Building a Second Brain Now Released

After many years of anticipation, Tiago Forte has released his book, Building a Second Brain. It is the distillation of the ideas and exercises originating from his signature course of the same name. Here is how Tiago introduces the book on his web site:

What if you made use of the ideas, wisdom, and resources available to you online instead of stockpiling and hoarding information with no end in sight? 

What if you knew with total confidence that you could find the information you need when you need it instead of wasting time looking for notes you swore you’d saved? 

What if you could leverage technology to think better, clear your mind, and get more done instead of letting it disrupt you with constant notifications and demands? 

All this and more is possible with a Second Brain – a trusted place outside your head where you can collect and organize your most important ideas and insights and use them to do your best work.

As part of his promotional tour, the Palm Beach County Library System is honored to host Tiago for a virtual meet the author session on July 14, 2 pm EST. Preregister to receive the Zoom link.

Congratulations Tiago on this great achievement!

12 Steps to Build a Second Brain

I have frequently written about Tiago Forte and his Building a Second Brain program. It is the definitive approach to unleashing the power of digital notetaking. In fact, his first major book is being published in June.

Recently Tiago wrote a concise summary of the practice by listing the 12 Steps to Build a Second Brain. This is a very fast crash course in how to create and utilize digital notes. For those wanting to get started, here are the first two steps:

1. Decide what you want to capture

Think about your Second Brain as an intimate commonplace book or journal. What do you most want to capture, learn, explore, or share? Identify two to three kinds of content you already value to get started with.

For an extended intro to capturing and taking digital notes, check out this workshop covering how to capture and save the best information you consume each week.

2. Choose your notes app

If you don’t use a digital notes app, get started with one now. But I know that choosing your notes app can feel overwhelming and paralyzing. 

My recommendation is to choose an app based on your notetaking style since notetaking is a highly personal process based on intuition and feeling.

In this video, I introduce you to 4 notetaking styles and the best apps for each.

Read the other ten steps on the Forte Labs web site.

Second Brain Summit

Some very exciting happened this past week. The first ever Second Brain Summit was held online! Tiago Forte of Forte Labs brought together a series of speakers to excite and educate everyone on how to build a second brain and maximize its potential.

Here’s what Tiago had to say in a recent email:

Incredibly, we had over 12,300 live participants across 15 sessions led by 18 experts and thought leaders. Thank you to everyone who made it possible.

This week you learned:

  • How to avoid self-sabotage in your productive efforts
  • How to apply a “systems mindset” to your life
  • How to reframe productivity through the lens of ADHD
  • How to use apps like Notion, Logseq, Evernote, and OneNote
  • How to automate your notetaking using tools like Readwise and Matter
  • Insights into the future of digital notetaking
  • How to use “meta” thinking and adopt “habits of learning”
  • How to choose the perfect productivity app for you
  • How to appreciate the inherent joy of thinking
  • How to leverage your Second Brain to do your highest value work

And you know what? In case you missed anything, we’ve made every recording available on a YouTube playlist you can revisit and watch anytime.

Learn more about Building a Second Brain at the Forte Labs web site.

Empty Inbox – Less Stress

With the high volumes of incoming email we all receive, it can be very tempting to let them pile up. In fact, most people use their inbox as a workflow management and archival system. This approach is highly inefficient and creates unnecessary stress. Thankfully, there is a simple way to resolve this problem: empty your inbox regularly.

For the past ten years I have enjoyed the clarity of an empty inbox. I was inspired to do this after reading Getting Things Done by David Allen. In the book he provides a simple approach to clearing out the inbox no matter the volume. At the core of his technique is the workflow diagram. In a way, the GTD approach is similar to a plumber who ensures that water remains flowing through pipes.

Photo by Solen Feyissa on Pexels.com

To clear any inbox, there are three important things to understand:

1 – An inbox is only for in: The best use of an inbox is to identify new messages. Once they have been read, they must leave the inbox. No skipping over items. Go through every message from newest to oldest until complete.

2 – Empty it regularly: To cope with the high volumes, it is important to clear the inbox every day. Not only does this prevent serious backlog that can impact your efficiency, it can eliminates the stress which comes when important messages are buried under junk.

3 – Create functional folders to store messages: An “action” folder will hold items you need to respond to as soon as possible. A “waiting for” folder will hold reminders of actions you are waiting for others to do. An “archive” folder will hold all non-actionable messages you need to retain. Finally, be sure to trash as much as you can early to reduce clutter.

If you want to enjoy a less stressful work life, be sure to clear out your inbox every day. I speak from a decade of experience on this point. An empty inbox is an awesome sight to behold.

Personal Productivity Stacks

We rely on a wide range of technology to get things done. However, if we don’t apply the right tool in the right way, we can end up undermining our efforts. To avoid this problem we need to spend time understanding the structure of knowledge work. This will guide us to use the right tool the right way for better results.

Tiago Forte has thought deeply about how to be more productive and creative at the same time. In a recent posting on his web site called How to Build Your Personal Productivity Stack, he discusses how technological change can both make our work easier and more frustrating.

Each wave of technology does legitimately solve a new problem from the previous wave, and – if harnessed correctly – can move us closer to our goals: the experiences and feelings that we want more of. 

But if you’re like most people, you’re probably using email for multiple purposes far beyond what it was designed for:

  • You use email to send messages
  • You use email as a to-do list
  • You use email to keep track of notes and ideas
  • You use email to manage complex projects and areas of your life

These are extremely different use cases, and using one platform for all of them ensures it fails at all of them.

