Building Your Second Brain
The Productivity Tactic for an AI age of Information Abundance
ChatGPT recently hit 100M users - all in two months. That’s faster than any app. Ever. OpenAI is becoming the posterchild for this era, before the big tech incumbents and upstarts start their chase. There’s lots more to come and we haven’t yet scratched the surface of what is possible. Despite this AI era - we are still in an age of information abundance - and we need to be able to recall all of this information, nuggests we learn from podcasts, from conversations, . It’s simply too much for us humans and we need to broaden our mind - and quite literally build out a second brain….digitally. How do we do that? I have been reading Tiago Forte’s Building a Second Brain which explains how to create your own digital filing cabinet. With all the things we learn every day, how is it possible to retain all the information that we hear and double your brain power?
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What is a Second Brain exactly? It's more than just a storage space for your ideas and information. It's a complete system that you use every day to keep track of your life and work. Like an operating system, it helps you manage and prioritize your tasks, information, and knowledge.
The CODE (Capture, Organise, Distill, Express) system is the backbone of your Second Brain, it's a proven process that helps you turn the information you consume into creative output and results.
Capture only the essential information - Filter through the overwhelming amount of information you're bombarded with, and only retain what resonates with you. This will free up 50% more headspace and keep you in control of your thoughts and ideas.
Organise for actionability - No more scattered notes, organize your digital life in a way that makes it easy to prioritize and turn your digital notes into "thinking tools" that boost your brain power.
Distill down to the essence - Make sure your information is easily accessible and usable at a moment's notice. Create a "knowledge treasury" full of your unique insights that you can easily refer to.
Express your unique ideas and experiences - With everything organized and distilled, it's time to put your ideas into action. Use your Second Brain as a launching pad to express your ideas in your unique voice, advancing your career and making a meaningful contribution to the world.
The steps to building your process are essentially this:
Digital organization: Store and categorize information in a structured, digital format for quick access and retrieval. Example: Use a note-taking app like Evernote, OneNote or Notion to categorize information into notebooks or tags.
Regular review: Regularly review and reflect on your information to reinforce learning and maintain a clear understanding. Example: Schedule weekly or monthly review sessions to go through your notes and reflect on what you've learned.
Linking and association: Connect related ideas and information to form associations for better recall and understanding. Example: Use hyperlinks to connect related notes or use mind maps to visualize the relationships between ideas.
Capture everything: Make a habit of capturing everything, from ideas to to-do items, to ensure nothing slips through the cracks. Example: Use a tool like a Capture notebook or a voice recorder to capture ideas and thoughts as they come to you.
Consistent formatting: Use consistent formatting and labels to make it easier to find and process information. Example: Use headings, bullet points, and bold text to format your notes in a consistent and easy-to-read manner.
Active recall: Test yourself regularly on the information you have stored to improve recall and understanding. Example: Create flashcards or quizzes to test your knowledge and reinforce your understanding.
Referencing: Reference the information you capture regularly to reinforce learning and memory. Example: Use reference cards or quick reference guides to help you quickly find and recall information.
Annotating and summarizing: Summarize and annotate information to simplify and condense it for better understanding. Example: Highlight key points and take notes in the margin while reading to simplify and condense information.
Flexible system: Use a flexible system that allows you to adapt and change your approach as your needs evolve. Example: Use a system that allows you to add, delete, and reorganize information as needed.
Continual improvement: Continuously review and refine your system for increased efficiency and effectiveness. Example: Regularly reflect on your system and make changes to improve its efficiency and effectiveness.
It’s a little dry to think about this but I found this workflow from Ali Abdaal useful to understand a real workflow.
By implementing the above and adapting them to your specific needs, you can build a second brain that supports your learning, creativity, and productivity. Like this article or comment if you have any other process that work for you.
Here are my recommendations for this week:
An Even Deadlier Pandemic Could Soon Be Here: As the world is just beginning to recover from the devastation of Covid-19, it is facing the possibility of a pandemic of a far more deadly pathogen. Bird flu — known more formally as avian influenza — has long hovered on the horizons of scientists’ fears. This pathogen, especially the H5N1 strain, hasn’t often infected humans, but when it has, 56 per cent of those known to have contracted it have died. Its inability to spread easily, if at all, from one person to another has kept it from causing a pandemic. Don’t shoot the messenger!
