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How to Build a Second Brain as a Content Creator (Ultimate Guide)

By Matt Giaro (Creative Note-taking Expert)

How to build a second brain as a content creator

If you’re a content creator looking to build your second brain, then this article will show you how.

What’s a second brain?

The term “building a second brain” has been democratized by Tiago Forte, a productivity freak.

While many people talk about second brains online, only a few know what they’re talking about. After being in the trenches of taking notes and knowledge management for several years, let me tell you this:

A second brain is nothing else then a catchy term that refers to building a personal knowledge base.

Usually, you can create this knowledge base in note-taking tools like Evernote, Roam, or Obsidian (just to mention a few.).

Creating is an energy-draining process

Many people think that their ideas come out of the blue. The inspiration hits, and bam, they have a great idea that they can share.

But that’s not true.

All our ideas are a combination of what we’ve encountered in the past. May it be a video we watched, a book we read, or an experience we had in real life. You may not be aware of it, but every single idea you have comes from somewhere.

And let me tell you this: good ideas do not come out of thin air. You need raw material to process and trigger thinking.

And as a creator, your currency is ideas. You express those ideas within your content. No matter which format you’re using: may it be text, video, or audio.

So you can’t afford to let your idea generation to randomness. As you put money in a safe place, all your ideas must be kept somewhere.

Why? Because our brain is like a sieve.

We forget most of the information we encounter. Want an example? What about the last 365-page bestseller you’ve read? Can you remember more than one or two big ideas?

Probably not.

Even though you spent 5 hours reading and highlighting it. This is the dilemma we all have to deal with. We forget.

And you know what?
Retrieving information sucks out a lot of mental bandwidth and energy.

Since the creative process is all about retrieving ideas, and thinking, you need a way to make this process easier.

As a mechanic putting all his tools into his toolbox, your tools as a creator are ideas. And your ideas need to be contained somewhere where you can access them quickly.

Why bother building a second brain as a creator?

Second brains are mandatory for creators. Why? Simply because there so are many benefits of building one.

On a big scale, you could say that the main benefit is that a second brain makes creating content easier.

Now, let’s just look under the microscope and see how this happens exactly.

Quick access to your knowledge

A lot of anxiety is caused by not being able to retrieve information fast.
First, it gives you peace of mind and quick access to your knowledge.

Why? Because information is centralized.
This means that if you want to pull out a quote from a book, or reference an insight sparked from a TedTalk… you don’t need to go back to the original source and lose yourself in the rabbit hole. You could directly go back to your second brain and pour out what you need to re-use within a few seconds.

Open your second brain, search, copy, paste, done!

Create content blazing fast

One of the most common objections to starting getting serious about creating content is that it takes a lot of time. This is because creating involves thinking, writing, editing, etc.

And when you have the right process, a second brain is one of the best ways to create content faster.

Why?
Because you’re drafting out your upcoming pieces of content while dumping ideas into your second brain.

Let’s assume you came across an interesting quote. You open your second brain, copy and paste the quote, and rewrite it in your own words. You already have a first draft that you can use for future content.

Here’s an example of how I rewrote an idea I came across. I can re-use it in my content later on.

And since you have everything under one roof, you can start thinking of your notes as different building blocks. Like legos, you can mix and match between them and simply start creating faster than ever before.

Create content that stands out

Competition on the internet is rude.

And if you want to stand out, you need to level up your content. You can’t get noticed with mediocre content. Your content has to stand out. And guess what? Building your second brain can help you create better content.

Here’s how:
Dumping a constant flow of ideas into your second brain will help you build a massive collection of ideas. Now that you have a giant collection of ideas, you can easily combine and see the relationships between them.

Because here’s the thing: Creating great content is about coming up with valuable insights and ideas that others didn’t come up with. This is how you can differentiate yourself from the crowd.

In short, building your second brain the right way makes you stop being a parrot and start becoming a leader in your niche.

Never run out of ideas

Ever struggled with writer’s block?

Maybe it’s because you rely too much on the moment’s inspiration. If you’re not inspired, you don’t have ideas. So you can use your second brain as a powerful prompt machine and simply start navigating through it. After 5 minutes of navigation, you’ll start ideating. Guaranteed. It’s like jumping into the pool. You’ll be going to swim if you want it or not!

I can’t do justice to all the benefits of building a second brain, but those I’ve mentioned are, in my biased opinion, strong enough to start building one… today!

