• Author: Tiago Forte
  • Full Title: Building a Second Brain


We spend countless hours reading, listening to, and watching other people’s opinions about what we should do, how we should think, and how we should live, but make comparatively little effort applying that knowledge and making it our own. So much of the time we are “information hoarders,” stockpiling endless amounts of well-intentioned content that only ends up increasing our anxiety. - Note: I feel less strongly about the anxiety part, but i do feel like it is wasteful and often often a form of procrastination

What are the chances that the business book you’re reading is exactly what you need right at this moment? What are the odds that every single insight from a podcast interview is immediately actionable? How many of the emails sitting in your inbox actually require your full attention right now? More likely, some of it will be relevant now, but most of it will become relevant only at some point in the future. 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. We need a way to cultivate a body of knowledge that is uniquely our own, so when the opportunity arises—whether changing jobs, giving a big presentation, launching a new product, or starting a business or a family—we will have access to the wisdom we need to make good decisions and take the most effective action. - Note: How can we make it so we can leverage our past learnings when they are most applicable?

Personal Knowledge Management helps us harness the full potential of what we know.

Find anything you’ve learned, touched, or thought about in the past within seconds.

Organize your knowledge and use it to move your projects and goals forward more consistently.

Save your best thinking so you don’t have to do it again.

Adopt a reliable system that helps you share your work more confidently and with more ease.

  • Writing in Obsidian has made it easy to publish my thoughts. I’m curious if there is more I could be doing here. 2022-08-11

a system of knowledge management, or a “Second Brain.”III Whether you call it a “personal cloud,” “field notes,” or an “external brain” as some of my students have done, it is a digital archive of your most valuable memories, ideas, and knowledge to help you do your job, run your business, and manage your life without having to keep every detail in your head.

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. - Note: The human brain is good at problem solving and creative thought, but it is a leaky flat file.

Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.

As I look back, my notes were as important in finding relief as any medicine or procedure. They gave me the chance to step back from the details of my condition and see my situation from a different perspective. - Note: Writing things down and revisiting them enables you to look at your thoughts from a different perspective.

I taught the older students the basics of personal productivity—how to keep a schedule, how to take notes in class, and how to set goals and plan their education. - Note: I definitely didn’t have a PKM system when I was in college, but I wish I did. Things would have been so much easier.

Every day I received hundreds of emails, every hour dozens of messages, and the pings and dings from every device merged into a ceaseless melody of interruption. I remember looking around at my colleagues and wondering, “How can anyone get anything done here? - Note: This is what work was like at Cont3nt in 2012. I quickly learned at Dorsata the value of uninterrupted time for achieving flow state and getting important work done.

It is about optimizing a system outside yourself, a system not subject to your limitations and constraints, leaving you happily unoptimized and free to roam, to wonder, to wander toward whatever makes you feel alive here and now in each moment. - Note: A second brain is like taking things out of your brain’s RAM and being able to flush it to a disk drive for long term storage. It is slower to recall, but opens up space for higher order activities. How can we streamline the interface to make pulling from our second brain more like an SSD and less like a spinning disk drive?

Research from Microsoft shows that the average US employee spends 76 hours per year looking for misplaced notes, items, or files.3 And a report from the International Data Corporation found that 26 percent of a typical knowledge worker’s day is spent looking for and consolidating information spread across a variety of systems.4 Incredibly, only 56 percent of the time are they able to find the information required to do their jobs. - Note: How can we make recall of external data more efficient and effective?

There is a real costs associated with looking for misplaced notes and files

We have to recognize that the cognitive demands of modern life increase every year, but we’re still using the same brains as two hundred thousand years ago, when modern humans first emerged on the plains of East Africa.

For centuries, artists and intellectuals from Leonardo da Vinci to Virginia Woolf, from John Locke to Octavia Butler, have recorded the ideas they found most interesting in a book they carried around with them, known as a “commonplace book.”II Popularized in a previous period of information overload, the Industrial Revolution of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the commonplace book was more than a diary or journal of personal reflections. It was a learning tool that the educated class used to understand a rapidly changing world and their place in it.

