This article belongs to a series of multiple parts:
- Part 1 – Intro to Building A Second Brain
- Part 2 – The Suboptimal Brain Flow
- Part 3 – Capture What Really Matters
- (You Are Here ⭐️) Part 4 – Triage and Detachment
- Part 5 – Execute! Period
This is the part of the 2nd Brain Flow that changed my relationship with information overall and you’ll discover why.
To start, I need to confess that unloading the process described in Part 2 – The Suboptimal Brain Flow on a piece of paper, visualizing it, and re-engineering it as you’ll see in this article, was extremely useful and a highly suggested practice.
What it was extremely useful was unloading the entire Triage process, step by step, in this diagram:
Sometimes, when I’m unsure about capturing or keeping an Info Brick (a piece of information), I go back to this diagram. It helps me to stop going back to old hoarding patterns I use to enact.
Now, let’s review the filters.
1. Someone dying or losing a client?
First things first. The primary question, or as I call it “filter”, is: “Is someone dying or am I losing a client?“”.
This is my personal criteria to define what is an emergency.
If the answer is “yes”, then I leave everything aside and move straight into Part 5 – Execution.
2. Current Project?
If the first filter was a “no”, then the second question helps to evaluate if this Info Brick belongs to a current project that I’m working with or not.
For example, let’s say that you’re trying to fulfill a task you were given at work. This is considered your Current Project.
You may not know yet how to do it, therefore you start the Research phase (“Research” being one of the sources of info as described in Part 3 – Capture What Really Matters).
You dive into the Rabbit Hole of Google and you navigate several websites trying to find answers (Info Bricks) that can help your current task.
For each of those answers, you ask “Does it help moving my current project forward?“.
If the answer is “yes”, then we go into the “Actionable?” filter.
For the answers that are clearly helpful to move your current project forward.
3. Info Gluttony?
When you’re receiving lots of information, it’s easy to get confused and think that every Info Brick is actually important.
Going back to the previous example of the research, many of the answers found during research will seem interesting, but they will not be relevant to move the current project forward.
This is when the “Info Gluttony?” comes useful.
This question made the entire difference in my world because before it I hadn’t realized that my default behavior was to collect every shiny Info Brick on the way while thinking: “it may be useful in the future“.
Answering this question requires not the rationality, but a gut feeling check.
If the answer is “yes”, then “Bye Bye, Info Brick’“.
If the answer is “No”, then it gets Archived (see the difference between Archive and Resources below).
I cannot emphasize more that this question is what I really needed and made the difference to avoid clogging the entire system.
Keeping up with the example of work above. When you found an Info Brick that is serves to move your current project forward, then the next question is: “Is it immediately actionable?“
If the answer is “yes”, then we’ll cover that in Part 5 – Execution.
If the answer is “no”, we store it, BUT then we keep it at arm distance, like you’d do with salt, pepper and oil when cooking.
Examples of this are any notes taken on topics that you know that you’ll use shortly, like phone numbers, pieces of coding languages, diagrams or images for presentations, etc. Think about the tabs that you keep open while working.
“Shift + Del“, “Delete“, “Right Click + Delete“, etc. It doesn’t matter what’s your favorite flavor of flushing out info that’s not useful, just do it. You’ll go back to feeling lean again.
2. Resources & Archive
These two stations are combined here because they both belong to Tiago Forte’s P.A.R.A. Method framework.
From the same framework, we’ll use the analogy of cooking ingredients.
After you shop groceries, you are aware that some ingredients last longer than other ones.
Those ones that last longer go to the Freezer (this is the Archive). You don’t need to see them, but you know they’re there for when you need them.
Other ones need to be consumed within the next few days, for example bananas that are put in a visible basket, or even, you have ingredients that are regularly used and you need them at hand, like condiments. These types belong to the Resources category.
The Tech Stack
Even though the triaging process fully happens as a mental process in my own mind, the tech stack that supports the different stations of the process, and where all the information gets preserved is this one:
These three platforms are organized according to P.A.R.A. – Projects, Areas, Resources, Archive.
The point to notice here is that:
- All the information stored in these platforms is fully searchable, even text within images. (that’s Technology! 🤓)
- The Info Bricks fluctuate between the different P.A.R.A. folders (Stations). If I need to work on a specific project, the subfolder within Projects contains everything that I need. Otherwise, they go to any of the other stations.
Your Emotional Relationship with Info
If the abstract concept “Information” would look like a person to you, how would she/he look like?
And more importantly, how do you feel around this “Info” personification?
Do you like him/her?
Does he/she look scary? or maybe nice to be around?
Do you feel like letting him/her go away is easy or difficult?
I know it’s a weird thought experiment. Just close your eyes and play along.
In my case, that’s when I discovered that I was exercising an unhealthy attachment to it.
The behavior stemmed from a deep-seated belief that I wasn’t going to find that “valueable info” ever again, that in times of overabundance of information, that’s like saying that I was holding on to drops of water while selling a boat in the middle of the ocean.
So, the questions for you are is: How’s your relationship with information? And, how are you triaging it before it clogs your mental system?
Let me know in the comments.
In the meantime, keep optimizing,