This post summarizes the major changes made to each successive version of our Building a Second Brain online course. The links lead directly to each resource, but will only be accessible by students enrolled in the course.


Version 9.0 (October 2019)

  • Welcome video: a short introductory video for new students, setting the context and mindset that will help ensure their success
  • New walkthrough video for ebooks: demonstration of export features for Kindle ebooks, to save reading highlights in a notes app
  • “The Capture Habit” lecture: new video in unit 3 that explains what kinds of information to save in your notes, why it’s important to make that decision intentionally, and the 3 easiest ways to save highlights and excerpts from the reading you’re already doing
  • Revised unit 6 video: a new approach to “Workflow Strategies” that incorporates our recent learning into how people structure their creative process
  • Course Roadmap: a recommended 4-week schedule for completing the course, including which videos to watch and assignments to complete each week
  • New “Capture Challenge” to save at least two notes for every day of the course, to kickstart your knowledge collection habits
  • 6 new actionable exercises: each one designed to prime your Second Brain for effectiveness from day one, including: Default Capture, PARA Notebooks, Inbox Triage, Project Completion Checklist, Status Summary, and Archipelago of Ideas
  • 3 new student case studies: case studies from graduates of the course showing how they use their Second Brain in their daily work and projects (including UX Design at Adobe, Progressive Summarization in the Intelligence Community, and Using Digital Notes for Stand-Up Comedy)
  • New 22-page PDF workbook to guide your progress through the course, including:
    • A Course Roadmap laying out the lectures, case studies, and exercises you’ll be completing each week
    • A Personal Knowledge Management Self-Assessment, which you can use to evaluate your current skills
    • A checklist of “30 Ideas of Things to Save for Creative Inspiration,” to prompt ideas of things to save in your notes
    • 1-page “cheat sheets” for PARA and Progressive Summarization, to remind you of the key principles
    • 10 Principles of Building a Second Brain, a brief overview of the 10 most important principles you’ll be learning
    • 18 Productivity Tips for Working With Your Second Brain, a summary of the most effective tips I’ve found for getting things done by leveraging your Second Brain
    • Building a Second Brain Overview, an article summarizing the main principles and practices of the Building a Second Brain methodology


Version 8.0 (June 2019)

  • Simplified PARA Setup Guide: this exercise has been greatly simplified down to a 10-minute video that has you archive your existing files in a safe place and then start over with a blank slate
  • Simplified Project List Mindsweep: simplified and streamlined to help you identify your active projects as effortlessly as possible
  • 11 new Capture Library tutorials: we’ve created a series of short tutorials walking you step by step through the most common ways of “capturing” information into your note-taking system
  • Official support for Microsoft OneNote for course exercises and implementation
  • New case studies (Premium Edition only):
    • The Secrets of Content Bundles: explains how to triage any bundle of content you download online so it’s ready for future projects, without taking a lot of time upfront
    • Creating Slides Using Templates: walks you through the process of customizing professionally designed slide templates for your own use, and building a slide library for future talks or presentations
  • Writer’s Edition live cohort July 3-24: I will be teaching a 3-week live cohort focused on personal knowledge management for writers as part of our 2019 Summer of Learning. David Perell and I will move through the course together, with four 90-minute live calls (Wednesdays from 10–11:30am PT) where I’ll share special examples, bonus content, and exercises designed to facilitate the writing process. Office hours via Slack will be held every Friday from 10–11am PT. The cohort will be open to all current and past participants, and recordings will be uploaded weekly to the Media Library.

