Building a Second Brain

A self-paced online course that teaches you how to tame information overload
capture everything you learn, and turn your creative ideas into effective actionby Tiago Forte


Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected
Read the essay that inspired the course:
Get more done, faster, with less effort

A second brain puts everything you learn and discover at your fingertips

Who is this course for?

The Roadmap

Week 1
Nov. 6 | Unit 1: Introduction, Unit 2: Organizing for Insight

Nov. 9 | Implementation Session #1*
Do I have to use Evernote to get value from this course?
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 2
Nov. 13 | Unit 3: Digital Cognition, Unit 4: Progressive Summarization

Nov. 16 | Implementation Session #2*
Week 3
Nov. 20 | Unit 5: Maximizing Return-on-Attention, Unit 6: Just-In-Time Project Management

Nov. 23 | No Session (Thanksgiving)
Week 4
Nov. 27 | Unit 7: PKM Workflow Canvas, Unit 8: The Big Picture

Nov. 30 | Implementation Session #3*
A 5-week online course, November 6–December 7, 2017
Deep Dive Sessions on Mondays, 5:00-6:30pm Pacific time
Implementation Sessions on Thursdays, 9:00-10:30am Pacific time

Note: there will be no Thursday session on 11/23 due to Thanksgiving






Are there any pre-requisites for this course?
Although there are no formal prerequisites, I expect you to be reasonably fluent in using technology, and for the examples, you'll need to know the basics of how to use Evernote. I 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
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60-Day Money-Back Guarantee

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 the online forum is that I can address any challenges you encounter. But if you complete 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 we can improve).



Entrepreneurs and freelancers

Do you have trouble capturing and managing all the information you need to run your business (financial, marketing, product, operations, etc.)?

Creative professionals 
& makers

Do you lose track of your ideas or get overwhelmed trying to integrate all the information you’ve gathered into your creative projects?

Standard Edition – $399
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 the art of work. That people just work, but they don’t realize that it’s 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 the Praxis blog

Unlock your creative potential with digital note-taking

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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Questions? Email the Course Manager: [email protected]

Create structure around any creative project
Uncover patterns in your 
learning & growth over time
Gain clarity & focus by offloading your thinking
Know exactly where to find all the files and notes you've saved
Make use of your knowledge by saving it in a durable format
Reduce stress & anxiety knowing that your ideas are being captured
Can't make the live sessions? No problem!

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

The Promise of the Course

You will learn how to capture, organize, and share 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 getting reimbursed by your employer? Click here to download a proposal template
Most large organizations, and many smaller ones, will reimburse tuition for professional development

8 units of pre-recorded video content plus monthly group calls facilitated by a certified Forte Labs coach (including Q&A and breakout rooms)

Personalized feedback from certified coaches through a private online discussion forum, including source notes, bonus resources, and an App Directory

The Nerve Bundle, a collection of pre-formatted Evernote templates designed to work seamlessly with Building a Second Brain techniques (including future updates)

*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, so you can focus on thinking and creating.

You need Personal Knowledge Management (PKM).

Wikipedia defines PKM as “a collection of processes that a person uses to gather, classify, store, search, retrieve and share knowledge in their daily activities.”

Pretty good. A bit dry, though.

Here’s my definition:

“The art of capturing, organizing, and sharing your ideas and insights, using a systematic approach and tools that you trust to support creative breakthroughs in your work.”

Think about any kind of artist: painters, writers, filmmakers, playwrights, or musicians.

They don’t just sit down at a blank canvas and create from nothing. They are constantly collecting tidbits of inspiration and research from the world around them, to be able to use it as raw material in their work.

I believe that today, all knowledge workers need to think like artists.

I don’t care if you’re a graphic designer or an accountant, a salesperson or an engineer, your success depends on bringing your very best creative thinking to work every day.

In the past, creative people used paper notebooks, sketchpads, and filing systems to catalogue their ideas.

Today, we have a much more powerful tool at our disposal: software.

Specifically, a whole new category of apps designed specifically for digital note-taking: apps like Evernote, OneNote, Simplenote, Bear, Google Keep, Zoho Notebook, Dropbox Paper, Notability, Apple Notes, and others.

If you’d like to know more, you can read my full take on why I believe digital note-taking apps are one of the most exciting frontiers of productivity and creativity: Bending the Curves of Productivity.

Most of us operate today as “knowledge workers.” That’s not going to cut it as the world moves faster, change accelerates, and competition ramps up.

What is needed today is for us to become “knowledge managers.” To set up our digital tools to work seamlessly together, preserving what we know and resurfacing it when most needed.

I’ve created this online course to help people do exactly that. In the course, I start by leading participants step by step through the process of organizing their digital life.

But “getting organized” is just the beginning. Once we have the foundation in place, we’re ready to start building a Personal Knowledge Library.

In other words, a suite of tools for systematically capturing, organizing, and then sharing your ideas with the world.

