Build a second brain in Notion (with template) (2023)

While I'm still trying to make sense of my first brain, I've figured out how to build a second brain. With so much content to consume, so many ideas to remember, and so many projects to get done, it's great to have an external tool to let my ideas run their course.

No, I'm not peddling an AI-based copy of your consciousness. I'm talking about a personal knowledge management system that will help you keep track of your tasks, projects, notes, and ideas—all in one place.

A template for your second brain

While it's possible to create a second brain using any number of tools, I'm going with Notion because it offers a generous free plan and all the second brain features you need. (Check out these Notion alternatives if you want other options.)

Here's my second brain Notion template for you to follow along with—click Duplicate to save it to your Workspace.

Build a second brain in Notion (with template) (1)

Remember: your second brain is just as personal as your first, so take what you want from my suggestions and leave the rest. Any tip you get could be the tip that clicks everything into place.

With that, here's how I've built my second brain.

Add projects and areas of interest

There's a ridiculous amount of content available to us, and it's easy to think we have a proportional amount of knowledge. But knowledge is the relationship between information and experience: if we don't act on the information we come in contact with, it'll vanish.

This is why adding your projects to your second brain is so important. If you connect the information you consume with what you're working on right now, there's a much better chance of retention. So, what are your objectives right now? What are you working on? What problems would you like to solve?

On the Notion template, scroll down to the bottom, and add your projects to the Projects database.

Build a second brain in Notion (with template) (2)

Click to add a new entry for each of your projects. You'll notice that the project page comes with a simple task list, so you can start plotting what you need to do to complete it. Use the rest of the page to collect important project information.

You'll also see there's a Status attribute to let you sort your projects:

  1. Backlog items are still unscheduled and may not happen at all.

  2. In progress means you're actively working to complete them (these will always appear on the second brain's dashboard page).

  3. Complete projects will sit in the archive, keeping all the information there just in case you need to review it in the future.

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This setup should give you a good base to see everything you want/have to do. And now that you know what's on the table, you can make better decisions on what you'll pay attention to.

Upgrade suggestion (advanced): In addition to projects, you may also have areas of interest, such as "artificial intelligence" or "digital marketing." These areas of interest aren't immediately actionable and serve mostly as a topic page, an entry point for your notes.

Here's a suggestion on how to set these up as an attribute and database view combo:

  1. Add a new attribute to the Projects database.

  2. Set the attribute type to Select.

  3. Name this attribute "Type."

  4. Add two options: "Project" and "Topic."

  5. Create a filtered view to display pages with the Topic type.

Build a list of content

Take stock of what information you're consuming every day. How much of it is aligned with the projects and areas of interest that you have? It's time to start thinking like a curator.

Curators find, maintain, and develop collections that are then displayed to the public. Their job is to shed light on the history of each piece, create meaningful connections between the objects, and inspire their audience.

Start asking yourself: will this article, podcast, social post, and so on, add any value to what I'm pursuing right now? If so, open the Notion template, and on the Sources dashboard, add a new entry. Fill in all the attributes, and add a date when you plan to sit down with it.

Build a second brain in Notion (with template) (4)

If the content doesn't immediately align with your objectives, let it slide. Curious people usually clog their queue with dozens of interesting things, and they can't process them as fast as they find new ones. Manage what you have on your list, and remember that cutting things leaves more time to focus on what you decide to keep in.

This is also a good time to mention the Notion Web Clipper. If you're dealing with a website that updates its content frequently, you can clip the text on the page using this extension and place it inside the Sources database—that way, you'll always have a record of the content as it was when you first saw it.

One last thing: don't write notes on the Sources database. They're just meant to keep the basic information of the content pieces themselves. That part of the magic happens in the Notes database, which we'll cover next.

Upgrade suggestion (advanced): You can add more attributes to the Source database to keep track of things, such as who suggested a particular content piece, or its genre or author. These attributes can be useful to create new database views to help you find information faster.

Take notes

Notes are the most valuable part of your second brain. They'll contain highlights of what you're reading, your personal comments, and links to other notes. You can create notes from the second brain's dashboard, starting from a blank canvas where you can:

  1. Add a descriptive title

  2. Paste highlights and quotes from a content source

  3. Add your own comments (remember to format them differently, so you'll know what's yours and what's part of the original)

Once you're done, it's time to link it to other parts of your second brain. It's this linking that'll connect your thoughts across topics and ideas, prompting unexpected developments in your understanding. (If you haven't read about the Zettelkasten system, take a look to learn about how this connectedness works.)

