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  • Writer's pictureCris

How to build a second brain and keep your mind clear

Have you ever heard about the second brain? I am not talking about the famous second brain, the gut. I am talking about that powerful tool that helps us organise, digest and easily find all the contents we consume.

I used to have the feeling of forgetting the core notion, lessons and messages of books, podcasts or videos I consumed. I had the impression I was wasting my time. It was the same after the classes during my bachelor, even though I used to take notes and read the slides in advance. I knew I was doing something wrong, but I had no clue how to adjust the shot.

Nowadays, we assimilate the same amount of 120 journals every day. Unfortunately, keeping everything in mind is not an option since we can memorise about five chunks of information at a time and cramming our brain lets us miss the opportunity to elaborate ideas.

Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.David Allen.

To keep all this information in order, we need a scheme.

As Ali Abdaal mentioned, there are at least three different layers of organisation:

  • Layer 0: Events organisation

Why should we remember the birthdays of all the people we know or all the meetings we have? To this purpose, almost everybody uses calendars. For instance, I have two calendars, a personal one and an academic one. In the former, I note days off, bills to pay etc., while, in the latter, I pin down events, speeches, conferences, papers deadlines, etc.

  • Layer 1: Tasks organisation

Keeping all the tasks of the day (or even worse, of the week) in our mind does not seem a great idea too. I write all the to-do coming during the day on block notes that I also use every evening to write the tasks of the day after. I usually sort them out in two groups, morning and afternoon tasks, according to their linear/non-linear nature.

  • Layer 2: Knowledge organisation

As mentioned, the game changer was to collect all the information consumed during the day.

  1. Firstly, I store the data I get from everywhere (books, podcasts, speeches, youtube) about everything that might be interesting shortly (let's say six months). I use old-style block notes or an app on my iPhone to write them down.

  2. Secondly, every evening, I transcribe my notes to Evernote. Evernote is an easy and powerful tool that allows me to organise everything (including pictures, screenshots, audio, etc.) and browse around them with just a click. Here is what my Evernote home page looks like.

The combination of the mentioned layers represents the so-called second brain.

How do you organise your thoughts and all the information you listen to, read and watch every day?


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