Building a Second Brain by Tiago Forte



Tiago provides a framework for creating a Second Brain: a digital utilitarian tool that helps you organize thoughts, ideas, research, tasks, notes, and projects. It has four parts- Capture, Organize, Distill, and Express- which, when used together, can help you sharpen your perspective and create something new. The Capture process helps you keep track of ideas and resources, while the Organize process helps you divide information into Projects, Areas, Resources, and Archives. For Distill, the aim is to find the essence of ideas, which can be done through Progressive Summarization. Finally, Express can help you share your ideas with others.


What Is a Second Brain?

Tiago defines a Second Brain as a commonplace digital book and a multipurpose tool that can adapt to your needs and extend your mind. It consists of knowledge-building blocks you can combine to assist you when creating something.

A Second Brain is a great way to keep track of ideas, research, and projects. It can help you store, organize, and share information quickly and effectively. It can also be used as a learning and development repository to store and access tutorials, tips, and other resources. Additionally, they can be used to manage tasks, notes, and projects with little effort. You can also use it to develop and share habits, passions, and life narratives.

How a Second Brain Works.

There are four things we can expect our Second Brain to do for us:

  1. Establish our ideas.
  2. Connect ideas.
  3. Incubate ideas over time, what Tiago calls the slow burn.”
  4. Sharpen our perspective.

There are three stages of progress during the development of our Second Brain - remembering, connecting, and creating.

The Second Brain consists of a four-part method called CODE - Capture; Organize; Distill; Express.

Capture - Keep What Resonates

Capture when:

  1. It inspires you.
  2. It is helpful.
  3. It is personal.
  4. It is surprising.

Don’t capture when:

  1. It’s sensitive information
  2. It requires special formats that require a dedicated app.
  3. It is a large file that requires a dedicated app to open.
  4. Content that will require collaboration.

How to capture:

  1. Add highlights to your ebook reader.
  2. Save articles and web pages to a read-later app that allows highlights.
  3. Clip quotes from podcasts.
  4. Capture voice memos from your phone.
  5. Use the transcripts in YouTube videos.
  6. Capture excerpts from email.
  7. Capture from other apps using the Share button or copy-and-paste.

Organize - Save for Actionability

PARA - Organize your work into one of these four folders. Your organizing for actionability. Projects; Areas; Resources; Archives.

Any notes and files application you use for your Second Brain” can be organized with these 4 folders. Be consistent across applications to make things easier.

It’s essential to keep capture and organize into two distinct steps


Projects have a start and end date, and they are actionable. Everything from a work project to reading a book should be a project.

Having all your active projects in one place can help you see the big picture.


Areas are responsibilities you have that are long-term and may still need an end date. For example, Finances, Health, Family, etc.

The content you store in these folders is not actionable but is needed for reference. Examples: Tax papers; family budget; inspirational photos, automobile information, manuals, warranty information, insurance information, and the list goes on.


Resources contain content you want to use as reference material for any topic you are interested in.

If you start a project and find some relevant existing Resources, you will move them to the project folder. You may move these notes and files back to the Resources folder when the project is complete.


The Archive is where you move completed or canceled projects or even areas you are no longer responsible for. Even Resources that are no longer relevant to you.

Distill - Find the Essence

It’s essential to update your notes to make them discoverable. Otherwise, they’ll be missed when you need them. We make them discoverable by going through the Distill process.

We don’t want to capture an entire article and have to work through it when we want to find a specific piece of information. Instead, we can

Progressive Summarization