Book Summary: Building A Second Brain


By Tiago Forte

2022 – Profile Books – 272 pages


For many years productivity experts have warned that our brains are incapable of remembering everything and that we need a trusted system to store tasks, ideas, and things we want to remember.   In his book, “Building A Second Brain,” Tiago Forte goes beyond the philosophy that has been written by many authors and gives us some specific advice and a structure by which we can create a storage system. His book takes much of the teachings of David Allen in “Getting Things Done” and adds some interesting ideas and techniques.

Forte defines a second brain as a private knowledge collection designed to serve our lifetime of learning and growth. For many, that is a digital system, but it could also be a notebook or a sketchbook.

Among Forte’s main ideas:

  • Capture the ideas and insights of things we find worth remembering. This could be in a book (don’t over-highlight), a periodical, or something we hear.
  • Organize them in your system according to projects you are working on or themes that interest you.
  • Summarize what you save in your own words.
  • Find connection points between the things that you have saved. As he writes, “In its most practical form, creativity is about connecting ideas together, especially ideas that don’t seem to be connected … By keeping diverse kinds of material in one place, we facilitate this connectivity and increase the likelihood that we’ll notice an unusual association … In our Second Brain we can do the same: mix up the order of our ideas until something unexpected emerges. The more diverse and unusual the material you put into it in the first place, the more original the connections that will emerge.”

The author uses a “CODE” method for keeping information:

  • CAPTURE the things that we want to remember. “The best curators are picky about what they allow into their collections, and you should be too.”
  • ORGANIZE: “The best way to organize your notes is to organize for action according to the active projects you are working on right now. Consider new information in terms of its utility, asking, ‘How is this going to help me move forward with one of my current projects?’”
  • DISTILL: “The most important factor in whether your notes can survive that journey into the future is their discoverability—how easy it is to discover what they contain and access the specific points that are most immediately useful. Discoverability is an idea from information science that refers to ‘the degree to which a piece of content or information can be found in search of a file, database, or other information system.’” Forte recommends a technique he calls “Progressive Summarization.” “The technique is simple: you highlight the main points of a note and then highlight the main points of those highlights, and so on, distilling the essence of a note in several ‘layers.’ Each of these layers uses a different kind of formatting so you can easily tell them apart.”
  • EXPRESS: “What is the point of knowledge if it doesn’t help anyone or produce anything.”

“Building A Second Brain” is an excellent read for anyone interested in improving their recollection of what they have heard. It fills in the gaps where other productivity books leave off.


Making the shift to a mindset of abundance is about letting go of the things we thought we needed to survive but that no longer serve us. It means giving up low-value work that gives us a false sense of security but that doesn’t call forth our highest selves.

There is a second shift that occurs when you begin to use your Second Brain not only for remembering but for connecting and creating. You will transition from doing things primarily out of obligation or pressure to doing things from a spirit of service.

I will receive an “affiliate commission.” for some products mentioned on my website. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” Please note that I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: