A brief introduction to the concept of what a second brain is and how I benefit from it
I hear you thinking… What is a second brain? Well, the answer is very simple. It’s a brain on top of your current brain. But not a normal brain. A brain that remembers everything… Some of you might already know what I mean. I mean a personal database.
All data that you acquire could be important for many reasons. For me storing this data in Notion, which is the app that I use as my second brain, has been a game-changer.
Ever since I started thinking about writing blogs, I asked myself how people come up with all these amazing topics? This question was answered when I saw a video of Ali Abdaal about “The Second Brain”.
Before applying this method I kept forgetting the ideas that I had. At any given time a random idea would come up in my mind, no matter how good, I would never write it down. Even taking notes during webinars was something that I never did. But I changed all that. And you can do that too!
I started keeping track of the interesting topics to write about. In addition to that, I started to save articles. Not only the links to the article but also a short summary of what the article is about. Using this approach, I am able to enjoy writing about topics that are already saved in my second brain.
I work as a programmer. This means that I have to keep learning because otherwise, I’ll end up irrelevant. But what does the learning mean if you can’t remember everything? Writing it down in your personal database improves the chances of remembering it. Take for example a book that you read. A book with important lessons that you wish to remember. What is the chance that you will remember all the lessons? You might remember 4 or 5, but most likely not all of them. However, if you write all the important lessons down, and link them to the title of the book, you can always search it in your second brain. You don’t even have to remember the title if you structure it correctly.
The blank page
Another benefit is finding a topic to write about. I find it difficult to start with a blank page. That’s why I keep track of some interesting topics and do some research on them. Once I get to writing a piece I can simply search for the term eg: “Habits”. There will probably pop-up at least five matches in my second brain. I collect all these results and put them on the page. Result? No blank page anymore.
Ali Abdaal is one of the guys that take this kind of note-taking to the extreme. I don’t expect you to do it this extreme, but it can help you to create your own custom workflow. Just writing down the things you have to remember helps your focus. Once you write it down and schedule it, it’s taken care of. That’s the message you send to your brain. Not your second brain in this case.
I use different kind of apps to improve the experience to collect all this data. You can read about it in my blog post on the 10 apps I use to boost my productivity.
The habit of note-taking
You might be thinking to yourself, this is going to be time-consuming and my time is valuable! And you’re right about one part. Time is valuable. That’s why it’s so important to keep track of all this. Searching for a specific book that you read or an article that you liked but never saved. Reading a book for the second time because you forgot all the lessons. That is time-consuming. I consider my time to be the most valuable thing in my life. And you should too.
Of course, not everyone will be a fan of this approach. Some people don’t use computers the way a programmer does. Or some people just don’t care about the lessons in a book, they just read for fun.
For me, this approach is doing amazing work. Writing becomes easy, and I have more peace in my head. If I need something, I just go press command+ space on my mac to open Notion and press command + P. I type the keyword that I’m looking for and I get to pick from the results that I validated.
However, you have to get used to writing things down. Every beginning is hard. The first ten pages that you create will be poorly structured, not that readable or maybe just not the content that you want to save. And that’s not a problem. You can correct it, take some time to restructure things and find your ultimate guide to structure your second brain. Try this approach and let me know what you think of it in the comments!
If you want to know more about how I get through my life on a daily basis, you can find some posts on what I do to stay motivated below.