Building a Second Brain

"Building a Second Brain"

"Progressive Summarization is not a method for remembering as much as possible - it is a method for forgetting as much as possible" - Tiago Forte.

BASB book

This is not a book review. This is my path to a way of not to mess the brain with accumulated facts, but using it for effective thinking, with the help of the Second Brain.

A few years ago, I started looking for a way to create my own wiki or personal knowledge base. My filing system and naming conventions were no longer efficient, time consuming and boring. Despite the fact that even knowing where to look for a file, what is the file name, searching for required files took time. Even if you remember the contents of the file, sometimes it is necessary to get content accurately: advicing how to download an older version of the program to the client, explaining of the activation steps, structural design tables with safety factors or limit slendernesses, and so on. And if I know that such a file exists, but I don't know where it is, and I don't know it's name, then I have to dig into the digital assets that have been accumulated here and there for three decades.

I became interested in ways of gathering and organizing information, looking for what would suit me. The criteria were simple: my system should be straightforward, maintenance-free, flexible, non-tedious and inspiring to follow."A Perfect System You Don't Use Isn't Perfect" - Tiago Forte. I think different. Even if the system is used, it is not perfect and you can always do something better. I wasn’t looking for a system that I would take and start applying blindly, but pieces that I could catch for myself by following the experience of other developers. Not to re-create, but to add and improve.

It started with David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” and its various interpretations. I then found Niklas Luhmann’s "Zettelkasten", then Sönke Ahrens' "How to Take Smart Notes", and finally - the Forte Labs blog, which I have been following for several years. The book "Building a Second Brain" is a natural sequence in this chain. Curiously, most of these resources see personal knowledge as a basis for thinking and making connections, and writing as the ultimate goal of application. I’m not a writer. Writing is neither a purpose nor a hobby for me. However, this does not prevent me from seeing direct links to my areas of work in these systems. It doesn’t interfere, and even helps, not empathize with and not follow blindly a system that is perhaps perfect for someone but not me.

  • I see a permanent note with only single main idea within - as a function that performs only single action,
  • I see Progressive Summarization or Highlighting of Highlights (according to David Kadavy's "Digital Zettelkasten") as code refactoring,
  • Composing an article from permanent notes - as a program module composed from list of functions,
  • Reusable notes - as templates for projects and structural calculation reports.

Finally, Tiago Forte concludes that "There is no single right way to build a _Secondbrain. Your system can look like chaos to others, but if it brings you progress and delight, then it's the right one." My system is already better than it was at the beginning of the reworking, but it really isn’t “nearly to perfect” yet. Building a Second Brain is a solid step in thinking about future self. One more step forward.

Worth reading.

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