Review and Summary: Building a Second Brain

Building a Second Brain book cover

Author: Tiago Forte

Genre: Self-help

Publication date: 14 June 2022

Publisher: Atria Books

Number of pages: 272 pages

It is in the power of remembering that the self’s ultimate freedom consists. I am free because I remember.

Abhinavagupta, 10th century Kashmir philosopher and mystic

We have to admit that we are living in a world with limitless flow of information that we can’t really rely on our brain to accommodate everything. Our cognitive skills and attention have to be on another higher level so we can keep up with knowledge that surrounding us. We should realise that knowledge is the most critical asset and how we manage our relationship with information, technology, and even ourselves is a highly valuable skills.

Building a Second Brain gives me a lot of insights about how to change the way we gather and manage ideas to increase productivity, creativity, and performance.

What is Second Brain?

Second brain is a private digital notes where we collect a personal journey, study notebook, or any kind of awakening information that we can modify over time to serve a lifetime of our learning and improvement process. Here, we can gather inspirations, create our own ideas, then in long-term they are ready to be shared to the world.

By the time we are building our personal second brain, we use it not only as a memory tool, but also thinking tool, tangible and shareable.

Why do we need to build our second brain?

New York Times published that people nowadays consume approximately 174 newspapers worth of content every day which is five times higher than in 1986. In addition, a research by Microsoft states that US employee consume 76 hours/year just to search misplaced stuffs. Obviously, those studies indicate that we should understand a trick on how to deal with incoming information which is much swifter than decades ago so we are available any time novel and valuable information come to us

By building second brain, we can make:

  • our ideas become substantial so we can keep them on track and combine them later
  • show connection between ideas
  • expansion of our perspectives

From biological perspectives, the benefits of building second brain is our brain will certainly change and become more adaptive to technology. As we know that ideas and thoughts are tracked in our second brain, our mind become calmer and more focus.

In terms of personal development, we develop self-awareness, self-knowledge, and transformation of how our mind operates.

It’s only by making the fundamentals of life easier that you can create the mental space needed for free thinking and creativity.

James Clear, Author of Atomic Habits

How to build a second brain?

Tiago Forte introduces a method called CODE, stands for Capture, Organise, Distill, and Express.

  • Capture
    • By capturing or writing only the ones that are the most inspire, useful, personal, and surprising, we practice ourselves to take something truly noteworthy, understand ourselves and what makes us alert. In daily life, we train ourselves to become less reactive towards headline and notifications because we are getting used to selective to valuable information and just let go of the rest.
  • Organize
    • We simplify every things that we capture or take notes into four recommended categories called PARA. PARA consists of Projects, Area, Resources, and Archives. Projects is the short-term work that we are currently working on with a specific period of time. Area is long-term stuffs that we manage continously in long-term. Resources is a category with topics that potentially useful for us in the future. Archives is a collection of items that doesn’t belong to projects, area, and resources.
  • Distill
    • After collecting and organising, we are required to find the essence and detect the link among them to turn them into our own message.
  • Express
    • At this point, the information has become ideas that turn into a sharable knowledge where life really begins to change

Pick our digital note-taking app based on our own preferences. Whatever system we would like to apply for our second brain, we have to remember that there is no perfect system. I remember someone who left Notion because he followed so much trend in youtube about how to build an aesthetic and manageable Notion yet he ended up with a really complicated dashboard that he couldn’t even use. Create an imperfect system but reliable that we can use it in our real life then change it over time based on our life demands and situations.

At the end of the book, Tiago Forte left the last suggestion to the readers (which I love it so much),”Chase what excites you. Run after your obsessions with everything you have. Just be sure to take notes along the way.”


This book reminds me of myself in so many things.

First, this book makes me think about the reason why I develop a personal dashboard on Notion that integrates my notes, work-personal schedule, habit checklist, and a folder of valuable information that comes to me so I can look it up anytime. Besides, I would like to see how I live my life daily and monthly. So, by the end of the year, I can see myself how much different I am than last year and what I’ve learned recently. I would like to see how my life progress.

Second, this book recalls the reason why I build this website. I would like to share all the lessons and summaries from the books that I’ve read. Sometimes, I love to read what I’ve written in my own website so writing summary of books in here can help me look back on the argue for my perspective or fight for a cause I believe in. I also would like to share experience of all the bureaucracy and administration stuffs that I’ve went through so my future-self and others know and understand how to tackle it.

Third, this book inspires me on how to manage abundant of useful information that I get from twitter, instagram stories, blogs, websites, or even podcasts.

I have created my kind of second brain that works for me. But this book inspires me to build it in much more systematic way that I believe will make my future-self say thanks to my current-self.


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