Highlights from "Building a Second Brain"

By Tiago Forte

Cover of the book Building a Second Brain

recorded the ideas they found most interesting in a book they carried around with them, known as a “commonplace book.”

Unlike modern readers, who follow the flow of a narrative from beginning to end, early modern Englishmen read in fits and starts and jumped from book to book.

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.

We tend to favor the ideas, solutions, and influences that occurred to us most recently, regardless of whether they are the best ones.

Like a scientist capturing only the rarest butterflies to take back to the lab, our goal should be to “capture” only the ideas and insights we think are truly noteworthy.

just look inside for a feeling of pleasure, curiosity, wonder, or excitement, and let that be your signal for when it’s time to capture a passage, an image, a quote, or a fact.

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.

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.

you are much more likely to remember information you’ve written down in your own words. Known as the “Generation Effect,”

They require a caretaker to seed the plants, trim the weeds, and shape the paths winding through them. It’s time for us to put more intention into the digital environments where we now spend so many of our waking hours.

Areas: What I’m Committed to Over Time

The third category of information that we want to keep is resources. This is basically a catchall for anything that doesn’t belong to a project or an area and could include any topic you’re interested in gathering information about.

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.

Most notes apps have an “inbox” or “daily notes” section where new notes you’ve captured are saved until you can revisit them and decide where they belong.

you are always trying to place a note or file not only where it will be useful, but where it will be useful the soonest.

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.

Your job as a notetaker is to preserve the notes you’re taking on the things you discover in such a way that they can survive the journey into the future.

“When should I be doing this highlighting?” The answer is that you should do it when you’re getting ready to create something.

If we consider the focused application of our attention to be our greatest asset as knowledge workers, we can no longer afford to let that intermediate work disappear.

Intermediate Packets are really a new lens through which you can perceive the atomic units that make up everything you do. By “thinking small,” you can focus on creating just one IP each time you sit down to work, without worrying about how viable it is or whether it will be used in the exact way you envisioned.

You will start to seek out ways of acquiring or outsourcing the creation of these assets to others, instead of assuming you have to build them all yourself. These changes will enable you to get things done at a pace that is far beyond what mere “productivity tips” can ever achieve.

If you look at the process of creating anything, it follows the same simple pattern, alternating back and forth between divergence and convergence.

Hemingway was known for a particular writing strategy, which I call the “Hemingway Bridge.” He would always end a writing session only when he knew what came next in the story. Instead of exhausting every last idea and bit of energy, he would stop when the next plot point became clear.

There will always be something missing, or something else you think you need. Dialing Down the Scope recognizes that not all the parts of a given project are equally important.

Divergence and convergence are not a linear path, but a loop: once you complete one round of convergence, you can take what you’ve learned right back into a new cycle of divergence.

Chefs use mise en place—a philosophy and mindset embodied in a set of practical techniques—as their “external brain.”1 It gives them a way to externalize their thinking into their environment and automate the repetitive parts of cooking so they can focus completely on the creative parts.

treat your attention—as an asset that gets invested and produces a return, which in turn can be reinvested back into other ventures.

Once you start seeing even your biggest ambitions in terms of the smaller chunks of information they are made up of, you’ll begin to realize that any experience or passing insight can be valuable.

Instead of trying to optimize your mind so that it can manage every tiny detail of your life, it’s time to fire your biological brain from that job and give it a new one: as the CEO of your life, orchestrating and managing the process of turning information into results.

We’ve been conditioned to view information through a consumerist lens: that more is better, without limit.

All we need is a few seeds of wisdom, and the seeds we most need tend to continually find us again and again. You don’t need to go out and hunt down insights. All you have to do is listen to what life is repeatedly trying to tell you. Life tends to surface exactly what we need to know, whether we like it or not.

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 learned, to my astonishment, that I am not my thoughts. That my thoughts were the constant background chatter of my subconscious mind, and that I could choose whether to “believe” what they were telling me.

These highlights are sourced from my Kindle using Readwise. Readwise automatically syncs all your highlights from various sources. It's cool. Referral link if you'd like to try.

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