Why Osteopaths Need a Second Brain

I talk about core lessons inside Tiago Forte's "Building A Second Brain" and translate them into how you can apply them as an osteopath.

Podcast Episode Transcript

Do you ever wish you were more organised? How much amazing advice, clinical pearls or brilliant ideas have you forgotten about over the years? How often have you struggled to recall even one useful takeaway from a book, article or course? Well, that’s where building a second brain comes in. You don’t need any fancy technology and you don’t have to be good at tech either. It sounds too good to be true. Or at least, that’s what I thought until I experienced it for myself.

The truth is that as osteopaths, because we’re healthcare professionals, we feel an enormous amount of pressure to constantly be learning, improving ourselves and making progress using everything we’ve learned.

As you know, we live in the information age. Which means that we have access to the most amount of information, knowledge and expertise than ever before. We learn something or feel inspired or motivated by something and then it’s forgotten until you stumble across it again.

Here’s the thing: our brain is built for having ideas, being creative and problem solving, not for storing things like a memory card.

Put simply, Tiago Forte’s Building a Second Brain is about simplifying how you learn things and using very simple technology that you already use on a daily basis to build your second brain so that you can recall anything in one easily accessible place.

So, if you like the idea of a second brain, this episode is for you.

Welcome back to Behind The Osteopath. My name is Alan Zaia, I’m an osteopath, Founder of Osteohustle where we plan, build and grow dream careers for osteopaths.

A big thank you to everyone who’s subscribed to the podcast, left a 5 star review and shared it to your osteo-friends, your principals, your associates, on socials, you’re all amazing.

It’s at this point that I’d give you context around when I first discovered and read this book. But this one’s a little different.

On the 21st August 2020, a YouTube productivity expert Ali Abdaal published a video called “The Second Brain- A Life-Changing Productivity System. Before the video had even finished, I knew this was what I needed in my life.

Here’s why. Between 2017 to 2019, I was asking as many healthcare business owners as I could “what works for you and what doesn’t work for you?” At the same time, I was trying to absorb as many business, marketing, self-help, time management books as possible. I was taking courses, watching YouTube and Skill Share videos – everything I could to learn as much as I could. All so I could figure out how to grow my own practice.

During this time, everything was written across multiple notepads, scrap bits of paper, sticky notes, notes on my phone — and simply trusting that I’d remember that really important piece of information because it was a revelation – how could I forget it? As you’ve probably guessed, unless I did manage to remember to write it down, it just slipped from my mind.

Ali’s video was all about Tiago Forte’s course called Building a Second Brain.

So, on August 21st 2020, I got to work building my second brain. It’s been roughly 4 years and it’s completely changed my life and I want to show you how it can change yours too.

So, I found out about the course, I read the book when it came out in 2022 and re-read it for this podcast.

I just want to say one final thing, this book is incredibly practical and logical, so any questions you have are answered in this book, so go grab yourself a copy.

If you like this episode and enjoy what the work that goes into the podcast, please give it a five star rating and follow the podcast, it tells me that this is worth continuing and you won’t miss an episode.

Alright, let’s get started with Building a Second Brain by Tiago Forte.

Our Toxic Relationship With Information

Before getting into the main idea of what a second brain is and how to build yours, the first thing Tiago says we need to do is change our relationship with information.

As I’ve already spoken about, we’re always bombarded with information. Tiago says: “so much of the time we are “information hoarders,” stockpiling endless amounts of well intention, content that only ends up increasing our anxiety.

That’s where the really important change comes in.

Tiago says: “To be able to make use of the information we value, we need a way to package it up and send it through time to our future self. It all begins with the simple act of writing things down.

What Tiago means is that if you don’t filter what information is actually important to you and make the effort to write it down for your future self to easily access, it’s useless and you’ll just continue in the same information hoarding cycle.

So, lesson number one: filter what really matters and write it down.

Now you’re thinking, ‘yeah but Alan, this is a digital second brain right?’ You’re absolutely right. Tiago says: “Once made digital, notes are no longer limited to short, handwritten, scribbles – they could take any form, including images, links and files of any shape and size.” This is so incredibly important because information comes in many different forms of media, so the way we save that information for later must be able to store all those different forms of media.

On top of that, everything is searchable and shareable. You know, the power of being able to use a computer to search for that thing you’re looking for and being able to share a copy with anyone who you’d like to share it with is what makes building your second brain on your computer an absolute must.

For those of you who are totally fine with technology, you’re all good with the idea of using computers and your phone to build your second brain.

For those of you who grimace at technology, you have to understand that this is technology you’re already using like your smartphone.

If you’re beyond that, you can either prove to yourself that you do have the ability to learn something new or take the general principles I’m going to cover and figure out a way that works for you.

On that note, Tiago says himself that: “I want you to know that this book isn’t about perfectly optimising, some kind of idealised life.” But instead taking a step toward a less chaotic and more useful way of collecting, storing and recalling our knowledge. So this isn’t about taking literally everything you know and storing it in one place on your computer, it’s about outsourcing even 10% of what you’re trying to remember so you can free up your mind from the stress of trying to remember.

Alright so, we know that we need to filter what really matters and write it down and centre everything around technology. I’ll get onto the specifics about technology soon.

What is a Second Brain?

Tiago says that a second brain is your own personal system for knowledge management.

Think of it as your very own personal library. Think how a library catalog organises and categorises books so you can easily find what you’re looking for, a second brain helps you categorise and manage your thoughts, making it easier to access what you need.

I’ll give you an example of how I use a piece of software called Notion to build my second brain.

Notebook

First and foremost, I use Notion as a way to capture my ideas. I’ve almost always got my phone on me, so I can go into the Notion app and write down what I’m thinking. More on that later.

