This article belongs to a series of multiple parts:
- Part 1 – Intro to Building A Second Brain
- Part 2 – The Suboptimal Brain Flow
- (You Are Here ⭐️) Part 3 – Capture What Really Matters
- Part 4 – Triage and Detachment
- Part 5 – Execute! Period
Just like when we ingest food, not every ingredient turns into something that our body can absorbe nor that is useful for our livelihood and proper functioning.
In this Capture section, I use a “Staging” area. This is an area that others call “Waiting Room” or “Inbox” like in Getting Things Done (GTD). This is where all the info that crosses my path and seems relevant gets captured.
In this diagram I show the most common sources of information that I get my raw materials from. I’ll refer to those materials as Info Bricks (information bricks) from this point on.
Needless to say that this is my personal classification. You may resonate with some of them and I bet you’ll have sources that are not listed here.
Sources of Info Bricks
1. Shower Ideas (Downloads)
Do you ever find yourself getting your best ideas when showering, shaving, working out or similar activities?
Those ideas, or Downloads as I call them, are priceless and need to get captured before they leave our minds.
Business ideas, ideas on how to improve procceses, ideas on experiments to perform, or any sort of idea that is the seed for future projects, that’s what I focus on capturing.
You are in the middle of a fluid conversation with a friend, mentor or mentee, and suddenly one of you guys riffs an espectacular thought out of the blue.
That thought, must also get captured.
Whether you’re studying a specific topic or simply reading a book or articles, watching a video, or listening to a podcast, I bet that you’ll find key ideas that struck you and are worth saving.
I tend to have insights about my own behaviors, emotional states, or inner narrative. For example:
- “JJ is feeling happy because….”
- “JJ is thinking about….”
Those thoughts are priceless because they allow me to distance from myself. Then, they inform my future self of how my mental or emotional state a specific point in time to find behavior patterns.
Any sort of task that needs to get done at some point in time. Yep. that gets captured ASAP.
There’s a high probability that you’ll capture a high volume of “Unplanned Tasks”, tasks that you did not plan beforehand and that now they need to get accomplished.
Depending on their importance, some of them may get classified as Emergencies.
Don’t panic. You’ll address and manage them appropriately in the Triage and Execution stages.
Just to be clear, all of these sources on information produce Info Bricks which are just thoughts that got labeled as “ideas”, “insights”, “To-Dos”, etc.
It doesn’t matter how you label them. It matters that you classify them to help you capture them more efficiently as we’ll see in the Tech Stack section.
The premise of this section is: Don’t get attached to anything.
Remember that this is your “first date” with that piece of info that seemed so atractive.
In my case, I collect everything in this box called Staging but nothing really enters my Production System unfiltered.
This behavior is by design because the Part 4 – Triage will actually filter what is really important from what it’s not to avoid clogging the entire system.
The Tech Stack
In practical terms, the Staging area and the tools that I used to capture the Info Bricks are these ones:
- Instapaper – I call it my Curiosity Backlog. This is where all the articles and videos that seem interesting to review later get captured.
- Obsidian + Read it Later Plugin – While researching a topic in depth, this is where I capture articles that I have read and want to summarize.
- Things – This is the Task Manager where all my To-Do get captured. I connected it to my Siri and now I add to-dos with voice commands, too. (Things + Siri)
- Email – I do consider the email inbox as a Staging Area, where I receive info bricks to decide what to do about at some point.
- iPad + Apple Pencil + Apple Notes – I love handwriting and I found that this combination is able to search even my pre-K handwriting. (Pro Tip: check refurbished Apple products at Walmart.com. I got mine there.)
- GLORYFIRE Waterproof notepads – I have two of these ones. One of them on the night table next to my bed. The other one in the restroom within arm distance from the shower :).
- Memory Palace – When there are no digital or analog tools to help capturing, I default to the oldest technology: my memory. But, I don’t apply brute force. Instead, I use a Memory Palace like the one describe here.
Avoid the Info Graveyard – Weekly Reviews
Once you get into the habit of capturing, you’ll end up with A LOT of articles, ideas, quotes, To-Dos, and more, captured in a short period of time.
The Staging (Inbox) area is by far the easiest place in your Brain Flow where you’ll discover the Info Graveyard (as described in Part 2 – The Suboptimal Brain Flow).
Let’s say that in one week you collected 10-15 info bricks. Some of them are small, other ones are book-length size.
Without proper maintenance, in one month you’ll end up easily with 40-50 info bricks.
I don’t know about you, but just by thinking about it, I get anxious and frustrated with myself for not having reviewed them all.
Even it sounds silly, this is a very common feeling for many people. Actually, it’s very similar to the feelings caused by staring at a long list of unread emails.
So, to avoid the cognitive and emotional drainage, we need to perform Weekly Reviews.
This is the time where you go all over your Inboxes and get rid of the items that are like attractive ornaments instead of actual useful materials that you can work with in your current projects.
It definitely requires emotional distancing, letting go, and knowing that if you found that enticing info brick once, you will cross paths in the future again :).
One last note.
If you realized it, the sources of information identified in this section did not change much compared to the sources in Part 2 – The Suboptimal Brain Flow. Nevertheless, they got a clearer classification.
So the question for you is: what are those info pieces that you consider important and how do you classify them?
Let me know in the comments.
In the meantime, keep optimizing!