Building a Second Brain

An online bootcamp on digital note-taking and Personal Knowledge Management (PKM), by Tiago Forte


Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected
Read the essay that inspired the course:
What could you do if you had a personal knowledge base that appreciated over time?


What's included?

Examples, templates, and case studies from Tiago's experience introducing knowledge management systems to world-class performers and organizations

Weekly exercises to practice and integrate new techniques, with feedback and guidance from Tiago

Video recordings for every unit in two formats: unedited live session recording (~45m per unit) + condensed lecture and walkthroughs with voiceover narration (~25m per unit)

Onboarding survey to customize content to needs of the group, and individual pre and post-course assessments to track your progress

Downloadable slides and chat transcripts for all sessions

The Roadmap

A 4-week online bootcamp, April 3-May 1, 2017
Lectures + discussion on Mondays, 5:00-6:30pm Pacific time
Extra discussion session (optional) on Thursdays, 9:00-10:00am Pacific time 
Do I have to use Evernote to get value from this program?
Absolutely not. In fact, one of my core principles is not being dependent on any one tool. BUT, most of the examples and implementation guidance will be for Evernote. I'll do my best to adapt recommendations for other tools, but can't make promises.


Frequently Asked Questions

Week 1
April 3 | Unit 1: Introduction, Unit 2: Organizing for Insight
April 6 Discussion session #1 (optional)
Week 2
April 10 | Unit 3: Digital Cognition, Unit 4: Maximizing Return-on-Attention
April 13 Discussion session #2 (optional)
Week 3
April 17 | Unit 5: Progressive Summarization, Unit 6: The Design of Discoverability
April 20 | Discussion session #3 (optional)
Week 4
April 24 | Unit 7: Workflow and Retrieval, Unit 8: The Big Picture
April 27 Discussion session #4 (optional)

May 1 | Conclusion + Wrap-up






Are there any pre-requisites for this course?
Although there are no formal prerequisites, we expect you to be reasonably fluent in the basics of how to use Evernote, and technology in general. We recommend Brett Kelly's Evernote Essentials to learn the basics, and Stacey Harmon's Radical Productivity with Evernote course for a comprehensive program.
Where does this material come from?
I'll draw heavily from the fields of behavioral science, cognitive psychology, design thinking, human-centered and UX design, and theory of constraints. But the primary source is my experience consulting, training, and coaching some of the highest-performing creative professionals in the world, in multiple industries, inside organizations and out.
Your Instructor
Enroll below and join us on this journey
Your Satisfaction Is 100% Guaranteed Or Your Money Back Within the First Two Weeks of the Course

Copyright © 2017 Forte Labs LLC

What if I don't like it?
I'll do everything I can to make sure you get every ounce of value possible. A major benefit of videoconferencing and the online forum is that I can interact with participants individually. But if you complete the first half of the program and decide it isn't providing the value promised, I will happily refund your payment, no questions asked (ok maybe just a few to see how I can improve).



A flexible skill-set in building and maintaining a digital note-taking system

A toolkit of proven techniques, templates, and software programs

A community of peers and alumni to interact with and learn from in a private forum

More specifically...
Christine Walther Tripp
Executive Director, The Walther Foundation
San Francisco, CA
"Building a Second Brain was just the class I was looking for to help me take my work in education philanthropy to the next level. Not only did I learn how to build a system to organize my sources and notes, but I also learned a technique to process this information to keep it alive. Now I know how to add value by growing the resources I collect into actionable ideas to take back out into the field."
David Allen
Founder, David Allen Company

Author, Getting Things Done

"...what’s fascinating to me is that there haven’t been a lot of people, and it’s why I wanted to grab you for this conversation, there haven’t been a lot of people that I’ve run across who caught sort of the subtlety of essentially, the art of work. That people just work, but they don’t realize that it’s an an art form...I love how you think about all this stuff and how you’ve been putting it together."

-from interview with Tiago Forte

Tiago Forte
Productivity Consultant, Coach, and Trainer Founder of Forte Labs

Editor of online publication Praxis

How to Capture, Organize, and Retrieve Your Ideas Using Digital Notes

Stacey Harmon
Evernote Certified Consultant, Founder of Harmon Enterprises
Guest Instructor: Business applications and workflow design
Ting Kelly
UX Designer, Brand Strategist
Guest Instructor: Experience design for creative flow
Chuck Frey
Digital Marketing Strategist, Founder of Mind Mapping Software Blog
Guest Instructor: Creative problem-solving and visual thinking
Renee Fishman
Business Coach, Change Management Consultant
Guest Instructor: Creating productivity rituals

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information and upcoming course dates

Questions? Email

Enhanced creative confidence 
from an integrated system for 
recording and retrieving insights
Deeper insights into your
patterns of thinking and
learning over time
Greater clarity and focus
from offloading your
thinking onto reliable tools
Higher productivity from 
re-using and recombining 
work deliverables
Produce more innovative work
by capturing and drawing on more
diverse sources over time
Relaxed control of projects
from knowing that your
ideas are being captured
Can't make the live sessions? No problem!

