Episode 364 | April 2, 2024

Building a Second Brain: How to Unlock Creativity, Productivity, and Flow With Tiago Forte

A Personal Note From Orion

Greetings, stellar listeners! I’m excited to welcome you into our newest episode – an expedition into the marvels of a “Second Brain” alongside today’s guest, Tiago Forte.

Tiago stands among the world’s foremost luminaries, mapping the territories of peak productivity and creative flow. He has taught thousands around the globe how to revolutionize their effectiveness through timeless principles combined with the latest technology. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Harvard Business Review and more.

In this conversation, Tiago introduces us to the powerful concept of building a “Second Brain.” This personalized knowledge management system acts as an external space that expands the limits of our minds. You’ll discover techniques for curating your ideas, notes, and inspirations into a focused productivity engine that propels you toward your biggest goals.

Upgrade your creative flow and break through overwhelm. Tiago shares game-changing strategies to harmonize your scattered thoughts into coherent resonance. You’ll never let another brilliant idea slip away once you construct your customized second brain! So, without further ado, let’s dive into the show!

In This Episode

  • [02:41] – Orion introduces Tiago Forte as they discuss creating a second brain for storing and referencing inspiring content. Tiago first recalls his fondest childhood memory.
  • [09:24] – Tiago offers a simple system for organizing notes but acknowledges that it can be difficult to create a personalized system.
  • [16:01] – Orion curiously asks Tiago how he structures his day into setting blocks for focus, work, and family.
  • [22:17] – Tiago suggests using a digital note-taking app as a centralized hub for storing and organizing information rather than relying on multiple scattered locations.
  • [28:02] – Orion and Tiago discuss prioritizing tasks and delegating responsibilities while maintaining autonomy and meeting deadlines.
  • [31:36] – Tiago and Orion connect over their shared appreciation for intuition, with Orion sharing how she’s come to embrace her right-brained nature.
  • [37:27] – Tiago mentions his top tips for living a productive, stellar life.

Jump to Links and Resources

About Today’s Show

 Hi, Tiago. Welcome to the Stellar Life podcast. Thank you so much for being here.

Thank you so much, Orion. It’s a pleasure.

Before we begin, can you share one of your favorite childhood memories with us?

One of my favorite memories is just being in the studio with my dad. My dad is an artist and a painter. In our backyard was his studio, which was a separate building. He was always there in his smock, covered in paint. Anytime I was bored or just wanted to talk to him, I could go in there and either just talk to him, or he’d give me a little canvas to paint with, and I would put my fingers in the paint. What that gave me is art is not this abstract, formal thing that was in some big building far away, but art is just a daily, informal, messy part of our lives.

That’s beautiful. How do you think art is connected to our brain development or our thinking?

Art is the daily, informal, messy part of our lives.

It is connected, for sure. I think some people don’t even know about that. You don’t define art as just a famous artist’s painting hanging in a modern art museum downtown, but art is just a daily little practice of crafting your own reality. That answers your question. I think it can be something as simple as making a sandwich or a meal with just a little bit of flair, with just an unusual ingredient, or plated with just a slightly unconventional way to how you go about your morning routine, how you clean the house.

I am always finding creative ways to do little hacks to clean parts of the house. It’s how you play with your kids to the music you create or listen to. There’s just constant opportunities. I think you should just do something because you want to because you see a possibility, or because you’re human and like things a certain way. To me, those are all under art.

That’s beautiful. Were you always a very productive person, or did you teach yourself how to become more productive and build a second brain, which we will discuss?

From growing up and spending time at the art studio, now you’re a very successful and productive entrepreneur. Were you always productive? Were you always organized? How did you become the person that you are today?

It’s funny because if you followed me around for a few days. My wife always tells me this: my siblings and parents don’t think I’m very organized or productive. I’m really much more of a dreamer. To answer your question, growing up in school, the constant comment my teacher sent home to my parents was that “Tiago was daydreaming and was off in his own little world. He was not paying attention, he was missing things, he forgot his homework, his textbook, his books, a pencil, or whatever it was.”

Building a Second Brain by Tiago Forte

I’m still this way, head in the clouds, off just in my imagination. It’s like I had to learn how to be productive and organized in certain ways just to keep my life from falling apart because I’m such an absent-minded dreamer. But it’s not my natural state. I have had to train myself.

Wow. I have hope. That’s good. I used to be very much of a dreamer in high school. It was so boring. I used to just daydream, write poems, and skip gymnastics class to go to the park and play my guitar—good old days.

Yeah, I know. That was me, too.

But you played piano, right?


That’s beautiful. That’s also art. Also, of course, the piano trains your brain. It just increases the neural connections. I don’t know the exact science, but I read about it. This classical music, or music in general, helped with brain development. I think the fact that you were a dreamer is actually helping you today because when you go to school, they try to mold you into a certain box. They couldn’t do this to you, so you become the incredible person that you are. That’s a good thing.

I hope that’s what happened. There’s something where you can’t be natural when teaching something to others. You can’t be a natural because if I was born and just temperamentally naturally organized and productive, I wouldn’t appreciate it. I would just think, “Well, what’s the big deal? This is just how things are. Why is it important? Why does it matter?”

But because I was not naturally this way, and I had to learn it and master it, and it was really difficult, that gave me the appreciation to now want to create content, write, and teach others how to do what I had to learn.

A second brain isn't merely an entity or location; it thrives as a dynamic ecosystem, fostering creativity, productivity, and boundless possibilities. Click To Tweet

What is a second brain? What is building a second brain?

A second brain is simply a trusted place outside your head. That’s the main criterion. It’s not in here; it’s out here where you store and can reference all the information that matters to you. It often includes your goals, your dreams, your ideas, your insights, your memories, and your experiences. More concretely, it can include things like excerpts from books you read that you enjoyed and pieces of content you found online. It can also include photographs or drawings.

It can include clips of videos or podcasts like this one. Basically, whatever inspires you, and it’s something that you want to revisit, remember, and potentially use in your creative endeavors. You want a place to turn to where you can find everything preserved for yourself. And that’s your second brain.

Are you talking about storing it digitally or writing it down in a notebook?

It can really be both. I always distinguish that a second brain is not just one thing or place. It’s usually an ecosystem. I’ve never met someone who keeps all their information in one place, even digitally. You have information in your email, in your notes app, in Google Drive, in Asana, and in your social media bookmarks. It’s spread around different places. Your second brain is the whole ecosystem, the whole set of tools you use. Some of those tools can absolutely, they should be, I think, analog, paper, notebooks, notepads, stuff like that.

How do you even start creating that system? There are so many apps. I have, personally, so many notebooks. Sometimes, I go from one to the other. How do you systemize this? How do you start building it?

I think it’s that word: to systematize it. One thing I always push back on people is if they ask, “How can I create a second brain, or when should I create a second brain?” I’m always like, “No, you have one already. You have some external place where you’re keeping information.”

Your second brain is the whole set of tools you use. Some of those can absolutely be analog, notebooks, notepads, etc.

I have not yet met a person. If you’ve ever made a grocery list, if you’ve ever written down a to-do list, if you use any software, any app on your phone, and this is so inherent to us as humans, there’s actually a great book on this called Supersizing the Mind. What it is to be human is constantly pushing information out of our brain, which is limited and full of external places.

The question is not whether you will create a second brain or not; the only question is whether you will systematize and more intentionally design your second brain, have it be something of your creation that you’re the author of, or just leave it to chance and just do whatever?

For me, the word “systematize” sounds big, grandiose, and scary. My first reaction was that I didn’t know how to systematize my notes. What do you mean when you say systematize them? How do you put everything?

I have my note app. I used to use the Teams app and forgot about it. There are so many apps, and there are so many distractions. How do you find the ones that work for you and create some system around it?

Totally. This is where I come in. This is my job. You can absolutely create your own system and do your own systematizing, but it’s really hard. It took me over ten years to do that for myself, even though this was something I was totally obsessed with. That’s one route, or you can just use my system, which is quite simple. 

You’re right. When you hear the word system, you imagine this machine with all these gears and moving parts, but that’s not what I mean by the system.

The PARA Method by Tiago Forte

You get me thinking like I have this big imagination. This is exactly what I use. 

No, that’s not it. It’s a few key intentional decisions. That’s all it is. It’s really just a few pretty minor interventions, which is what my course is about in my book and all my content on this. We can talk about a few of those. I’ll just mention a couple. 

One is making a project list. Maybe the top mistake I see people make when they think, “Okay, I’m going to organize my knowledge. I’m going to organize my content,” is when they start creating all these topics. They start creating folders or tags for everything they have information about—marketing, business, health, finances, remodeling kitchen, etc.

Remodel is a good one, but the others are not good because a topic like marketing, let’s say you have an interest in marketing, is a vast, almost infinite domain of knowledge. You can’t organize information about marketing alone. I advise people to create folders or tags, not for topics but for projects.

I sit them down and say, “Make a list on this piece of paper of every project you’re currently working on.” For almost everyone I’ve ever worked with, there are between 10 to 15 projects that they’re working on at any given time. They can be personal projects, home projects, or work projects. It doesn’t matter. They can be short-term projects in the next couple of days or long-term projects in years. It doesn’t matter. Just dump them all together in one list, and you’ll probably have around 10 to 15.

Then start organizing and storing all the content you have, the notes, the documents, the web clips, the internet bookmarks, the YouTube transcripts, the photos, the graphics, everything, according to which project it is most relevant to you. If you do that and nothing else, you will have a more rigorous and outcome-oriented system than 99.9% of people.

I advise people to create folders or tags not for topics but for projects.

Yes, I can totally see that. Even looking at my very long to-do list, it’s not organized. It’s just a lot of things, a lot of to-dos, and everything is the same priority, even though it’s not the same priority. When you go about those projects, how do you find the discipline and the desire to do certain things that are not so fun?

That’s a common one. It depends on why you don’t find it fun or how much control you have. If I were talking to an entrepreneur or self-employed person who can decide which projects they take on, I would say, “Well, listen, you’re the boss, just do what you like. Do what is more interesting or what enlivens you. Otherwise, you’re not going to do a good job.”

If I’m talking to someone working in a big corporation, it’s different. Sometimes, you just have to find ways, structures, and strategies for motivating yourself to complete what your manager asks you to do. I think it depends a lot on your situation. It depends a lot on your level of control.

Whatever the situation, some of these second-brain strategies can help. It’s funny—sometimes, I create structure in my second brain because I really hate doing something like taxes. Every minute that I spend thinking about taxes is like torture. It’s like I’m being tortured. I hate it.

My solution to that is to save every little detail of my taxes in my notes. The second I get a 1099 or whatever, I try not to think about it. I just put it straight into my second brain, so it doesn’t have to live in my first brain.

It’s powerful that for things you love and hate, the second brain is useful in both situations.

Ironically enough, it’s the same thing with things I enjoy. Let’s say a piece of writing that I find really interesting. I also save all that in my second brain because I want to digest, think about, and reflect on every little detail of that writing because it’s so interesting. I find it very powerful that on both ends of the spectrum, things I love and things I hate, the second brain is useful in both situations.

How do you prioritize your day? What’s your day look like?

I tend to structure my day in three blocks. Morning is for focus because I have the most energy, and my mind is in the right state. The afternoon is for all other work, phone calls, email meetings, reviewing my notes, and other things. Late afternoon evening is family—my work brain is totally off, and everything is just picking the kids up from school, making dinner, and getting them to bed. I think of my day as those three blocks.

That’s amazing. Do you have any morning ritual that gets you into a certain state?

You know what, I don’t. This is weird. So many productivity experts say, “Oh, you have to get up at 6 AM, no, 5 AM, no, 4 AM. You have to do an hour, three hours of meditation and all those different things.” For me, morning time is precious.

I usually wake up ready to go. I already have ideas from my sleep, my dreams, or whatever. I just want to get them down and put them into external form. I find that having a rigorous morning routine just delays that. I like to get up, take a shower, help the kids get ready for school, and go straight into that focus time. I like to do things like exercise, meditation, and housework later in the day, in the afternoon or evening.

Taking notes while following your curiosity will help you capture its essence.

What drives you? What is pulling you every day to wake up in the morning, be extremely productive, and do what you do a hundred percent?

My main driver is curiosity. It’s scratching my own itch, learning what I am curious about and interested in, and following my passions. I think curiosity is a better word than passion. Often, I want to know something, and I just find it fascinating.

The secondary one is the impact on people. I see how it improves their lives and makes them more productive, fulfilled, calm, and centered at the end of the day. My curiosity is like jet fuel; the impact is just like adding a catalyst to the jet fuel.

What do you see in the transformation with people using your system?

Supersizing the Mind by Andy Clark

There are so many different things. It’s really interesting for me to see. Generally, they’re more productive. What they do with that extra productivity always surprises me. One person is more productive, which means they finish work an hour early, go home, and exercise or spend time with their kids. Awesome. Other people are more productive and use it to start a side business, make more money, and develop their own things.

Other people use it to get a promotion or raise in their nine-to-five job. Others use it to start a nonprofit or a community service project. Whatever they want to use that extra bandwidth for is fine with me. What I care about is that they have more freedom and agency, so they’re actually choosing what to give their bandwidth, which is their time, rather than just having it told to them.

Are you naturally focused, or do you have a system for increasing your focus and being really into what you’re doing at the moment?

I think I’m pretty focused naturally as long as I really care about what I’m focusing on. If I don’t care about it or don’t like it, I have almost no ability to focus.

Are there any AI tools that you think are relevant to building the second brain? AI is getting smarter and smarter, and we’re going to see a lot of new things coming up in the future. How can we use that?

Most of my recent videos on my YouTube channel are about AI stuff. ChatGPT is obviously so incredibly useful. My team and I use it every day. We’re constantly in there.

Another one I’m trying now is NotebookLM, a new platform recently released by Google with a few extra features different from ChatGPT that make it useful, especially for long-form writing. If you do a lot of long-form writing like I do, ChatGPT can be quite limited. I’d say those two are the main ones I’ve been experimenting with.

What I’ll say is that AI is a form of output. It’s a way of spitting something useful out, but you still have to provide the input. The quality of the AI output depends on the quality of the inputs.

I find that note-taking is just as important. It’s even more important because I have to take note of the ideas, insights, facts, and supporting evidence that I will then feed into the AI so that its responses are accurate and helpful. Otherwise, you know, what do you have? Without good notes and inputs, AI is frankly just not very useful.

You have your notes. You write projects. You have subtasks, I guess, within the projects. Then, you use tools like AI to create a blog post, a logo, or whatever you need to create, but it’s all based on the notes you took and the project you wrote. I’m with you with AI. It’s very interesting because sometimes you can get a really brilliant answer.

What note-taking apps do so well is they can store anything. You just dump stuff in there and come back to it later to see whether it’s valuable.

I think they have been making it more stupid on purpose. I feel like it used to be stronger in the beginning. Now it’s getting a little iffy sometimes, and you also need to consider AI hallucinations, where the AI will give you whatever answer just to give you an answer, and you have to look and check the right sources. It is still a great tool, but you’re in charge, like you said, with the input and output. You need to verify sources, edit everything, or delegate it to somebody else. I have that tool, those projects, and those tasks. What other things will make me work better with that system?

Yeah, good. I would start with the project list. You could do that on a piece of paper. It’s just like one list. The other big missing piece for most people is a digital note-taking app. I said, your second brain is this ecosystem of all these tools, but you don’t really want to have all these options.

When you get an interesting document, you don’t want to be like, “Oh, which of these 12 places do I put this?” You really want there to be one default. You want there to be one place where, if you don’t have time or energy to make a decision, you just put it there.

Think about all the places where you could put information. You could create a Word doc and stick it in there. You could stick it in a Google Doc. You could stick it on a sticky note on your desk, on a legal pad, or in an email. There are too many options, but the best option is a note-taking app—for example, one on your phone, like Apple Notes or Google Keep. When you download Notion, Evernote, and Obsidian, they’re often free. 

What note-taking apps do so well is they can store anything. They don’t need data to be in one very specific format and entered in a very certain way. It’s like a notebook. You just dump stuff in there and come back to it later to see whether it’s valuable.

