My Second Brain Stack

Building a Second Brain

One of the most important things I've done over the past years is creating a second brain (h/t Tiago Forte for the branding on that concept).

A "second brain" is how I take in/record everything that happens in my day.

I literally record everything that happens and anything that I think is interesting all day, every day.

Then I synthesize all of that within Roam Research.

Step 1: Capture

The first (arguably most important) step is making it very, very easy to capture everything that happens.

Step 1: Consume and Highlight on sync-able apps

I use Kindle for virtually all of my reading (either the physical device Kindle or the Kindle app works. Any time there's something interesting I highlight it directly in Kindle.

If I stumble upon an interesting article I save it to Matter, and I read and highlight those articles on Matter.

Podcasts I save less from, but you can use an app like Airr to save notes from podcasts.

All of the above sync with Readwise.

If you're a "physical book only" type, Readwise also allows you to take photos of what you've read and will use (very good) OCR to turn that into digitally formatted text.

Disclosure: I am a tiny investor in Roam Research and Matter. I was a user first and investor second in both.

Step 1.5 (Optional): Bring in all meetings + daily notes

I take all of my notes on everything I do all day (and all thoughts I have throughout the day) within Roam Research.

As a bonus to Roam Research, I use Roam/js, and particularly the Roam/js Google Calendar to bring in my daily schedule.

My preferred Roam/js/google-calendar formatting is below:

- import
    - Format
        - [[{summary}]] ({start}-{end})
            - [[Meeting Notes]]
                - **Document Links**
                - **Attendees**
                - **Notes**

Step 2: Aggregate in Readwise

Readwise is an awesome app that lets you suck everything in, format it, and then export it to whichever app you may prefer (or just use Readwise as the end state).

Readwise will quietly and periodically take all of the new things you've read and drop them into Roam.

The following is how I format I use in Readwise.

Page Title:

{{title}} (Highlights)

Page Metadata:

Author:: [[{{author}}]]
{% if url %}URL:: {{url}}
{% endif %}
Recommended By:: 
Tags:: {{ "#Books" if category == "books"}}{{"#Articles" if category == "articles"}}{{"#Tweets" if category == "tweets"}}{{"#Podcasts" if category == "podcasts"}}

Highlights header:

{% if is_new_page %}
Highlights first synced by Readwise [[{{date}}]]
{% elif has_new_highlights %}
New highlights added [[{{date}}]] at {{time}}
{% endif %}

Highlight:

{{ highlight_text }}{% if highlight_location and highlight_location_url %} ([{{highlight_location}}]({{highlight_location_url}})){% elif highlight_location %} ({{highlight_location}}){% endif %}
    {% if highlight_tags %}
    **Tags**: {% for tag in highlight_tags %}#[[{{tag}}]] {% endfor %}
    {% endif %}
    {% if highlight_note %}
    **Note**: {{ highlight_note }}
    {% endif %}

Sync Notification:

On [[{{date}}]] at {{time}} Readwise synced {{num_highlights}} highlight{{num_highlights|pluralize}} from {{num_books}} book{{num_books|pluralize}}.

Step 3: Synthesize and Share in Roam Research

Once everything is in Roam Research I usually just let it be until I want to search for something (by author, topic, date, etc.)

If I want to do more work on a specific topic I can do so within Roam, but usually capturing everything in this format is enough to make it easy to find.

At the end of the day my Roam graph looks like this (note: this is useful only for looking cool; using a text search is actually far better than trying to navigate the graph).