I’ve made a living from my collection of digital notes for the last five years, turning my ideas and research into blog posts, an ebookonline coursesworkshops and trainingsslide presentationstalks, and other projects to build my business Forte Labs.

In Building a Second Brain, I will show you how to design a digital note-taking system of your own. To capture your ideas and make them shine in your workplace. To organize your digital life and 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 not invest in the most valuable asset you own - your knowledge.

See you inside!


The Full Curriculum

Unit 1: Introduction to the Course

  • What to expect: schedule, roadmap, format, communication, and the 3 pillars of the course
  • Our objective: to learn how to use digital notes as thinking tools — to capture, organize, and retrieve our ideas and insights
  • What is Personal Knowledge Management, and why does it matter?
  • Why organization and collaboration are the missing links in creative knowledge work
  • Evaluate your knowledge management skills across 11 dimensions of performance and confidence (with post-course evaluation to measure your progress)

Unit 2: Organizing for Insight

  • Review the 8 requirements for a universal digital organizational system
  • Understand the subtle but important difference between short-term projects and ongoing areas of responsibility
  • Feeling unorganized? Deploy the P.A.R.A. method to organize all your digital information across multiple platforms
  • Discover why almost no one has an effective Project List (a dashboard of current commitments) and how to fix it step by step, with feedback and guidance
  • Banish information overload using Magic Number 4: a helpful constraint to preserve your working memory
  • Hone your ability to scale your attention at different horizons using actionability gradients
  • Update and clarify your Project List, and use it to organize your files across all platforms using the P.A.R.A. method

Unit 3: Digital Cognition

  • Use the 4 essential requirements for digital note-taking to help you evaluate and select a digital note-taking program
  • How to amplify the single biggest opportunity for making new connections without expending more time and effort: productive randomness
  • Stigmergy: practical lessons on productivity 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 valuable bodies of knowledge for a side project, career advancement, or new business
  • Identify your personal research and learning priorities using the Feynman Method, as a filter for incoming information

Unit 4: 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 return-on-investment of your note taking
  • Don’t have time for reading and research? Apply Progressive Summarization to surface key points for later review
  • Strategic laziness over rigid rules: note-taking strategies that leverage human nature, instead of fighting it
  • How to design individual notes for “glanceability” and recognition over recall
  • Moving from “black box” knowledge management to a Personal Information Landscape
  • Avoiding the perils of problem definition: balancing compression vs. context
  • Practice Progressive Summarization on one of your notes

Unit 5: 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 (environmental, mental, and emotional) on productivity
  • 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
  • Wresting with knowledge: why interacting with information is so much more effective than consuming it
  • Encoding variability: how to externalize your thinking and accelerate your learning using different types of media
  • Turn one of your notes into a new deliverable designed to generate valuable, targeted feedback

Unit 6: Just-In-Time Project Management

  • Learn Just-In-Time Project Management: a pull system for managing reference materials and executing on deliverables
  • Why you should think of workflow as strategy, and apply solutions to specific problems
  • Divergence and convergence: use design thinking to escape any dead-end
  • Choose from among 16 proven workflow strategies, with examples, case studies, and downloadable templates
  • Banish procrastination using the Archipelago of Ideas approach to new projects
  • Mood-based productivity: using fast cycle time, opportunistic tagging, and active sorting to maintain motivation and leverage unique states of mind
  • How to generate novel insights and valuable deliverables using personal design sprints
  • Using universal design principles (affordances, signifiers, constraints, mappings, and feedback) to plan the structure of your work
  • Select and try out 3 of the 16 workflow strategies on one or more of your projects or deliverables

Unit 7: PKM Workflow Canvas

  • Step-by-step walkthrough to complete our proprietary PKM Workflow Canvas, an evolving map of your personal knowledge management system
  • Review your notes from all the previous units to select the techniques you will integrate into your workflow
  • Summarize your main learnings from the course, as a checklist and reminder for future projects
  • Visualize the map of your personal knowledge management system, in a physical artifact that can be improved over time
  • Get feedback on further areas for improvement, based on the exercises you completed in the course
  • In-depth case study of using PKM to rapidly plan and execute a Forte Labs client project
  • Complete your PKM Workflow Canvas with the tools, techniques, and strategies you've selected and customized for your needs

Unit 8: The Big Picture

  • Container vs. stream thinking: changing paradigms for a world of information abundance
  • Understand why situational awareness and curation are the key skills required to navigate streams of information
  • Learn how to strengthen creative confidence by identifying and overcoming limiting beliefs around your productivity, thinking, and learning
  • Realize the full potential of digital notes: integrating P.A.R.A. + Progressive Summarization + Workflow Strategies into your daily routine
  • The future of productivity and personal knowledge management



Do I have to take the bundled course Get Stuff Done Like a Boss before this one starts?
No...but I recommend it. We'll be building on the foundational principles introduced in that course, and having a functional 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.
How quickly should I complete the course material?
Move entirely at your own pace. Some learners may want to rapidly view all the units at once. I recommend finishing two course units per week, which results in a total duration of a month. Don't forget to leave enough time to do the exercises in each unit, since that's where the real learning takes place.