To be more effective, Tiago breaks down the four key components of knowledge work.

To perform each of them effectively, you have to break apart each of the four essential activities of modern work – Email, Task Management, Notetaking, and Project Management – and use the right tool for each of those jobs.

I call these four functions a “Productivity Stack,” since each one is layered on top of and builds on the one before.

To learn more, read the rest of his post on the Forte Labs web site.

We’re All Alone in this Together

Organizations that are able to form reliable teams tend to accomplish more goals and provide better internal and external customer service. However, there is an unspoken tension around teams. In order for them to work effectively, everyone has to know their assignment. The distribution of work needs to be clear otherwise important items fall through the cracks.

David Allen has explored the intersection of personal productivity and teamwork. In a recent blog post he notes the following:

Have you discovered yet that no matter how big the button is that says “TEAM” you’re wearing at the conference, nobody’s on yours?! That in order to get done what you have to get done, there aren’t a lot of people at your beck and call, making sure your specific actions and projects happen? Ever have the feeling that you’ve got to hold on for dear life to your own projects and outcomes, against the hurricane of events and other people trying to get their world defined and done?

Later in the post, David considers the reason why teams fail to clarify their work.

Problem is most of us never had training or experience in dealing with that syndrome efficiently and effectively. We grew up in a world where you just went to work, and the work to be done was visible and obvious.

What is the solution to this problem? It could be as simple as acknowledging our struggles.

The best teams and relationships, from my experience, are the ones in which the players all acknowledge they’re each alone in the endeavor together. That’s when we can really experience team, and function as one.

Read the entire post on the Getting Things Done web site.

Do the Easy Stuff First?

Everyone likes to get a quick win. It would seem that disposing of small items would generate momentum to tackle larger work. However, does this tactic lead to lower productivity?

In an article on getpocket called Why Doing the Easy Parts of Your To-Do List First Can Be a Bad Idea, Stephanie Vozza argues that studies show that tackling the low hanging fruit first may dissuade you from attempting more meaningful work.

“In the short-term, the person could actually feel satisfied and less anxious,” says Maryam Kouchaki, associate professor of management and organizations at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. “But avoiding hard tasks indefinitely also cuts off opportunities to learn and improve one’s skills.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Part of the problem with working on easy tasks is that they are often low value and procedural, making little impact on a person or organization’s larger goals.

Finishing tasks provides a sense of progress and makes us feel good. “We all have limited time and attention,” says Kouchaki. “In any moment, if you have a choice of doing an easy or difficult task, most of us tend to pick the easy task. Easier tasks are often quicker to complete, and they are more likely to be chosen first when people are busier. We call this ‘task completion preference.’”

The problem is that when you create a habit of choosing easier tasks over hard, you can impact your long-term productivity.

Read the full article on the getpocket web site.

Superhuman Email Management

Knowledge jobs of all types require quick communication. Despite the prevalence of chats, channels, and text, email remains the key way to share detailed information. This makes mastery of email an essential modern skill. The catch is that most people never received training on how to handle it effectively. Thankfully, there are easy to learn principles that make email processing effective and fun.

Tiago Forte first learned email management through GTD. From there he expanded on the practice to create a seamless system to completely process his inbox with ease and turn it into an enlightening high value experience. In a recent article on the Superhuman blog, Tiago spoke to Rahul Vohra at Superhuman for an article that highlights four steps to email mastery.

It starts with changing your perspective on email.

“The key to having a more positive outlook toward email is to nail the management,” says Tiago. “Anytime you don’t have a place for information to flow to, it will pile up, multiply, and become a problem.”

“The solution to having too many emails — and not knowing what to do with them — is not found in your inbox,” says Tiago. “You have to solve that problem elsewhere.”

Later on in the article, Tiago shares a key approach to reframing email, slowing down your reactivity.

“When someone sends you a message — especially a colleague, or someone senior to you — there’s a built-in feeling of urgency,” says Tiago. “But is that urgency real? What is the real expectation of this person?”

“Low reactivity is a spiritual discipline,” reveals Tiago. “Go slightly beyond your normal response time. If you normally respond within an hour, try to respond within a day.”

Discover the whole systematic approach to handling email at the Superhuman blog.

GTD Wisdom

David Allen’s insights into the nature of work and how we approach it can be career changing. That was certainly true for me. Below are a few classic David Allen quotes. I invite you to take time to ponder them. They may seem obvious at first, but on deeper reflection there is wisdom that may challenge the way your approach your daily tasks and long term goals. Enjoy!

“If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”

“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”

“The big problem is that your mind keeps reminding you of things when you can’t do anything about them. It has no sense of past or future. That means that as soon as you tell yourself that you need to do something, and store it in your RAM, there’s a part of you that thinks you should be doing that something all the time.”

“Anything that causes you to overreact or under-react can control you, and often does.”

“You must use your mind to get things off your mind.”

“You don’t actually do a project; you can only do action steps related to it. When enough of the right action steps have been taken, some situation will have been created that matches your initial picture of the outcome closely enough that you can call it “done.” The list of projects is the compilation of finish lines we put before us, to keep our next actions moving on all tracks appropriately”

“Things rarely get stuck because of lack of time. They get stuck because the doing of them has not been defined.”

“There are no problems, only projects.”