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🎙 Learning Curve Podcast

EP 15

Organizing 2nd Brains 🧠

June 25, 202027m 14s

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Show Notes

We discuss our processes, apps we use and tell techniques to help you organise your second brain.


Aravind Balla

Brittik Basu

Learning Curve Podcast


🤗 This is transcribed using an AI tool. So don't expected it to be perfect. If you find mistakes, please help us polishing this by making a PR.

Welcome to the learning curve Podcast, where brittik and Aravind share with you everything that they've learned so far about technology startups and remote life.

Hello and welcome to the 15th episode of learning curve podcast. I am Aravind

and I'm Brittik

and in this episode, we are going to talk about how to organize your second brain. Two episodes ago, we talked about what second brain is. Uh, can you summarize what second brain is?

Second brain is just some where where we store information.

And when that information can come back and help us in some way to create more content or to give us new insights, that's basically what a second brain is.

Yeah. Perfect. So you have your second brain, right? And I have my second brain.

Yes, definitely. We have our second brains places where we store information and, uh, yeah, but it's more than that.

And you to know more about it, you can watch a previous episode.

So we know that second brain contains our thoughts and ideas, but how do you organize your thoughts?

I'm very bad at organizing my thoughts and my thoughts are scattered basically across all the different note, taking apps on the iPad. It's in the default notes app.

I'm trying to use bear, but yeah, it's the everywhere on the desktop it's notion and room. So again, different apps, uh, notes scattered everywhere. So. Yeah, not very organized. I tried using the para technique too. Basically trying to organize my notes, but again, it did not work for me. I'll tell you how my process of note taking is.

Um, when I get a thought I opened the note taking app and I don't have enough time to organize my notes or. Go into a folder and create a note and keep them organized. I instantly start taking that note and it ends up to be just anywhere, even in the note taking app. And what really helps me is the search functionality.

So whenever I want to search for something, the note taking app gives me that information. So that comes in handy a lot. Uh, otherwise I'm still struggling with organizing my thoughts and organizing my second brain. When I'm taking long form notes, or if I want to publish an article or a tweetstorm, what I do is I first start with Twitter.

I really like the treaded approach they have. So it helps us focus on. Single sentences, which are like 200, two 40 words in length. And then after collecting those tweets, I post them on LinkedIn. And after I have posted them, I try to think, how can I edit it, or how can I make this better? So while posting, and even after posting, I go back and edit the note to make it better.

Uh, and then once I'm satisfied with that, if it is. Really good enough. I posted on my website, which is brittikbasu.com And that's my flow. So yeah, scattered everywhere, but sometimes some thoughts are synthesized from one platform to another and data and better over

time. Do you have this urge of getting everything to the same platform?

Not really. I'm very happy with my scattered notes.


But it would be nice if someone organized it for me. Like, I know I don't want to organize it, but if someone did it for me, I would be like, okay, thanks. I'm very happy.

I think it should be you who organizes it because, uh, they are going to help you and you know where the thoughts are if you do it.

Yeah. So a digital version of me, like say an AI version of Brittik, organizes the notes for the human who doesn't want to. Then I think it would be good because the AI would know my thoughts and the context in which I notice taken. And. And it just organizes it and maybe it even surprises me sometimes with, Hey, you know, on this day you thought this, so yeah, that would be super cool for an AI to do for me.

I had the urge of getting all the things to the same platform I used to use Evernote, uh, previously. And then when I started using notion, they had this input option, which made it very easy to export everything into Notion. Uh, input everything into notion of which was cool. I thought even if I don't organize them, I have search in notion which will help me.

Find similar ideas or thoughts in notion itself. But I think I should be okay with the idea that they're scattered across all the apps.

Not necessarily. I think they're all different. Then you could be somebody who's very obsessed with getting all your notes in one place and making the most of it.

Uh, we can all have our own different philosophies, so yeah, being different is good. And I'll tell you how I think about. Uh, you know, notes and importing them into one platform. I, I believe that if something is really important, I will go back and find it. Or if something is very important, my brain will at least remember the keywords or the necessary things for me to restart again on a topic.

I'll tell you how I think about, you know, notes and importing them into one platform. I believe that if something is really important, I will go back and find it.