What I would have people do is, first of all, choose a note-taking app. Which one do you want to use that fits your needs? I have a YouTube video that helps you. It’s basically a personality test about how your brain functions. People tend to be either gardeners, architects, librarians, or students when it comes to their note-taking.

We have a quiz on this. If you do a search for a note-taking archetypes quiz or just go to our website, I’m sure you’ll find it. Answer ten questions, and it will tell you which one you are. Once you know which of those four you are, I can recommend two or three specific note-taking apps that are probably best suited to how your mind works.

That’s amazing. I didn’t know all that. I’m using Notes. I hope I’m not a gardener using the wrong app, but it works for me. I don’t know if I’m a student or whatever you said there, but I find Notes to be really helpful. I documented a little mastermind event we were in and added some photos to the Notes. It made it so beautiful and was really fun to watch.

I feel like I use my Notes for all my aha moments. I have a big note for all my aha moments: if I have a conversation with my coach, and I have something amazing, it’s going to go there, or some kind of an intimate share that I want to share with my future self. Then, I have another note for recipes.

AI is a form of output. The quality of the AI output depends on the quality of the inputs.

Yeah. The other thing I love about notes is that they’re so informal. They’re private, and no one needs to know what’s there. You can mix it all up. You could have a grocery shopping list, your recipes right next to your vision for your life, your life goals, and all these things, right next to your kid’s birthdays, right next to a list of home tasks. It’s all together, just like our lives. Our lives are not compartmentalized into different domains; they’re all together. I feel like a note-taking app is a reflection of that.

I like that. It’s a good idea. When it comes to managing your business or your week, what do you do? What are some tips for managing everything?

I definitely depend on software for every aspect of the business. We have a team second brain, ClickUp, a combination of ClickUp for tasks and to-dos and Notion for content. Which aspect of the business are you interested in?

The one where, like, how do you manage your team? How do you take all your projects all your tasks, and maybe review them weekly? What makes you a better manager, I guess, is the question.

We’re definitely very project-oriented, which is probably no surprise. One thing I do is we have a team project list, and it’s very sacred. It’s very clearly defined for everyone to see inside ClickUp with exactly what the current projects are.

Our lives are not compartmentalized into different domains; they’re all together. A note-taking app is a reflection of that.

I would really like that to be this public dashboard of what we’re working on. There are these phantom projects. If you’re in a meeting with a team and someone says, “Oh, we should really update the colors on our website,” and everyone goes, “Yeah, we should really do that,” then it’s like, “Okay, first of all, are we actually going to do that or no? Let’s decide if there is a next action and what that next action is.” But then, once you’ve done that, just take into account that that’s going to take time.

Even if it seems easy and simple, it’s never as simple as it seems on the front end. You have to budget for it. Who’s going to take this on? When are they going to take it on? When are they going to take it on? What other projects might be affected? And there’s always another project that’s affected. No one can tell me, “Oh, I just have a bunch of free time that I’m going to dedicate to this new project we’re creating.”

The question I always want to know from the team is, “Okay, this new thing that is arising during this meeting that we’re talking about, how does this fit into our current budget in terms of bandwidth for the team? And do we want to make that trade-off? Do we want to slow down this other top-priority project to do the other small thing we’re discussing?” Often, the answer is no.

That is so smart. It’s so easy to get really excited about new projects without even thinking about budgeting for them—money, hours, manpower. How is that going to affect other projects? That’s really a brilliant way of thinking about it. With your top priority projects, how do you make sure everybody is on time and doing their tasks to the best of their ability?

Yeah, interesting. It’s funny, and I don’t think I’m a very micromanaging manager. I tend to hire very autonomous people. They’ve often had some of the training I’ve had with GTD and defining your own work. I think I hire people like that and leave them to their own devices as long as they’re meeting their deadlines, delivering what they’ve promised, and the business area they’re responsible for is doing well. I think I tend to be pretty hands-off, maybe even two hands-off. I think I could probably provide some more coaching, direction, and goal setting.

A second brain is simply a trusted place outside your head.

