Top Quotes: “Building a Second Brain: A Proven Method to Organize Your Digital Life and Unlock Your Creative Potential” — Tiago Forte

Austin Rose
4 min readMay 12, 2024



We consume the equivalent of 174 full newspapers’ worth of content each and every day, five times higher than in 1986.”

“We go to work five days per week, but spend more than one of those days on average just looking for the information we need to do our work. Half the time, we don’t even succeed in doing that.

“When you feel stuck in your creative pursuits, it doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you. You haven’t lost your touch or run out of creative juice. It just means you don’t yet have enough raw material to work with. If it feels like the well of inspiration has run dry, it’s because you need a deeper well full of examples, illustrations, stories, statistics, diagrams, analogies, metaphors, photos, mindmaps, conversation notes, quotes — anything that will help you argue for your perspective or fight for a cause you believe in.”

Every time you take a note, ask yourself, “How can I make this as useful as possible for my future self?” That question will lead you to annotate the words and phrases that explain why you saved a note, what you were thinking, and what exactly caught your attention.

Your notes will be useless if you can’t decipher them in the future, or if they’re so long that you don’t even try. Think of yourself not just as a taker of notes, but as a giver of notes — you are giving your future self the gift of knowledge that is easy to find and understand.”

“Take a moment now to write down some of your own favorite problems. Here are my recommendations to guide you:

• Don’t worry about coming up with exactly twelve (the exact number doesn’t matter, but try to come up with at least a few).

• Don’t worry about getting the list perfect (this is just a first pass, and it will always be evolving).

Phrase them as open-ended questions that could have multiple answers (in contrast to “yes/no” questions with only one answer).

Use your list of favorite problems to make decisions about what to capture: anything potentially relevant to answering them.”

You are much more likely to remember information you’ve written down in your own words. Known as the “Generation Effect,” 10 researchers have found that when people actively generate a series of words, such as by speaking or writing, more parts of their brain are activated when compared to simply reading the same words. Writing things down is a way of “rehearsing” those ideas.

“There’s a name for this phenomenon: the Cathedral Effect. Studies have shown that the environment we find ourselves in powerfully shapes our thinking. When we are in a space with high ceilings, for example — think of the lofty architecture of classic churches invoking the grandeur of heaven — we tend to think in more abstract ways. When we’re in a room with low ceilings, such as a small workshop, we’re more likely to think concretely.

“There is a flaw in focusing only on the final results: all the intermediate work — the notes, the drafts, the outlines, the feedback — tends to be underappreciated and undervalued. The precious attention we invested in producing that in-between work gets thrown away, never to be used again. Because we manage most of our “work-in-process” in our head, as soon as we finish the project and step away from our desks, all that valuable knowledge we worked so hard — to acquire dissolves from our memory like a sandcastle washed away by the ocean waves.

If we consider the focused application of our attention to be our greatest asset as knowledge workers, we can no longer afford to let that intermediate work disappear. If we consider how precious little time we have to produce something extraordinary in our careers, it becomes imperative that we recycle that knowledge back into a system where it can become useful again.”

“To create an Archipelago of Ideas, you divergently gather a group of ideas, sources, or points that will form the backbone of your essay, presentation, or deliverable. Once you have a critical mass of ideas to work with, you switch decisively into convergence mode and link them together in an order that makes sense.”

“How do you create a Hemingway Bridge? Instead of burning through every last ounce of energy at the end of a work session, reserve the last few minutes to write down some of the following kinds of things in your digital notes:

  • Write down ideas for next steps: At the end of a work session, write down what you think the next steps could be for the next one.
  • Write down the current status: This could include your current biggest challenge, most important open question, or future roadblocks you expect.
  • Write down any details you have in mind that are likely to be forgotten once you step away: Such as details about the characters in your story, the pitfalls of the event you’re planning, or the subtle considerations of the product you’re designing.
  • Write out your intention for the next work session: Set an intention for what you plan on tackling next, the problem you intend to solve, or a certain milestone you want to reach.



Austin Rose

I read non-fiction and take copious notes. Currently traveling around the world for 5 years, follow my journey at