I recently received this testimonial from Parker, a student in my online course Building a Second Brain. It’s a great example of how someone can overcome longstanding challenges and truly succeed in their personal knowledge management.
I’ve been a virtual student of yours for well over a year now, closely following Praxis since the early days on Medium through the migration, starting with your GTD course, and working my way into all of the BASB content and your BASB live calls (which I could unfortunately only attend part of due to a work trip I was on for the last two weeks of it).
And I’m sure you’ve noticed how frequently I interact with you on Twitter. I’ve even spread your ideas relentlessly among my friends— my roommate, a computer engineer also in the mindset of the future of personalizing technology to improve life workflows, has been brainstorming a note-taking application designed from the ground up to be a second brain, not a note software.
And yet despite all this, I never fully made the commitment to implementing Second Brain practices. I was consuming content constantly, but often not doing much with it. When I was using my notes software, it was a haphazard concoction of resources, notes, projects, and more. I did manage to implement a good daily review system with Things to start off my day from your GTD class, but even then its use wasn’t consistent or reflected across the rest of my digital life.
A few days ago, I finally sat down for a good 6 and a half hours to organize my entire digital life on my personally adapted version of PARA and especially focus on setting up my notes program as a Second Brain.
I went through over 3,000 notes, deleting some, but cleaning up many into better “packets of information” and building a robust tagging architecture in my Bear layout. I did this late into the night and was completely exhausted. But the results are incredible…
I feel an incredible sense of security that my digital life is captured but freedom that I know exactly where to find thousands of pieces of information, and what search terms to combine to get resources related to the topics I want.
And while I’m sure my day-to-day work will benefit from consistent PARA implementation and a note system that allows me to smash ideas together into new work, what I’m loving most of all so far is the Resources section.
Creating a curated library of all the ideas that most influenced my life and having it at my fingertips is a kind of liberating feeling I cannot describe. I’ve already made use of Progressive Summarization for a while, and like you said, it creates peaks and valleys of the information that has had the greatest impact on you. And now I get to explore those peaks and valleys and mold them over time.
In a lot of ways I’ve recently come to find digesting information, no matter how much I love the subject at hand, to be a chore. With my Second Brain in place, I find myself blocking off huge chunks of time to work through articles and white papers I’ve saved up, so that I can digest them and synthesize them in my Second Brain into something I can reuse later. I even find myself going back into my favorite books in my library so I can add all the passages I marked up into my Second Brain and keep the best of my library with me at all times, and easily share it with others.
Most importantly, I’m already seeing a creative benefit. The catalyst that made me want to really implement my Second Brain was patterns I kept seeing developing in my work that I couldn’t quite hold onto. I’m a filmmaker and designer currently assigned as an Experience Designer on Premiere Pro at Adobe. My job is to build workflows and interfaces for filmmakers and editors. And I feel that because of my unique position at the intersection of design and film, I had been recognizing an overlap in “Design Thinking” and “Editing Thinking.”
Being in a position at a company like Adobe, I also was paying close attention to successful workflows of other creative apps at our company. I was finally able to bring together all the contributing pieces of these patterns I’ve been seeing then dissect and rebuild them in new contexts to create some truly wild concepts for the future of our product. I’m putting together a presentation scheduled with my managers soon. And this is the type of thing I could never creatively envision, properly research, or effectively communicate without having had access to my most personally influential ideas at my fingertips.
Next steps? I’m building a Siri Shortcut to generate an automatic daily log in Bear that will guide me through my daily review as well as provide a space for daily reflection and tracking of work. I’m also building new assets and templates to improve my workflows at Adobe and share those resources with fellow designers. The new resources will all be in-line with PARA concepts and reflect the “brand” of my Second Brain (Menlo type, same blue color scheme, etc…Hey, visual cues are important in reinforcing a mindset.)
All in all, I feel empowered, and I feel more fiercely creative than I have felt in a long while. So thank you for your lessons and guidance— you’re doing some truly special work.