Get Organized by Building A Second Brain

Information overload is not a new concept. There were predictions and concerns over the abundance of information since the invention of the printing press back in the fifteenth century. The continuous flood of information that we’re exposed to daily is not as productive as some thought it would be. Instead of making us smarter, the advent of the smartphone, 5G, and other technological advances seem to be limiting our ability to think and make decisions. The constant onslaught of information – more than we can process at any point in time- works to the demise of our memory, concentration, and productivity.

In a world where we are multitasking more than ever before – whether we want to or not- studies are finding that the barrage of emails, messages, phone calls, and social media notifications is creating a society where people are absorbing and accomplishing less than our predecessors. Experts suggest sticking to a single task and completing it before switching to another task. Attempting to do several tasks at once is counterproductive. It limits time, creativity, memory, and foresight.

But attempting to streamline tasks is only part of the problem. You’ll still need to find a solution for the management of information and retaining that which you’d like to store. An easy and proven method of organizing information is through the use of digital tools. A second brain, according to Tiago Forte, is “a digital archive of your most valuable memories, ideas, and knowledge to help you do your job, run your business, and manage your life without having to keep every detail in your head.” The practice of building and maintaining a digital archive is a surefire method of capturing, retaining and retrieving valuable stores of information that you want to keep.  The process of building a second brain doesn’t need to be complex. The point is to get started and improve as you progress. Here are some quick and helpful tips to dive in and manage information.

Decide what you want to capture

Make a list of three to four things that interest you and start there. It might be information related to a hobby, your position at work, a current project, local or world news, etc. Later on, you might want to add other topics, but choose a few to get in the habit of capturing, storing, and organizing content. With your brief list defined, you can proceed to the next step.

Identify your digital tool of choice

This is an important part of the process. In a perfect world, you’ll have a tool that you can maintain for life. But needs change. You might start with a simple tool and find later on that you’ve outgrown it. Consider your notetaking style, your storage needs, ease of capturing, storing, and retrieving information, accessibility, and cost to begin with. Relanote is designed for simple notetaking but is robust enough to accommodate an expansive knowledge management system. 

Identify a tool to clip data

Separate from your notetaking app, you need a tool to file your bookmarks of content that you’d like to read and filter later on. A read-it-later app is an absolute must-have if you consume a lot of content, but don’t have time to read them all right away. Pocket, Instapaper, EmailThis, and Raindrop are some of the most popular options for saving content to read later. Choose an option that offers mobile, tablet, and desktop versions so you can save information on the go and across multiple platforms. The user interface, cost, and ability to customize are some other factors that might influence your decision.

Tame your impulsiveness

Ask pertinent questions as you begin collecting information. Is it true? Is it pertinent? Is it something that you really want to store? Does it take away or add to your current knowledge base? Resist the temptation to clip/collect everything, so you don’t wind up with the initial problem of information overload. Not everything is worth collecting. Keep only those things that will add benefit in the long run.

Declutter your bookmarks

Revisit the information in your read-it-later app and gather what you need. There’s a low possibility that you’ll ever get to it if you don’t do so within a week – especially if you continue clipping new content. Review the content on a set routine, filter, save, and delete.

Make a summary

One of the best ways to manage your “second brain” is to use summaries instead of entire articles. Summarizing helps you to identify and focus on the information that’s important. As a consequence, you’ll understand better, remember more, and focus on the content. The essence of notetaking boils down to writing down and organizing content, then making it your own. It means figuring out what’s important and identifying the main ideas. Making connections to other notes in your database aids organization and retention.

Get organized

The whole point of collecting notes is to reference the information when you need it. Keeping organized notes and well-structured notes also aids memory and understanding of what the notes refer to, so you can apply the information correctly. Notetaking apps are useful for collecting, storing, and organizing notes, but it comes down to what you put into it. You need to figure out a notetaking system that works best for your notetaking style and needs. There are at least six identified methods for taking organized notes:

Outline: This most common method can be used for handwritten and digital notes. It’s as simple as making a heading for each topic and adding sub-headings and details to expand the content. This method is best for collecting and keeping large volumes of information. The downside is that it might take some time to review the information when you need to.

Cornell: The Cornell method facilitates ease of organization and reviewing of your notes. It can be combined with the outline and paragraph methods. It uses a two-column approach – the left column is used for recall and the right column for taking notes using a combination of other methods. You may use a summary box at the bottom of the page to write a short summary of the content.

Mind map: The mind map is all about connections. Your main topic will be in the center of the page and will be connected to surrounding subtopics and concepts. The finalized note will reveal a map of interconnected ideas and details that you can build on to create new ideas.

Flow notes: This method of organization promotes active learning, so you’ll save time in the review process. It’s another method that involves the use of connections to form new ideas. Start by jotting down topics and use arrows and diagrams to form a general idea.

Sentence: This is another simple method that is much like transcribing. You’ll jot down everything that’s being said – to the best of your ability. This method requires little to no thinking while you take notes. However, it may be difficult to keep up, and you will lose key points and ideas. An advantage is that the notes will be simplified and ready for study and review.

Charting: This method is best for content that is heavy on statistics, data, and facts. It requires some preparation before reviewing the content. Determine what the content will cover and divide your notepad into multiple columns with a heading for each keyword. Place relevant notes under the appropriate keyword heading. The charting method is perfect for memorizing and keeping track of facts and for the maintenance of clean and organized notes.

In your organization, you might resort to multiple methods depending on the content you are recording. Keep all your notes together in one place – a digital app notetaking app works great for this. Finally, always include a date and reference in case need to remember of the purpose of the notes.