Instead of consuming ever-greater amounts of content, we could take on a more patient, thoughtful approach that favors rereading, reformulating, and working through the implications of ideas over time. Not only could this lead to more civil discussions about the important topics of the day; it could also preserve our mental health and heal our splintered attention. - Note: Perhaps instead of consuming more content, we should spend more time reflecting on the wealth of content we curated to find deeper meaning?

Once our notes and observations become digital, they can be searched, organized and synced across all our devices, and backed up to the cloud for safekeeping. - Note: The commonplace term should be repurposed in the modern vernacular, as most people likely don’t have a relationship with it.

This digital commonplace book is what I call a Second Brain. Think of it as the combination of a study notebook, a personal journal, and a sketchbook for new ideas.

your Second Brain is a private knowledge collection designed to serve a lifetime of learning and growth, not just a single use case.

For modern, professional notetaking, a note is a “knowledge building block”—a discrete unit of information interpreted through your unique perspective and stored outside your head.

if a piece of content has been interpreted through your lens, curated according to your taste, translated into your own words, or drawn from your life experience, and stored in a secure place, then it qualifies as a note.

By the time she gets back from lunch, Nina is finally done handling the most urgent issues. It’s finally time to focus on the priorities she’s set for herself. This is when the reality sets in: after a morning spent fighting fires, she’s far too scatterbrained and tired to focus. Like so many times before, Nina lowers her expectations, settling for chipping away slowly at her ever-expanding to-do list full of other people’s priorities.

Before you know it, it’s lunchtime. As you take a break to grab a bite to eat, your thoughts turn philosophical: “What is the ultimate point of the project, and are we forgetting it? How does it fit into the long-term vision of the product we want to build? What is the impact of the new strategy on shareholders, customers, suppliers, and the environment?” You have only thirty minutes to eat lunch, and you don’t have time to ponder these questions in depth, but you note them down as a reminder to think about later. You are on your smartphone just like everyone else, but you aren’t doing what they are doing. You are creating value instead of killing time.

Your Second Brain becomes like a mirror, teaching you about yourself and reflecting back to you the ideas worth keeping and acting on. Your mind starts to become intertwined with this system, leaning on it to remember more than you ever could on your own.

you are just planting seeds of inspiration and harvesting them as they flower.

No need to consume more information or do more research. All that’s left is for you to take action on what you already know and already have, which is laid out before you in meticulous detail. - Note: A process of reflection enables you to cultivate more from what you already know and believe.

Think of your Second Brain as the world’s best personal assistant. It is perfectly reliable and totally consistent. It is always ready and waiting to capture any bit of information that might be of value to you. It follows directions, makes helpful suggestions, and reminds you of what’s important to you. - Note: This is true, but can you be present while also jotting all of this down?

There are four essential capabilities that we can rely on a Second Brain to perform for us: Making our ideas concrete. Revealing new associations between ideas. Incubating our ideas over time. Sharpening our unique perspectives.

In its most practical form, creativity is about connecting ideas together, especially ideas that don’t seem to be connected. - Note: In this way, generalists and multidisciplinary people are more likely to be able to be creative in a given area.

Creative people are better at recognizing relationships, making associations and connections.”

I call this approach the “slow burn”—allowing bits of thought matter to slowly simmer like a delicious pot of stew brewing on the stove. It is a calmer, more sustainable approach to creativity that relies on the gradual accumulation of ideas, instead of all-out binges of manic hustle.

Multimedia: Just like a paper notebook might contain drawings and sketches, quotes and ideas, and even a pasted photo or Post-it, a notes app can store a wide variety of different kinds of content in one place, so you never need to wonder where to put something. - Note: This is my gripe with Akiflow which is that it is not multimedia enough to effectively shuttle my thought so that I can confidently return to it later. It doesn’t do enough to dissuade the Zeignarik Effect.

Informal: Notes are inherently messy, so there’s no need for perfect spelling or polished presentation. This makes it as easy and frictionless as possible to jot things down as soon as they occur to you, which is essential to allow nascent ideas to grow.

Open-ended: Taking notes is a continuous process that never really ends, and you don’t always know where it might lead. Unlike more specialized kinds of software that are designed to produce a specific kind of output (such as slide decks, spreadsheets, graphics, or videos), notes are ideal for free-form exploration before you have a goal in mind.

Action-oriented: Unlike a library or research database, personal notes don’t need to be comprehensive or precise. They are designed to help you quickly capture stray thoughts so you can remain focused on the task at hand.

All four of the above qualities are shared by paper notes, but when we make them digital, we can supercharge these timeless benefits with the incredible capabilities of technology—searching, sharing, backups, editing, linking, syncing between devices, and many others. - Note: Benefits of Digital Tools

Digital notes combine the casual artistry of a daily sketchbook with the scientific power of modern software.

It’s not about having the perfect tools—it’s about having a reliable set of tools you can depend on, knowing you can always change them later.

To guide you in the process of creating your own Second Brain, I’ve developed a simple, intuitive four-part method called “CODE”—Capture; Organize; Distill; Express.

Here’s the problem: we can’t consume every bit of this information stream. We will quickly be exhausted and overwhelmed if we try. We need to adopt the perspective of a curator, stepping back from the raging river and starting to make intentional decisions about what information we want to fill our minds. - Note: “A curator’s mindset”

The solution is to keep only what resonates in a trusted place that you control, and to leave the rest aside.

Adopting the habit of knowledge capture has immediate benefits for our mental health and peace of mind. We can let go of the fear that our memory will fail us at a crucial moment.

Surprisingly, when you focus on taking action, the vast amount of information out there gets radically streamlined and simplified. There are relatively few things that are actionable and relevant at any given time, which means you have a clear filter for ignoring everything else. - Note: What action does this idea enable me to take? If I’m not sure, why am I keeping it?

Every idea has an “essence”: the heart and soul of what it is trying to communicate. It might take hundreds of pages and thousands of words to fully explain a complex insight, but there is always a way to convey the core message in just a sentence or two. - Note: What is the simplest thing this idea is trying to convey?

Your notes will be useless if you can’t decipher them in the future, or if they’re so long that you don’t even try. Think of yourself not just as a taker of notes, but as a giver of notes—you are giving your future self the gift of knowledge that is easy to find and understand. - Note: Building things at Dorsata has taught me how much you can forget on a topic you once knew well. Leave yourself clues to the key ideas and the unintuitive bits to make life easier for your future self.

All the previous steps—capturing, organizing, and distilling—are geared toward one ultimate purpose: sharing your own ideas, your own story, and your own knowledge with others. What is the point of knowledge if it doesn’t help anyone or produce anything?

A common challenge for people who are curious and love to learn is that we can fall into the habit of continuously force-feeding ourselves more and more information, but never actually take the next step and apply it. We compile tons of research, but never put forward our own proposal. - Note: I like to think that what I’m doing on YouTube makes it more worthwhile to do all of the research I find myself doing anyway. If I am going to do all of this research for myself, someone else might as well benefit from it.

Information becomes knowledge—personal, embodied, verified—only when we put it to use. You gain confidence in what you know only when you know that it works. Until you do, it’s just a theory.

This is why I recommend you shift as much of your time and effort as possible from consuming to creating. - Note: Creation Consumption Ratio

he word “productivity” has the same origin as the Latin verb producere, which means “to produce.” - Note: I think this is very interesting in how I explain my blog. My channel is about improving your productivity so that you can produce what is important to you. Bending your computer and workflow to enable your form of expression.

Songwriters are known for compiling “hook books” full of lyrics and musical riffs they may want to use in future songs. Software engineers build “code libraries” so useful bits of code are easy to access. Lawyers keep “case files” with details from past cases they might want to refer to in the future. Marketers and advertisers maintain “swipe files” with examples of compelling ads they might want to draw from. - Note: I try to keep a file of interesting design and UX experiences so that I can revisit them in the future when I need a spark or if I need to try to explain my design aesthetic.

A knowledge asset is anything that can be used in the future to solve a problem, save time, illuminate a concept, or learn from past experience.

Quotes: Memorable passages from podcasts or audiobooks you listen to. - Note: I have struggled to come up with an efficient process to glean insights from podcasts. I use Airr to capture clips, but there is too much work left over to mine the meaningful insight out.

As you start collecting this material from the outer world, it often sparks new ideas and realizations in your inner world. You can capture those thoughts too! They could include: Stories: Your favorite anecdotes, whether they happened to you or someone else. Insights: The small (and big) realizations you have. Memories: Experiences from your life that you don’t want to forget. Reflections: Personal thoughts and lessons written in a journal or diary. Musings: Random “shower ideas” that pop into your head. - Note: When capturing ideas or highlights be sure to include your own thoughts and ideas that were sparked while internalizing the insight. This will be useful when revising the insight. Thus enables you to see your thoughts from a different perspective after the fact.