How to be Strategic - the ultimate guide: The good and bad news is that there’s no singular path into strategy. You don’t have to go to a special boot camp or major in anything in particular. You just have to have an interesting mind and be able to explain how it works. Develop an interesting point of view and show your work, whatever that looks like. Make stuff. “Strategy is more than slide decks, roadmaps, and fancy journey maps. It’s making an informed choice with incomplete information regarding uncertainty. Strategy is hard.”This guide alone will not make you a good strategist. Reading a lot, venturing outside of your comfort zone, figuring out your unique skills and your own personal narrative—and learning how to effectively apply them—makes a good strategist.
The world of work is still evolving: The workplace we once knew—but arguably never really loved—is no longer. The pandemic propelled remote work, virtual transactions, and adoption of digital technologies. Then came the Great Attrition: Craving flexibility, employees quit their jobs in droves, taking time to tend to their personal lives or embarking on sabbaticals. HR professionals continue to rethink how they manage their people and the best way to do so, and new HR operating-model archetypes are emerging in response to dramatic changes in business and in the world. To say the world of work has been flipped upside-down in recent years is an understatement. Explore these insights to see where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going.
Do You Know How to Behave? Are You Sure? The ways we socialize and date, commute and work are nearly unrecognizable from what they were three years ago. We’ve enjoyed a global pandemic, open employer-employee warfare, a multifront culture war, and social upheavals both great and small. The old conventions are out (we don’t whisper the word cancer or let women off the elevator first anymore, for starters). The venues in which we can make fools of ourselves (group chats, Grindr messages, Slack rooms public and private) are multiplying, and each has its own rules of conduct. And everyone’s just kind of rusty. Our social graces have atrophied. How to text, tip, ghost, host, and generally exist in polite society today.
The death of the customer service hotline: The answer to why companies make it hard or impossible for people to call them is simple: It saves them money. It’s more expensive to hire a person in a call centre — assuming they can find people who want to work there — than it is to engineer some chatbot that offers up canned answers on a website. The result is sort of a sliding scale of cost-saving terribleness.
AI Looks Like a Bubble: Bubbles are when people buy too much dumb stuff because they think there is someone dumber than them they can sell said stuff to. Perhaps the biggest sign of a technology bubble is mania-driven stock price swings. Companies are calling themselves AI companies right now and reaping stock price rewards. However, it's important to understand what it means to be an AI company—only certain kinds of those companies will have long-term sustainable advantages.Tech giants are hunting for new growth. All of this points to a world where these values go even higher for some time longer. But when it does pop and valuations come back to earth, remember that you read it here first.
The generative AI revolution has begun—how did we get here? You’ve seen the prize-winning artwork, heard the interviews between dead people, and read about the protein-folding breakthroughs. But these new AI systems aren’t just producing cool demos in research labs. They’re quickly being turned into practical tools and real commercial products that anyone can use. There’s a reason all of this has come at once. The breakthroughs are all underpinned by a new class of AI models that are more flexible and powerful than anything that has come before. Because they were first used for language tasks like answering questions and writing essays, they’re often known as large language models (LLMs). OpenAI’s GPT3, Google’s BERT, and so on are all LLMs.
Who will compete with ChatGPT? Meet the contenders: Yes, believe it or not, it was less than nine weeks ago that OpenAI launched what it simply described as an “early demo” a part of the GPT-3.5 series — an interactive, conversational model whose dialogue format “makes it possible for ChatGPT to answer followup questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests.” This is how the arms race begins.
Tech has an innate problem with bullsh*tters. But we don’t need to let them win: Chasing network effects, tech entrepreneurs have even more incentive to talk up their product than their counterparts in other industries. How do we tell the fact from the fiction? If we are in the age of the bullshitter, how do we evaluate the potential of new technologies? In 2023, I am less interested in technologists who position themselves as “disrupting” fields through the power of new ideas, and more interested in communities who have been engaged with an issue over a long time. The surest cure for bullshit is exposing it to the scrutiny of people who truly, deeply understand a problem through years of lived experience. Perhaps we can ask the solitary geniuses to step back and make some room.
The AI boom is here, and so are the lawsuits: What can Napster tell us about the future? Unlike the music piracy lawsuits at the turn of the century, no one is arguing that AI engines are making bit-for-bit copies of the data they use and distributing them under the same name. The legal issues, for now, tend to be about how the data got into the engines in the first place and who has the right to use that data.
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I'm also a fan of Tiago and Ali. It's always interesting to hear how others use and understand Tiago's Second Brain set up.