Get more out of digital note-taking

Get more out of digital note-taking

Get more out of digital note-taking


Get more out of digital note-taking


In his book Building a Second Brain: A proven method for organizing your digital life and unlocking your creative potential, productivity expert Tiago Forte outlines strategies to better manage and make use of the overwhelming amount of content we ingest every day. He suggests starting with a note-taking app on your phone. But from there, his approach to taking digital notes, the way he organizes the information, and what he gets from it is less than expected.

  1. Tiago Forte Building a Second Brain Bookstore, $26

    Tiago Forte
    Build a second brain
    Bookstore, $26


Q&A with Tiago Forte

What is personal knowledge management and second brains?

It is the art and science of how humans keep track of knowledge and information that is important to them. That can range from factual information to academic information, medical information to work-related information to raw creative material. “Second brain” is the term I coined to refer to knowledge management.

How can we develop our second brain?

The classic example is using the default note-taking app on your phone. This is the place to start taking notes or build on any note-taking habits you already have. Most people have things in these apps, like checklists, grocery lists, quotes they’ve heard, or notes from meetings and phone calls.

Go further and start writing down excerpts from books or articles you’ve read. Write down something you find interesting from a podcast. Save links to websites and jot down any productivity tips. There is a whole lot of information that we encounter every day that is not too formal and complicated. Record everything in your notes app so it’s searchable and easy to find.

Is there a difference between taking notes digitally and taking notes on paper?

The main difference is that when you write things down on a legal notepad or pad, it’s informal and messy. It is free and spontaneous. They are very easy to lose track of and you cannot make it like a database.

Digital note-taking apps bring you incredible possibilities. Notes can be searched instantly. You can search for a word and see every time you mention it. You can link to a note, or you can link from a note to an article or web resource. You can add attachments, images, and bookmarks. Everything is always backed up to the cloud.

How can we learn to better manage the amount of content we consume in the digital age?

The methodology I have developed is called CODE. This is the creative process of taking your notes and using them to create new work or new results or to make decisions. The first step is Take over: You must save and record the information outside your head. That’s the important part. It can’t be something you’re trying to remember. It must be documented in the software.

What do you do with that captured content? It moves to the second stage, which is Organization. Information should be sorted by operability. Instead of coordinating by category, organize your information by your active projects. It is more feasible and realistic.

After organizing the content, you are ready Distillation. This is where you summarize your notes. Pick out and mark key points, takeaways, conclusions, or anything else you find interesting. Once you’ve done that, the information will be easier to work with and draw inferences at a glance.

The last and most important step is Show. The purpose of taking notes is not just to physically record information. The purpose is to show something — your voice, your story, your message, your expertise. Final Notes are designed to allow you to express yourself.

What are the benefits of externalizing your thoughts?

The act of writing something down has a lot of benefits for your mental health and even your physical health. It has been linked to lower blood pressure and heart disease, lower stress levels, and better sleep. When an idea or a thought is in your head, it can be vague, unclear, and messy. It can make you nervous. When you do it externally, you outsource and load it out of your mind. Suddenly your mind knows that it has been recorded and recorded. You don’t need to worry about it too much.

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How can these practices enhance our productivity or creative processes?

There are three main benefits. The first person is remembering. There’s no reason to memorize and keep track of all the details and facts you find important. Everything from what your boss said in your most recent face-to-face meeting to the details of the remodel you’re working on: Those small but important details should be the first things you move on to. into your notes.

Once you’ve written something down, people often start to find unexpected and impromptu connections between ideas. This is the second benefit – connectivity. For example, you begin to realize that an article you are reading about gardening has a connection with engaging your audience. These connections start to appear and emerge from your notes. This helps increase creativity and form better, more original ideas.

The third benefit is to create. Once you have put together some written thoughts and ideas, you can create something. It can be a piece of content, like a blog post; or a workable project at work; or schedule for your child this summer. We can always create more efficiency and effectiveness.

Related reading

  • How to harness your digital life

  • What does it mean to work easily?

  • Do we become more creative through repetition?

  • Digital detox — at any age

Tiago Forte is a productivity expert and author of Build a second brain. Forte has taught thousands of people around the world about productivity, creativity, and personal effectiveness.

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