Perhaps you have some hesitation about writing down such personal thoughts in a piece of software rather than a private journal. While it’s always up to you what you choose to note down, remember that your Second Brain is private too. You can share certain notes if you want to, but by default everything inside is for your eyes only. - Note: After having published my garden, I wish I would have made it private by default, but at that point it becomes a blog instead of a digital garden.

Feynman revealed his strategy in an interview4: You have to keep a dozen of your favorite problems constantly present in your mind, although by and large they will lay in a dormant state. Every time you hear or read a new trick or a new result, test it against each of your twelve problems to see whether it helps. Every once in a while there will be a hit, and people will say, “How did he do it? He must be a genius!” In other words, Feynman’s approach was to maintain a list of a dozen open questions. When a new scientific finding came out, he would test it against each of his questions to see if it shed any new light on the problem. - Note: Maintain 12 core areas that are interesting and exciting to you.

The power of your favorite problems is that they tend to stay fairly consistent over time. The exact framing of each question may change, but even as we move between projects, jobs, relationships, and careers, our favorite problems tend to follow us across the years. I recommend asking your family or childhood friends what you were obsessed with as a kid. Those very same interests probably still fire your imagination as an adult.

Ask people close to you what you were obsessed with as a child (often you’ll continue to be fascinated with the same things as an adult).

It starts with realizing that in any piece of content, the value is not evenly distributed. There are always certain parts that are especially interesting, helpful, or valuable to you. When you realize this, the answer is obvious. You can extract only the most salient, relevant, rich material and save it as a succinct note. - Note: The importance/value of highlighting is like indexing. Curating the important pieces for faster future consumption.

it’s so important to take on a Curator’s Perspective—that we are the judges, editors, and interpreters of the information we choose to let into our lives. Thinking like a curator means taking charge of your own information stream, instead of just letting it wash over you. - Note: Do not be afraid to remove content that after the fact lacks meaning. We are poor judges in the moment. As you review your content clean up the junk.

For example, I keep a folder full of customer testimonials I’ve received over the years. Any time I think what I’m doing doesn’t matter or isn’t good enough, all I have to do is open up that folder and my perspective is completely shifted. - Note:todo I need to take a moment to curate those nice things. Many are in my email, but I should preserve them.

I often save screenshots of text messages sent between my family and friends. The small moments of warmth and humor that take place in these threads are precious to me, since I can’t always be with them in person. It takes mere moments, and I love knowing that I’ll forever have memories from my conversations with the people closest to me.

I’ve often noticed that many of the notes people take are of ideas they already know, already agree with, or could have guessed.

The renowned information theorist Claude Shannon, whose discoveries paved the way for modern technology, had a simple definition for “information”: that which surprises you.7 If you’re not surprised, then you already knew it at some level, so why take note of it? Surprise is an excellent barometer for information that doesn’t fit neatly into our existing understanding, which means it has the potential to change how we think.

Sometimes you come across an idea that is neither inspiring, personal, nor obviously useful, but there is something surprising about it. You may not be able to put your finger on why, but it conflicts with your existing point of view in a way that makes your brain perk up and pay attention. Those are the ideas you should capture.

When you use up too much energy taking notes, you have little left over for the subsequent steps that add far more value: making connections, imagining possibilities, formulating theories, and creating new ideas of your own. - Note: If you do not get to the point of making connections, you have spent a ton of time, but for what benefit?

It’s a good idea to capture key information about the source of a note, such as the original web page address, the title of the piece, the author or publisher, and the date it was published. - Note: Readwise does a good job of this out of the box.

This is a little-known feature, but almost every YouTube video is accompanied by an automatically generated transcript. Just click the “Open transcript” button and a window will open. From there, you can copy and paste excerpts to your notes.

Known as the “Generation Effect,”10 researchers have found that when people actively generate a series of words, such as by speaking or writing, more parts of their brain are activated when compared to simply reading the same words. Writing things down is a way of “rehearsing” those ideas, like practicing a dance routine or shooting hoops, which makes them far more likely to stick.

