How do you establish the habits of personal knowledge management in your life?

Here are twelve practical steps you can take right now to get your Second Brain started:

1. Decide what you want to capture

Think about your Second Brain as an intimate commonplace book or journal. What do you most want to capture, learn, explore, or share? Identify two to three kinds of content you already value to get started with.

For an extended intro to capturing and taking digital notes, check out this workshop covering how to capture and save the best information you consume each week.

2. Choose your notes app

If you don’t use a digital notes app, get started with one now. But I know that choosing your notes app can feel overwhelming and paralyzing. 

My recommendation is to choose an app based on your notetaking style since notetaking is a highly personal process based on intuition and feeling.

In this video, I introduce you to 4 notetaking styles and the best apps for each.

3. Choose a capture tool

I recommend starting with a read later app such as Instapaper or Pocket to begin saving any article or other piece of online content you’re interested in for later consumption. 

Believe me, this one step will change the way you think about consuming content forever.

4. Get set up with PARA

Set up the four folders of PARA (Projects; Areas; Resources; Archives) and, with a focus on actionability, create a dedicated folder (or tag) for each of your currently active projects. 

Focus on capturing notes related to those projects from this point forward.

Check out this blog post for an intro to the PARA system.

5. Get inspired by identifying your twelve favorite problems

Make a list of some of your favorite problems, save the list as a note, and revisit it any time you need ideas for what to capture. Use these open-ended questions as a filter to decide which content is worth keeping.

6. Automatically capture your ebook highlights

Set up an integration to automatically send highlights from your reading apps (such as a read later or ebook app) to your digital notes. Tools like Readwise or IFTTT make this easy.

7. Practice Progressive Summarization

Summarize a group of notes related to a project you’re currently working on using multiple layers of highlighting to see how it affects the way you interact with those notes.

Click here for an intro to Progressive Summarization. 

8. Experiment with just one Intermediate Packet

Choose a project that might be vague, sprawling, or simply hard, and pick just one piece of it to work on—an Intermediate Packet. Maybe it is a business proposal, a chart, a run of show for an event, or key topics for a meeting with your boss. (Check this blog post for more examples of Intermediate Packets.)

Break the project down into smaller pieces, make a first pass at one of the pieces, and share it with at least one person to get feedback.

9. Make progress on one deliverable

Choose a project deliverable you’re responsible for and use any of the workflow and express techniques outlined here. See if you can make decisive progress on it using only the notes in your Second Brain.

These techniques are designed to help you execute your projects more effectively. They are standardized procedures to move faster, save your progress, and produce work of higher quality.

10. Schedule a Weekly Review

Put a weekly recurring meeting with yourself on your calendar to begin establishing the habit of conducting a Weekly Review. 

To start, just clear your notes inbox and decide on your priorities for the week. From there, you can add other steps as your confidence grows.

Click here to access my One-Touch Guide to doing a Weekly Review

11. Assess your notetaking proficiency

Evaluate your current notetaking practices and areas for potential improvement using our free Productivity Potential Quiz.

12. Join the PKM community

On Twitter, LinkedIn, Substack, Medium, or your platform(s) of choice, follow and subscribe to thought leaders and join communities who are creating content related to personal knowledge management (#PKM), #SecondBrain, #BASB, or #toolsforthought. 

I invite you to join our free Facebook and Slack communities. 

Share your journey as you’re building your Second Brain. There’s nothing more effective for adopting new behaviors than surrounding yourself with people who already have them.


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