Can a Second Brain be Built in a Day?

basbWe all know that Rome was not built in a day, but can a second brain be built in a seven hour workshop?

On Tuesday May 21, Tiago and Lauren from Forte Labs came to the Palm Beach County Library System to lead their signature course Building a Second Brain (BASB) for thirty five library staff.  Participants were recruited from across the library system, with many members coming from the Productivity Committee and the User Experience (UX) Committee.  All of them were excited about the benefits an electronic second brain had to offer.  Prior to the workshop, participants had a homework assignment to identify their “12 Favorite Problems” and to start capturing electronic items, such as articles, photos, news clips, etc.,  in Microsoft OneNote.  They also had access to an online version of BASB specially designed for the library staff.

At the start, the BASB workshop laid out the core tenants of the second brain philosophy: Capture, Connect, Create.  The morning was spent with a review of capture and then moved on to PARA which clarified the difference between projects, areas, resources, and archives.  Following lunch, the seminar moved to the theory and practice of Progressive Summarization.  Students then explored the concept of project packets that lead to the “Just In Time” project delivery system.  Finally, Tiago shared his view of the future of knowledge work in relation to personal knowledge management.

Library staff left the workshop energized and excited about the possibilities from mastering personal knowledge management.  So in the end, we learned that building a second brain is not a one time exercise, but an ongoing approach to curate the streams of information that flow around us.

Thank you Tiago and Lauren from all of us at PBCLS!

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Leonardo DaVinci – Knowledge Worker

On a long ride across the state of Florida, I downloaded an audiobook from CloudLibrary to pass the time.  My selection was the biography of Leonardo DaVinci by Walter Issacson.  As I listened to the fascinating life story of the archetypal Renaissance Man, it struck me that Leonardo was in fact a knowledge worker well ahead of his time.  Knowledge work is characterized by the worker having to define their own goals and the steps needed to achieve success.  Back in the 1500’s, Leonardo DaVinci was doing many of the best practices of knowledge work naturally and to powerful affect.

leonardoFor example, not trusting his head to remember ideas, Leonardo was constantly taking notes.  It is estimated that he wrote 5000 pages in his lifetime.  These wide-ranging notebooks jump from scientific studies, to sketches of machines and animals, to subjects for artwork, to notes about his personal life.  Leonardo was constantly generating new ideas and the notebooks detail how he pieced different ideas together for larger impact.  This made him an early expert in the field of personal knowledge management.

Another advanced knowledge worker skill was his drive to ask challenging questions.  Leonardo was always seeking out experts in the courts of Florence and Milan to engage in deep discussions on a wide range of topics.  This incredible multi-disciplinary and collaborative approach was a secret to his success.  For example, his knowledge of anatomy allowed him to accurately draw the muscles of people in his paintings.  This small detail gave the images a sense of realistic movement that other paintings of the time lacked.

To read more about Da Vinci’s fascinating life, copies of the Issacson biography should be available at your local library.  You can also view pages from his notebooks at the website of the British Library.  Unfortunately, I don’t think you will find a secret DaVinci Code in any of his notebooks!

How Software is Eating the World

Look around your room.  How many devices do you see that run on software?  Our computers obviously, but we often forget that software runs our televisions and cable boxes.  Many people now own smart appliances or have Ring doorbells.  All recent cars have a software package that controls vital aspects of the car.  With the spread of software, we are more and more reliant on an invisible profession to manage our days: software engineers.  As Marc Andreessen wrote in his 2011 Wall Street Journal article, software is eating the world.

raoVenkatesh Rao has deeply explored how software design process altered our way of living.  In fact, he champions that idea that we need to think more like software engineers who embrace failure and use it to constantly improve their work.  In his online series, Breaking Smart, he argues that software has become a transformational technology on par with the development of language and money.  Yet being in the middle of this transformation, we still struggle to understand its full effects. Venkatesh writes:

“As a simple example, a 14-year-old teenager today (too young to show up in labor statistics) can learn programming, contribute significantly to open-source projects, and become a talented professional-grade programmer before age 18. This is breaking smart: an economic actor using early mastery of emerging technological leverage — in this case a young individual using software leverage — to wield disproportionate influence on the emerging future.”

