How to Use Your Second Brain

In times of information overload, smart people build up a second brain. Here you will learn how to make it fruitful for you.

You have built and organized your second brain according to Tiago Forte's method – see the article “Unburden Your Brain – Build a Second One”, below. Now it's about making it usable – anytime and anywhere.

Distill: Make Your Notes Discoverable

The more notes you have, the less discoverable they are. You can counteract this phenomenon by distilling your notes.

Tiago Forte uses the method of Progressive Summarization:

  • Write your note
  • Bold the important passages
  • Highlight the most important passages
  • Write an executive summary (if needed)

Here is an example of a note with Progressive Summarization:

What is Quiet Quitting?

Quiet Quitting means: Someone decides to do only exactly what is required at work, the minimum. Service by the book. Quiet Quitters continue to perform their duties, but are not willing to do anything more. When the official working hours are over, they stop working immediately and are unavailable to anyone until the next regular start of working hours. Quiet Quitting is neither full resignation nor full engagement, but something in between.

The goal of Quiet Quitting is to restore the balance between work and other areas of life – work-life balance or life-domain balance.

Quiet Quitting is not the same as the phenomenon of "inner resignation". The resignation factor plays a more significant role in inner resignation, Quiet Quitting is less close to resignation.


Distilling your notes allows you to better zoom in and out an get the gist of them.

Avoid these mistakes:

  • Over-highlighting
  • Highlighting without a purpose in mind
  • Thinking too much about what to highlight

Express Your Ideas

What good are your notes if you don’t put them to good use? Put your ideas into practice and start getting creative!

“Creativity is inherently collaborative”, Tiago Forte states in his book. That’s why you should express your ideas early and frequently and gather feedback from others. The feedback is valuable information you can integrate into your second brain.

"Once you have built your second brain your human, fallible, endlessly creative brain is free to do what it does best. Imagine. Invent. Innovate. Create.” 

Tiago Forte Productivity expert

Forte recommends working with small pieces of work-in-process. He calls them intermediate packets. They can be an agenda, a checklist, an email, an invitation, a webpage etc.

Finding what You’re Looking for

The more notes you have, the more difficult it is to find what you’re looking for. Using the following methods makes it easier:

  • Search with the corresponding function on your app
  • Browse your folders and the notes in them manually
  • It might be useful to tag your notes, so that you can search for labels. Tiago Forte doesn’t recommend using tags as primary organizational system, however – it takes too much energy
  • Rely on serendipity. Thus, you can keep your focus broad.

The Art of Creative Execution

To allow your creativity to fully unfold, Tiago Forte recommends three methods. We present one of them here, the Hemingway Bridge. The other two, “Archipelago of Ideas” and “Dial Down the Scope”, can be found in Forte's book.

Hemingway ended a writing session only when he knew what came next in the story. You can copy his method by writing down ideas and intentions for the next steps.

Useful Tips to Finish

To get the most out of your second brain, consider the following tips:

  • Make project checklists
  • Make weekly and monthly reviews of your work and life
  • Don’t get caught in the trap of perfectionism

Once you have built your second brain, Tiago Forte promises, your “human, fallible, endlessly creative” brain is free to do “what it does best. Imagine. Invent. Innovate. Create.” Good luck and a happy life!

Further Reading

Book by Tiago Forte: Building a Second Brain


Hansjörg Schmid

Hansjörg Schmid