Trust me this will make you a superhuman, for now.
If you think you’ll just remember something later then that’s a lie. Humans on average are able to hold a single new thought for a few hours before forgetting.
Have you ever had an incredible thought that you couldn’t recall the next time you tried to rekindle the idea? This happened to me all too many times, particularly before bed, I’d conjure up the next unicorn idea to dethrone Facebook but the next day I’d have no recollection of the idea. And so, with inspirations from GTD and Tiago Forte, I built a second brain that has single-handedly allowed me to brain dump anything and systematically funnel it into themed repositories that I can access later — whenever, wherever.
My app of choice for building a second brain is the one and only — Notion (it’s 100% free). Although we are not going to focus on the nitty-gritty of getting orientated, it’s pretty self-explanatory. However, here are some useful starting points: PARA Method, Notion’s own YouTube Channel, SkillShare Course, and Notion Templates.
Now before we try to explain the value-adds, these are the prerequisites required to build a second brain: you must be a rocket-scientist, Kung-Fu or Ninjutsu qualified and also hold a PhD in Neuroscience. Lol.
But seriously, here are the top four reasons why I think everyone should definitely build a second brain:
- Create a personal repository for your referral at any future point in time.
- Establish a workflow that helps you reliably produce your best work.
- Consistently get shit done.
- Reduce cognitive overload and associated stress.
Building a second brain isn’t hard. Here’s why I used Notion to build my second brain.
Create a personal repository
By far the best reason for building a second brain is the ability to increase your memory capacity to near infinity. Just like purchasing an external hard-drive, building a second brain allows you to store all your exciting thoughts, notes, good reads, content for later review, etc. and never have to worry about forgetting a thing or not knowing where to look the next time you want to revisit it.
There are some apps that allow you do this such as Pocket for storing interesting articles for you to consume later or elaborate to-do apps such as Todoist (another one of my favourite tools ever) to build custom lists for things such as reading lists or long-term plans. However, I find that having different formats of information scattered across different platforms to be a nuisance in forming a consistent, all-in-one space where you can link together different components.
For example, in Notion, I have a database where I add in any interesting articles. Using Pocket will allow me to get this far, sure. But now in Notion, I can add my personal notes to this article, link it to another page in Notion, and add tags to organise it into groups of similar content. I can also add further tasks that may come from reading an article e.g. a book referenced in the article may turn into a to-do task for me to read later on.
All from within one app. This is why building your second brain in a single platform makes it all the more powerful and brain-like replicating neural networks.
Establish an effective workflow
Whether you’re a fully-fledged content creator or a complete noob (like me), the second-best reason to build a second brain is so you can escalate your workflow and efficiency in producing deliverables. This can apply to a content creator, startup founder, student’s revision plan, personal projects, etc.
“A second brain is the home of your creative process, a series of habits and routines for consistently publishing your work to the world, without overthinking it or being too perfectionistic.” — Tiago Forte
Here’s the workflow I’ve created in my second brain to expedite the process of creating weekly newsletter articles. It also significantly reduces the activation energy in getting started each week, allowing me to focus my energy in stringing together a compelling (or at least I think so, lol) bunch of words each week.
But the most relevant point here isn’t that I’ve created a future list of article ideas or neatly organised previous posts for content management. Culminating a wealth of ideas in a single space can act as the jet fuel (caffeine) to your rocket (your creativity). Creativity is sometimes difficult to predict and can present itself in the most mysterious of times - e.g. I get my best ideas when doing something completely irrelevant so jotting these down in Notion lets me rekindle these exciting thoughts when I’m actually writing. Conjuring together an interesting topic after I’ve sat down to write would otherwise be a very energy-consuming chore.
Consistently get shit done.
An idea will forever be only a thought until it’s written down. Then it becomes more concrete. So, the simple process of moving ideas from your headspace to your second brain allows you to progress each thought - add to it, change it entirely, let it go, use it to conceptualise a better idea, etc. The core principle here is that once you have added a thought - it gets processed, like on a factory conveyor belt.
To give an example, this very weekly newsletter was birthed by funnelling the initial idea into my second brain. Here’s a basic outline of how it went:
One random day - made a quick note “start a weekly blog” or something
Iteration 1 - moved the note to its own page and named it “Yath’s Blog”
Iteration 2 - fleshed out the content ideas and theme
Iteration 3 - decided it should be a newsletter rather than a simple blog.
Iteration 4 - picked Substack as the platform then got shit done.
Whether you are building the next Tesla or simply trying to get through exams (yes, I appreciate the struggle, t-minus 23 days) being able to get shit done is very important and having a single platform to organise your thoughts and proceed to the next step can be a very important method in making monumental progress overall.
Reduce cognitive overload and stress.
I’ve mentioned this in a previous post but having too much in your mental headspace can be debilitating to your creative or intellectual potential. Imagine having A, B, C on your mind but still having to focus on X, Y, Z at school or work. Soon this becomes stressful and you paint the picture for yourself that you have too much to juggle or too much on your plate.
Ok perhaps for physical tasks, the solution may not be in building a second brain. But many a time, it has been proven that almost 90% of human thoughts are simply things to remember, nonsense or random ideas that could be written down and thereby removed from the immediate mental space, freeing up valuable energy for your more pressing demands.
The biggest change I have seen from storing all of my ideas and thoughts in Notion is that I now seldom have to kill myself over trying to remember a specific detail nor do I have to try to remember an idea in my brain for a few months down the line. I simply open up Notion on my laptop, phone, or iPad, make a note and move on.
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