Build a second brain in Notion (with template) (5)

Let's break down each of the attributes on the note:

  1. Primary for linking to other notes that have a close relationship with this note.

  2. Secondary for linking to notes that share a connection but not as strong as primary-linked notes.

  3. Random for linking notes that have a connection that you can't fully explain (yet). It could be a metaphor from a topic that applies to another topic or ideas that have the same vibe.

  4. Projects for linking this note to a project. This is super useful because you'll see this note on the relevant project page, so you can open it right away and start working.

  5. Sources for linking the note to its corresponding source. Great for organization and citing your sources.

To create these connections, click Empty in front of the respective attribute. A list will appear with other notes, projects, or sources. Simply click on the plus sign to create these relationships. You'll be able to jump to those notes from this one, and back again if necessary.

Note-taking is an art form in itself. It's so personal that I haven't added more attributes or templates. Use your own intuition and experience to craft the notes you need to connect information to your insights.

You'll notice there's a Status attribute as well:

  1. Unprocessed for notes that you just took and haven't reviewed

  2. Processing for notes that you're actively working on

  3. Reviewed for notes that have an acceptable amount of depth and links to other notes

  4. Archived for notes that are deep and well-connected

These statuses will help keep notes visible on the dashboard for a longer period of time, inviting you to revisit them and engage with their content.

Upgrade suggestion (advanced):

  • Improving your second brain's notes has a lot to do with adding more relational attributes to connect notes to one another and also with other pages in different databases.

  • You can also label your notes based on their depth. If a note covers an entire topic, you can make it an entry point into that web of notes.

Create points of entry

Expanding your second brain feels great, but you need to invest time in making it searchable. If you can't find what you need quickly, then put some energy toward improving your dashboard.

Build a second brain in Notion (with template) (6)

The template comes with a simple dashboard, showing you filtered lists of:

  1. The sources that you have in your queue and those you're currently engaged with

  2. Your notes that are still in unprocessed status

  3. Your projects in progress

It also contains the Sources, Projects, and Notes databases. If you click on any of these, you'll see the full database with useful filtered views. It's optimized to show you what's happening right now: what you're reading, the projects you're working on, your recent notes.

But what if you have a lot of research about graphic design? Sure, you can open your Notes database, read through the list, and find your notes there, mixed with all your other topics. This may be easy if you're dealing with 50 notes, but for higher numbers, it'll turn into an overwhelming scroll-fest.

If you accumulate lots of notes on a single topic or about a single author or a period of time, then you may want to create a new view. Here's an example:

  1. Create a new attribute on your notes, adding a label named "Graphic Design."

  2. Apply the label to all the notes that have that topic.

  3. Create a new view on the Notes database, and set it to only show notes with the "Graphic Design" label.

The same strategy applies to both projects and sources. Whenever you feel that it's taking too long to get to the important information, consider adding these shortcuts to your databases.

Upgrade suggestion (advanced): You can use database views to create additional dashboards. It's good to have a general one to let you know what's in progress, and others based on particular topics you want to keep track of. This involves creating some additional attributes and investing extra time, but the clarity you'll gain and the speed you'll pick up as a result is well worth the effort.

Improve and connect notes

When you finish taking a note, that isn't going to be the last time you'll make changes. Develop a habit of improving something every time you visit one of your notes:

  • Can the title be clearer?

  • Can you write a short summary of the content?

  • Add additional context?

  • Break it down into multiple notes for organization?

  • Do some fact-checking?

  • Find more connections with other notes?

Build a second brain in Notion (with template) (7)

If you visit a note frequently, it'll become more and more developed over time, helping you retain more information about that topic, and making it more valuable for sharing with others.

Grow your second brain

Growing your second brain isn't only about adding more projects, notes, and sources. It's also about adding new features to the framework itself. The Notion template provided here is a starting point, but there's a lot to build and customize.

For example, you can add rich task-tracking and project management features, or connect your second brain with a CRM Notion template, if your projects contain deliverables for clients. Or you could integrate your second brain with a read-it-later app to feed your Sources database with your reading list.

Store new Pocket items in databases in Notion

Store new Pocket items in databases in Notion

Try it

  • Build a second brain in Notion (with template) (8)
  • Build a second brain in Notion (with template) (9)

Pocket, Notion

Pocket + Notion

The point here is that every new feature that you add needs to fit into your own habits and needs. If something doesn't work well, it's ok to remove that feature. Just be careful while removing and making changes to make sure nothing important breaks.

