Building a Second Brain — the pain points

Rob Wilson
4 min readSep 4, 2022

The book Building a Second Brain encourages you to Capture, Organise, Distill and Express (CODE), my last blog post was the result of following CODE and it nicely distills and expresses PARA and CODE.

However PARA didn’t all go smoothly for me.

This article captures my hurdles and solutions here, which hopefully will spark mutually beneficial discussions for how to evolve this going forward.

Notes — Keeping personal and business together

The author happily mixes his personal and work notes and files together, opting for a prefix to differentiate projects like his ‘BASB’ for ‘Build a second Brain’ book.

I did try to do this in Apple Notes, but I really really didn’t like mixing everything together. After achieving this I felt, well, dirty and quickly separated them back out again. You see I work for a few companies and they really wouldn’t want me mixing their intellectual property in with my notes, nor merging files from one company with another.

Each company has their preference for storage too (e.g. iCloud, Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive).

In Mac notes I decided to create a top-level folder for ‘Personal’, ‘Company-A’ and ‘Company-B’ and ‘Company-C’, then I created the PARA sub-folders below them.

A screenshot of the PARA structure in my iPhone Notes app — Authors own photo
My Structure of Mac Notes — Author

I broke the rules slightly because I use a journal for each company, but in theory I should move that to the Archive folder then use an in-box during the day and then periodically decide whether the notes survive into Projects, Areas, Resources or the Archive.

Files — Keeping personal and business together

I kept the company files in their respective cloud drives (Google Drive, OneDrive, etc), but I only created PARA folders for my company, not the other two companies because culturally they have their organisation structure and I can’t dictate my preferences to them.

This means I can’t adopt PARA easily everywhere, but I am influenced to try to keep files segmented by actionability (active projects, longer-term area and general company resources).

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Rob Wilson

CTO of Vehicle Smart Lead developer of MyTeamSafe Learning and sharing via RobbiewOnline