The moment you first encounter an idea is the worst time to decide what it means. You need to set it aside and gain some objectivity.

The box gave p a way to put projects on hold and revisit them later: “The box makes me feel connected to a project… I feel this even when I’ve back-burnered a project: I may have put the box away on a shelf, but I know it’s there. - Note: How can I make incomplete digital projects more visible? - Boxes for each project

the Cathedral Effect.2 Studies have shown that the environment we find ourselves in powerfully shapes our thinking. When we are in a space with high ceilings, for example—think of the lofty architecture of classic churches invoking the grandeur of heaven—we tend to think in more abstract ways. When we’re in a room with low ceilings, such as a small workshop, we’re more likely to think concretely.

No one questions the importance of having physical spaces that make us feel calm and centered, but when it comes to your digital workspace, it’s likely you’ve spent little time, if any, arranging that space to enhance your productivity or creativity. As knowledge workers we spend many hours every day within digital environments—our computers, smartphones, and the web. Unless you take control of those virtual spaces and shape them to support the kinds of thinking you want to do, every minute spent there will feel taxing and distracting. - Note: Great quote for the YouTube Channel.todo

Then one day I had a realization: Why didn’t I just organize my files that way all the time? If organizing by project was the most natural way to manage information with minimal effort, why not make it the default?

I eventually named this organizing system PARA,I which stands for the four main categories of information in our lives: Projects, Areas, Resources, and Archives.

No single platform can do everything. The intention here is not to use a single software program, but to use a single organizing system, one that provides consistency even as you switch between apps many times per day.

With the PARA system, every piece of information you want to save can be placed into one of just four categories: Projects: Short-term efforts in your work or life that you’re working on now. Areas: Long-term responsibilities you want to manage over time. Resources: Topics or interests that may be useful in the future. Archives: Inactive items from the other three categories. - Note: In the past I haven’t successfully defined my projects. I’m going to give this another shot by organizing my Google Drive.

This project-centric approach is increasingly finding its way into all knowledge work, a trend named the “Hollywood model” after the way films are made.

Any note or file that isn’t relevant or actionable for a current project or area can be placed into resources for future reference. - Note: Is this like the root directory of a digital garden?

The archives are an important part of PARA because they allow you to place a folder in “cold storage” so that it doesn’t clutter your workspace, while safekeeping it forever just in case you need it. - Note: Keep it, but without it needing to distract you from your current priorities.

Here’s an example of what the folders in my notes app look like with PARA: Inside each of these top-level folders, I have individual folders for the specific projects, areas, resources, and archives that make up my life.

For example, here are the folders for each one of my active projects: Inside these folders live the actual notes that contain my ideas.

Here is what some of my areas look like: Each of these folders contains the notes relevant to each of those ongoing areas of my life. Areas related to my business begin with “FL” for Forte Labs, so they appear together in alphabetical order.

Under resources I have folders for each of the topics I’m interested in. This information isn’t currently actionable, so I don’t want it cluttering up my projects, but it will be ready and waiting if I ever need it.

The archives contain any folder from the previous three categories that is no longer active. I want them completely out of sight and off my mind, but in case I ever need to access research, learnings, or material from the past, it will always be preserved.

it’s so important to separate capture and organize into two distinct steps: “keeping what resonates” in the moment is a separate decision from deciding to save something for the long term.

Instead of organizing ideas according to where they come from, I recommend organizing them according to where they are going—specifically, the outcomes that they can help you realize. The true test of whether a piece of knowledge is valuable is not whether it is perfectly organized and neatly labeled, but whether it can have an impact on someone or something that matters to you. - Note: These things may not need to be mutually exclusive. It can be useful to see that they came from the same thing and that they are applicable to multiple projects.

PARA isn’t a filing system; it’s a production system. It’s no use trying to find the “perfect place” where a note or file belongs. There isn’t one.

The first is that people need clear workspaces to be able to create. We cannot do our best thinking and our best work when all the “stuff” from the past is crowding and cluttering our space. That’s why that archiving step is so crucial: you’re not losing anything, and it can all be found via search, but you need to move it all out of sight and out of mind.

Your goal is to clear your virtual workspace and gather all the items related to each active project in one place. - Note: I feel like PARA is a better fit for traditional file systems than a PKM like Obsidian. Google Drive and your document folders are likely a better fit.

