Second Brain Surgery

February 3, 2023
3 min read
Day 3/90

In 2018, I embarked on a long journey to learn how to organize time, tasks, and information.

Over the past five years, I wrote about Personal Scalability, System Resilience, Time Management, and my Second Brain. More recently, I have sent out an update to my Time Management post in Morfternight , my weekly newsletter.

I don't think this is a journey that will ever end.

On the one hand, it is an iterative process by nature. There is no obvious solution; the needs and requirements for such a system evolve as I use it. On the other, it's a very attractive market for software developers, and new apps and solutions appear constantly.

The Second Brain Components

At the core, it's quite simple.

The first stage is capturing content from any source and highlighting the most significant bits.

The second stage is the ability to take notes. Notes can be ideas, tasks, minutes from a meeting, or really anything I can express with words. Notes can be dated or evergreen. They can be linked to each other and must be easily discoverable.

As I mentioned, some notes are tasks that need to be managed, with notions of progress, completion, deadline, priority, or time required to accomplish them.

Finally, the calendar connects it all to reality. Tasks are assigned time slots to be executed, daily notes are accessible on the day they were written down, and any note can be assigned to a future day for review.

The post "Welcome to my Second Brain, on Roam" explains one version of this system.

Core principles

As I mentioned, I expect this system to be constantly evolving, henceforth the absolute primary principle: it must be possible to export and import data.

Although I don't particularly care about content being local to my laptop or phone, I need at least the notetaking and calendar parts to work offline.

The experience has to be great on a laptop and iPhone. Bonus points if it's also true on iPad.

Finally, I have strong incentives to reduce complexity, which means that an app replacing at least two others could be marginally better, and I would try it. On the other hand, if I have to replace a single app with two separate ones, the experience has to be considerably improved for me to even think about it.

State of the Apps

I have used many apps, and I am constantly testing new ones. I'll share my views on each over the next weeks, so hopefully, my experiments can be useful to more people.

Like for backpacks, don't expect super long and detailed reviews. You can find thousands of them for each app. I, on the other hand, will give you my very brief and personal point of view on why some stick around and others don't last until the next meal.

I'll add links to the list below as I publish the reviews.

Note Taking Apps

These allow us to take notes. The feature set and complexity vary.

  • Agenda
  • Craft
  • Day One
  • Drafts
  • Evernote
  • Logseq
  • Mem
  • Notes
  • Notion
  • Obsidian
  • Roam Research
  • Reflect
  • Tana
Task Managers

I am aware there are way more than what I am listing here. It literally seems a new task manager ships each day. These are the ones I tried.

  • AnyList
  • Asana
  • Reminders
  • Tasks
  • Things
  • To Do
  • Todoist
  • Trello
Calendar Apps

I mostly use these as a way to read information. Once again, there are countless more, but their function is so basic I don't see the need to try more.

  • Apple Calendar
  • Cron
  • Google Calendar
Time-Based Task Managers

A more recent trend, and where things get more interesting to me as these apps simplify my system by removing the most fragile points of failure.

  • Akiflow
  • Morgen
  • Motion
  • NotePlan
  • Reclaim
  • Routine
  • Sunsama
  • TimeBloc

Coincidentally, we have 32 apps in this list, like we had 32 bags yesterday.

Randomness? 😉

No SimpleNote in the list? 🙂
I added in the review of past apps 🙂
I have used it for many years, but it can’t fit my current workflow.

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The WEELO Factory OG
Paolo Belcastro
Phone: +43 1 9467169
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The WEELO Factory OG
Paolo Belcastro
Phone: +43 1 9467169
Powered by WordPress