All live session recordings, condensed lecture videos, exercises, and discussions will be available online, on demand, on any device.

The Promise of the Course

You will learn how to capture, organize, and retrieve your ideas and insights using digital notes, with a systematic approach and tools that you trust to support creative breakthroughs in your work

Need help convincing the boss? Click here to download a proposal template
Most large organizations, and many smaller ones, will reimburse tuition for professional development

8 units of lecture content 
presented by Tiago Forte in 5 live videoconferencing sessions (including Q&A and breakout rooms)

Condensed lecture recordings 
with voiceover narration, available after each session for later viewing

Weekly live discussion sessions (optional) for Q&A and extended discussion (scheduled on Thursdays at 9am Pacific for European time zones)

Access to an exclusive online discussion forum, including a collective knowledge base, source notes, additional resources, and tool recommendations for all units

Not to mention...

*GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of The David Allen Company, and this course is not endorsed by or affiliated with them in any way

A Letter from Tiago

Here is the simple truth: you cannot afford to keep everything in your head. You need tools to help you remember, to think, and to create.

I've made a living from my database of digital notes for the last 4 years, turning my ideas and the ideas of others into blog posts, online courses, workshops and trainings, slide presentations, and other projects to build my business, Forte Labs.

In this course, I'll show you how to create a system of your own. To capture your ideas and make them shine in your business or workplace. To have more time for the things that really matter. And to focus your energy on showing up more fully at work and at home.

This course is about giving you the confidence to know what's worth pursuing, what's not, and what's next.

If you're paid to think for a living, you can't afford to stop investing in the most powerful tool at your disposal - your mind. Will you join me?



The Full Curriculum

Unit 1: Introduction to the Course

  • What to expect from the course: schedule, components, tools, and learning objectives
  • Our objective: to use digital notes as thinking tools from storage, to synthesis, to insight
  • What is Personal Knowledge Management?
  • Find out why organization and collaboration are the missing links in creative knowledge work
  • Takeaway: Evaluate your note-taking across 11 dimensions of performance and confidence (with post-course evaluation to measure your progress)

Unit 2: Organizing for Insight

  • Feeling unorganized? Deploy the P.A.R.A. method as a starting foundation to organize all your digital information across multiple platforms
  • Discover why almost no one has an effective Project List (a dashboard of active targets) and how to fix it step by step, with feedback and guidance
  • Banish information overload using Magic Number 4: helpful constraints on working memory, rapid enumeration, and object-tracking
  • Hone your ability to scale your attention at different horizons using actionability gradients
  • Takeaway: Update and clarify your Project List as a dashboard of current commitments, and use it to organize your files across all platforms (using the P.A.R.A. Method)

Unit 3: Digital Cognition

  • The big picture of personal knowledge management: The Perspective Era
  • Apply the 4 essential requirements for digital note-taking to evaluate new programs
  • How to amplify the single biggest opportunity for making new connections without expending more time and effort: productive randomness
  • Stigmergy: practical lessons on low-bandwidth creativity from the study of emergence
  • How to utilize the under-appreciated power of incubation: heavy lifts vs. “slow burns"
  • What the Feynman Method can teach us about "punching above our intellectual weight"
  • Find out how the best note-takers build intellectual capital using compounding gains
  • Transform raw material into knowledge ammunition: how to use digital notes to form bodies of knowledge as the foundation for a side project, career advancement, or new business
  • Takeaways: 1) Use the 4 essential requirements for digital note-taking programs as a filter for choosing a program that suits your needs, and 2) identify your personal research priorities using the Feynman Method, as a filter for incoming information

Unit 4: Maximizing Return-on-Attention

  • Explore the hard science of transient hypofrontality: how to maximize mental states of flow for performance, enjoyment, and learning
  • Understanding the impact of setup and transaction costs on productivity (environmental, mental, and emotional)
  • How to create intermediate packets: exposing your personal value chain for rapid feedback and learning
  • Become interruption-proof: placeholding, chunking, and modular deliverables
  • Understand the relationship between small batch sizes, quality, learning, and experiences of flow for knowledge workers
  • Takeaway: Review the notes and files you gathered in Unit 2, and move intermediate packets of work into a Resources area to be reused in future projects

Unit 5: Progressive Summarization

  • Understand the pros and cons of tagging-first, notebook-first, and note-first database designs

  • Become skilled at balancing discoverability and understanding to increase the ROI of your note-taking
  • Don’t have time for reading and research? Apply Progressive Summarization to expose semantic triggers and create value in any span of time
  • Strategic laziness over rigid rules: note-taking strategies that leverage human nature, instead of fighting it
  • Just-In-Time Organization: a pull system for managing research and project support materials
  • Moving from “black box” to Personal Information Landscape (PIL)
  • Takeaways: 1) Practice Progressive Summarization on one of your notes, and 2) practice Just-In-Time Organization on one of your projects