Version 7.0 (Jan. 2019)

Version 6.0 (August 2018)

  • New in-depth case study #4Business Development with PKM
  • Moved P.A.R.A. walkthrough videos from main curriculum to Media Library
  • Other improvements to the curriculum and online forum

Version 5.1 (March 2018)

Version 5.0 (Feb. 2018)

  • Added 21-part screenshare walkthrough of P.A.R.A. Setup Checklist (downloading and installing Evernote, importing common media types, and organizing into PARA notebooks and stacks)
  • Created course orientation video showing how to use 3 main course platforms and the online forum categories
  • Added in-video callouts and timestamped links for key resources mentioned in videos (found in a text box below each video)
  • Scheduled ongoing, monthly group calls for all current and past participants
  • Added a coaching program for implementing BASB techniques
  • Edited BrainyBot to include tips and advice for completing the course successfully, and inspirational testimonials from previous participants
  • Created new Slack channel for all current and past participants
  • Transitioned course from live to self-paced format

Version 4.0 (Dec. 2017)

  • “Flipped” the classroom, assigning pre-recorded lectures as homework, and dedicating live sessions to deep dives, examples, discussion, and exercises
  • Created a v1 of PKM Self-Assessment, to determine what level of PKM someone currently operates at
  • Added coaching edition, including 1-on-1 coaching and weekly group coaching
  • Created v1 of Nerve Bundle, a set of pre-formatted templates designed to enable workflow strategies
  • Added new versions of RandomNote for Windows and browser, including new features
  • Reconfigured forum category for Dev Group to identify different versions and collect feedback on them
  • Added new content on compression principles of Progressive Summarization
  • Redesigned takeaway emails to be clearer and more actionable
  • Modified course curriculum to call out action steps explicitly and make modules shorter
  • Created and tested new P.A.R.A. Migration Checklist
  • Adapted and tested new Project List Mindsweep exercise to clearly identify all projects
  • Added new exercises 10-Year Countdown and Inspiration Everywhere
  • Launched and tested v1 of BrainyBot, to provide automated reminders and facilitate engagement
  • Added new project ideas to Post-BASB Next Steps thread

Version 3.0 (Sept. 2017)

  • Worked with Ben Mosior as Course Manager, who took on many backend logistical responsibilities and provided feedback on the forum, among other things
  • Created RandomNote app to randomly surface Evernote notes based on search criteria, and wrote post explaining how and why it works
  • Created Media Library as a central repository of latest version of lecture videos, as well as guest lectures/interviews
  • Started Dev Group, a group of current and past participants interested in designing or developing software around PKM
  • Clarified difference between Get Stuff Done Like a Boss and Building a Second Brain
  • Added implementation sessions, for people to share their screen and get targeted guidance on their PKM setup
  • Created personalized diagnostic reports, highlighting areas for improvement, for each participant based on their survey and exercise responses
  • New in-depth case study, showcasing informal project planning using PKM tools and methods
  • Redesigned online forum to be easier to navigate, added highlighting feature, and made top resources list
  • Completely changed Unit 8: The Big Picture to incorporate Eras of Productivity, Container vs. Stream Thinking, Curation, Scarcity vs. Abundance
  • Added slides to final debrief, summarizing the next steps on the PKM journey and some parting thoughts

Version 2.0 (May 2017)

  • All 8 units were recorded and uploaded separately as shorter, more condensed videos
  • Added new slides to all units, and made edits to existing slides to make the explanations and examples more clear
  • Renamed Unit 7: Making It All Work to P.A.R.A.: Organizing for Insight, and moved it to unit 2 to form the foundation on which everything else is built
  • Switched Unit 3: Maximizing Return on Attention and Unit 4: Progressive Summarization, to give the practical method first, followed by the underlying principles and theory
  • Combined Unit 5: The Design of Discoverability and Unit 6: Workflow & Retrieval into a new Unit 6: Just-In-Time Project Management
  • Added more workflow strategies to the new unit 6, and organized them according to a “diagnosis”of the problem or situation in which they are most useful
  • Introduced new final project: completing a PKM Workflow Canvas to summarize what you’ve learned in the course, as a springboard for further improvement
  • Added a new Unit 7: PKM Workflow Canvas, introducing and explaining how the canvas works
  • Added a PKM Case Study showing how the new techniques are used in a real project
  • New Unit 8: The Big Picture

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