The book every overwhelmed creative needs: Building a Second Brain by Tiago Forte

I fell down the rabbit hole of YouTube videos about Notion.

In fact, the website you’re reading this on is created in Notion and hosted by—that’s how far down the hole I fell.

YouTube’s algorithm eventually led me to watch Ali Abdaal’s “How to Organise Your Life – Building a Second Brain,” which eventually led me to Tiago Forte’s book, Building a Second Brain: A Proven Method to Organize Your Digital Life and Unlock Your Creative Potential.

And as I’d just relaunched my newsletter for nonfiction authors with a waterfall of ideas and projects I wanted to accomplish, the timing was impeccable.

What three words describe how I feel about Building a Second Brain?




What is Building a Second Brain about?

At the outset of his book, Forte quotes David Allen from Getting Things Done: “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”

That’s what the aptly named book is about: effectively offloading your information overload so that you can create from what you curate.

In Forte’s words, “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. It is a multipurpose tool that can adapt to your changing needs over time. In school or courses you take, it can be used to take notes for studying. At work, it can help you organize your projects. At home, it can help you manage your household.”

Forte does not offer specific recommendations on what tools to use within the book (though he does in “How to Choose a Digital Notes App as Your Second Brain”); rather, he offers a simple and achievable framework that can be adapted to any creative pursuit, from writing your next blog post to redesigning your office.

Who should read Building a Second Brain?

Any writer or creative who feels overwhelmed with information.

Any person who wants to spend more time creating and less time consuming.

What did I change as a result of reading Building a Second Brain?

I instantly began using Forte’s CODE framework in my digital organization.

And, as one who suffers from shiny-new-app syndrome—which means my documents, ideas, tasks, and events are scattered across too many platforms—I chose to cull how many apps I use. I also chose, for once, to truly consider how I take in information online and what I’ll do with it afterwards.

So much of my time online prior to reading Second Brain was spent in mindless scrolling, subconsciously looking for that small dopamine hit our apps are so good at providing. In fact, an early passage sounded so eerily familiar that I called out Tiago Forte on Twitter:

But now that I’m reading with more of a purpose—and I have a place to store seeds of ideas that could become fruitful in time—I’m spending more time creating and less consuming.

As I wrote in that thread, I used to think I was fairly accomplished at organizing my digital life, but Second Brain is showing me a better way.

I’m actually excited to apply its simplicity so I can more consistently unlock my creativity.

What are my favorite quotes from Building a Second Brain?

“I’ve shared my story with you because I want you to know that this book isn’t about perfectly optimizing some kind of idealized life. Everyone experiences pain, makes mistakes, and struggles at some point in their lives. I’ve had my fair share of challenges, but at each stage of my journey, treating my thoughts as treasures worth keeping has been the pivotal element in everything I’ve overcome and achieved.”

“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.”

“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 brain is no longer the bottleneck on your potential, which means you have all the bandwidth you need to pursue any endeavor and make it successful. This sense of confidence in the quality of your thinking gives you the freedom to ask deeper questions and the courage to pursue bigger challenges. You can’t fail, because failure is just more information, to be captured and used as fuel for your journey. This is what it’s like to build and harness the power of a Second Brain.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *