Intro to Second Brain (Day 413)

Second Brain

Two days ago I wrote about how to organize the unread tabs and set aside time to process them (link here).

Today my friend shared with me a more generic solution to the information overload problem, the ultimate productivity system she learned from the "Second Brain"--a personal knowledge management system created by Tiago Forte.

There are three important points in this system:

  1. CODE Methodology
  2. PARA Method
  3. Progressive Summarization

CODE Methodology

CODE stands for: Collect, Organize, Distill, and Express.

Collect is easy in the age of information overload. I've collected too many tabs but never had the discipline to consume the information.

Organize will be discussed in PARA Method.

Distill is the step where you learn and internalize the information and make it available for the future self. Progressive Summarization is related to this step.

Express is to put your knowledge to use. Not simply "learn" or "know" but "apply" it. Build something with your new knowledge, or teach others what you have learned.

PARA Method

See the banner image. PARA represents the four buckets where you organize the information you collected--Projects, Areas, Resources, and Archive.

A project is “a series of tasks linked to a goal, with a deadline.” Examples include Complete app mockup; Develop project plan; Execute business development campaign; Write blog post; Finalize product specifications; Attend conferences

An area of responsibility is “a sphere of activity with a standard to be maintained over time.” Examples include: Health; Finances, Professional Development; Travel; Hobbies; Friends; Apartment; Car; Productivity; Direct reports; Product Development; Writing

A resource is “a topic or theme of ongoing interest.” Examples include: habit formation; project management; transhumanism; coffee; music; gardening; online marketing; SEO; interior design; architecture; note-taking

Archives include “inactive items from the other three categories.” Examples include: projects that have been completed or become inactive; areas that you are no longer committed to maintaining; resources that you are no longer interested in

Progressive Summarization

The goal is to distill the information and make it yours and make it available for the future self.

For each piece of information, you create 5 layers:

  • Layer 1: the entire note
  • Layer 2: bold passages
  • Layer 3: highlighted passages
  • Layer 4: mini-summary in your own words
  • Layer 5: remix--add your own discoveries to the knowledge


This is a huge system to learn. It provides a very well-thought organization and process to make the mess of information overload into knowledge you can internalize and reference in the future.

I just started learning it, please feel free to share your knowledge and experience.


Here're the links for more comprehensive coverage on the above topics:

Image credit: https://www.keepproductive.com/blog/how-to-build-a-second-brain

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