Building a 2nd Brain by Tiago Forte: How to Implement a Digital System

Building a 2nd Brain by Tiago Forte: How to Implement a Digital System

Review, summary and key takeaways of "Building a Second Brain" by Tiago Forte

Hello everyone! I'm back with another article for one of my favourite series Books Reviews and Reflections, where we discuss book reviews or any reflections that I have learned as a part-time ponderer and productivity nerd.

A few months ago, I was inspired to read a book called "Building a 2nd Brain by Tiago Forte". In this book, we were introduced to the concept of building a digital system that will empower us as we navigate the digital information era.

Building a Second Brain' by Tiago Forte: How to harness all of the  information you consume

In this article, allow me to share my key takeaways and how I build my personal 2nd brain system.

Why do we need a 2nd brain?

First and foremost, let's address the central question that prompted me to write this article: Why do we need a second brain?

According to the author, Tiago Forte, in today's era of accessible information, most people experience information overload. Often, we read or watch something interesting that sparks inspiration, only to end up losing that resource as we switch from one activity to another.

We suffer from information overload, and the cure is critical thinking

A second brain is essential because our natural memory and cognitive abilities have limitations. Having a second brain, such as a note-taking system or digital tools, helps us offload information, organize thoughts, and access knowledge effortlessly.

It acts as an external extension of our mind, allowing us to store, retrieve, and process information more efficiently, freeing up mental space for creativity, problem-solving, and critical thinking.

Ultimately, having a second brain achieves the following:

  • Enhances productivity

  • Improves decision-making

  • Enables us to organize our thoughts efficiently

  • Manages our active and dormant personal endeavors

How to establish a 2nd brain?

The 'CODE' technique is a series of steps we can follow to implement our second brain.

CODE stands for:

  • Capture

  • Organize

  • Distill

  • Express


1) Capture

Capturing what information is useful to us is the first step. Be careful not to overcapture. It is easy to want to record and store every information you come across.

For instance, I have numerous bookmarks of intriguing articles I've read or intend to read. However, it's essential to question myself: Is it a knowledge asset? Does it offer a solution, time-saving tips, or perspective-shifting insights?

If it is, capture it. And what I mean by 'capture' is that it should be stored at a single centralized location.

Before reading this book, I used to save articles as bookmarks on various platforms where I read them. This approach proved unproductive, as I had to visit each website individually when trying to locate those resources.

By capturing information and saving it all in the same location, it becomes easier to sift through when you need to refer back to it. This will serve as your digital storage for your inspirations and solutions.

2) Organize

Now it's starting to get juicy. How do we organize our digital space?

Many people underestimate the cathedral effect, which suggests that the space you are in influences your thought process. You can improve focus and work more effectively when your environment, including your digital space, is decluttered.

So, what is the best way to organize the information we captured? Most of us intuitively might think by category. It's always been that way in schools. We save notes and organize them by subjects like a library.

However, Forte suggests we organize like a kitchen, by processes. This makes our 2nd brain more outcome-oriented and organized in order of actionability, which makes it easier to execute the ideas.

PARA Method - Workflowy guide

3) Distill

There is a famous Chinese proverb by Lao Tzu:

“To attain knowledge, add things everyday. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.”

The step of distilling is about subtracting, extracting only key information. Using the same bookmarking an article example, distilling would be:

  • Highlight parts of article I like

  • Bold key ideas/takeaways

  • Write a summary about it

Did you realize something? This article also serves as a means for me to distill the key takeaways from this book I've read!

4) Express

The final step is to express, which is to put that knowledge into use, create deliverables, projects, maybe even a blog post to share your knowledge with others!

If it is a huge project, execute it in intermediate packets (i.e. small actionable steps) so that it is less daunting and more achievable. If you have never completed a project before, it will be especially useful to do this.


Ultimately, a second brain allows you to intuitively store, sort and utilize information in a digital workspace. Ctrl + F or Command + F will be your favourite key shortcut to find information for ideas and solutions in your knowledge storage.

Building an effective second brain system is a valuable habit, and you will continuously have a wealth of ideas at your disposal.

Thanks for reading this article! If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to let me know in the comments. Also, if you would like to know more about building a second brain, I recommend reading the book by Tiago Forte or watch his talk here.

Cheers to an efficient productivity system! See you in the next article!

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