🪴 Vik's Notes


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Last updated Mar 16, 2023


# What is a second brain and how does it work?

In today’s digital world we are inundated with information in the form of books, articles, podcasts, tweets and so on. If we do not have a way to capture and store snippets of information from this constant barrage of knowledge, there is no way for our brains to recall important snippets of information when it is needed.

Enter “the second brain”, a digital commonplace book, where we capture information and organize it in a meaningful way that enables easy retrieval later. It is a form of personal knowledge management where we build up a repository of knowledge that is relavant to our interests and pull from it for the rest of our lives.

In the professional world, notetaking involves creating notes while viewing them as a knowledge building block. Collect enough of them and reconstruct it in your own way to create something beautiful or important. The length and format of a note does not matter, as long as it is interpreted through your own lens, curated by your tastes, and drawn from your personal experience (this is in direct contrast to zettelkasten where notes should be as succint as possible zettelkasten workflow, writing with zettelkasten; Forte does bring up the reduction of a note to it’s essence later however).

Using a second brain system has the following benefits:

# The CODE Framework

Tiago Forte proposes the Capture, Organize, Distill, Express (CODE) framework to implement the second brain system.


Many highly creative people have a creative process that they rely on. Taylor Swift writes down snippets of lyrics or music that comes into her mind at random times, and then relies on that to build up her music writing process. Jerry Seinfeld wrote down all ideas for jokes in a yellow legal pad and filed it away in an accordian folder, and used that to write all his material. The key here lies in capturing what comes across your way so that it can be transformed into somthing useful later.

One pitfall in the capture process is saving too much information. There needs to be some criteria for how to choose what needs to be captured. Broadly, it should have at least some of the following elements: Inspiring, Useful, Personal, Surprising. The recommendation is to ultimately capture what “resonates” - as loose as this term may be. In all cases, the source of the note should be captured.


The framework to organize notes is based on actionability - “In which project will this be most useful?” - and is based on the PARA System; Projects, Areas, Resources, Archives.

Whenever you capture a note, ask yourself which of these areas it belongs to, and categorize it appropriately. Notes do not permanently live in any category, they are constantly moving and rearranging depending on how your interests and priorities progress.


When you are creating notes for your future self, it is important to find ways to convey the idea from any given note in its most succint form to your future self who will likely not have the time to review the note in its original captured form. This is where the need to distill comes in.

The method used to distill a note into its essence is called Progressive Summarization. You pick up any particular note and create highlights of the important parts, and you can do this at several levels:

To be effective, it is important to “take-away” from the note and only leave in what captures the absolute essence of the note.

Pitfalls in the highlighting process:

The key point here is that every time you touch a note, you leave it a bit more discoverable for your future self.


This is the final stage of the notetaking process that you have been working towards. All of those notes mean nothing if you do not create something with them. Notes are not meant to be collected, but used to create something new and different.

Break down the work that is to be done into smaller sized intermediate packets. They are individual concrete blocks that make up your work. There are 5 kinds of intermediate packets that you can use in your work.

The main idea here is no matter what form of material you use as a starting point, you should use that as a template for your own work, while giving credit where it is due. So, always look around you for work that you have already done, or work others did that you can use as a template.

This is a powerful idea that is very applicablle in the workplace and in creative endeavors. Did an employee use a really nice format of representing data? Ask him/her if it is okay if you reuse their method. Did you hear a good beat or riff? Use that as a starting point, and play with the tune adding your own flavor to it.

There are several advantages to using intermediate packets:

When you break up a project into intermediate packets, ask yourself: “How do I assemble each of these components without having to make them myself?”

Here is where I believe this entire book falls apart - the retrieval methods. Very little time is spent on how exactly notes can be retrieved while making connections that did not exist before. Here is what the books suggests as ways to extract notes and insight out of the system:

The main content of this part is that everything is a remix. Use your notes system to hash out something with your own personal flavor.