It makes sense because if everything is already predetermined, you guys are focusing on the right thing, the people are autonomous, and they have—you said GTD by David Allen.

I remember attending Tony Robbins seminars and getting those humongous black leather folders. Now we have moved, and I have found so many boxes with those folders. I just donated them because I’m not used to it.

I feel like using a system takes so much time that you just give up on it ahead of time. What makes your system different from something like that? For somebody like me, is it just another distraction at the end of the day?

I would reframe that for you. I highly doubt that you completely abandon and never use a hundred percent of the systems you’ve encountered in the past. More likely, you threw away somewhere between 1% and 99%, and something stuck.

Being human is constantly pushing information from our inherently finite minds, systematizing and intentionally designing a second brain to rely on. Click To Tweet

Absolutely. I’m waiting for that.

It might not be something super tactical or a technique. It could just be a mindset, an attitude. It could be a little habit. It could be one question you ask. It’s funny because any system you encounter is someone else’s. It’s not yours. It was designed for their mind, for their life, and their goals, not yours. It would actually be really weird if a hundred percent of their system fit you.

I feel more sane now. I’m like, “Why can I not do what those other people do?” There are big binders, ten different markers, and all those stickers. I’m like, “How do you guys have time for that?”

It’s crazy. It’s funny because they’ll keep developing it and come out with new things, parts, strategies, and layers because they’re just doubling down and refining their own system. The way I see it is you have to come in and find that 1%, the 5%, or 10% that fits you, take that out, and then do that with a bunch of different people. I’m going back against what I said earlier, which is you do, in the end, have to create your own system, but often, you can sort of have a shortcut by borrowing parts of other people’s systems.

Any system you encounter is someone else’s. It was designed for their mind and goals. It would be really weird if 100% of their system fit you.

Thank you for the reframe. I feel much better about it now, for real. It feels like, “Oh, okay, I’m not insane or even stupid because I can’t manage to do this.” It’s just that my brain works differently. It goes back to how I’m way more right-brain, artistic, and dreamer. I guess that’s why I’m so allergic to the word system, even though I use systems, and I’m probably a very systematic person. It sounds restricting to me. It sounds like I have to be inside a box.

I would just expand your definition of the system. You sound a lot like my wife. You remind me of my wife, who is my opposite in every way. Every time I’m like, “Oh, this strategy, this system,” she’s like, “No, I don’t care. In fact, they’re right over here.” She has these goddess cards. They’re astrology cards that have a different goddess on each card.

I did an awaken your inner goddess seven-day challenge. I had 1,200 women on that. I’m all about awakening your inner goddess. I have goddess cards. I’m obviously really similar to your wife. You’re, by the way, very similar to my husband.

He’ll wake up in the middle of the night and write something in his notebooks. He’s got all those technical systems. I definitely see a lot of similarities. He loves your book. He really enjoyed it. We have it. Unfortunately, I didn’t read it, that’s why I’m talking to you.

No, I get it. She does a moon ritual every two weeks. She’ll take out her goddess cards and have incense and all these things. I told her recently, “Well, that’s your system.” She’s like, “No, this is just me following my intuition and exploring my feelings.” I’m like, “No, that is a framework.” That is a highly engineered, sophisticated, multi-level system you follow based on the cards.

Wow. That’s amazing. One of the new systems that I neglected and am coming back to is dancing. I’m talking about the feminine type of movement, this type of dancing. That, for me, gives me a lot of inspiration. 

I also find that as a mom, I do my best thinking when I wake up at 3 AM out of nowhere. I just sit down and write down everything happening in my brain. That’s where my best thinking happens. I like it. I like your wife’s system. I probably resonate with it a lot.

At the end of the day, if you don’t have someone to come back to and someone you love and love you back, there’s no point.

We’ve borrowed from each other a lot. If you look at my book and my content generally, on the surface, it seems super left-brained, analytical, and logical. But just underneath the surface, you’ll find a very strong theme of following your intuition, awakening your curiosity, listening and understanding your emotions, self-awareness, self-discovery, and personal growth. A lot of that influence comes from her.

I borrowed from her a lot of that intuitive, somatic way of being. She’s also borrowed from me. Right now, she’s working on a book. She’s putting her ideas into book form. She says, “If it wasn’t for you, I would never dream of taking on a project like this,” but we teach each other.

It reminds me of Stephan and me because I would never do this podcast without him. I started three years ago. He was like, “You should totally do a podcast.” I’m like, “Really? With my accent and my English? Who would ever want to listen to me?” I get to have people like you on the podcast. I’m like, “Wow, this is cool. It’s amazing.”

He’s been a great supporter of me too. When we met, I was way wilder, and he was way more of a nerd. I feel like now he’s more open. He shifted a lot. He’s way more open and connected, and I’m becoming more entrepreneurial, organized, and all those good things. He definitely is my biggest supporter of that.

There you go. We find our other halves. We find what we need in the world.

I also really loved the way you prioritize your family, where the morning is for business and the evening is for the family. This is something that I had to work on with my husband because a lot of attention goes to the business. Now, we’re at a point where he definitely understands more of the value.

Enhancing your productivity within a system is limitless, but the best option is to lean on a note-taking app—it's the backbone for optimizing efficiency and organization. Click To Tweet

At the end of the day, if you look at your life, at the end of your life, you’re not going to remember how many hours you spent working, but you’re going to remember your child smiling, being at your dad’s workshop, painting, and having a conversation. Those are the things that stay with us. We need everything you teach to create those beautiful moments and provide for our families.

I love that you have that balance and teach people productivity so they can have that balance to go to the gym, train a little bit, and be with their loved ones because we need that. If we’re just scattered all day trying to work and work and work like we’re on a hamster wheel, then why do we even live? What are we living for?

Totally. I know. That’s exactly how I see it. In the past, I was a workaholic. I was way too obsessed with it. It’s okay to do that for a time. It’s maybe even a good idea to taste what that’s like and see how meaningless it is. At the end of the day, if you don’t have someone to come back to and someone you love and love you back, there’s no point.

What are your three top tips for living a stellar life?

You must create your own system by borrowing parts of other people’s methods.

(1) Follow your curiosity since that’s been a theme in this conversation. (2) While following your curiosity, take really good notes along the way. (3) Just share more. People could and should share so much more of what they’re feeling, what they’re thinking, and what they’re learning. The world would be a better place if people were just more open about what they’re going through and experiencing.

Social media can be overwhelming and chaotic, but it doesn’t have to be online or in public. It could even just be with your friends, your family, and your community. I think communication, storytelling, and all that is an essential part of human nature. We can’t do enough of it.

That’s amazing. When you say share more, what do you mean? What do we need to share more?

All of it—stories, insights, ideas, and theories. Everyone has little theory about how the world works or how people work, and they tend to keep quiet. One of the most powerful things I’ve found is regularly sharing visions, dreams, desires, and aspirations with my wife. Even if they make no sense, even if I see no possible way to fulfill them, because once it’s in the air, it’s alive, and in conversation, it starts to move, and things start to happen.

Sometimes, she’ll see a way for it to happen in my blind spot that I don’t even notice. That’s true of everyone in my life. There was a time when I was so afraid to share what I wanted in life because I thought people would think I was arrogant, presumptuous, or selfish. I’ve completely reversed that attitude, where I find so many amazing benefits, such as richness, and just have this ongoing conversation with the people in my life and our lives about what we want for the future.

Communication and storytelling are essential parts of human nature.

What do you want for the future?

The thing that’s really on my mind these days is moving out of the country.

You know what, it’s on my mind too. I’m thinking of Costa Rica, but I don’t know.

Why Costa Rica?

Because we love Costa Rica, we got married there. We’ve visited multiple times, and it’s just a magical, beautiful, amazing place. Every time I’m in Costa Rica, it’s almost like I can breathe better. Nature is so pretty, and people are sweet. Nobody really cares about external beauty. People care, of course, but not like in here. People really care more about your heart. I really love the nature there; it’s outstanding.

Yeah, I love that. I’m thinking about my kids. They’re extremely important to me. My family is Brazilian, and my wife’s family is Mexican. They’re now one and three. One is talking a lot, and the other is starting to talk.

I am determined that they speak either Spanish or Portuguese or preferably both natively. It’s nonnegotiable. Speaking Portuguese for me is one of the greatest gifts of my entire life, one of the greatest gifts that my parents gave me. I refuse to allow them to grow up without a second language.

What else? Is there anything else for the future that you desire for a dream to come true? Do you have any other dreams?

This is in the same category, but I want to sail around the world with my family. I’m really interested in sailing. I’m not a very skilled or experienced sailor; I just do the little dinghies, the little two- or three-person boats, and the tiny sailboats, but I have a dream. I don’t know how this is going to happen, but I would love to get the whole family in a sailboat somehow and just sail around the world for a year or two.

Your curiosity ignites like jet fuel, while your impact on others is the catalyst that propels innovation to new heights. Click To Tweet

That sounds amazing. I love it. Thank you for inspiring me with your dreams. Where can people find you, get your book, study with you or take your courses?

You can find everything related to second brains at buildingasecondbrain.com. There are books and courses. We also have a podcast, a blog, and lots of YouTube videos. For more information about me and my company, you can find more at fortelabs.com, including my story, content I’ve published in the past, and all that good stuff.

Thank you. This was a fascinating conversation. I really appreciate you. Thank you for sharing such smart tools with us and for sharing your heart with us.

Thank you, Orion. It was a pleasure.

Thank you. Thank you, listeners. Remember to follow your curiosity, take really good notes along the way, and share more. This is Orion, till next time.

Your Checklist of Actions to Take

{✓} Make a clear breakdown of all your current tasks. List down ten to fifteen active projects you’re currently working on, whether personal, professional, short-term or long-term.

{✓} Organize your notes, documents, and information by project, not by topic. Rather than siloing information into endless topic folders, connect it to your active work streams to keep you oriented toward your priorities.

{✓} Choose a note-taking app that fits your personality. Take the note-taking archetypes quiz and read this article. Matching your notes system to how your mind naturally works reduces friction.

{✓} Use your note-taking app as a digital “brain dump” for anything inspiring. Don’t pre-judge or filter your inputs – let everything marinate together.

{✓} Regularly share your dreams, visions, and desires with loved ones to manifest them. Giving voice to your ambitions, no matter how fanciful, breathes life into them.

{✓} Follow your curiosity and take diligent notes on what intrigues you. This reinforces learning while seeding your creative wellspring.

{✓} Utilize AI tools like ChatGPT as output engines fed by your quality inputs. They’ll synthesize and expand your inputs into polished writing, analysis, and more.

{✓} Structure your day in focused blocks (e.g., morning = deep work, afternoon = shallow tasks). Dedicate your peak hours to cognitively demanding tasks. This rhythm optimizes your effectiveness while replenishing creative reserves.

{✓} Prioritize work-life balance by dedicating family time sacred. Establish fluidly guarded boundaries to immerse in quality personal time.

{✓} Visit Tiago Forte’s website, buildingasecondbrain.com, the central hub for all his extensive resources in unpacking the Second Brain methodology. To explore Tiago’s other works, check out fortelabs.com.

Links and Resources

Connect with Tiago Forte


YouTube Videos


Further Resources

About Tiago Forte

Tiago Forte is one of the world’s foremost experts on productivity and has taught thousands of people around the world how timeless principles and the latest technology can revolutionize their productivity, creativity, and personal effectiveness. He has worked with organizations such as Genentech, Toyota Motor Corporation, and the Inter-American Development Bank and appeared in a variety of publications, such as The New York Times, The Atlantic, and Harvard Business Review. Find out more at Fortelabs.co.

The medical, fitness, psychological, mindset, lifestyle, and nutritional information provided on this website and through any materials, downloads, videos, webinars, podcasts, or emails are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical/fitness/nutritional advice, diagnoses, or treatment. Always seek the help of your physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist, certified trainer, or dietitian with any questions regarding starting any new programs or treatments or stopping any current programs or treatments. This website is for information purposes only, and the creators and editors, including Orion Talmay, accept no liability for any injury or illness arising out of the use of the material contained herein, and make no warranty, express or implied, with respect to the contents of this website and affiliated materials.

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