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Building A Second Brain is a methodology for saving and systematically reminding us of the ideas, inspirations, insights, and connections we’ve gained through our experience. It expands our memory and our intellect using the modern tools of technology and networks.
This methodology is not only for preserving those ideas, but turning them into reality. It provides a clear, actionable path to creating a “second brain” – an external, centralized, digital repository for the things you learn and the resources from which they come.
We spend a significant portion of our careers creating snippets of text, outlines, photos, videos, sketches, diagrams, webpages, notes, or documents. Yet without a little extra care to preserve these valuable resources, our precious knowledge remains siloed and scattered across dozens of different locations. We fail to build a collection of knowledge that both appreciates in value and can be reused again and again.
By offloading our thinking onto a “second brain,” we free our biological brain to imagine, create, and simply be present.
Your second brain will serve as an extension of your mind, not only protecting you from the ravages of forgetfulness but also amplifying your efforts as you take on creative challenges.
The first step in building a second brain is “capturing” the ideas and insights you think are worth saving. How do you do that?
Think like a curator - Make conscious, strategic decisions about what you consume. As you come across social media updates, online articles, and podcasts throughout your day, instead of diving in immediately, save them for future consideration. As you begin to collect content, you’ll be able to choose which sources to consume in a deliberate way.
Instead of organizing your files primarily by topic (for example, web design or psychology), which is time-consuming and mentally taxing, organize them according to the projects you are actively working on. This ensures that you are consuming information with a purpose – to advance your projects and goals – and only at a time and place where you’ll be able to put it to use.
Save anything that “resonates” with you on an intuitive level
This is often because it connects to something you care about, wonder about, or find inherently intriguing. By training ourselves to notice when something resonates with us at a deeper level, we improve not only our ability to see opportunities, but also our understanding of ourselves and how we work.
Every time we create a note or make an edit, we can make it just a little easier to find and make use of next time.
This can include:
saving packets of knowledge in a format that our future self can easily consume, we follow a “pay it forward” strategy that we get to benefit from in the future!
Progressive Summarization is a technique that relies on summarizing a note in multiple stages over time. You save only the best excerpts from whatever you’re reading, and then create a summary of those excerpts, and then a summary of that summary, distilling the essence of the content at each stage. These “layers” are like a digital map that can be zoomed in or out to any level of detail you need.
It allows you to read the note in different ways for different purposes: in depth if you want to glean every detail, or at a high level if you just need the main takeaway.
Add value to a note every time you touch it
This could include adding an informative title the first time you come across a note, highlighting the most important points the next time you see it, and adding a link to a related note sometime later. By spreading out the heavy work of organizing your notes over time, you not only save time and effort, but ensure that the most frequently used (and thus most valuable) notes surface organically, like a ski slope where the most popular routes naturally end up with deeper grooves.
A common challenge for people who love to learn is that they constantly force feed themselves more and more information, but never actually put it to use.
But information only becomes knowledge – something personal, embodied, grounded – when we put it to use. That’s why we should shift as much of our effort as possible from consuming information, to creating new things. The things we create – whether they are writing pieces, websites, photographs, videos, or live performances – embody and express the knowledge we’ve gained from personal experience.
Begin to think of your projects as made up of discrete parts. I call them “intermediate packets,” which can include any kind of content we’ve already mentioned: a set of notes from a team meeting, a list of relevant research findings,etc
Instead of trying to sit down and move the entire project forward all at once, a more effective approach is to end each work session – whether it is 15 minutes or 3 hours – by completing just one intermediate packet. This allows you to work in smaller increments, making use of any available span of time, while getting lots of feedback and taking frequent breaks
By consistently sharing your work with others – whether that is your family, friends, colleagues, or externally on social media – all sorts of benefits will start to materialize. You’ll connect with new collaborators who you never would have imagined would find your work compelling.
You’ll find clients or customers, in some cases even when you weren’t seeking them. Others will reflect back to you their reactions and comments and appreciation (and occasionally criticism). You’ll find that you are part of a community that shares your interests and values.
Each note in your second brain is a record of something you’ve experienced in your life – whether that is from reading a book, having an interesting conversation, or completing a project at work. With all your most valuable ideas at your fingertips at all times, you never need to struggle and strain to remember everything you’ve learned.
Because you know how to capture and make use of anything, every experience you have becomes an opportunity to learn and to grow.
Generalist. Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.
Amazing ideas which can not just help you stash mindfully but also how to connect with them again and put those ideas to use.
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