How To Organize Your Note-Taking App And “Second Brain” (Barbell #10)

Oscar Lagrosen
5 min readMar 4, 2022

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“Second Brain” refers to your digital reference system, containing all the information you find valuable and can be activated at any moment to propel you forward. The repository (primarily your note-taking app) allows your brain to let go of remembering and can thus create insights freely.

To get the most out of your second brain, these four criteria need to be fulfilled:

  • Effortless Input. There should be no friction at all to add and edit the system.
  • Reliable Retrieval. Information is useless if you cannot find it whenever you need to. The primary use of the system is to equip you with the right material for any given situation.
  • Zero Overhead. Every second you spend consciously organizing can be spent creating value instead. The less you need to organize, the better.
  • Antifragile. The system must be better the more chaos there is in your environment. The more misery you experience, the more reliable your system must be.

Avoid folders, tags and other organizational top-down methods

The two conventional methods are tags and folders. However, both have their drawbacks:

A system relying on tags forces you to consciously decide how all new notes relate to your existing ones. In other words, you have to expel precious energy just by thinking about where you can retrieve it in the future. Aside from the scale problem, you must make no mistake at all, which is totally unrealistic.

A system relying on folders still forces you to decide which information belongs to which. You can use the same file in multiple instances, which requires some cognitive load. You also suppress the serendipity and randomness of seeing the same file in multiple contexts and become less creative.

In A Perfect Mess, the authors give many convincing arguments against excessive order. It is super fragile and simply not natural and beneficial enough, compared to the steep costs.

Oscar Lagrosen

Writes high quality tutorials about note-taking apps