How I Reframed My Digital Life After Reading Building a Second Brain

Written: October 05, 2022
Reading Time: 4 mins

Building A Second Brain by Tiago Forte is an excellent distillation of the methodology of the same name.

This book is up there with Getting Things Done and How To Take Smart Notes for how transformative it was for me.

Here are the 4 ways this book reframed how I manage my digital life:

Way 1: I manage my digital data with projects, not topics

Way 1

After resisting it for the longest time, I’ve finally embraced the PARA method for managing my digital data.

It didn’t click with me until I watched this video by vaexperience:

Watching that video prompted me to read Building A Second Brain in the first place which in turn lead to me reorganizing how I manage my digital data.

One of the key principles of the PARA method is organizing your files based on projects instead of topics.

Instead of putting your notes on productivity together and your notes on design together, you group your notes based on the current logo design project you’re working on, or based on a trip you want to take.

This mindset shift has been completely transformative for me.

Because I now organize files based on what I’m working on instead of an abstract topic, I know immediately where to look for something. I also know where to store things without much extra brain power.

This has freed up a large chunk of mental space in my head which I can now use for thinking, writing, and creating. The important stuff!

I follow this practice with my note-taking tool (Obsidian), my digital file management (Google Drive), and the files on my work laptop.

Way 2: I created an archive folder for finished projects

Way 2

The A in PARA stands for archive.

This is a folder for finished, closed, or inactive things you’re no longer working on.

Adding this folder and using it in this way removes inactive or finished projects from my daily view. They don’t take up space in my active projects which also means they don’t take up space in my brain.

This keeps things clean digitally and mentally.

If I do need to refer to something from an old article I wrote, for example, I know it’s still there in the archive. I can easily search for it too because I can usually associate what I’m looking for with a past project.

I go through my active projects list during my weekly review and nothing gives me more satisfaction than moving closed projects into the archive!

Way 3: My capture process is simpler

Way 3

My capture and consumption system is something I’m constantly tinkering with.

I’m always looking for ways to make it easier to use, more portable (can be interacted with on any device anywhere), and ways to do it without breaking the bank.

After reading Building A Second Brain, I took another look at my system and was able to consolidate my capture process a great deal.

I now save almost everything into Notion. Articles, design inspiration, ideas for projects, recipes, tools & resources, pretty much everything I want to “collect” and save for later.

From within Notion I can process everything thanks to databases, views, and filters.

I can then move my notes into Obsidian, my longer-term storage system, as needed.

Now I don’t have to think about where something goes, I just clip it into Notion to process later.

Here’s my system if you’re looking for ways to optimize your own: Here’s How To Get Your Bookmarks Out Of Twitter And Actually Use Them

Way 4: My new mantra for note-taking is “how can I make this as useful as possible for my future self?”

Way 4

I’ve been taking book notes on and off now for the last 3 years, thanks in part to The Bookworm podcast which really helped kick this off for me.

Recently, I’ve been reviewing my old book notes and it’s amazing how unhelpful they are.

It’s almost like a direct copy and paste from the book itself without any more thinking done. I haven’t processed the information I learned in a way that’s actually useful for me. You’d think I was being forced to do it for a book report or something.

Well, thanks to Building A Second Brain, my new mantra for note taking is: “how can I make this as useful as possible for my future self?”

I’m now improving my old notes with this new mantra in mind so I can create notes I’ll actually use in the future.

This might look like:

I’ve already seen the benefits and am looking forward to continuing.

P.S. Like the images I used in this post? I made them using Playground - not sponsored or anything I’ve just been exploring AI art for the last week or so and am finding it fascinating :)

Design Insight

A weekly newsletter for creatives with a focus on design. Learn to think like a designer in less than 5 mins a week with curated articles, resources, tools, and insights. Released every Friday to over 200 creators.

I'm Interested!