Capturing information by actionability not category

Jan 5, 2023

Initially this post was going to a way to vent about Knowledge Bases/Second Brains and how they encourage "information gluttony" rather than mindful consumption and collection.

Doing some due diligence on the topic first I started watching Ali Abdaal's video on building a second brain and found that actually it may be better than I thought.

Rather than waste the opportunity to put a post out I'm repurposing this article to explore a particular idea expressed in the video and by Tiago Forte, the author behind "Building a Second Brain".

Ali breaks down the process of using the Second Brain into an acronym, CODE:

  1. C - Capture
  2. O - Organise
  3. D - Distill
  4. E - Express

When I first saw "Capture" my judgemental brain jumped to "Yes! Encouraging people to cram down as many quotes & tidbits of information as possible, never to be used again!". But then we came to "Organise" and a little eureka moment happened in my head.

The particular sentence that stuck out for me was "organise by actionability not by category". In other information systems I have come across in the past, information that sits in your inbox gets judged by what category (e.g. book notes) it should be in and it gets filed away, never to be used again. Instead, the concept of actionability is to ask the question "what could I use this piece of information for?" (e.g. a book I want to write on xyz).

This idea of organising by actionability could still be abused to be an information hoarder (I'll get to writing that 37th book idea I have one day) but it does present a more mindful way to decide what to keep and what to chuck in the bin.

I'm still not 100% sold on the idea that everyone who has even a little bit of knowledge work needs something like a Second Brain but I can definitely appreciate the ethos behind it more.