Justin Brandt
Graduate student in Systems Engineering
San Jose State University
Ellen Koenig
Senior Data Scientist, Fintech company
"I’m also impressed how much more nuance there is to seemingly simple techniques such as progressive summarization that I though I understood already. And I love that in the individual coaching sessions I am being challenged to apply the material in real-life situations that I would never have considered.”
Chris Mazder
Olympic luge athlete
New York
"I am finding this course extremely beneficial and have actively taken a step back from my current projects to re-evaluate how I pretty much do everything (in a good way!!!). If anything, the course might be moving a little too fast as I am still finding flaws in my own unique approach (based off the teachings) to PKM and trying to address them while we are moving to the next phases of this course. But, I love how all of the information and lectures have remained up so I can always go back if I need help or want to re-visit a certain topic.”
Doug von Kohorn
Software Engineer, ConsenSys
New York, NY
"In the two months since starting, I've produced three blog posts, 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!"
Dawn Williams
Consulting Group, Robert Half Management Resources

San Francisco, CA

"High value knowledge work requires high quality knowledge resources: abundant working knowledge capital, a reliable knowledge infrastructure, knowledge liquidity, and a differentiating knowledge value proposition, all coherently leveraged to provide a competitive advantage.  Building a Second Brain has transformed my relationship to, and understanding of, personal knowledge capture and retention. The value to my business is significant; the value to me personally - immeasurable."
Moritz Bierling
Blockchain Reporter, Neufund
Berlin, Germany
"Everybody knows that having a productivity system can massively boost your success, but barely anyone even recognizes their own need for approaching their own creative process in an equally systematic way. My work, like any other knowledge professional, depends massively on my ability to constantly learn new things and use them in creative ways. BASB has completely killed my FOMO; what's more, I am able to put together a presentation in a matter of minutes instead of days, which has opened up so many opportunities."
Jimmy Conway
Principal, Free Flow Partners
Bay of Plenty, New Zealand
"Imagine being able to recall all the really interesting things you've ever read, seen and done. How good would that be? Any problem, any piece of creative work boosted with a library of relevant material right there at your fingertips. That's powerful. Well this course helps you do just that. It's fast paced, expertly taught and full of examples, exercises and discussion that help you organise all the really interesting, useful stuff in your life into a system that allows easy access. I wish I had done it years ago."


Graduates report an average 108.4% improvement 
in their "overall note-taking system and approach"

Listen to Tiago's interview on the official Evernote podcast, Take Note:

Week 5
Dec. 4 | Final Debrief

Dec. 7 | Implementation Session #4*

* Implementation Sessions available in the Coaching Edition only

Download Quiz

Download a free self-assessment to determine your 
current level of personal knowledge management

Real-world examples and in-depth case studies from Tiago's experience introducing knowledge management systems to world-class performers and organizations

Downloadable, full-resolution 
PDF slides of all units

Lifetime access to the Media Library (which includes exclusive expert interviews, guest lectures, and future versions of course content)

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

Step-by-step narrated walkthroughs of setting up a PKM system using Evernote, from downloading the program all the way to executing a project

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…"
Zachary Sexton
Productivity coach and host of 
Able Business Radio podcast
Austin, TX

Productivity & self-improvement junkies

Do you wonder how to save and make use of all the knowledge and insights you’ve gained when you need them most?

  • Capture and cultivate a personal collection of insights and knowledge from your experience

  • Document and automate tasks and processes so you never have to do the same work twice

  • Tame information overload and clear your mind by offloading your thinking onto digital tools

  • Move faster and more decisively by reusing & combining existing assets

  • Summarize your notes in ways that are intuitive, retrievable, and usable at a moment's notice

  • Plan, enact, and review your workflow to maximize your creative output

  • Uncover connections between ideas and sources to produce higher quality work

  • Create a digital environment that supports peace of mind, serendipity, and creative risk-taking

  • Collect models, strategies, and examples in one place so you always know where to find them

  • Transform how you use your devices, from time-wasters to value-creators

  • Cast a wider net in your information consumption, creating learning opportunities in any situation

  • Make your digital note-taking system a control center for tactical, lightning-fast action

Coaching Edition – $699

Everything included in the Standard Edition, plus three group coaching calls per month incorporating:

Task management and workflow design

Habit formation and behavior change

PKM and digital organization

Work with our certified coaches to elevate your performance and self-confidence using the world's most effective performance and implementation coaching techniques

Group coaching calls take place on the second, third, and fourth Monday of each month, on a rotating schedule to cover all timezones: 9am, 12pm, and 5pm PST

Click here to learn more

Everything you need to build a second brain

Build your second brain together with an implementation coach

We want this investment to be 100% risk-free. If you watch the video lessons and complete the exercises and still don't find the course valuable, we'll happily refund your full payment

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