, let’s say you’re reading a book.
The first layer is to send your highlights while reading to your second brain.
The second layer is bolding the main point in those notes.
The third layer is to highlight the main points in bold type.
The fourth step is to write a summary of the highlighted and bolded information at the top of the page.
The fifth layer is when the summarized notes resonate with you so deeply that you want to make something based on them. Not all summarized notes make it to this layer.
It’s essential to do it slowly over time. Building a second brain is a forgiving act; it should not be an overwhelming process.
Now, if you want to check your notes in the future, you won’t feel overwhelmed. All you need to do is review the summary. Is this what you need?
If yes, quickly scan the highlights. Is there a highlight related to what you need?
If yes, you can always check the bolded notes related to it. If you need more information, you can read the whole section.
And if you still have questions after reading this, you can always look at the note’s source, which we keep saved and attached.
Share the knowledge with your future self or with others. What is the point of storing information if you don’t share it?
If you don’t share the knowledge, then it’s pointless. Almost every job requires sharing and expressing itself in some way. For instance, if you are a management consultant working on a PowerPoint presentation, the information on the slide is what you share—the result of the information and effort you put in.
The second system’s goal is to share knowledge with everyone and use that knowledge to create valuable things.
What I think about Building a Second Brain
After using the second brain method for more than a year, I can say that it is a method that can change your life.
Building a second brain changed how I generate creative ideas and deal with daily information. But, as with any new habit, it takes time to get used to it. It took a lot of trial and error for my second brain to become user-friendly and convenient.
But don’t let that discourage you; the results are well worth the work.
One article wouldn’t be enough to learn everything about building a second brain. So, I’d suggest you watch this interview with Tiago.
You can learn more about building a second brain by watching this Episode: