Why do I need a second brain? | Natasha Connell | Unsplash.com

Why build a second brain?

 We all have perfectly good primary brains. Some work better than others. I have a terrible time with names and faces. Politicians are great at this. I like to think it is because I have too much to remember. And that is true. life inundates us with information, names, and addresses, notes from books and articles, learning new things, etc. I am here to tell you it doesn’t all fit in your primary brain. We need a Second Brain.

Our Primary Brain.

Our primary brain is for thinking and is not ideal for storage, although audiences viewed some people’s ability to store and recall trivial information as exceptional. 

We need to focus our primary brain on thinking and controlling our life and use other means to store information that we may want to retrieve in the future.

All of us have a lot to learn about thinking more clearly, being able to tell fact from fiction, and truth from lies. We each have to learn to control our thinking better and respond to situations with more thoughtful clarity. A second brain will help you do that.

Building a Second Brain.

 The first challenge after you decide you may need a second brain (and we all do, address book, etc.), is what is your ultimate use is going to be. Are you going to put articles, books, documents into your second brain? How much are you going to save?

Your second brain can be your computer and can hold almost anything. Here is what I keep in my second brain on my computer.

Documents I may need to get to in the future.

Notes I have taken from articles, books, podcasts, meeting notes.

Financial records, tax returns, bank statements, although you have to be sure it keeps them securely within the program you are using.

Copies of the articles I write, where and when they I published each.

Then the second challenge is how to retrieve the information when you want it. Therefore, it must have some organization. Some programs organize data in a notebook structure similar to a regular file cabinet.

Others have a structure akin to that in our Brain, an interconnected net. Either can work. One may be easier once you decide your ultimate use. 

Here are some of the most popular computer applications. Keep in mind two things before you choose: 1. All will work if you use them often enough, and 2. once you choose one stick with it until you master it.

Evernote is probably the oldest note storage and retrieval application at over 10 years. It has a notebook method of storage and a strong search function. Probably the most intuitive and easiest to learn to use.

Notion– Storage uses a notebook structure, but they have added interlinking ability recently. If you are artistic and value how your application looks, this is by far the most flexible system. I can change it to look however you want it. Interrelating notes is a little harder, but it is doable.

Roam Stores data using a neural network paradigm. This system requires the highest level of computer background to get the most out of it, although as it matures, I don’t expect that to be the case.

Obsidian This is newer than the first three and has combined some features of both.

Brain-12 Another combination product that requires some computer knowledge.

Others are being announced regularly.

A third challenge if you put in notes, books and articles is how to interrelate and retrieve similar ideas? Sounds difficult. Right? That is why we build and use computer systems to store and relieve information.

 Each of the systems described above has an inherent method of storage, retrieval, and relating information. You need to choose one that resonates with the way you think- historical information structure or the newer neural network structure.

For me, as a writer and somewhat computer literate user, I choose to use Roam because of its natural neural network organization. So, I can interrelate ideas with a minimal amount of work. But if you are used to folders, filing cabinets, and notebooks, another system might work best for you.

I will do some follow up posts on each of the systems for the future. For now, let me leave with a course you can take (not mine) and two article references. The course is Building a Second Brain by Tiago Forte, in which he discusses his philosophy of the second brain. The next Cohort starts in the spring of 2021. I highly recommend this course for students and writers because they take notes, summarize them, and relate disparate ideas together.

The first article is a visualization of the Building a second brain by one attendee, Maggie Appleton, entitled “Building a second brain: the illustrated notes”. She has an outstanding talent for visualizing complex technical ideas to make them easier for the rest of us to understand. The second article is “Building a Second Brain: an Overview” by Tiago Forte. He developed the ideas and has taught 11 cohorts so far.

 “Like any other organ, the brain is affected by a person’s lifestyle, diet, and the amount that they exercise. The more a person uses their brain, the better their mental functions become. For this reason, brain training exercises are a good way to maintain overall brain health.”