Get more out of digital note taking

Get more out of digital note taking

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Get more out of digital note taking

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In his book Building a different brain: A proven way to organize your digital life and unlock your creative potential, productivity expert Tiago Forte outlines strategies for managing and making better use of the overwhelming amount of content we absorb daily. He suggests starting with the note app on your phone. But from there, his approach to digital note-taking, how he organizes information, and what he gets out of the method is less expected.


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    Building another brain
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A Q&A with Tiago Forte

Q
What is personal knowledge management and the other brain?
ONE

It is the art and science of how people keep track of knowledge and information that is important to them. It can range from practical information to academic information to medical information to work-related information to raw creative material. “Second brain” is the term I coined for knowledge management.


Q
How can we develop our second brain?
ONE

The classic example is to use the default note app on your phone. This is the place to either start taking notes or to build on any note habits that you already have. Most people have things in these apps, such as checklists, shopping lists, quotes they have heard, or notes from meetings and phone calls.

Take it further and start writing excerpts from books or articles that you read. Write down something you found interesting from a podcast. Save links to sites and record any productivity tips. There is this whole range of daily information that we come across that is not super formal and complex. Document everything in your note app so that it is searchable and easy to find.


Q
Is there a difference between taking notes digitally and doing it on paper?
ONE

The biggest difference is that when you write things down on a notepad or legal pad, it is informal and messy. It is free and spontaneous. They are so easy to lose track of and you can not do it as a database.

Digital note apps give you incredible options. Notes can be searched instantly. You can search for a word and see every time you mention it. You can link to notes, or you can link from notes to articles or resources online. You can add attachments, images and bookmarks. Everything is always backed up to the cloud.


Q
How can we learn to better manage the amount of content we consume in the digital age?
ONE

The method I developed is called CODE. This is the creative process of taking your notes and using them to produce new work or new results or to make decisions. The first step is Capture: You must store and record the information outside your head. That’s the key part. It can not be something you are trying to learn by heart. It needs to be captured in software.

What do you do with the captured content? It goes to the second phase, which is Organize. Information should be organized according to ability to act. Instead of coordinating by categories, organize your information by your active projects. It is more feasible and practical.

After organizing the content, you are ready to go Distiller. That is when you summarize your notes. Select and highlight the most important points, takeaways, conclusions or anything else that you find interesting. Once you have done that, the information is easier to work with and to draw conclusions from in an instant.

The last and most important step is Express. The point of taking notes is not just to record information physically. The purpose is to express something – your voice, your story, your message, your expertise. Listing is ultimately designed to enable your self-expression.


Q
What are the benefits of externalizing your thoughts?
ONE

Writing something down has so many benefits for your psychological well-being and even your physical health. It is associated with lower blood pressure and heart disease, reduced stress levels and better sleep. When an idea or thought is in your head, it can be vague, vague and messy. It can make you anxious. When you externalize it, you outsource and relieve it from your mind. Suddenly your mind knows that it has been recorded and documented. You do not have to keep worrying so much about it.

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Q
How can these methods improve our creative process or productivity?
ONE

There are three main benefits. The first is to remember. There is no need to remember and keep track of all the details and facts you find important. Everything from what your boss said in your latest one-on-one to the details of a remodel you’re working on: These small but important details should be the first things you transfer to your notes.

Once you have written down a number of things, people often begin to find unexpected and spontaneous connections between ideas. This is the second advantage – connection. For example, you begin to realize that an article you read about gardening has a connection to cultivating your audience. These connections start popping up and popping up from your notes. This helps with creativity and the formulation of better, more original ideas.

The third benefit is to create. Once you have combined a few of your written thoughts and ideas, you can create something. It could be a piece of content, like a blog post; or a project delivery in the workplace; or the schedule for your kids this summer. We can always create more efficiently.


Tiago Forte is a productivity expert and author Building another brain. Forte has taught thousands of people around the world about productivity, creativity and personal efficiency.


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