It would be helpful if I could refer my older note, but even if not, I am this new person right now. Okay. Different from yesterday, different from day before. And a lot of changes has happened in my brain and the way I'm thinking over time. So when today I sit to write on a topic and if it's important, it would be better than what I would have written back in the past.

Considering it's not something super technical or, you know, just

thought, yeah, I am scattered too. I mean, my thoughts are scattered to

I, what you just said, you're super organized and you're important and everything

there is this obsession for our organization, but when the ground reality is that they are scattered too.

I mean, I want everything in place, but. That doesn't happen, sadly. Um, so I tend to use roam and notion a lot, like cannot decide between the two, because one works good in some sorts and other and others. Uh, the main advantage with notion is that it looks very good and polished. But, uh, it doesn't work well offline, which could be improved, I guess, because the team is already working on making notion better and, uh, roam.

What happens is it really well works well, offline, offline in the sense, uh, it's not a completely offline app, but when you open it in Chrome, Uh, in your browser, you don't have to reload for every page load or every navigation. The complete database is in the browser and you can even, if there is no internet, you can navigate through your database, which is very good.

And that doesn't happen with notion. If you want to change to another page, you need internet to load. So that is a thing that I am juggling in my head, but what happens is that I, if I am reading something online, then I tend to copy those links to whatever system that I am using then may made bit Rome or notion.

And then I add a few key points. Uh, add a few highlights from that article in, uh, near that link. Because if I see that link again, I could get the context of that link so that if it is relevant, I can go back and read the complete article article, or I can just, uh, let it go. So that is how I put things, but everything is scattered.


Aravind tried this technique called para, which you introduced me to, and it didn't work for me. I, it was nice thinking about it and organizing my notes into different folders areas, projects, categories, and you know, all those things, resources and stuff. But somehow it. It's difficult to organize my notes at the end of the day, I'm still that person who finds it hard to go back and organize their notes.

I find the search functionality better. So is there a way that I can adopt para or is something, is there something that I'm doing wrong, which I can do better?

Yeah. Uh, let's first talk about what para is. So para is a technique that is coined by Tiago forte, who is a second brain expert. So what he introduces is, uh, you can organize your note taking or your personal knowledge into para meaning P in the sense projects, areas, resources, and archives.

Uh, so archive is something that you are not currently focusing on and areas are your, uh, focus areas in life with travel, uh, learning or reading, uh, you like that. And then there are projects which could seem to have deadlines to it. Suppose you are building some app and there is an area in your life to build products.

Okay. So, and the particular app becomes a project. And then if you are not working on that project anymore, you can move that to archive. So this is a way of organizing, uh, your notes, your thoughts and things that you read online, uh, to be in those projects. I think the first step for using this technique is to create areas and projects.

Anything else becomes a resource. So you are a, you had a thought about, uh, say, uh, speaking, well, you had a thought about the next episode for the podcast. It goes into this podcast project in your teaching area. Okay. That's an example I'd like to share. So. Uh, anything you think, uh, any thought or any note that you write about this goes into this project?

Uh, so you said you have a lot of notes already, which are scattered. I suggest you don't move everything or spend time to organize everything back, but you let them be like that. And whenever you search or go back to a particular note, you think that not helped you again, then organize it or then put it into the respective project and the area.

I suggest you don't move everything or spend time to organize everything back, but you let them be like that. And whenever you search or go back to a particular note, you think that not helped you again, then organize it or then put it into the respective project and the area.

So you have your scattered notes already. And then with the new notes that you're coming with are, um, are organized. And if there is any note from the F from the past that is helping you, then, uh, you like. Give it a project in an area. And I think we should reduce the friction, uh, when it comes to organizing the notes, uh, reduce the friction in the sense, like assigning the project and the area.

I mean, I really liked the idea that you said that I can have just areas and projects in the beginning and not even projects. Right. I think even if I have just areas in the beginning, it would be one step closer to organizing my notes. The problem that I find is when I create a new note, I don't want to go into areas.

Project, and then I don't want to take those extra steps. So I think one solution for that is I should make it a habit to go back to my notes or today's page, wherever I took notes for today, scattered notes for today. And then I can organize those notes where they belong. I can put them. In the folder they belong in.

And, uh, yeah, I think that is a very good first step to sorta notes when it comes to different areas. And I think even more important is to. Create our areas. What are our focus areas in life? I think that is very important. And what the para system says that you don't need to, what the para system says is that you need to have areas which are evergreen, which means these areas will be all focused in one form or the other throughout your life.

Say, I want to make an app. So that comes under product development. And maybe that comes in the area and it's a SAS app and I want to, you know, monetize it say, so that comes in the area entrepreneurship. So as long as I want to be entrepreneurial, that area would be active and it could involve anything as long as that thing is making money.

So. Yeah, that is one example of areas that we can have. And what kind of areas do you have and could you talk about one area of yours and why you chose it?

Okay. One area of me is a teaching. So I think that will be an evergreen area. I like the point that you said, which is areas should be evergreen. Yeah.

So one area for me is teaching where I have all my blog posts, uh, all the things that I write and, uh, the videos that I'm trying to make and the podcast that we are trying to make. So all these are projects under, under that area. I mean, it can, it can be like sharing knowledge instead of teaching, but it's just one word.

So I,


Yeah, it's the same thing. That's one area I have and other areas travel. So, uh, projects can be your trips, which have a certain end date.

And what about, uh, travel diaries? Like things you write when you are on the road, where does that

go? That can actually, I mean, if you ask me now, I didn't know this before.

So they asked that lost somewhere on Evernote, but what I will do now, if I go out is to like categorize it into the current trip that I am taking. And I would put that note in that trip. So the thing with areas is that. If you're like me and Brittik, you would use a lot of, you would try out a lot of different note taking apps so you can replicate this area system and all the apps that you are trying out there.

Every note taking app that I know has this concept of folders or notebooks. So your notebooks can be your areas are at a high level categorization for your notes, so that, uh, Uh, so that went up whichever app that you use, you can make this habit of thinking in that particular area itself or constraint, uh, like categorizing your thought into a specific area.

So I did this with notion and the, to do app that I'm using. So now what I do is I have my Tudos in areas as well. So any thing that I wanted want to be reminded of is also categorized into an area. Okay. So this helps me develop the practice of categorizing things into an area, which is a good thing to have if you want to organize stuff.

And what is your workflow of capturing thoughts? Say you read an article. How, how does that work? Say you found a nice tweet and you want to take a note. What is the technique that you use to capture thoughts and put it in your second brain?

I'm using notion a lot these days. So what happens is, if I am reading an article notion has this really good web clipper.

So when I clip that article using the notions of a clipper, I get things into notion and the complete, uh, content of that article is clipped into notions. So I have, uh, the complete article in the notion. And then I assign that, uh, clip project and an area. And what I do after that is like, read through it and try to highlight or bold the important, uh, paragraphs or the.

Important sentences that I like. And then maybe then I can add one more layer of summarization where I add highlights and stuff so that I, whenever I reference it back with a glance, I can get the idea of that article. So this is what happens in a notion. And then if I am a reading, Twitter or tweet threads.

There is this app called thread reader app, which, uh, get stuff, complete content of all the threads into a webpage. So if I, uh, if I go to a thread and below it, I comment threadreaderapp unroll. Then what it does, it is, it goes through the complete thread and gives me a link where I can access all the tweets in a single page.

So when I get this, I can clip that single page, which contains all the tweets back into notion. That's, that's a very good way to capture tweet, threads into notion. And then I can apply this, uh, layers of summarization, where I bold a few good parts and then highlight, uh, the best part so that whenever I come back to this note, uh, I get an idea.

So the basic idea here is to help my future self discover, uh, or get an idea for a note whenever I just have a glance at them. So that is the idea.

Basic idea here is to help my future self discover or get an idea for a note whenever I just have a glance at them.

Awesome. So you have this workflow, which works on Twitter, which works on any website and notion is where all your thoughts are stored. So in a way you have this single place where you capture information from the web mostly.

How, what is your preferred way of note taking or saving thoughts to a second brain?

That's a really good question because, uh, I listened to a lot of podcasts and audio books and the form of the content is audio. It's not text. So, uh, and most of the time it happens that I'm not, idle when I'm listening to podcasts or audio book, I am doing something, uh, something else like I am cycling or cleaning the dishes.