Actionable steps to start building your second brain as a content creator

Building a second brain does not have to be complicated.

In fact, it’s more a habit than a complicated 56-step process using 41 different plugins and doing splits with your fingers by a combination of Hashtags and keystrokes. Many people show off their complicated workflows but let me tell you this: it does not have to be that way.

In fact, the more complicated something is, the more it’s likely to break. So you want to start small.

The first habit you want to develop is to write down your ideas and the insights you come across your day. The goal here is to unload your brain with information and get them on (digital) paper as soon as possible. For that, you can use a quick capture tool on your phone or your computer.

When writing things down, you also want to apply the Feynman technique. It’s nothing more than rewriting every information you encounter in your own words. This gives every note a unique personal twist, helps you deeply internalize the insight, and protect you from plagiarism

As Jon Searle says:

“If you can’t say it clearly, you don’t understand it yourself.”

Then, depending on your note-taking method, you could start classifying or linking your notes between them.

I talk about that process in detail inside my 7-day email course that you can get for free by clicking here.

What should you put into your second brain?

Great question, simple answer: Everything that you find valuable. Don’t forget that it’s your personal second brain. And the only rules are the one that you define.

You know this feeling when you stumble on an idea and then feel the spark. This insights needs to be captured. Are you going to re-use it or not? It’s too soon to know the answer. The safest bet is to save, and see the connection you’ll make out of it later on.

Sources you should consider capturing into your second brain

It’s important to notice that you want to capture the perks and sparks related to the content you consume, and then expand on them with your own words.

So here are some sources you should consider capturing into your second brain as a creator:

  • Book highlights
  • Podcasts/Audiobooks
  • Videos
  • Conversations
  • Market feedback

Once captured, let your second brain do the magic. Start dumping your knowledge, let the knowledge base grow… and start seeing the results for yourself:

Graph View Snapshot of My second brain as a Content creator

Here’s a snapshot of my second brain as a content creator in Obsidian

How does an effective workflow look like?

I have developed a simple 4-step framework. It’s an easy to remember framework because every step starts with the letter ”C”.

4 stages of building your second brain as a creator

Overview of the second brain workflow as a creator

Consume

As mentioned earlier, all of our ideas come from somewhere. Usually from a piece of content we consume. So the first step is to start consuming the right information. For that, you have to identify the best sources than you can pour from. As a chef picks quality ingredients, it’s the same for you. You have to pick quality sources.

Collect

The second stage is all about collecting the relevant information from the high quality sources you just consumed. First, you want to find sources of knowledge that you can capture. It does not have to be complicated. Isolate the insights and capture them using a note-taking app.

Connect

Now, comes the third state. Since creativity and content creation is all about combining ideas, you should start connecting the ideas and insights inside your second brain using backlinks.

Create

Only after mastering the steps earlier mentioned, comes the creation part. Now that you have a solid knowledge database you can start mix and match between your ideas and start creating relevant content.

What tools do Creators use to start building their second brain?

Now comes the question: what tool should you use to start building your second brain? The answer is… it depends.

It depends on what environment you’re working in:
👉 Are you only working on Apple devices?
👉 Or Windows and Android?
👉 Or maybe do you have a Mac but an android phone?

Then come other questions like:
👉 What note-taking method are you using?
👉 What features are you looking for?
👉 How’s your take on privacy?
👉 Do you want your notes to be synced or not…?

So many people forget the Personal aspect of Personal Knowledge Management.

This means that you must go through the process of building your system depending on your needs and aspirations.

And while there isn’t a one-size fits all solution, there are common best practices I recommend when building your second brain as a creator.

I’ve dedicated a whole free email course to that, so feel free to check it out at the end of this article.

Popular second brain tools for creators

Since I know you’re starving for some tools, here are some of the most popular tools used by creators to build their second brain:

  1. Obsidian
  2. Notion
  3. Roam Research
  4. Mem.ai
  5. Evernote
  6. Remnotes
  7. Logseq
  8. Apple Notes
  9. Bear Notes
  10. And the list goes on..

But before jumping into the download frenzy, let me warn you: Tools are only as good as you know how to work with them. If you don’t know what you’re doing, any software can do the trick. So the first step when it comes to building your second brain as a content creator is to set up the right foundations.

Understanding how to build your system, what to expect from it, and how to leverage it in a way that you can earn compound interest on your ideas.

Want to build your second brain as a creator?

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