This is clearly demonstrated in the impact of people like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google.  Venkatesh’s ideas are complex, but the Breaking Smart blog is worth tackling if you want to get a better sense of the often-unseen impact that software has on the world.

Organizing is a Journey

claire-tompkinsDavid Allen has often said there is a “strategic value” to “clear space.”  In a physical sense, this means ensuring that our work and home spaces are organized and clean.  However, for those starting out with the intention to get organized there is a trap to avoid.  It is very easy to see the whole process as one big heavy lift that needs to be accomplished in a short time.  With this daunting view of the project it is likely they will give up on organizing right from the start.

Claire Tompkins, aka the Clutter Coach, shares in her book, 52 Simple Ways to Get Organized, that organizing is a journey.  It is not meant to be completed in one weekend, but instead is a transformative approach occurring over many weeks or months.  On page 50 of her book, she shares a simple way to frame the task.

“Try on this thought: organizing is a journey, not a destination.  The difference between people who are organized and those who aren’t is that they do a little every day to maintain order.”

She then suggests the following tip:

“Identify one small area that tends to get cluttered regularly and spend five minutes putting things away and throwing things out.”

Sounds like good advice.  Now excuse me while I clean out this drawer …

Wanted: A Second Brain

forteHave you ever thought it would be nice to have a personal assistant?  How about one that works quietly behind the scenes all day long for free?  This personal assistant would store all your great ideas, important information, and project components so that you can recall them at a moment’s notice.  Such an assistant would relieve stress and expand your creativity.  But could this assistant actually exist?

Tiago Forte has designed a course with the intention to create this amazing personal assistant.  In his signature course, Building a Second Brain, Tiago pulls together cutting edge ideas from the realms of productivity and efficiency into a systematic structure that can work for anyone.  He describes the premise of the course as follows:

“Building A Second Brain is a methodology for saving and systematically reminding us of the ideas, inspirations, insights, and connections we’ve gained through our experience. It expands our memory and our intellect using the modern tools of technology and networks.

“This methodology is not only for preserving those ideas, but turning them into reality. It provides a clear, actionable path to creating a “second brain” – an external, centralized, digital repository for the things you learn and the resources from which they come.”

Intrigued by the idea?  Read the full-length post at Forte Labs to learn the basics of Building a Second Brain.

LLAMA – Efficient Librarian Webinar

I am proud to announce the upcoming Efficient Librarian webinar, presented in partnership with the Library Leadership and Management Association (LLAMA) of ALA.  My intention is to make this a fun, interactive, and highly practical webinar that will provide techniques that can be applied immediately.  The webinar will take place on:

Wednesday, 2/27/2019
  • 2:30 PM-4:00 PM (Eastern)
  • 1:30 PM-3:00 PM (Central)
  • 12:30 PM-2:00 PM (Mountain)
  • 11:30 AM-1:00 PM (Pacific)

LLAMA does require a paid registration for their webinars.  For more information or to register, please visit: http://www.ala.org/llama/efficient-librarian-productivity-strategies-workplace-success

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Can’t I Just Ignore It?

Want to guess how many unread emails sit in the average person’s inbox?

10? 20? 40? MORE?

According to a 2017 study, the actual answer is 199!

AdamGrant_2016-headshot_previewAs someone who teaches classes on email productivity, I was dismayed but not surprised by this alarming fact.  The truth is that email comes so fast and furious that it is easy for the unprepared knowledge worker to be overwhelmed.  Yet, is it alright to ignore all those messages and never respond to senders? After all, aren’t they only trying to delegate work onto your already full plate anyway?

In an article for the New York Times, Adam Grant, author of Originals, argues that failing to keep up with your inbox is not only unproductive, but unprofessional as well.  He writes:

“Volume isn’t an excuse for not replying. Ignoring email is an act of incivility.  ‘I’m too busy to answer your email’ really means ‘Your email is not a priority for me right now.’  That’s a popular justification for neglecting your inbox: It’s full of other people’s priorities. But there’s a growing body of evidence that if you care about being good at your job, your inbox should be a priority.”

Read the rest of the article at the New York Times web site.