Here's a collection of Notion help pages with the advanced features you can use to expand your second brain:

I also put together a short YouTube video playlist with influencers and mentors building and sharing their own second brains. Check it out.

Let's recap the second brain routine:

  1. Add your projects and tasks

  2. Build a queue of meaningful content

  3. Take notes on what you consume

  4. Add points of entry as topics grow

  5. Refine your notes by improving them with each visit

  6. Think of new features to add to the system

Having a second brain has freed up so much cognitive load on my brain that it almost feels like I'm cheating these days. I hope you feel the same way once you get yours up and running.

Related reading:

  • Use this Notion note-taking template to balance organization and freedom

  • 6 creative ways to use Notion for your business

  • Notion vs. Evernote: Which should you use?

  • How to build a website in Notion

  • How to create a recipe book in Notion (with template)

  • Notion vs. Roam: Which should you use?


Build a second brain in Notion (with template)? ›

Create some content you'd like to replicate and drag it into a page or toggle list. Create a Template Button and drag the page or toggle list into the Template section of the configuration form. Hit Close and drag your Template Button to the most useful location on your page.

How do you use another person's Notion template? ›

Let's say you come across a Notion page you love on the web and want to make it your own.
  1. Log into Notion on your browser.
  2. Navigate to the public page and click Duplicate in its upper right corner.
  3. Choose the workspace you'd like to duplicate the page into from the dropdown.

How do I add a template to an existing page in Notion? ›

Create some content you'd like to replicate and drag it into a page or toggle list. Create a Template Button and drag the page or toggle list into the Template section of the configuration form. Hit Close and drag your Template Button to the most useful location on your page.

Is building a second brain the same as Zettelkasten? ›

Are those two similar things, or are they completely different? The Zettelkasten is a note-taking method. A second brain is a digital information management system that includes note-taking.

Is there a better app than Notion? ›


If you're looking for apps like Notion, Evernote is a popular note taking app that has been around for years. Its simplicity and cross-platform syncing capabilities have made it the go-to productivity app for many people.

How do I let people duplicate my Notion template? ›

Click on the top right share button to access sharing options. Sharing options are easy to find at the top of each page. First toggle the “share to the web setting” and then toggle the “allow duplicate as template.” It's simple to turn each sharing setting on and off, and they can be changed at any time.

Can two people edit the same Notion page? ›

You can edit the same page at the same time with an unlimited number of people. Their profile photos will show you where they're looking or working on the page. Edits and comments made by everyone will appear to you instantly.

Can two people use the same Notion? ›

You can collaborate with other people in Notion by adding them as members to your workspace. These can be your teammates at work, friends, or anyone you want to work with on pages.

How do I create a Notion template and sell it? ›

How to create and sell a Notion template
  1. Research your competition. Research is always the first step when you're creating a new product. ...
  2. Build, test, and design your template. Now it's time to create your template! ...
  3. Add instructions. ...
  4. Publish your template. ...
  5. Create a PDF. ...
  6. Set up an online store.
Mar 18, 2023

How do I create a database from an existing page in Notion? ›

There are several ways to create a database inside Notion:
  1. Create a new page in your workspace, then choose what database layout you want from the grayscale menu on that empty page.
  2. Create a database page inside an existing page by typing / followed by the database layout you want (i.e. table, board, etc.).

Is second brain worth it? ›

There are many benefits all along the process of building a Second Brain: less stress, better focus, more insights, and enhanced productivity. But the real payoff comes at the end, when you create something out of the knowledge you've collected and share it with the world.

How many pages is building a second brain? ›

Product information
Publisher‎Atria Books (June 14, 2022)
Hardcover272 pages
6 more rows

Why should I build a second brain? ›

It will teach you how to:

Find anything you've learned, touched, or thought about in the past within seconds. Organize your knowledge and use it to move your projects and goals forward consistently. Save your best thinking, so you don't have to do it again.

What is the Zettelkasten method for second brain? ›

The Zettelkasten Method is a popular and effective method for building a second brain. It involves using index cards to capture individual ideas and filing them with like notes for easy recall later.

What does second brain mean in Notion? ›

Second Brain is a Notion system that helps you capture your notes, tasks, projects, and resources in one place.