Calendar

It’s my only calendar and everything is synced to populate that calendar.

Osteohustle Headquarters

Inside here is everything anyone needs to know about the business I run called Osteohustle. The people who I work with have access to this and they can find anything from:

  • Who we’re working with and what stage they’re up to
  • Ideas they’d like to pitch to improve how we do things
  • Who to contact in certain situations
  • Individual and group goals and key results we’d like to reach for the year
  • Big plans that could happen but need more thought and input. This is what Tiago calls “incubating”.
  • People we’ve made connections with and how to connect and refer people to them
  • Tutorials for how to do certain things with the tools we use

You get the idea. All of this is so that I can give as much autonomy to my staff as possible, which leaves me to be able to get on with what only I can do.

Book Shelf

This is where most of the books I’ve read and want to read live. It doesn’t contain the book itself, although it could, but it does have notes I’ve made about each book.

You get the idea that the things I don’t want to have to remember can now be recalled anytime I wish because Notion is doing everything for me.

CPD Log & Knowledge

Everything to do with where I’m at with CPD and the clinical side of being an osteopath can be found here. Courses I’ve attended, more book notes and clinical pearls. This would be a great place to start for you as an osteopath so you can, as you know by now, recall things easily and revise them at any time.

So, I hope that gives you a more vivid picture of what a second brain is. The point being that it’s in one place. The software I use is called Notion. Like Motion, but with an N, N for November.

CODE: The Second Brain Method

Alright so, now you know what a second brain is, how exactly do you go about building it, and how is it possible to even think about getting started. Well, Tiago has an excellent framework to improve your note-taking skills. It’s called CODE: Capture, Organise, Distill, and Express.

The lesson here is to create a second brain that not only stores your knowledge and ideas, but makes them helpful to you in the future.

Capture: Keep What Resonates

Tiago says: “Here’s the problem: we can’t consume every bit of this information we learn. Like a scientist, capturing only the rarest butterflies to take back to the lab: our goal should be to capture only the ideas and insights we think are truly noteworthy. The solution is to keep only resonates in a trusted place you control and to leave the rest aside.

So, keeping what resonates can be from anywhere. From books, articles, courses, YouTube videos, conversations, reflections, memories, random thoughts- The main idea is to write down what resonates as soon as possible. The art is choosing to let go of what doesn’t resonate.

Organise: Saving For Actionability

After you’ve captured your notes, it’s time to organise them so you can find and use them easily. Tiago has a simple way called the PARA method: Projects, Areas, Resources and Archives. Each one does a specific job for your second brain:

  • Projects: Short-term efforts you’re working on. This could be a blog you’re writing, a book you’re reading, a marketing effort like getting your website rebuilt, a patient you have that you’re stuck with and you need to do more research into. The key part about projects is that they must be short-term and have deadlines.
  • Areas: Long-term responsibilities you want to manage over time. Areas are based on topics like Health, Finance, Associates, Social Media. Think of it like a filing cabinet. Areas are the filing cabinet and inside the filing cabinet are folders, the folders being Health, Finance, Associates. Then you’d add the information you capture into the appropriate folder. For example, the goal of saving 3 months of business expenses would go inside the Finances area. Whereas help Emily become more confident in treating shoulder pain over the next 6 months. See what I mean?
  • Resources: Topics or interests that may be useful in the future. So the information you’ve captured isn’t helpful right now and it doesn’t relate to any projects or areas, but you want to keep hold of it for later.
  • Archives: When something is done or not important anymore, move it here. This keeps your second brain clean and focused on what you’re into now.

Put your notes in the right folders, and feel free to change them around if you need to. The goal is to make a system that works for you.

Distill: Find The Essence

A key part of all this effort is to take what you’ve captured and organised and reduce it down to a summary. Let’s say you’re an absolute hero and subscribe to my weekly newsletter called The Hustle – inside which is an article about how to build your associates patient list. You’ve captured it, you’ve organised it, now you need to make it your own because that’s all that really matters – how can this information be transformed from just information and into something I can take action on in my unique situation. So, you need to make it your own. Tiago calls this process “Progressive Summarisation”.

You’re going to read it three times.

  • First, highlight the sentences that best capture the main point.
  • Then, bold or capitalise the most important words or phrases from the highlighted sentences.
  • Finally, write the main idea in your own words, making it short and clear.

This can seem time-consuming. But here’s the thing. You don’t need to distill everything you capture, only what you find yourself coming back to. The other reason to do this is to help you retain the information in the same way you revise for a test, but this time, it’s okay if you forget because what you’re looking for will be easy to find.

Express: Show Your Work

The final step is simple. You have to make sure that your hard work can be used to help others. Whether that looks like sharing what you’ve figured out with your associates, principal, osteo friends, the point being that your second brain shouldn’t be a secret place. Let your ideas grow and inspire others instead of keeping them all to yourself. I promise you that they will be able to contribute to its next evolution.

Tiago says: “We think we’re not ready. We cannot stand the thought that there is one little piece of information we missing, if we had it, would make all the difference. Information is always in flux, and it is always a work in progress. Since nothing is ever truly final, there is no need to wait to get started.

Summary

Before you go, here’s a question for you. If you’re on your phone, tap on the episode, scroll down and you’ll see it in the Q&A. This one is a mystery, so go to the Q&A section to find out what it is.

I hope you found the idea of a second brain as valuable as I have. The biggest thing you can do is share it with your principal, associates, your osteo mates, share it across Facebook forums – all that good stuff.

Subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss an episode. Your career will thank you for it.

Rate 5 stars. See you for the next episode. Cheers.

Written by Alan Zaia M.Ost

Founder & CEO of Osteohustle. You’ll find Alan coaching osteopaths, travelling in a van or writing our weekly newsletter, The Hustle.

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