as a Personal and Product Manager Knowledge Management System

The need for synthesis and using a second brain

In the past, I leveraged many different note-taking tools. Each offered one benefit over the other but never became core elements to achieve my tasks and goals. Recently, I found a product and system to help me maintain knowledge in a hierarchy. I learned this by stumbling upon Tiago Forte, Marie Poulin, and Notion. I can review and learn at my leisure with this personal knowledge base. Synthesis and research are core to me now that I am in a product management role. This system has been the most beneficial in creating a learning habit. It enables me to revisit my daily practices.

Building a Second Brain

I used productivity techniques without results. I keep tabs on productivity tools and saw a video on Keep Productive that introduced me to Tiago Forte. What blew me away about Tiago are two profound ideas that he articulated. PARA and CODE. Projects, Areas, Resources, and Archives is a simple way to organize across tools. Collect, Organize, Distill, and Express is how humans can learn and keep information. Tiago advocates that the second brain system enables synthesizing of new information.

My System

Marie Poulin records herself using Notion with the PARA method that I also have adopted and tweaked. I started using PARA with OneNote. I am a heavy note-taker using an iPad and Apple Pencil with GoodNotes. I write with a pencil to concentrate and think through ideas in meetings, focus and pay attention. I would rarely review my written notes. Most or many of them are incomprehensible over time. If there is a doodle, I can remember the point of the drawing no matter how crude it is. With guidance from Marie Poulin’s videos, I have developed a system that is working for me. I continue to use my iPad for note taking but only when a laptop in a meeting would be a distraction.

My current structure in Notion:

  • Inbox
  • Weekly Agendas
  • Resonance Calendar
  • Projects
  • Areas
  • Resources
  • Archives
  • Journal
  • Vision & Mission
  • Wins
  • Failures
  • Not Doing List

Sunday, I review the weekly agenda that ended the previous week. I create a new weekly agenda and analyze my work calendar for meetings and events for the coming week.

As the week continues, I review what activities I am working on, canceled, or moved. As new ideas or concepts come in, I use my inbox as a scratchpad to work through ideas or document notes. I add content to read to my resonance calendar.

From time to time, I review my vision and mission. I keep a list of my values and strengths to remember. Sometimes I send coworkers their strengths, I notice. I ask my peers to tell me what unique strengths they see me exhibit in return. This practice helps me focus on what I am good at and understand other’s strengths.

As time passes, I note wins and failures. I write summaries of what I learn. I love to think about how I can apply those learnings in the future. Anything I dislike, I add to my not doing list.

My resources section receives the most attention. I will read a book on a topic or listen to a podcast and file away learnings into this. I also use a technique of Tiago’s called progressive summarization. Progressive summarization involves highlighting snippets and summing up learnings. An example is my Product Management resources, which I have shared with a couple of coworkers. With this Notion shared page, they can choose if any of the materials I have found are helpful to them.

Areas, I have defined a few topics. I only return to these topics rarely if something has changed in my life. Might be a gap in my project management skills or trying to use Notion for tasks. Instead, I keep myself organized with my Google Keep sticky note system.

Before I had this system, my organization was search-based. I had to think hard to remember where I had placed something. If I wanted to send a resource to someone, I would often leverage google or my email to find it. Many times I lost resources or failed to share an informative or impactful article. I now have a system I can use to organize and synthesize new ideas and concepts.