What is Zettelkasten good for? ›

A Zettelkasten improves your thinking and writing because it surprises us when we search for something. A Zettelkasten extends your mind and memory because its structure mimics the way your brain works.

Is Notion overkill? ›

Casual users may find Notion to be a bit overkill for their needs. Look at what Notion offers and decide if you really need it. Do you need to make quick webpages, wikis, and databases? If not, then maybe Google Keep or Evernote might be more of your thing.

Is Notion a Chinese app? ›

Notion is based in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco.

Is it worth buying Notion templates? ›

Besides functioning well, it also allows you to create more aesthetically pleasing pages than many of its competitors. You can find plenty of Notion templates for free—but if you want to really step up your note-taking game, you may wish to consider buying one.

Why is Notion template not duplicating? ›

Unfortunately, not all Notion pages can be duplicated. So, while you may have the URL link to view a certain Notion page, the account owner may not have selected the 'Allow duplication' option--which means you won't be able to use that particular page or workspace as a template.

Can someone else edit my Notion? ›

Permissions in Notion grant the level of access anyone has to a particular page in the workspace. Within any page, you can decide who can view, make changes, leave comments, or share the page with others. You can choose from the following options in Notion: Full access — you can edit the page and share it with others.

How to copy a template from one database to another in Notion? ›

Open your new database and either 'Edit template' or hit 'Create new template'; Adjust the page view to be 'side peek'; While in 'edit mode', drag your copy of the template into the new database template; Name your template, click out and give it a try!

Is Notion better than Google Docs? ›

As far as knowledge management goes, Notion is the better choice. You can choose between Google Docs and Notion if they seem to be what you need. However, they are not your only options; there are many other choices.

How do you make a collaborative Notion page? ›

Start with your page in Private in your sidebar. On the page, go to Share at the top right. Click the Add people button. Enter the person's email address in the space provided, choose a level of access from the dropdown (i.e. full access, can view, can comment), and click Invite .

Can you have two databases on one page Notion? ›

You can add as many linked databases as you would like in-line on a single page. Filter them for different purposes to create your own dashboard.

Can you multiselect in Notion? ›

Navigate to the page in Notion where you want to select multiple blocks. Click on the first block you want to select. Hold down the Shift key on your keyboard and click on the last block you want to select. All of the blocks in between will be automatically selected.

What is the difference between guest and member in Notion? ›

Members: People on your team who can create and edit Notion pages, but not edit settings or add members. This category only exists on Plus and Enterprise Plans. Guests: People external to your team who you want to work with on specific pages. They can be invited to individual Notion pages, but not an entire workspace.

How many workspaces can you create in Notion? ›

Notion lets you have as many workspaces as you want with a free plan. If you get a paid version of Notion, keep in mind that your subscriptio only applies to one workspace at a time.

Is it legal to sell Notion templates? ›

The answer is yes, you absolutely can! Dozens of Notion creators already make $1,000 or more each month from their templates. But you already know you can monetize your templates — you're just not sure how. Maybe you're unsure how to tell if your template is worth buying.

Is selling Notion templates profitable? ›

Selling notion templates can be lucrative if you have a good plan. Some people earn over 100,000 USD per month from selling notion templates, but it is essential to focus on something other than the products when you begin this venture.

Can I make money from Notion? ›

There are two ways to make money with Notion templates: Sell your own templates. Sell someone else's templates.

What is the difference between database and page Notion? ›

Databases are collections of pages you can display and sort in different ways. Notion offers two types of databases — inline and full-page. An inline database will display within an existing page, while a full-page database will create a separate, standalone page.

How do I duplicate a database in Notion? ›

From the page where the database is located, select the 6-dot menu next to the database name and click on "duplicate." This will create a full copy of the original database, including all of the items inside of it. You will now see the duplicated database on the same page as the original.

How do I create a master database in Notion? ›

Doing so is simple; just type /database on any Notion page, and you'll see a list of database options. You can start out by choosing Database – Inline, which will create a brand-new database right on that page.

How much does it cost to build a second brain? ›

How do you go about building a second brain? Well, the best thing you can do is enroll in Tiago Forte's Building a Second Brain course. It costs $1,500 for the standard edition, and while I have no doubt it's worth it, times are tough.

What is the difference between GTD and second brain? ›

The main difference between GTD and Building a Second Brain is that GTD is simply one part of Building a Second Brain. In Building a Second Brain, you manage and store your to-dos alongside other pieces of information including photos, notes, and in-depth research in a Second Brain app.

Can two brains sync? ›

Research has shown that people's brains activate in a similar and simultaneous way during social interaction. Such inter-brain neural synchronization has been linked with empathy and cooperation in face-to-face situations. However, its role in online, remote interaction has remained unknown.

What is the code for building a second brain? ›

Tiago Forte's method for building a second brain is C.O.D.E. — Capture, Organize, Distill, and Express.

How many pages is a splitting of the mind? ›

Product information
Publisher‎Independently published (July 8, 2022)
Paperback436 pages
6 more rows

How many pages is false memory? ›

Product information
Publisher‎Bantam (June 26, 2012)
Mass Market Paperback768 pages
Item Weight‎13.6 ounces
6 more rows

How do I use OneNote as a second brain? ›

Tips to Boost Your "Second Brain" (OneNote)
  1. Taking Notes has Compounding Effects on your Productivity. March 2021 ...
  2. Take notes on everything, such as: ...
  3. Make Your Notes Beautiful. ...
  4. Stay Organized. ...
  5. Be faster with hotkeys. ...
  6. Protect Your Notes. ...
  7. Paper Notes Are Still Relevant. ...
  8. Conclusion.

How many processes can the brain do in a second? ›

Equipped with this many processors, the brain might be capable of executing as many as 100 billion operations per second, a truly impressive number.

Is Microsoft OneNote better than Notion? ›

Notion is one of the best that offers a new block-based layout that is usable as a note-taking application. OneNote is the best note-taking application that has popularized the concept of note-taking. Notion is a collaborative application that helps users to take notes, write and plan, organize, and collaborate.

What is the best way to organize notes on Notion? ›

If you simply create a new page each time you take a note, your Notion sidebar will get crowded. To prevent this, create a main page to store all of your notes, and add a subpage with each new document. That way, all your notes are in one place, and they're much easier to find later.

What is the alternative to Notion with handwriting? ›

Google Keep offers a number of unique features that Notion lacks. For example, you can make voice memos and have them automatically transcribed. Google Keep also supports handwriting notes, location and time-based reminders, the ability to add notes, lists, and photos, and more.

How many pages does building a second brain have? ›

Product information
Publisher‎Atria Books (June 14, 2022)
Hardcover272 pages
6 more rows

Why is Notion so popular? ›

It uses simple templates that let users add or remove features, and remote workers can easily collaborate on notes, databases, calendars, and project boards. This high level of customizability sets Notion apart from other work apps. It's also what's made it so popular among people looking to map out their free time.

Should I switch from OneNote to Notion? ›

Notion lets you create pages made up of “blocks,” which work as sections. Unlike OneNote, Notion has a sidebar that simplifies finding a specific block inside a page. This handy sidebar has a search feature to hop between notes without many clicks or the need to go back and forth. Many note-taking apps work similarly.

How to do aesthetic notes on Notion? ›

Here's what you need to do if you want to have aesthetic Gallery blocks in Notion:
  1. Write short titles for the cards.
  2. Add emojis that respect your page's colour scheme.
  3. Use covers that also respect the palette.
  4. Set your Gallery block to display the card's cover pictures.

How do I maximize my Notion app? ›

8 Powerful Notion Tricks to Speed Up Your Workflow
  1. Create Blocks Instantly. ...
  2. Move Blocks With Ease. ...
  3. Use Toggles Smartly. ...
  4. Navigate Around Your Workspace Easily. ...
  5. Change the Location of Pages and Blocks. ...
  6. Open Pages in New Tabs and Windows. ...
  7. Use Markdown Shortcuts. ...
  8. Manage Your Workspace's Environment.
Jan 13, 2023

What is the Google equivalent of Notion? ›

Overview. Google Workspace is a suite of apps from Google which offers a number of tools to communicate and collaborate with colleagues,... Notion is a project and workflow management solution that helps businesses streamline operations related to goal setting,...

How is Coda different from Notion? ›

Coda is designed for professional teams working on complex projects, while Notion is great for any individual or team looking for an easy way to organize data and collaborate. Cost: Notion has a free tier, but after that premium subscriptions start at $8 per user.

Can people see what you write on Notion? ›

Will other people be able to see my pages? Your data is safe in Notion! If someone tries to navigate to your workspace without having access, they'll see a page that lets them know that they do not have the correct permission state to access that content.

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