Unit 6: Workflow and Retrieval

  • Why you should think of workflow as strategy: a 3-part formula
  • Elaboration and convergence: use design thinking to escape any dead-end
  • Choose from among 5 proven workflow strategies, with examples, case studies, and implementation guides
  • Avoiding the perils of problem definition: precision vs. accuracy and compression vs. comprehensiveness
  • Banish procrastination using the Archipelago of Ideas approach to new projects
  • Mood-based productivity: using fast cycle time, opportunistic tagging, and triage to maintain motivation and leverage unique states of mind
  • How to generate novel insights and valuable deliverables using personal design sprints
  • Takeaway: Try out 2 of the 5 workflow strategies on one or more of your projects or deliverables

Unit 7: The Design of Discoverability

  • Deep dive into The Design of Everyday Things: translating single-use techniques into reusable design patterns
  • Signifiers: using visual cues, meta-data, and rich text to coordinate with your future self
  • Constraints: minimizing investments of time and energy using helpful limits
  • Mappings: preserving intuitive connections by making relationships explicit
  • Feedback: using encoding variability for improved retention and transfer
  • Every note's a remix: note-hacking, interaction, and feedback over consumption
  • Takeaway: Select and apply one of the organizational design principles to solve a specific challenge in your personal knowledge management system

Unit 8: The Big Picture

  • Learn how to strengthen creative confidence by identifying and overcoming limiting beliefs around your productivity, knowledge, and learning
  • Realize the full potential of digital notes: combining P.A.R.A. + Progressive Summarization + Just-In-Time Organization + 5 Workflow Strategies
  • Step-by-step walkthrough to complete our proprietary PKM Workflow Canvas, an evolving map of your personal knowledge management system
  • Takeaway: Complete your PKM Workflow Canvas with the tools, techniques, and strategies you've selected and customized for your needs



Do I have to take the bundled course Get Stuff Done Like a Boss before this one starts?
No...but I highly recommend it. We'll be building on the foundational principles introduced in that course, and having a functional GTD workflow already in place will be a huge level-upper for this bootcamp. At a minimum, I recommend watching the videos, which only takes a couple hours total.
What if I can't make the live sessions at 5pm Pacific time on Mondays? (for example, European time zones)
No problem! A condensed version of each lecture will be released online immediately after the session ends, so you'll have Tuesday, Wednesday, and most of Thursday to watch it. The optional discussion session on Thursdays at 9am Pacific will be your chance to ask questions and get some of that sweet, sweet live interaction



Justin Brandt
Graduate student in Systems Engineering
San Jose State University

Bonus: Get Stuff Done Like a Boss
Tiago's self-paced online course on the Getting Things Done* method, with over 15,000 students enrolled and a 97% approval rating

Ryan Fitton
Digital Analyst, Jora
Melbourne, Australia
"There is nothing on the web that will arm you with the perspectives encompassed within Building a Second Brain...With exposure to ideas such as manipulating traditional ‘flow’ states, how to become interruption-proof and getting a grip on your projects — the course is comprehensively transformative… Coupled with an extremely valuable community group, you are free to experiment with ideas, share and implement techniques and get valuable feedback. Whether it’s a complete mindset shift, a new way to use tools, defining and re-organising your projects, seamlessly capturing information, the ability to *use* rather than simply *consume*, or allowing for spontaneous connections — Building a second brain creates a space in your digital life which turns chaos into a bespoke system and approach to the digital landscape which optimises for creativity."
Christian Champ, CFA
Director, THL Credit
Chicago, IL
In addition to Tiago's moderated sessions, you get to learn from a talented group of individuals that are taking the class with you, participating in breakout sessions and chatting on the message boards. This network effect allows you to experience and see how others are creating their systems, refining and remixing some of the techniques offered in the sessions and sharing additional information, thoughts and discussions relevant to the goals of the course. The amount of content that was created and shared by the participants provided immense value. Hearing how someone working in technology to finance to media to product management was using the methods introduced in the course opened me up to new approaches and avenues to test and refine my system. I can't recommend the course enough to anyone looking to level up their approach to managing the ever increasing flow of information…"
$499 - Enrollment Closed

Or 3 monthly payments of $199

Doug von Kohorn
Software Engineer, ConsenSys
New York, NY
"In the two months since starting, I've produced three blogposts, planned three backpacking trips, decluttered my room, created an enterprise workshop, and got admitted into a developer conference. All using the *SAME* system! I'm living the PARA lifestyle now, and I'm never going back. This way lies not just productivity, but happiness and ease of mind...I started with no experience with GTD. I didn't understand constraints. I never used a note-taking tool...Take this course to start to feel agency in the world of infinite information and filter failure!"
Michael Skiba
Construction Project Manager, Daccord, LLC

Chicago, IL

"Tiago is a downright master at breaking down the challenges of knowledge work. Ever since college, I fumbled with incorporating something like "Progressive Summarization" into my notes and reviews - I never felt like I could trust my digital systems. With each lesson, Tiago gave me context and terminology to actually understand my problems and design meaningful improvements to my approach. The only reason not to take the course is if you're allergic to "Aha" moments. Seriously."
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