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Don’t Use CODE in Your Second Brain – Here’s Why

By Matt Giaro (Creative Note-taking Expert)

Code Second Brain

Today I’ll show you why you shouldn’t be using CODE to build your second brain.

Yes: Building a second brain is the hot thing right now.

And one of the most famous frameworks to work with your notes is CODE.

What is CODE?

CODE is an acronym.

It stands for Capture/Organize/Distill/Express. It implies that your notes should go through those 4 different stages.

However, most people blindly apply the productivity advice they read online and outsource their critical thinking to the number of stars, likes, and shares the resources get. But truth is, just because a framework is popular doesn’t mean it necessarily works.

Because here’s the issue: CODE didn’t work for me. And didn’t for the dozens of clients I worked with over the past 10 months.

So in this article, I’m going to share with you why the CODE framework doesn’t work and what to do about it so that you can finally get the most out of your notes.

You’ll learn a new way to organize your second brain as a content creator.

Let’s get started.

CODE keeps you on the information treadmill

Most people struggle with information overload.

There are just too many things to explore and too many resources to consume. While CODE is an interesting way to re-engage with your notes, the problem is that it does not solve the issue at its core: your information intake.

Everyone has a bottleneck in their workflow. And you can’t skyrocket your results with existing bottlenecks.

Think of a Ferrari with a clogged gas tank. No matter how powerful your engine is or how much horsepower it has, you’ll never be able to operate at full capacity with a clogged tank.

The same goes for your notes.

You could have the most robust workflow (in this case, CODE)… But if you don’t solve the clogged information intake, then you’ll never be able to fully operate at the best of your capacity.

And this is precisely why CODE is flawed.

What are the bottleneck and the clogged gas tank I’m talking about? Your information intake.

CODE does not start with information consumption. It starts directly with the capturing phase. But capturing is just a step that comes after information consumption. So if you’re consuming too much or focusing on the wrong resources, CODE can’t help.

To make sense of your notes, you need to get what happens before capturing it right.

CODE does not help you get rid of information overload. Worse, it amplifies your bad consumption habits.

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CODE clogs your second brain with more information

Nobody wants to organize information. We want to make sense of it.

As a creator, the value of your notes resides in the thought you’re going to put behind them.

Yet, the “O” in CODE stands for Organizing.

Every time you take a note, you must go through the burden of classification. You constantly have to think about “where” you are going to put your note, either by using tags or folders. This is a complete waste of your creative potential.

It leads to decision fatigue.

The more time you spend on classifying, the less time you have to make meaningful connections between your ideas that are already in your second brain.

The solution to this classification maze is to stop classifying your notes. Instead, set up a self-organizing structure.

CODE makes you do the same tasks twice

Is there a way to save even more time? You bet.

Let’s take a closer look at the last two steps of CODE: Distill and Express.

The Distillation phase implies using Progressive Summarization, where you distill every source by getting to the gist. It’s a very similar principle to the Feynman technique. Simply put, you want to rewrite the information you’ve captured in your own words and keep what’s necessary.

The reason it works is that it helps you solidify the idea and make sure you understand it.

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

But now comes the question: Why would you separate between Distill and Express? If you’re in the midst of rewriting a book highlight (Distill) then you’re already expressing it.

So when you think about it, splitting something into two steps is just another waste of time.

One of the reasons I’m able to produce a lot of content so quickly is that I’m Distilling and Expressing at the same time. This is why I can simply copy and paste much of my work into publishable content.

This is called leverage. And leverage is the essence of productivity and getting more things done.

Leverage is how we can make the same piece of work do more than one thing.
 Dan Kennedy

While I agree that some pieces of content may need more time to express themselves, the real leverage with your notes happens when you use them as ready-made building blocks.

Stop wasting your time looking at Distilling and Expressing as two separate tasks. Combine them.

Put your second brain in the freezer

I’ve taken thousands of notes over the last decade.

And I thought I was a notetaking junkie. Unless I saw clients having taken tens of thousands of notes! Their Evernote was as slow as a Pentium 1 running on Windows 95.

Clogged notetaking apps are real.

But what’s even more disturbing is that most people never create anything out of their notes. They simply dump information into a digital black hole and never revisit it. It’s like putting information in the freezer and forgetting about it.

The reason why that’s the case is that people think that notes and ideas are meant to be retrieved.

If you’re an archivist, that’s true.

But if you’re a creator and a knowledge worker, your best ideas deserve more than a search-retrieval relationship. Yet, 95% of creators treat their notes like that.

But your notes are not meant to be retrieved. They’re meant to be combined. Because creativity is connecting the dots between unrelated fields.

But when you use tags and folders, you’re training your brain to classify ideas in order to merely retrieve them.

Your second brain should produce, not merely store.

CODE Alternative

So now comes the question: is there a solution to this dilemma?

You bet there is.

The first step is to understand that you don’t just need a way to manage your notes. You need a way to manage your overall information intake.

The second is that you need to get rid of classification to have more brainpower to spark creative insights.

This is why I came up with a radically new way of managing personal knowledge that is explicitly tied to content creators and marketers.

It’s designed to help you create meaningful notes and help you achieve the best of your creative work in a simple and fun way.

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