How to organise information and free your mind
By Kathryn Knights, Management & Leadership Tutor at Professional Academy
How organised are you on a scale of 1 to 5? Maybe, you’re someone who regularly clears out their email inbox, doesn’t overcommit to work and has a clear desk each evening. That puts you on about a 4 out of 5. But, how organised are you when it comes to information storage? What do you do, if anything, with all the valuable information you access each day?
As individuals we consume lots of information every single day of our lives. We also create a lot of information through the ideas we have and the solutions to problems we come up with. Whether we are reading, listening, watching, writing or drawing – there’s a lot of ways we are consuming and creating content.
Where is that information when we need it again?
It’s often scattered in different places, meaning we waste lots of time trying to retrieve it. However, with a little organisation those valuable resources could be pulled together into a useful library, ready to be instantly accessed over and over again.
Build your second brain
I recently listened to an interview with productivity expert, Tiago Forte. He has developed a methodology called Building a Second Brain that helps people capture, organise and then utilise information effectively.
Here’s how it works:
- Capture – grab the information. This can take a wide variety of formats e.g. apps, drawings, bookmarks, cuttings, podcasts, photos, videos, social media, text.
- Organise – you can’t dump the information you have captured in one pile. You need a system. Tiago suggests using his PARA (projects, areas, resources and archives) system to categorise each piece of information:
- Projects – a project is a set of tasks that have a start and end date. They are linked to a goal and are generally short term.
- Areas – these are the different ‘hats’ you wear in life e.g. home life, work life, your health, your finances. They don’t have an end date and continue throughout your life.
- Resources – a resource is a topic or theme of ongoing interest e.g. running, digital marketing, interior design.
- Archives – these are inactive items from the projects, areas and resources categories.
- Utilise – saving information without purpose is meaningless. Information becomes knowledge when we can share and apply it in context to provide meaning, come up with new ideas and make progress. This last step enables you to bring to life the information you have captured.
How the Second Brain methodology helps knowledge workers
If your job role involves thinking for a living then you’re a knowledge worker. For example, if you’re an engineer, scientist, designer, accountant or marketer then you fall into this category.
The challenge for knowledge workers is that they are required to handle a lot of information but no one teaches them how to do this effectively.
If you’re a knowledge worker, the Second Brain methodology will help you become much more effective at doing your job. It will enable you to consolidate emails, messages, online articles etc. into one body of work that you will have at your immediate disposal. The added bonus of using the methodology is that it help avoid procrastination. Everything you need is easy to locate and retrieve so the chances of you not taking action are significantly reduced.
- Consistently finish projects and achieve goals
- Reduce stress levels with the feeling of comfort you get when you know information is organised and easily accessible
- Quickly transform information into knowledge by applying it in context
Freeing your mind
The Second Brain methodology will help you access the information you need at the moment you need it. You will stop wasting valuable time hunting for information and have more time to dedicate to applying that information and turning it into knowledge.
The methodology will also help you see all of the information you have captured as one big network of ideas. For example, you might hear a book about personal finance recommended in a podcast and connect this with a family member who is struggling to manage their budget.
The sense of clarity and connectedness that your ‘second brain’ will give you will enable you to live in the moment and free your mind to explore further new ideas. Helping you grow, develop and live life more fully.