This article belongs to a series of multiple parts:
- Part 1 – Intro to Building A Second Brain
- (You Are Here ⭐️) Part 2 – The Suboptimal Brain Flow
- Part 3 – Capture What Really Matters
- Part 4 – Triage and Detachment
- Part 5 – Execute! Period
Now, before we dive deep, let me explain where was my starting point prior to the optimization.
One Rule and a Suboptimal Implementation
One of the top rules in my life is: “Never finish a day without learning something new for at least 10 minutes.“
To make learning something effective and focused instead of disperse, I have a strategy that I call Optimization Sprints. They are like learning projects that last from 1 to 3 months where I dive deep into learning about a topic I chose, and more importantly, practice it to optimize one area of my life at a time.
After running Optimization Sprints for about 6 years, you can imagine that I was able to collect A LOT of information from different sources. Articles, videos, books, quotes, stories, and more, all from different topics.
It’s like my personal library.
But…there was a little problem.
Many times I collected information, just for the sake of storing it. I used to think: “someday it will be useful“. That “someday” hasn’t happened yet for the majority of the pieces on info that got collected over the years.
I was fooling myself. It was like Information FOMO – InFOMO – a very hideous form of FOMO.
At least I find consolation in knowing that I didn’t force my 1st brain (the blood and tissue one 🧠) to remember that info that seemed “so important”.
Instead, I have countless Bookmarks in my browser and Evernote Notebooks.
It took a lot of effort for my mind to find, go through, and take action on the pieces of info that were indeed useful within the bulk of noise that I poured on it.
The info stored in my mind and the many notes (digital or analog) were clogging the system. No wonder why it felt like “Info Constipation“.
At that time, my mental process and the tech tools I used worked very much like this diagram:
This is what I call the “version 1”, or v.1 of my internal mental workflow.
You can see clearly how everything that I considered interesting or important got somehow stored, somewhere.
The “somewhere” part had 4 alternatives:
a) An open tab in my browser
I used to leave tabs open as a form of reminders for my future self to read articles or videos to watch.
This one was a disaster.
In one specific moment, it started with one open tab, and it usually ended 3-4 weeks later with (average) 30-40 open tabs. All of them super tiny to the point having unintelligible titles.
On top of that, I would feel guilty for not having reviewed the article, and anxious about spending time deciding if I should clear them all or read them instead.
Does that sound familiar to you?
b) In my physical notebook
This alternative was a little bit better. At least it felt great capturing ideas, or topics I was interested in, knowing that at least I’ll check them in my 2-week personal retrospective (more on this topic soon).
The problem with this one option was that searching capabilities did not work at all.
There’s no “Control+F” shortcut available for physical notebooks.
c) Reminder in Google Calendar
Have you ever recorded an idea or important thought as a reminder? I hope you do not.
This one is the most crippling one.
First of all, because reminders on any Calendar ARE NOT the place to store $1M ideas!
Second. As weeks passed by, the number of them piled up and so did my anxiety about not reviewing them.
Did “anxiety” show up again?
d) Create a new note in Evernote
Well. At least I started using a note-taking app 🙂
It’s not my intention to promote Evernote or any other app. The point of this is that it felt great when I started using the right tools for the right purposes.
The notes that I stored here were organized by category, for ex: Memory Techniques, Neuroscience, Juggling, How to Play the Guitar, Cloud Technologies, etc.
Even though I didn’t initially have the habit of using this tool, the times I did I felt confident having my notes externalized in a safe place and also knowing it provided search capabilities.
The Info Graveyard
The point to notice is at the bottom of the diagram.
That’s what I call the Stored Info Graveyard. A place where all the good ideas that got captured and not acted upon stagnate and unavoidably perish.
Just thinking about this graveyard, I used to feel (guess what?) anxious, and at the same time frustrated for not having made any progress on any of the “$1M ideas”, that I captured.
This is an overview of how my Brain Flow used to work before I decided to re-engineer it.
So the questions for you now are: What ways of you capturing and processing your own ideas sound familiar?
Let me know in the comments.
In the mean time, keep optimizing!