Building a second brain is about creating a system to process the vast amounts of information we consume and transform it into actionable knowledge.

Building a Second Brain: A Proven Method to Organize Your Digital Life and Unlock Your Creative Potential, by Tiago Forte is one of the books of 2022.

The underlying philosophy is very similar to that of Zettelkasten. Tiago Forte’s method is a pragmatic update to this note-taking system, which is popular in the academic world.

Notes are the building blocks for your second brain. Notes are bits of info that you collect and recall when needed.

Forte proposes the CODE method to process your notes. The key is to make each step as easy and effective as possible:

  • Capture and collect ideas, info, bits of knowledge into notes you can later use
  • Organize the notes so that they are easy to find when you need them
  • Distill the essence of what is relevant to you and your projects (add your context and your unique point of view)
  • Express your knowledge into deliverables for your projects

A note-taking apps such as Keep, OneNote, Notion, Evernote, Apple Notes, Obsidian (my favorite) or any other that makes all four steps easy, is the main tool to host your second brain.

The key to make knowledge actionable is to organize it in a way that notes ‘find’ you when you need them. Tiago suggests to organize your notes within four PARA buckets:

  • Projects
  • Areas
  • Resources
  • Archive

That is, organize your notes from the most fresh and actionable ones (in Projects) all the way down to those that you want to get out of sight and Archive.

Projects are meant to produce an outcome. That is what makes notes actionable, as they become part of a project with a goal in mind, e.g.: writing a book, a proposal, a presentation, a video script, etc. Projects are the way to transmute Notes into an Asset that can be shared.

Areas are great to collect and accumulate knowledge that you can nurture and grow. Areas can develop into a project or just feed content for specific needs.

Resources are meant to be kept for reference for a future use.

Archive to declutter your note space from those finished projects or perishable notes that are not valuable anymore.

PARA is a frame less liquid than Zettelkasten that adds order, clarity and intention to your note system.

Note: The method proposed by Forte to distill knowledge is Progressive Summarization. The idea is to add your context to your notes so that it ends up becoming knowledge of what is truly relevant for your brain.

There is an interesting visual summary of the book by