Researchers have called it the “Magic Number 4” because it is the highest number that we can count at a glance and hold in our minds without extra effort. Our brains can hold about four things in short-term memory simultaneously

To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day. - Note: Continued Curation

As knowledge workers, attention is our most scarce and precious resource.

This is generally good advice, but there is a flaw in focusing only on the final results: all the intermediate work—the notes, the drafts, the outlines, the feedback—tends to be underappreciated and undervalued. The precious attention we invested in producing that in-between work gets thrown away, never to be used again. Because we manage most of our “work-in-process” in our head, as soon as we finish the project and step away from our desks, all that valuable knowledge we worked so hard to acquire dissolves from our memory like a sandcastle washed away by the ocean waves.

Our time and attention are scarce, and it’s time we treated the things we invest in—reports, deliverables, plans, pieces of writing, graphics, slides—as knowledge assets that can be reused instead of reproducing them from scratch. Reusing Intermediate Packets of work frees up our attention for higher-order, more creative thinking. - Note: This is one of the things I like about Arc. Could PARA work in Arc? - Brandon from the Future: Yes. Check out this video:

If you’re writing an essay and decide to cut a paragraph, you can save those outtakes in case you ever write a follow-up.

You’ll find that people give much better feedback if they’re included early, and the work is clearly in progress.

because you know it is much easier to gather and synthesize the thoughts of others than to come up with an endless series of brilliant thoughts on your own. You will begin to see yourself as the curator of the collective thinking of your network, rather than the sole originator of ideas.

Don’t take the work of others wholesale; borrow aspects or parts of their work. The shape of a banner on a web page, the layout of a slide, the style of a song—these are like the ingredients you put in a blender before hitting the button and mixing it into your own recipe.

One of my favorite rules of thumb is to “Only start projects that are already 80 percent done.” That might seem like a paradox, but committing to finish projects only when I’ve already done most of the work to capture, organize, and distill the relevant material means I never run the risk of starting something I can’t finish.

All the steps of the CODE Method are designed to do one thing: to help you put your digital tools to work for you so that your human, fallible, endlessly creative first brain can do what it does best. Imagine. Invent. Innovate. Create. - Note: This is also similar to the mantra of the My Youtube Channel

The activity of divergence is familiar to all of us: it is the classic whiteboard covered in sketches, the writer’s wastepaper basket filled with crumpled-up drafts, and the photographer with hundreds of photos laid out across the floor. The purpose of divergence is to generate new ideas, so the process is necessarily spontaneous, chaotic, and messy. You can’t fully plan or organize what you’re doing in divergence mode, and you shouldn’t try. This is the time to wander. - Note: Try many ideas before picking a few to explore more deeply.

Engineers diverge by researching all the possible solutions, testing the boundaries of the problem, or tinkering with new tools. They converge by deciding on a particular approach, designing the implementation details, and bringing their blueprints to life.

Designers diverge by collecting samples and patterns, talking to users to understand their needs, or sketching possible solutions. They converge by deciding on a problem to solve, building wireframes, or translating their designs into graphics files.

When you distinguish between the two modes of divergence and convergence, you can decide each time you begin to work which mode you want to be in, which gives you the answers to the questions above. - Note: Your working sessions should focus on whether we’re in divergent mode or convergent mode.

If you decide to enter convergence mode, do the opposite: close the door, put on noise-canceling headphones, ignore every new input, and ferociously chase the sweet reward of completion. - Note: Convergent mode should have a goal or deliverable in sight.

It’s so easy to open up dozens of browser tabs, order more books, or go off in completely new directions. Those actions are tempting because they feel like productivity. They feel like forward progress, when in fact they are divergent acts that postpone the moment of completion. - Note: Avoid more research (divergence), when you should be in the converging phase (moving towards a deliverable). convergent thinking

Instead of confronting a terrifying blank page, I’m looking at a document filled with quotes: from letters, from primary sources, from scholarly papers, sometimes even my own notes. It’s a great technique for warding off the siren song of procrastination. Before I hit on this approach, I used to lose weeks stalling before each new chapter, because it was just a big empty sea of nothingness. Now each chapter starts life as a kind of archipelago of inspiring quotes, which makes it seem far less daunting. All I have to do is build bridges between the islands. - Note: From Steven Johnson. Don’t Start from Scratch

Write out your intention for the next work session: Set an intention for what you plan on tackling next, the problem you intend to solve, or a certain milestone you want to reach. - Note: Plan your next working session while you are still spun up during this session.