Uh, uh, any other thing that. I'm not idle when I am listening to the podcast. So the system that I developed, which is not perfect yet, but what I do is I use this app called , Otter which is a AI transcribing tool. It's kind of what your voice to text, the same app that we use to

create our podcast transcripts.

So I use this app and record my voice into it. I was very skeptical about taking notes with voice because the transcribing softwares that I use till now are not perfect. And, uh, it is not like what using them. So, but when I started using Otter, it is, uh, like it transcribes your audio almost perfect.

Even if you don't have the perfect text, you can listen to that audio back at twice the speed, and then transfer that to your note taking system. So when I am out cycling, I listen to a podcast and if I feel something is nice, then I pull the phone out from a pocket, uh, talk to it and then back, back to cycling.

So this is not perfect yet, but the friction to take notes is very low. And then when I come back home, I, uh, fresh up

and then sit at my computer. I have Otter on web. So I opened that, copied the notes to notion again, notion or any like note taking app that I use

again. So you also have a way to basically take voice notes, which are transcribed for you to use later.

Yeah. Which is super cool.

And then you were asking about conferences, right? For conferences. I tend to use Google, keep alert because it is offline. So in the transcript, in the conferences, it mostly happens that you are on your mobile network and you don't have good internet. So I prefer something being, uh, something offline, which works, something that works offline.

I think we need note taking apps that are offline. Otherwise, if you don't have access to your second brain, because you might not have a good internet connection that you know, it, it, it doesn't serve the purpose of having a second brain at all.

I think we need note taking apps that are offline. Otherwise, if you don't have access to your second brain, because you might not have a good internet connection that you know, itdoesn't serve the purpose of having a second brain at all.

Let's summarize this episode and what, and find out the key takeaways that we have.

So scattered thoughts are okay. You can have notes, which are scattered everywhere, across different note, taking apps. And it's very okay. What you can do is whenever you are accessing a note, often you organize it into projects and areas, or you put it into resources or whatever you want, but. Just start with very simple projects and areas for the notes feature accessing frequently, you

Scattered thoughts are okay. You can have notes, which are scattered everywhere, across different note, taking apps.

can use this pattern system across all the note, taking the apps that you use, um, so that you get into this practice of assigning a note to an area so that they are organized and you help your future self and discovering them better.

We hope you enjoyed this episode about organizing your second brain and try to apply some of these techniques into your note taking or your second brain and let us know how it is working for you.

And if you, if you have an, a system already, then please let us know on Twitter.

Yes. There are so many systems out there and we would love to use it.


we would like to take ideas from your note taking systems as well, because every time, Brittik and I are on call, we at least talk once about taking notes and the new shiny app that is in the market. So yeah, we are always ready for new apps and ideas of note taking.

Yeah. And it's quite fun too.

Try out new things because it opens our mind. Okay. Like, Oh, you can do this this way too. And, and see its benefit. So trying new things out is a way for us to. Learn more and explore the world. And I would even say, explore how other people think of organizing notes when we're exploring note taking apps, because everyone starts, I think there are some simple apps that every developer wants to start with me to do, or a note taking app.

And these are simple things that people start with and it usually. Begins because we as developers, we have some problems and we think, okay, this, our workflow is better and we want to use that. So since no one has made the app, we make it. So it's fun to see. How other people have made their note, taking apps, Aravind,

it was fun to see how you made your notes.aravindballa.com website and how I could use it to create my website.

And I learned a lot from the way you organize things and also the habit. To share our thoughts. I believe everyone should have their notes on the web and do renew your domain for next hundred years because the web is something that is going to stick around.

And so are your thought, so any finished thoughts, share with the world, put it out there. It doesn't have to be a long, medium article or anything. It can just be something. Very simple, very short. And Aravind's new Gatsby theme and Gatsby theme andy has this beautiful layout, which allows for shorter notes. And even if you check my website, brittikbasu.com, you can see how notes don't need to be super long.

Any finished thoughts, share with the world, put it out there. It doesn't have to be a long, medium article or anything. It can just be something very simple, very short.

They can be short notes and it can be like a book which you just flipped through. So do try that for the finished thoughts that come out of your second brain.

Digital gardens, they say.

Yeah. Beautiful. Okay. So it's a wrap. We hope you love the show and stay tuned for the next one.