Tiago Forte reveals no world-shattering advice in his book "Building a Second Brain." Instead, he provides a common sense approach to organizing your thoughts. He tells us to save and record our ideas, refine them, and organize them. It makes sense, but few people are doing this effectively.

Forte recommends storing things digitally - folders on discs or in a knowledge management application - to make your data easy to search.


For organization, he advocates the "CODE" principle, which stands for Capture, Organize, Distill, Express, as explained below


As you consume information, store it in an easily accessible place. This could be an application, a file cabinet, or a folder on your hard drive.


Organize that information in a consistent way. Forte recommends the following broad categories, which he abbreviates as "PARA."

  • Projects: Short-term activities
  • Areas: Long-term responsibilities. May be moved to a project in the future.
  • Resources: Topics of interest to you. May be moved to an area or project in the future.
  • Archives: Inactive stuff. May be moved to an area or project in the future.


Summarize the information to make it easier to consume later. Highlight an article, select the most important highlight, then write a summary of the article's main points.


Use the distilled information you captured to create something or to execute a goal - writing a novel, planning an event, learning a new language.

Divergence / Convergence

Capturing and Organizing allow us to practice Divergence - Save information without processing and filtering it. Distilling and Expressing are examples of Convergence, filtering out unneeded information to focus on what is most valuable.

The system does not have to be perfect, Forte tells us. We just need a system that works for us.


I was already practicing something similar to what Forte advocates - storing and organizing my ideas in OneNote and in a set of DropBox folders.

After reading the book, the most significant change I made was to schedule time each month to evaluate my "To Do" list and decide if I needed to move anything from medium-term goals to short-term projects and action items.