To take this strategy a step further, there is one more thing you can do as you wrap up the day’s work: send off your draft or beta or proposal for feedback. Share this Intermediate Packet with a friend, family member, colleague, or collaborator; tell them that it’s still a work-in-process and ask them to send you their thoughts on it. The next time you sit down to work on it again, you’ll have their input and suggestions to add to the mix of material you’re working with. - Note: This is a nice endpoint for the day. This can also be handy if you have morning standup each morning.

That doesn’t mean you have to throw away those parts. One of the best uses for a Second Brain is to collect and save the scraps on the cutting-room floor in case they can be used elsewhere. - Note: For this reason I need separate files for outlines and project drafts. With that will also come the need for an archives folder

Make an outline with your goals, intentions, questions, and considerations for the project. - Note: This could be useful for seeding the design project outline.

Being organized is a habit—a repeated set of actions you take as you encounter, work with, and put information to use. If we’re constantly scrambling to find our notes, drafts, brainstorms, and sources, not only do we waste precious time, but we also sabotage our momentum.

airline pilots run through a “preflight checklist” that tells them everything they need to check or do. It ensures they complete all the necessary steps without having to rely on their unreliable brains.

he way most people launch projects, in contrast, can be described as “haphazardly.”

This is where the Project Kickoff Checklist comes in. Here’s my own checklist: Capture my current thinking on the project. Review folders (or tags) that might contain relevant notes. Search for related terms across all folders. Move (or tag) relevant notes to the project folder. Create an outline of collected notes and plan the project.

Here are some questions I use to prompt this initial brainstorm: What do I already know about this project? What don’t I know that I need to find out? What is my goal or intention? Who can I talk to who might provide insights? What can I read or listen to for relevant ideas?

Part of what makes modern work so challenging is that nothing ever seems to finish. It’s exhausting, isn’t it? Calls and meetings seem to stretch on forever, which means we rarely get to celebrate a clear-cut victory and start fresh. This is one of the best reasons to keep our projects small: so that we get to feel a fulfilling sense of completion as often as possible.

Cross out the associated project goal and move to “Completed” section. Each project I work on usually has a corresponding goal. I keep all my goals in a single digital note, sorted from short-term goals for the next year to long-term goals for years to come.

  1. If project is becoming inactive: add a current status note to the project folder before archiving. The fifth step applies only if the project is getting canceled, postponed, or put on hold instead of completed. I still want to archive it so it’s out of sight, but in this special case, there’s one final action I take. I add a new note to the project folder titled “Current status,” and jot down a few comments so I can pick it back up in the future.

Review and update my goals. Review and update my project list. Review my areas of responsibility. Review someday/maybe tasks. Reprioritize tasks.

Now it’s time to do the same for my areas of responsibility. I’ll think about the major areas of my life, such as my health, finances, relationships, and home life, and decide if there’s anything I want to change or take action on.

When organizing notes or files within PARA, it’s a very forgiving decision of where to put something, since search is so effective as a backup option. - Note: This is why I find our Metabase instance so challenging to use because search can no longer find the appropriate items. Similarly in Notion due to repeated boilerplate littering the search results

An idea wants to be shared. And, in the sharing, it becomes more complex, more interesting, and more likely to work for more people.

The purpose of knowledge is to be shared. What’s the point of knowing something if it doesn’t positively impact anyone, not even yourself? Learning shouldn’t be about hoarding stockpiles of knowledge like gold coins. Knowledge is the only resource that gets better and more valuable the more it multiplies. If I share a new way of thinking about your health, or finances, or business, or spirituality, that knowledge isn’t less valuable to me. It’s more valuable! Now we can speak the same language, coordinate our efforts, and share our progress in applying it. Knowledge becomes more powerful as it spreads.

I discovered something through that experience: that self-expression is a fundamental human need. Self-expression is as vital to our survival as food or shelter. We must be able to share the stories of our lives—from the small moments of what happened today at school to our grandest theories of what life is about.