Tiago Forte is a productivity coach and an expert in the field of personal knowledge management. He founded Forte Labs, which teaches people how to maximize their creative potential.
Below, Tiago shares 5 key insights from his new book, Building a Second Brain: A Proven Way to Organize Your Digital Life and Unleash Your Creative Potential. Listen to the audio version – read by Tiago himself – in the Next Big Idea app.
1. Capture ideas all around you.
I teach people how to create a Second Brain – an app on your smartphone or computer where you save precious memories, insights, and life lessons, as well as snippets of your reading and listening that you want to revisit at new. Think of it as a private library filled with only the content you’ve found useful and relevant.
By storing valuable knowledge in one place, software can act as an extension of your mind: a Second Brain. Whenever you need to produce an output, write a text, make a sound decision or reflect on what you have learned, all the material you need is at your fingertips, synchronized on every device and searchable. on demand.
Award-winning dance choreographer Twyla Tharp used a simple method to create her dances. She called it “the box”. As her days went by, her reading and her research, she kept items of inspiration in a folder box for this specific project. In her own words, she kept “notebooks, clippings, CDs, videotapes of me working alone in my studio, videos of dancers rehearsing, books and photographs and artwork who could have inspired me. These tangible artifacts became the raw material for his original feats of self-expression.
We constantly come across interesting insights and ideas. Whether it’s a conversation, an article, or a podcast, we’re inundated with knowledge about how to work and live better. If you want to improve anything – productivity, health, finances, relationships – you don’t necessarily need more research. Start by writing down the knowledge you already have. I suggest using a notes app on your mobile device, as it harnesses the timeless power of note-taking and supercharges it with modern technology. Notes are always with us on the devices we carry everywhere.
2. Think small.
We are constantly told to “think big” and set big, bold goals. But setting ambitious goals changes nothing. To ultimately enjoy the life we have created, we need a source of leverage that allows us to do more with less effort over time.
“When you sit down to create something, it’s too late to do a whole lot of new research. This research should already be done.
Instead of thinking big, think little. Specifically, what are the smallest building blocks of your work that can fuel your imagination? Like a child playing with LEGOs, the number and variety of building blocks at your disposal contribute directly to the quality of the creative works you can produce.
If your output is slide presentations, start collecting images, charts, and slide layouts. If you’re a writer, start gathering ideas for stories, character sketches, and photos of interesting places. If you’re a designer, collect snapshots of colors, shapes, and patterns.
When you sit down to create something, it’s too late to do a whole lot of new research. This research should already be done. By collecting building blocks at your fingertips, you’ll have options and never have to start from scratch. All that remains is to assemble them into something greater than the sum of its parts.
3. Diverging before converging.
As part of the job, we need to solve problems creatively and converge on an end product at the end of the day, week or month. Our professional success and our reputation depend on our ability to carry out our efforts.
But before shutting down new sources of information and converging on an end result, take the time to diverge. Expand your horizons, expose yourself to diverse influences, and collect whatever resonates with you. Make sure you understand all sides of the problem, including how others perceive it, before expending the energy to solve it.
“Expand your horizons, expose yourself to diverse influences, and collect whatever resonates with you.”
This process of divergence followed by convergence is present in all creative fields. Writers diverge by collecting raw material for the story they want to tell, sketching out potential characters, and researching historical facts. They converge by outlining, laying down plot points, and writing a first draft. Photographers diverge by taking pictures of things they find interesting, juxtaposing different types of photos, or experimenting with lighting or framing techniques. They converge by choosing shots for a collection, archiving unused images and printing their favorites.
Many problems are timeless and recurring, meaning it’s likely someone has already solved them. You can borrow their thinking and build on what they have accomplished. When the time comes to converge on your own solution, you will have considered the problem from several angles and can thus take advantage of a greater variety of solutions.
4. Trim the good to bring out the big.
We often think that we have to add more to improve the quality of our work. More research, more details, more evidence, more explanations. But another way to find quality is to simply remove good pieces for bigger ones to shine brighter.
Every idea has an essence: the heart and soul of what it communicates. It can take hundreds of pages and thousands of words to fully explain a complex idea, but there’s always a way to get the main message across in a sentence or two. For example, Einstein summed up his groundbreaking theory of physics with the brief equation E=mc2. It is the act of distillation, practiced by artists, sculptors, musicians and scientists for hundreds of years.
“If you want to improve the results of your creativity, consider deleting anything non-essential, saving it in your notes in case it helps you in the future.”
No matter what project you’re working on, the soul of your idea can easily be obscured by unnecessary details. If you want to improve the results of your creativity, consider removing anything non-essential and keeping it in your notes in case it’s useful to you in the future.
Simpler ideas are easier to communicate, improve, and to which others can contribute. The smaller and more succinct your ideas, the more gracefully they can be applied to new situations.
5. You only know what you are doing.
We live in an age of information saturation, but this syndrome is largely self-afflicted. We don’t want to cut through the endless flow of information because while it causes stress, it also provides a rich flow of education, connection, and community.
There will come a time when your research and learning will be put into action. Before you feel ready, before you have answers, and before you’ve consumed all the latest advice. The bottleneck of your creative potential is not having one more fact in hand, but the courage and determination to seize an opportunity before it passes.
The 18th century philosopher Giambattista Vico once said: “Verum Ipsum Factum”, which translates to “You only know what you are doing”. Up to you Craft something from the knowledge you have acquired, it is only a passing thought. Until you test your theories, you will never know if they work. This is why productivity is an essential part of creativity and learning, and why your Second Brain is not just a storage system, but a system for taking action.
To listen to the audio version read by author Tiago Forte, download the Next Big Idea app today: